Covid-19 – Some points for UK cyclists

I wonder how many blog posts have had that name in the title recently? Well there’s one on my blog now as well. I’m going to write a little about what I know and share some information from trusted sources, plus also share some ideas for what cycle related activities we can be doing whilst we go through this difficult phase. Hey, even writing this post is a good example of something you could be doing if starved of the ability to head out!

Without wanting to sound a complete depressive, I’m feeling reasonably despondent over this pandemic and our worldwide societies ability to cope. Mostly generated by the fear pushing media and bizarre extremist views continually posted over social media by “mini hitlers”. People wanting to “shop” people for not carrying out their interpretations of the new social restrictions that are place. Its insane. We have police for that, they already dealing with it. (Well we don’t have as many as we should, but then thats because turkeys keep voting for Christmas and that’s a rabbit hole we don’t have time to explore at the moment).

At this time we still have the ability to exercise outside once a day, this includes cycling and running at a level consistent with your current efforts. I say at this time because looking at other European countries like Italy and Spain cycling for leisure has been temporarily put on hold. I also understand Ireland has just reduced it to no exercise outside of 2km from your home.

So what can we do to make sure we manage to keep cycling outside available to us? And don’t worry this post will get a hell of a lot more positive!

First things first the absolute golden rule.

RIDE AT HOME OR RIDE ALONE.

This means no group rides. It means no riding with anyone that doest live in your household. It means keeping a minimum distance of anyone you see or meet of at least two metres. But thats only for speeds below 5mph, above this you should be giving a wider berth as the virus could potentially be distributed further. Some great advice on this can be found on CyclingUK. I know people can be tempted to go out and ride in groups but you really mustn’t. If you do your irresponsible actions could cause this privilege to be taken away from us. Don’t be a complete idiot, ride alone or ride at home.

If you want to know more about getting a turbo trainer setup on zwift, I have a blog post HERE. If you want to know about setting up an indoor training room I have a post HERE.

As far as cycling outside goes (on your own, just to remind you) then theres a few things you can do to ensure the you don’t put extra stress on yourselves or the emergency services at this time. For some of you the bikes you are about to ride won’t have had that frequent a use so its good to give them a once over before you decide to head out.

Here’s what I suggest:

Firstly ensure your bike is in good condition. Some basic checks should mean you get around your ride without incident. Start with checking tyres and tubes, pump them up and check they hold air overnight. Then give the tyres a once over looking for any perforations, splits, or frays that could let go whilst riding. Spin the wheels to make sure they aren’t buckled or have binding bearings or brakes. Also grab them at 12 o’clock and wiggle them side to side in the frame to check for excessive play, if you can feel a physical knock here then they need adjustment.

Next check your brakes. For discs, make sure there are no fluid leaks along the system from levers to callipers. Then check that the lever feel is solid, holds the wheels when applied, and releases the wheels when the lever is let go. Also take a peek into the calliper to see if there is appropriate friction material left on the pad (as a guide anything above 1mm of friction material is ok). For rim or cable brakes the checks are the same (bar having 3mm brake material) but look for any cable frays or splits on both inner and outer cables. Then check the pads are affixed correctly and the lever feel is good and has enough bite, ie you don’t pull the lever to the bar without it doing anything. Finish the brake check by making sure the wheels spin freely when released.

The last mechanical area is the drivetrain (drivetrain yes, not drive chain). Make sure the chain is lubricated and has no stiff links, this could play havoc with your shifting and could cause the chain to drop. Do this by running the chain backwards and seeing how it rolls around the jockey wheels in the rear derailleur and over the cassette, it should follow the profile without riding up or bunching. Whilst doing this check the rear freewheel is ok by lifting the rear wheel and pedalling backwards, if it is seized or biding the wheel will spin with it. Now check the cables for fraying as you would the brakes, then check their operation. Gears should index well (shift up and down to match input from shifter) and should not jump off the top cog toward the wheel or the bottom cog into the frame. If they do this they will need adjustment. The last moving component of the drive train is the front chainset and bottom bracket, here check for loose bolts and loose chainrings. Then check the bottom bracket is not stiff or seized, or has excess play. Check this as you would check the wheel bearings.

Final checks are your contact points. Handle bars, saddled and pedals. Make sure your seat post and saddle are secure, aligned, and at correct height. Stem, handle bars, and headset the same as the saddle but for one difference, check the headset for play by holding the front brake and rocking the bike back and forth. If it feels loose then you will need to tighten it.

Now that sounds like a pretty involved check list but get into a routine and you should rattle through it pretty quickly. You will also get to know which you should check before every ride and what you can check more intermittently.

So what if you don’t know how to or have the tools to repair any of the above? This is where your local bike shop comes in. Bicycle shops are considered as essential business during this outbreak by the U.K. government. For two reasons, firstly to keep essential workers commuting and secondly to enable people to continue to exercise. Mental health will be a concern for a large proportion of the public currently and exercise is a proven aid in helping alleviate symptoms.

Thats the bike safety covered, now some ride essentials to take with you.

Take a spare tube, a puncture repair kit, and something to inflate your wheel with. Take a multi tool with allen keys, a spoke wrench, and a chain tool on it (something like the Topeak Hexus X). All of these are small and easily shoved into jacket pockets. And if you are heading out a night, lights are obviously a must.

Lecture over. Now lets chat about some positives.

What cycling related activities can you do during the current social restrictions?

Start a blog!

Now, not that I want too much competition but, my blog started when I was on a personal lock down of sorts. My wife was about to give birth to our first child, I was sat around the house unable to leave as we may have had to rush off. She got bored of me moping and told me to start writing, so you all have her to thank for my online waffling. Almost five years down the line and I’m enjoying it more than ever, its a great release and channels my creative side.

Service your bikes.

This is prime time to make sure your bikes are all in fine fettle. Hell, I’ve even written you a guide above! If you can’t do it then bike shops are open and they still need your business. Be sensible though, ring them, book in, and minimise contact.

Read.

There are a bucket load of biographies, training books, and race memorandum to get hold of and enjoy. I’ll point you in the direction of David Millars autobiography, Racing through the dark. It’s a fantastic and frank account of Davids time in the pro peloton, including his involvement in professional doping and rebuilding his life after being caught. Want something a little more lighthearted? then try Ned Boultings How I won the yellow jumper. It’s Neds story of becoming one of the most widely recognised TDF broadcasters after being dumped in it on live TV with next to no cycling knowledge.

Plan a trip.

Yes, you can research. You can find your perfect destination. You can buy a bike box. Look at loads of photos, find the gnarliest routes. Dream of bike packing and of having that stove made coffee on a crisp April morning somewhere in the Pyrenees. You don’t have to book anything just yet. In fact I reckon getting hold of flights is quite hard right now! But when this ends (and it will) you will have all the kit and be in the best position to jump straight on those deals. But remember it doesn’t have to be expensive, it can be in the uk. I’m sure theres somewhere within a 30 mile ride of your house where you could camp, or why not stay in a hostel? Google is your friend!

Get fit.

Turbo training is the bomb at the moment, trainers are flying off the shelves at an incredible rate of knots. Zwift subscriptions are through the roof and everyone is chasing the Tron bike. If you are like me, on furlough, you have some time on your hands so why not use that time to get fit. Put a plan in place, focus on a specific area, and spend the time executing. I’ve seen a great quote recently regarding this – “if you don’t come out of this lockdown with a new skill or attribute, you didn’t lack the time. You lacked the discipline”. If you can’t get a turbo setup then go outside. I can’t setup my turbo at the moment so I’m strictly outdoors, and it’s been great. No traffic and fabulous weather. If not, get some plyometrics going or put on Joe Wicks and do his morning workouts. Motivation for the nation!

Watch.

There’s cycling content online galore. Cycling movies, documentaries, and vintage races. Go get stacked up on all of them. My movie suggestions would be The Pogram, charts Lane Armstrongs career and his involvement with doping doctor Michele Ferrari. Ben Foster plays Armstrong and is very good. Documentary wise, check out Icarus. Documentary maker delves into Russian doping and it gets deep real quick. A must watch. Race wise? well just get into it, there’s so many classics out there.

So, thats some info on what cyclists can be doing during the current outbreak. I hope its interesting and useful for you, but above all else it helps you to have a safe and cycle-centric lockdown! Don’t forget if you want to get the official lowdown on exactly whats been asked of us then don’t hesitate to read the governments website for more info.

Stay safe, wash your hands, stay home, and exercise safely!

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