Three years ago, my partner and I moved to the Lake District in order to be closer to the mountain bike trails that we love to ride. The ability to ride some of our favourite routes straight from the door, rather than making the usual three-hour round trip, was a dream come true, and it’s something that we’ve never taken for granted.
However, little could we have known at the time, just how thankful we’d be for that privilege, just a few years later, when the Coronavirus pandemic would force us all to retreat to the safety of our homes, with only one window of opportunity per day to venture outside to exercise.
Had we still been living in in the city, we’d no doubt have had to resort to running laps of the park alongside countless other fresh-air-seeking urbanites, however, we’re fortunate to be able to ride our bikes from home, into the local fells, where we’re far more likely to encounter sheep than humans.
As it turned out, pre-lockdown, it was rare that we did actually ride from home, preferring instead to head deeper into the Lakes for bigger mountains and more challenging trails, but with current guidelines suggesting that we shouldn’t venture far from home or ride anything that may risk injury, the best option has been a gentle cruise around the bridleways of Kentmere.
It had been a while since I’d ridden the trails closest to us, having written them off for being too tame and boring, but at a time when we’re learning to appreciate everything that we have, I’ve re-found my love for the gentle double track bridleways, which permit time to absorb the stunning scenery, and reflect on what’s going on in the world.
Every now and again I’ll encounter another local mountain biker, a dog walker, or a family on bikes, all out for their daily constitutional, and we’ll exchange greetings from afar. It’s clear that everyone shares the same appreciation for being outside, and, for the most part, there’s a warmth in these short greetings that’s more heartfelt than usual. There’s a sense that we’re all in this together, and getting through it the best way we know how.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, like the woman who practically threw herself into the hedgerow and turned her back as I passed on the opposite side of a wide track, and the family who seemed to object to me passing, as they walked four abreast down the middle of the road. I still said hello though.
It may not compare to the big days out that we’d become accustomed to, but at this strange time, when the majority of your day is spent trapped within the same four walls, being constantly reminded of the unbelievably dire situation that we find ourselves in, it feels amazing to get out, and clear your head of all the stress and uncertainty, whilst also expending all that pent up energy, even if it is only for a short while.
And then I’ll get home, have a look on Instagram or Facebook, and instantly feel guilty for having been outside, when apparently I should’ve been working out in my home gym, on my smart turbo trainer, or riding my bike around the garden. It’s not that I’ve received any negative comments directly, but I’ve seen plenty on others’ pages, which have started to eat away at me.
Now, Dan and I live in small house, with an even smaller back yard. We don’t have space or equipment to set up a gym in the house, and I’m absolutely certain that, if I started hopping around on my bike in the yard, that it would have much more disastrous consequences than a gentle ride on my local roads and bridleways.
I don’t judge those who post pictures of the things in their lives that are helping them to get through this tough time, which are derived from their own priorities and choices they’ve made. The big house and garden; the home gym; the huge television and entertainment system; the canine companion; the kids, who must give you a sense of purpose when life seems to have lost its meaning…
What I do object to is being made to feel like I’m being irresponsible by a few sanctimonious individuals, who no doubt enjoy several of the above. It’s easy to preach when you’ve got such things at your disposal, but for people, like myself, who can barely swing a cat, if only I had one, in our small dwelling, there’s nothing wrong with venturing out to exercise, as per the government advice, particularly if we’re easily able to take ourselves to a remote place to do it.
To not do so will surely just lead to even more pressure being placed on the NHS, when immune systems and mental health inevitably start to deteriorate. In my opinion, we should all do our best to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, whilst complying with social distancing guidelines, using whatever means available to us.
The truth is, we’re all incredibly lucky to have what we do, and we just have to make the most of that in the safest and most socially responsible way possible.
Who I do feel for, are the amazing people who’re working flat out and putting themselves at risk in order to cope with the virus, and keep our countries running as best as possible. NHS staff, teachers, shop workers, transport workers, posties, police… You know who you are, and I salute you. I only wish I did a more worthy job that would allow me to contribute more, rather than look on helplessly whilst furloughed.
As always, the obvious solution would be to simply stay off social media, but that seems a shame seeing as socialising virtually is one of the few ways we have left to keep in touch with friends, family, and the outside world.
If the time comes when we have to go into full lockdown, I will, of course, cease to venture outside our four walls. It’ll drive me crazy, but I’ll know I won’t be alone. However, until such extreme measures are deemed to be necessary, I’ll continue to ride; safely, and from my door, in order to stay sane.
I hope you’re all managing to stay safe and sane at this turbulent time, and look forward to seeing you back on the trails before too long ✌️