It cannot be overstated, just what an impact this year has had on the world and on its future so far. People are losing jobs, businesses are closing left, right and centre with no certainty of if they'll ever reopen. As people lose family members, old and young, make no mistake: this is our Great War. Every cloud has a silver lining, however, as the saying goes. Strange as it sounds, it may never have been a better time to be a cyclist.
Much was made, initially, of the apparent and potential dangers of the virus. It pays to be cautious, of course, but the level of argument in Facebook groups and other public forums bordered on absurd. Many people gave in to fear, preferring to stay home, and scolding others who refused to do the same. Things looked a little bleak for some time as everything closed and the streets emptied.
With Covid-19 and (arguably worse) the isolation that came with it the disease, for many, exercise proved to be the cure. With more time suddenly on their hands, people take stock of their situations, financially and personally. The cynic in me might have expected an entire country "Netflix and chilling" for the past few months, but the opposite appears to be true. People are active. They're moving and shaking. Anything to be outside, to be free. At the beginning, the government had to implement special dispensation specifically for people to go out and exercise. People are taking up the bike by the thousand.
With fewer cars on the roads, despite the uptick in riders, we actually have more space. Hell, maybe with the social distancing measures in place, those who do drive might even give us a good amount of space as they overtake! Less cars also, of course, means cleaner air. Even living in a (relative) busy city, I find my lungs thanking me. With a bottle of VeloFlow mix in my backpack, I find myself breaking personal bests for hill climbs on a regular basis.
Many of you Londoners reading this will know the feeling of unbridled joy as you break out of the city and down to the Surrey Hills for a session. The wind cools, the inclines start and grey concrete gives way to green, orange and brown. For anyone yet to experience this, Leith Hill, in particular, is something special. On a clear day (of which there are more and more as summer finally arrives) you can look one way and see the London skyline. Turn around and you'll see Brighton and, beyond that, the shimmering waves of the English Channel.
Despite the doom and gloom pouring from the maw of the media at large, this uncertain time has left many with some much-needed time to evaluate elements of their life. It speaks to an inherent desire for freedom, in our culture, that as soon as we're told we must stay home, we want to go out and play. At age eight or eighty, some things never change. Cycling represents that freedom. Just you, two wheels and the open road. For anyone considering taking it up, I implore you to do so. There's literally no better time.