KRMCC and COVID-19 — Part III

Relationship to Strava & Zwift. If we didn’t know it before, we certainly do now: Strava, for many of us, is an essential tool and has become even more so during this period for sharing routes, inspiration and for staying connected. On March 23rd, Boris Johnson announced the rules for the new ‘partial lockdown’ which allowed one hour of outdoor exercise per day, to be taken locally and only with a member of one’s household.

With the park closed, it became a challenge to devise a one-hour local route. Joe and I were already sketching out a local loop that would go out through Berrylands and the Maldens when Nick B asked “can you make it go past my house.” We did our recce for that loop on March 28th, made a few improvements and shared it on Strava. As Joe wrote: “It kept us away from the worst traffic, and we managed to fit some hills in.” We have now done the ‘local loop’ countless times and it cheered us to look at Strava and see that others (Nick B, Mick, Robin, Rob and Franck) were also taking it up and going for glory on the same Strava segments.

Mick wrote that the local loop “formed the basis of many of my rides since March and as a result, I now know a lot more about places like Old Malden, Worcester Park and Lower Morden than I did three months ago.” Nick B said, “I showed Franck the way round, telling him how proud of the 7th overall position I’d got on the Malden Manor sprint climb and how difficult it was to get higher up the table and then he pushed up the ‘Col du Berrylands’ getting the number 1 slot! In the same time as the ‘Honeybadger’, a legend. Never to be beaten I think.”

Rob & son Tom doing Lucy’s London bridges route.

Rob wrote that he became ‘Strava Obsessed’ because he could see his distance totals adding up and his running and cycling times improving, which gave him more incentive. He also used Strava to find routes since, as he admitted, “I never learned or hardly remembered the routes I’d followed with KRMCC in those early years. Covid lockdown and Strava gave me the opportunity to start reverse engineering, polite terminology for copying, other people’s routes: Joe & Karen, Franck, Robin, Mick, Lucy, I have to own up to looking at your routes, working out how to put them on Strava and then downloading them onto my Garmin. All had a few modifications to suit me of course.” Another Strava pleasure for Rob came from seeing that Kevin was cycling routes in Bath that he himself had cycled as a teenager on his 5-speed ‘Tour Anglais’. This brought a wave of memories of youthful adventures: “Thank you Kevin.”

Strava followers could also see that Lucy and Ali were bravely entering the world of virtual cycling. Lucy had fractured her shoulder on January 26th, which forced her to wear a sling for six weeks resulting in the loss of a range of motion in her shoulder. When she was allowed to return to gentle exercise it was a challenge because her balance was affected by the weakened shoulder. Lucy did her first indoor turbo session on March 22nd, the day before lockdown was announced.

Lucy’s turbo set-up, and below,

She began with the Tacx app, but three weeks later she took out a Zwift membership and launched in. “When lockdown came it was like everyone was in the same boat as me, which was in a way quite nice in a selfish kind of way. I was able to cycle with my friends, safely on a bike in my living room, and do a workout at my own pace whilst chatting to them on zoom.” The lifting of the one-hour restriction has coincided with Lucy feeling confident about getting back on the road, which she has thoroughly enjoyed. And, she told me, she has cancelled her Zwift subscription because “riding outside is so much better than on a turbo”.

Ali’s indoor and outdoor turbo stations.

Ali was launched suddenly into the world of Zwift racing: “I was contacted by the British Cycling South East Coordinator, who was setting up a regional Zwift Race league for races to still compete. I jumped on board and have been racing twice a week for 8 weeks. I managed to convince a few of the Njinga Cycling boys to join me, and we managed to finish 6th, just behind some huge clubs like Clapham chasers and Kingston Wheelers.”

Ali’s indoor and outdoor turbo stations.

For those of us looking at Strava posts of Zwift races, it can be difficult to comprehend the experience. Ali explained, “They are harder than normal races, and just like all out sprints for 50-60 minutes.

The last race of the first block of 8 weeks, finished with a virtual team time trial, which required some rather interesting coordination and a group call to make sure we finished as a team, with riders all virtually riding in a time trial line, virtually, but all over the Kingston & Surbiton area.” With the ease of lockdown, Ali said “I’ve given Kevin back his Wahoo now. So, it’s outside or nothing for me.”

Relationship with the bike

Mick on the road

Mick was already accustomed to cycling three times a week, but always with companions. Under lockdown he had to adapt to cycling alone and he spoke of the ‘dual facets’ of lockdown riding: “partly the realisation of how much company was a greatly missed part of the pleasure of cycling, but also that cycling itself is great fun and being alone with your thoughts can be both relaxing and uplifting. Initially I expected to suffer a lack of motivation without others to cycle with, however, once out the door, I was happy to ride in my own company and the miles flew by.”

By contrast, for me and Joe, the relationship with our bikes is currently shaky. I have come to realise that my previous cycling experience had sheltered me—I was either in the park or in a group. Though we found certain enjoyment in the lockdown loop, it wasn’t without its stresses. As Joe says, “we would have two or three incidents of drivers endangering us per ride. Paradoxically the reduction in road traffic seems to have left those that remain on the roads less tolerant, plus they are going faster.” We began to focus instead on running and we maintain a schedule and pace that will keep us injury free so that we can keep going. Joe says, “we run very early in the morning to avoid the crowds in the park and along the towpath. The running route is beautiful, especially in the dawn sunshine and with the dawn chorus accompanying us.”

Relationship with neighbours

Mike and Heather

Having just retired, Mike and Heather returned from their trip to South America on March 2nd, just ahead of lockdown, and have since been exercising six times per week as per the book Younger Next Year. But more free time has also allowed Mike to reach out to his neighbours and local community: “I have been helping neighbours a lot in the council flats with getting food, mowing lawns and cutting back trees to let light in, cleaning manky garden furniture covered in bird shit, so they can now get the sunlight in their gardens.

Through this and clapping on Thursday nights, we now know a lot more people in the street which is really nice. Heather had not felt it was a friendly street before, but she is happier now.” He has also put time into supporting local shops: “I have found the best dates and walnuts in the Middle Eastern shop in Norbiton Parade, the best fresh eggs are in Kingston Market, had excellent steak, chicken and sausages from friends through the pub.” In sum, he wrote, “we have never been bored.”  

Having just retired, Mike and Heather returned from their trip to South America on March 2nd, just ahead of lockdown, and have since been exercising six times per week as per the book Younger Next Year. But more free time has also allowed Mike to reach out to his neighbours and local community: “I have been helping neighbours a lot in the council flats with getting food, mowing lawns and cutting back trees to let light in, cleaning manky garden furniture covered in bird shit, so they can now get the sunlight in their gardens.

Through this and clapping on Thursday nights, we now know a lot more people in the street which is really nice. Heather had not felt it was a friendly street before, but she is happier now.” He has also put time into supporting local shops: “I have found the best dates and walnuts in the Middle Eastern shop in Norbiton Parade, the best fresh eggs are in Kingston Market, had excellent steak, chicken and sausages from friends through the pub.” In sum, he wrote, “we have never been bored.”  

Relationship to KRMCC.

Finally, it was apparent from your responses that we have remained interconnected throughout lockdown. Our last ‘official club’ ride was on March 7th, but we had a Zoom quiz night in April, we WhatsApp & Facebook, and there’s been a recent return to Sunday meetings for ‘socially distanced coffee’ which has made for unusual, wide-angle club photos. We’ve encountered one another in the street or in the park, and we’ve shared our flour, yeast and sourdough starter. But I’m not alone when I say that I look forward to the return to club rides.

Nick B explained, “What I really miss is the convivial chat, the informal meet, the craic. Rolling with friends enjoying being in company.” Robin said, “I have always felt part of my cycling circle: enjoying the banter, always encouraged, never excluded.” Tony added, “My Sunday best bike is shiny & clean, greased and raring to go”. And this, from the ‘phantom’ cyclist, who promises to be out more frequently: “I was reminded of what a great group of people KRMCC is and that’s reason enough for me going forward.”

Kingston Bicolation 2020

I’ll leave the final word, and images, to Jim. When I asked him if he would like to contribute his thoughts to this article, he replied: “Funny you should ask. I have been taking the themes of isolation, disease, cycling, distancing, exercise and lockdown and expressing them in my own particular way.” An interesting but mysterious reply. 

Five days later, I opened my front door to find a little parcel that was affixed with a bicycle-shaped poem. Inside was a lovely new KRMCC mug with artwork inspired by Covid-related themes. It was made by Jim (with help from Andy), and the secret delivery of parcels brought a happy surprise to all the KRMCC family.

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