Boredom, Begone: Ideas for Keeping Busy During a Pandemic
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By now, it’s clear that 2021 won’t play out how most of us envisioned. Even with vaccine distribution underway, we’re still in the middle of a global pandemic, and many places have strict travel restrictions in place. Find Miles’ thoughts on how he plans to keep busy this summer, from signing up for his first mountain bike skills clinic to diving headfirst into packrafting…
While vaccines are slowly being distributed across the world, the majority of these places won’t be back to “normal” any time soon, and it’s important to recognize that the pandemic is still very much underway. Having spent the majority of the last three years living on the road, I fully understand how frustrating it can be to remain stationary for so long. No doubt, I’m looking forward to taking a long drive south or booking a plane ticket to somewhere new, but now is not the time. The good thing is that it’s not all doom and gloom, and there are a lot of ways to keep busy and active on your bike without leaving your community.
Here in British Columbia, we are being asked to limit all non-essential travel and stay within our communities. I’ve been living in Powell River for the last six months, and since getting anywhere involves at least one ferry ride, I’ve turned my gaze to the local trails, logging roads, and mountains right in my backyard. I recognize my privilege in being able to access the outdoors so easily from here and realize it’s not this easy for everyone. With this, I’ve had to change my summer plans and introduce some new tactics to keep busy on my bike—not just for my work here, but also for my own mental health. In that spirit, I’ve put together a list of ideas to keep busy during the pandemic that don’t involve unnecessary travel, many of which I’ve already started to implement into my riding routine.
Learn a new skill / take a bike clinic
Up until this month, I had never taken an in-person mountain bike skills clinic. Sure, I log a lot of mileage every year, but I rarely go out and focus on a specific skill or technique to make me a better rider. During the first round of restrictions in British Columbia, I signed up for an online wheelie clinic, which has been a game-changer for everyday riding and bikepacking, and is just fun to do. After moving to Powell River, I met Lindsey at Ransom Bike Co (@ransombikeco), who has been offering socially distanced mountain bike lessons. Emily signed up for a clinic and I decided to do the same. It’s amazing how much you can learn about your bad habits and proper riding technique when you sit down and analyze what’s going on. From better bike-body separation and positioning to learning how to properly tackle smaller jumps and drops, I felt like I was learning how to ride again.
I also took the opportunity to ride flat pedals, as I’m usually riding clipless, which has highlighted some poor form I’ve developed over the years. Not only will learning a new technical skill or taking a lesson improve your riding while out bikepacking, it also makes less thrilling local trails the perfect training ground to practice cornering, braking, and other fundamental skills. There are also loads of great free videos online, as well as paid services, depending on what you’re looking for.
One of the easiest ways to make riding a little more interesting is by incorporating another activity into the mix. I’ve always been curious about packrafting, so that was naturally at the top of my list. There are tons of different lakes around Powell River and I’ve made it my mission to give bikerafting a try this summer. Other options include bringing a fishing rod along on your next overnighter or day ride, packing a frisbee, carving a spoon, trying your hand at water colours… you get the idea. This is also a great way to introduce newer riders or non-bikepackers to fun, self-supported rides, which puts less focus on the ride itself and eases people into the idea of carrying gear on their bikes. Stay tuned for more bikerafting stories later this year.
By now, I think we can safely declare 2021 as the official year of the overnight bikepacking trip. An overnighter is the perfect low-impact trip that is easy to plan, affordable, and ideal for places where travel restrictions are in place. One of my latest trips was a 10-kilometre cruise out to a local lake where Emily and I enjoyed a fire and night under the stars. Sometimes, there’s nothing better. Shorter trips are also perfect for trying out new gear, experimenting with different packing techniques, and even heading out in unfavourable weather. It’s also a great opportunity to dial in a great route and help build our growing database of local overnighters.
Plan Your Dream Bikepacking Trip
I think I’m addicted to route planning, and I often daydream of a consulting position that requires me to dig deep into a new route every day. Just because we shouldn’t fly across the world right now doesn’t mean you can’t pull up some route planning software and plan your dream bikepacking trip. I need something to look forward to or I go crazy, so sometimes I pick a random location and start digging into online resources to see if there is bikepacking potential. If route planning isn’t really your thing, take a look at our world route map and see if there are any options in a place you’ve always wanted to visit. Daydreaming will never be restricted! Now might be a good time to start reading books or watching documentaries to learn about the place you want to visit after the pandemic.
My go-to move is searching for long rides and routes people have recorded on Ride With GPS, then comparing those against different map layers and geotagged photos to see if there is anything interesting worth checking out. A lot of the routes I plan will never see the light of day, especially this year, but just the thought of riding somewhere completely new to me is a feeling I like to savour.
Hone Your Mechanic Skills
If you haven’t heard by now, the entire bike industry has been overwhelmed since COVID-19 first hit. During the first wave, a lot of people decided to take up riding or get their current bike into working order, and this huge influx of cyclists has put a lot of pressure on the industry. We’re seeing limited availability on bikes and parts, and bike shops are feeling that pressure. While supporting your local bike shop is highly recommended, this might be a good time to dig into that repair kit you rarely use and tackle some of the more straightforward tasks and repairs that are easily achievable by the home mechanic. There are a lot of great online tutorials and books that can walk you through pretty much any aspect of your bike, and the more you learn from the comfort of the home, the better off you’ll be when something goes wrong out on the trail.
Start a Coffee Outside Meetup
Assuming your local restrictions allow, starting a coffee outside meetup is a fantastic, low-pressure way to get to know new folks in your community. The best part about coffee outside meetups is that they can be incredibly inclusive gatherings that don’t require any specific gear or type of bike. Although we’ve had to put our Powell River meetup on hold for the last few months, I’m excited to get things rolling again when we can do so. It’s fun to see how people show up (by bike or on foot) and what kind of warm beverage they bring along or prepare in person. We’ve also seen great success with food-related meetups and rides, such as the Pizza Gravel (@pizzagravel) group in Berlin that Lucas is a part of (which is also currently on pause during lockdown). For my part, I’m dreaming of some kind of pastry-themed ride someday soon.
Volunteer with your local trail association
I’ve never been that involved with trail building and maintenance, mainly because I haven’t stayed in a community for any significant amount of time. Since we finally rented a place to call home for a while, I’ve had more flexibility in my schedule to get involved with our local cycling association and have started attending trail days and working on new trails with some of the dedicated trail builders we are lucky to have here in town. A lot goes into trail development and maintenance, and I don’t think that can be truly appreciated until you’ve had the chance to get your hands dirty as well, assuming that’s available to you.
A simple way you can lend a hand at your local trails is by picking up small branches and raking trails clear for everyone to enjoy. I picked up a small folding saw that I now pack in a hip pack on most rides for clearing larger fallen trees, and report bigger problems on the Trailforks app if it’s something I can’t take care of myself.
While some folks aren’t dealing with many restrictions, most people are, and it’s the perfect opportunity for all of us to practice some empathy. Depending on how you approach it, there can even be a certain amount of romance in finding new ways to explore your own backyard. I get quite antsy and have to keep moving, and the first lockdowns in Canada have taught me that social interaction is more important to me than I ever knew.
Thankfully, there are a lot of fun and productive ways to keep busy on my bike that don’t involve bending the rules. The bottom line is that as a community of largely like-minded people who love to travel and crave the freedom of riding our bikes, the most important thing we can do is respect how serious things can get if we don’t do all our part. I hope some of the ideas presented here will spark some new ideas for how to enjoy your time on the bike in a safe way during a time that’s undoubtedly been challenging in various ways for all of us.
How are you planning to keep busy this summer? Let us know in the conversation below!
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