It has been a while. The morning road ride that was so much a part of my daily routine has been missing while in lockdown. Although I’ve been enormously tempted to get my exercise the usual way, I’ve been off the road for 96 days. But now it’s time to ride outside again!
– A blog, by Rob Arnold
Hopefully the novelty will fade quickly but right now the prospect of going for a ride outside feels like a foreign concept. I’ve been riding for so long that I’m sure it’ll all flow naturally again and within a few minutes the sensations will all come flooding back to me.
The act of pedalling remains the same, but the mindset is different after so long in lockdown. Avoiding the call of my bike has been a challenge, perhaps my biggest cycling challenge in years. It’s there, every day waiting for me, polished and eager. But I walk past it, maybe give it a pat on the handlebars or the saddle once in a while, or squeeze the brakes to remember that sensation (and to check the hydraulic fluid is all tickety-boo, of course).
‘Rob,’ it whispers from across the room, ‘I’m here. Ride me. You know you want to.’
Shut up! Stop teasing me, I reply.
Really, it’s the voices in my head that I’m quoting above – but you know that, right? Bikes don’t talk. I’m not in a cartoon. This is real life, pandemic living, COVID times. When instinct sometimes needs to be ignored. Instead of doing the usual routine – one I’ve followed all my adult life – I’ve resisted, stayed inside, and not strayed beyond my 5km limit.
Yeah, I know: you could if you wanted. You could find a way. You could adapt your route and get a workout by doing laps of the block, or reps of a hill, or… well, any number of things to keep riding your bike outside. Wear a mask, map out a course, clip into the pedals – and ride! It could’ve been done, and plenty were doing exactly that. But I didn’t, and I have my reasons. And that’s that. Can’t change it now.
‘Ride,’ they’d say. ‘You know you want to.’
Of course I do want to ride. Of course I did want to ride. It’s what I’ve always done, and always intend to do. And I would find a way, even if it wasn’t my ideal scenario.
I’ve continued to ride, as I’ve done all my life, but it has been different since 8 July 2021. That was the last day I ventured outside on my road bike… and now, 96 days later, I’m going to do it again.
Click the link below to see the #StoryOfMyRide of one of my last adventures outside before the Sydney lockdown of 2021. – Rob
The in between days were spent on the home trainer; a different bike, no rear wheel, no headwind, no rain, no traffic, no helmet, no sunglasses… a couple of computer screens for company and, eventually, plenty of form. While all that was going on, I remained fit and held a steady weight. Actually, I dropped a few kilos in that time and now, with the prospect of the first outside ride in almost 100 days, I’m back at ‘race weight’. (Note: being lighter than I was at the start of lockdown is a by-product of the indoor riding sessions; it just happened… but the main motivation for the smart trainer rides was mental therapy, followed by the inevitable fitness gains.)
I’m 51. I’m a bike rider. And today I’m going back out there, onto the road and beyond the 5km limit.
Curiously, although it has always been such a natural thing for me to do, I’m now a little anxious.
‘The first one is the worst one.’* That’s what I’ve often said to acquaintances who are new to cycling. They know I ride and they tell me about their experiences, and it usually involves an explanation about their sore bum, or pain in their legs, or some other complaint that I know will rapidly fade once they make cycling a regular part of their routine.
But the first is not the worst; it’s the best – only you don’t know it until much later.
Your first bike ride: what a concept. Imagine that you’re doing it for the first time. Of course it would be daunting, but then – knowing what you now know about the joy that cycling brings – it is also thrilling.
There have been many, many rides in my life. All kinds of bikes, all kinds of terrain, all kinds of places, with all kinds of people. The first one is long gone; been there, done that. And that was many years ago. But today, there is a sense of novelty, a hint of thrill, a load of excitement, and even a touch of nervousness.
The first ride outside in 100 days is different to the first ride ever, but it’s still worth acknowledging nonetheless. And that’s what I’m doing now, while having my first morning coffee – as procrastination subsides, and weather checks are done, and route planning takes place. It’s almost time to go again but first, I’m documenting my emotions by writing the first of my post-lockdown ride diaries.
I know roughly what to expect. I’m not going anywhere new. I’m not unfamiliar with the act of pedalling – I’ve been doing that in the ‘virtual’ world for 96 days, covering thousands of kilometres via FulGaz and seeing plenty of sights… but going nowhere. And I’m aware of how this first ride back on the road is likely to play out.
Right now, a short while before my first IRL adventure begins, I’m regaining my confidence, working myself into the reality that I’ll soon wheel my bike out the door and clip into the pedals and roll… with wheels turning beneath me and tyres singing their lovely little tune, with wind on my face and the prospect of “60 percent chance of rain”.
My legs feel strong and my mind is buzzing. My tyres are pumped and the back wheel is in place.
The time has come to begin again. It’s not the first one. And it will certainly not be the worst one. This is my day to remind myself about what I know I love. Riding a bike is a thing of beauty and I’m ready to roll.
There’s excitement mixed with myriad other emotions and although 96 days is only a tiny fraction of my life, it feels like a long enough period of time to make cycling seem new again, exhilarating even.
Of course, bike riding is not perfect. Yes, it can be great but it’s often not. Still, complaining about wind or rain or traffic or punctures is like complaining about living. These are the things that are part of the cycling life – something that I ultimately know is brilliant.
It’s time to ride again. It’s time to live. It’ll be different but it’ll also feel familiar and even if it’s pouring rain, it’ll be fantastic. I’m already smiling, just at the thought of what could be around the next corner, or the one after that, or the one after that. It’s a bike ride, in the real world, and I’m happy to be doing it again. If you see me out there, be sure to say hello.
– By Rob Arnold
*NB: the first one might be bad, but it will only get better from hereon in.