How the Coronavirus Pandemic Contributed to a new Appreciation for Taking a Ride in the Woods
Bicycling had been with our society as a wonder of human invention since the primordial velocipede was developed in 1817. In it’s various iterations the bicycle enabled our ability to travel longer distances at a faster pace than walking or running could afford. Over two hundred years after the velocipede first rolled, cycling is still with us though the practical uses have evolved and expanded over time. Commuters, cycling enthusiasts, and nature loving folk continue to adopt the stalwart and timeless design despite the eclectic selection of segways, scooters, rollerblades, and yes automobiles that are ubiquitous in our society.
If there is one use for the bicycle that has truly garnered a new appreciation as our global grapple with the scourge of Coronavirus continues, it is the escapism that this mode of transportation offers as an expeditious manner of transitioning away from the woeful troubles of our pandemic-infused society toward a closer communion with our natural selves. However fleeting the moments may be and the inevitably that at the end of that bike ride we must return to the confines of this society, a simple ride through the woods offers liberation in the moment, however temporary, from the troubling times we live in. This more than any aspect has granted license to the bicycle as a means of mental therapy in addition to all it’s practical applications.
I started bicycling consistently for the first time in decades around the time I turned 40, several years before the pandemic. My rationale at the time was to apply cycling, for which I had fond memories of from childhood (on my Murray BMX), as a means to achieve fitness as I aged. I don’t ride a top of the line Cervelo, rather a 27-year old Schwinn. I don’t wear spandex. I don’t have any illusions about cyclocross, triathlon, or training for the Vuelta a Espana (especially at my age). But despite a simple love for experiencing the outdoors on two 650b wheels, I could not possibly have anticipated that I would find the hobby to be an asset to my mental health, as we collectively reconciled coping with the worst health crisis our society has faced in a century. My wife and I found extra solace and appreciation in observing more closely the deer, the Blue Herons, the American Goldfinches, and the Cardinals among other natural masterpieces, more closely than we ever had before. I feel that these experiences beckon us to escape from what we’ve faced over the past nearly two years, and they have afforded a kind of mental and emotional clarity that would otherwise have been more elusive in the absence of this hobby. I cannot recommend it enough to take up the bicycle and ride out into the woods, and if we collectively did this it may help us all to face this crisis with a clearer mind, rise above it, and persevere.