It’s Just Mountain Biking

Photo: Matt Miller

Honestly, up until a few days ago, I hadn’t paid much attention to how much the coronavirus would impact life. I should have caught on to the severity weeks ago, when Gerow started to feel the measures of the outbreak in Italy. For those who don’t know, Singletracks’ other staff writer is located in the Northern region of Italy, where citizens are now quarantined to their homes for a month.

Most of us have largely ignored the warning signs and waited until the day before a seemingly impending doom to rush to the store and get everything we need. Pressure in the US started to culminate toward the middle of last week. For myself, I’ve worked from home for about two years now, so I’m pretty isolated from society most of the time anyway.

When there’s a snowstorm in Denver and cars are sliding all over the freeways on Monday morning, I’m carrying my mug of coffee from my kitchen, upstairs to my office. When I need something from the store, I’m confident enough in my driving ability and my Subaru that I plow through the powdered streets regardless, and the grocery stores might be low on certain things, but they’re usually not wiped clean.

To get to the store last week, on a sunny day, and realize that there were things I actually needed that the store didn’t have, was a harsh realization. And, so was the little thumbnail image of the person wearing a gas mask on the suggested documentary for the Spanish Flu when I was flipping through YouTube on Saturday night to watch Nate Hills’ latest videos from Sedona. These not-so-subtle signals suggest that life is changing rapidly, and although mountain biking has been a major part of our lives in one way or another, it’s going to have to take a backseat for a little while. And that’s a tough pill to swallow.

A week and a half ago when I was at the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival for Singletracks, the attitude amongst festival goers was to carry on and ride, with few precautions. I was still shaking hands and hugging friends that I hadn’t seen in a little while, high-fiving after rides, sharing beers, and squeezing in shuttle vans. Throughout the weekend, that started to change. Hand shakes turned into fist bumps, and those turned into elbow bumps.

The day before the festival started, Sea Otter officially announced that they would reschedule until six months later in October. I wondered aloud with other industry reps what that meant for product launches. It’s no secret that a lot of mountain bike products come from China, and at least one brand I spoke with said that their new bike for the year will be delayed because of slowed production, and because they planned to launch the bike around Sea Otter.

Then a press camp that I was supposed to attend for a bike launch was cancelled. I had one other trip planned as of the morning I wrote this, and I decided to cancel it, even though it wasn’t for a formal event or gathering. It just seemed like the most responsible thing to do. World Cup races are postponed, as are races for the Enduro World Series, and what seemed like hasty decisions and overreactions are solidifying into this international public health phenomena that is pulling our lives to a standstill.

Here in Colorado, Governor Polis has suspended dining inside restaurants and bars for the next month. My partner and someday-wife works at a brewery, and is now unemployed. Suddenly, instead of planning out my next bike build, or camping trip, I’m considering withdrawing my retirement just in case we face a financial hardship and need to pay the mortgage on the house we just bought less than two months ago.

Suddenly the economy is screeching to a halt, and we’re all realizing that it would have been wise to have more of the basic necessities like toilet paper and canned goods, rather than sealant or color-matching decals.

Suddenly, it seems like a good time to stop browsing bike photos on Instagram and call my grandma instead.

Suddenly, mountain biking seems much less important than it was a week ago. And the strange thing is, that in another way, I’m clutching on to it with whitened knuckles.

As more countries, cities, and states are following Italy’s actions, and quarantining in one form or another, most of us in America still have the chance to enjoy our bikes, responsibly. Over the weekend, I noticed crowded trailheads and a spike in friends sharing their outdoor adventures online, either embracing or mocking social distancing.

For myself, I’m going to deal with the stress of a halted income and even more social isolation the same way that I’ve dealt with emotional breakups, or bad days at work. I’m going to pull up my chamois, nice and high, ratchet down the Boa dials on my shoes, and let the serotonin flow. I just may not invite anyone else. For all of us, it’s the least and most we can do at this time. Skip the group rides, don’t get on anyone else’s bike, and definitely do not share a beer after the ride.

If we do get quarantined at home, there are still plenty of mountain bike videos on YouTube, and the trails will be in great shape when we can ride them again. For now, we all need to be mindful of how even a ride by ourselves can impact greater society, even if that means skipping the gnarly lines on the trail, because the lines at the hospital will be even worse. I’ve always hated this sentiment, because to myself and my closest friends, bikes are a way of life. But for now, it’s just mountain biking.

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