As the dreaded Coronavirus takes hold, our TVs, radios, social media fields on our phones and newspapers bombard us with the latest government advice, infection rate and, sadly, death rate. Sometimes, it can all feel like too much and many are looking for an escape, some quiet for the mind. Step up the humble bicycle!
A loveable pastime for many, more and more people are now turning to two wheels for that escape and, don’t forget, allotted one hour of exercise per day. But with these new and returning cyclists now hitting the roads, byways and shared use paths of the UK, there are some things to keep in mind when out on the bike. Below are a number of tips from my own experience. You don’t have to follow my advice and I’m not saying it’s the “right thing” to do, but hopefully these tips will help you stay safe, look out for others and most importantly, have fun when you are out on your bike.
1 Plan your route
An obvious one perhaps, but many people overlook the planning stage and head straight for the door. Planning a ride can help maximise your time on the bike because you know exactly where you are going and you’ll have a rough idea of how long it will take you. This is especially important if you are going to explore a new place for the first time. There are loads of route planning apps out there, all downloadable straight to your smart hand held device. Always check out your route before you go. It can help avoid wasted time and effort finding that path you’d always wanted to explore.
2 Tell someone where you are going
Always let a friend or a relative know where you are headed and how long you’ll be. Our Emergency Services are under enough strain as it is and searching for you after you’ve binned it into a pond is not top or their priority list.
3 Take it easy
Tips 2 and 3 are very much linked. Don’t try and be a hero out there. Strava PBs, KOMs and QOMs can wait for now. Forestry Scotland have closed purpose-built mountain biking trails and only encourage the use of the fire roads if you prefer riding knobbly tyres. The idea behind this advice is to ensure that risk is avoided if it can be. The emergency services can do without wounded mountain bikers traipsing blood into A&E waiting rooms at the moment.
Pick easy routes that are not too technically challenging. If that is mountain biking, avoid purpose built single-track where possible. Those trees can seem awfully close if your focus is on actively avoiding crashing.
If you get your kicks riding a road bike, then keep the speed easy and don’t take unnecessary risks. I am not saying “go slow”, just avoid risk where you can. If you think you can make it round that corner without hitting the brakes, save it for another day.
Above all, go steady and stay safe. Accidents happen but try to minimise risk where you can.
4 Be courteous to others
This tip should be filed under the “how to be a decent human being in general”. If you see another cyclist out and about, then WAVE! One of my pet hates is seeing a grumpy faced fellow cyclist coming towards you, grumbling at you as they ride by with a scowl. Offer a cheery “hello” or something along those lines. If you are a member of the lycra-clad community, a subtle nod of the head is enough; we all know you guys are too cool to wave anyway.
If you are riding on a shared use path, then let others know you are coming and lower your speed as you approach them. Use common sense and give way when you should. Look out for walkers, horses and other cyclists on these paths. If you are new to cycling, keep your head up and look straight ahead. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you are a regular visitor to shared use paths, it might be a good idea to purchase a bell to help alert others to your presence.
5 Enjoy your time outside
Perhaps the most important tip of all, enjoy yourself. In these troubling times, it can be hard to find joy and happiness. Many of us are working from home, enduring disruption to our jobs, businesses, relationships, finances, all sorts. Maybe you know someone who has Coronavirus, maybe you know someone in the NHS who is helping fight it, or maybe you know someone who has died from it.
Times are tough and they are likely to get tougher. You might feel scared, anxious or worried about the future. But, I can assure you, from someone who knows, just getting out on your bicycle every once in a while can provide an escape from all that, even if it’s just for an hour. Time on the bike can help you remember all the happy times, the good times. The escapism your bike provides will give you space to recharge the mind, body and soul so you can face the future with hope in your heart.