It’s been almost a year since we heard the words ‘stay at home’ with restrictions imposed on all of us. We were only allowed to exercise in family groups and stay local, which meant that the brakes had to be put on meeting in ever-growing groups to venture off road on our bikes. During the two years prior, Wychwood Mountain Biking group had grown considerably in size with over 60 members meeting three times a week for rides of six to 40 miles on local trails and also day rides further afield.
It was great to see that during the 1st lockdown on March 23rd 2020, members still managed, nay wanted to get out on their own or with their family. We organised a virtual ride from John O Groats to Lands’ End and plotted our distances along the 900 mile off-road route; some completed the distance in four or five weeks whilst others took the scenic route! It gave us a goal to aim for during the imposed restrictions and encouraged some to get out and ride, no matter how small the mileage. We posted our mileage and discussed routes, published photographs as if to prove our social distancing, on our social media page.
Then great news, in June 2020 we were allowed to resume rides but only in groups of six. Posting rides on a first come first served basis, it soon became apparent that everybody was keen to join us so we started organising two groups to cover the number of riders. I would lead one group of six leaving from the village hall at 6.30pm while another volunteer would lead another six leaving from the village green five minutes later. Everybody had clear instructions to keep two metres apart when gathering and whilst cycling; even at gates it was every man, women and child for themselves. We even managed on some occasions to have a socially distanced drink on the green. It wasn’t quite the same but we all frequently stated how good it was for our wellbeing to get out and exercise. For some it was the only time they could socialise with people other than family. I followed daily the rules and advice given by British Cycling and kept all our members informed, as soon as we were allowed to travel further.
It was August 2020 (still in groups of six) that we organised rides to the Forest of Dean and even a day ride along the Ridgeway for a socially distanced lunch – remember the Eat Out to Help Out scheme? Unfortunately, it wasn’t to last – September 2020 another lockdown and restricted travel meant again that we had to ride locally and with one other rider.
Fast forward almost a year to February 2021, and we were still all riding in pairs or on our lonesome, all patiently waiting for the virus to subside so we could get back as a group and complete our many planned rides that keep getting rescheduled time and time again.
I honestly believe in the future we will be able to ride in larger groups and hope that just a few of the tens of thousands that discovered the many benefits of cycling continue to do so; just don’t all turn up at once!
Keep riding and stay well.