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Ask BikePortland: How can I connect with other riders in the time of COVID-19?

Posted by on August 12th, 2020 at 9:14 am

Friends at bike events. Remember that?
(Photo at 2016 Cycle Oregon finish line by Steve Schulz)

Are you feeling a bit lonely? You’re not the only one.

These warm summer months are typically peak season for Portland’s cycling scene. But during a time when the coronavirus dominates hearts and minds, most events and races have been cancelled. Usually bustling bikeways are sparse.

Events are the connective tissue of a healthy bike ecosystem. They’re where friendships are made and riding buddies are found. Crowded bike lanes make us feel connected to others and create perfect opportunities for impromptu chit-chat. (I can remember bumping into several friends and acquaintances on a typical weekday ride through the city.)

Reader Jason B is feeling the effects of cycling becoming far less social. He asked us on Twitter recently,

“How do cyclists connect with other cyclists when there are no organized events or any kind going on? In light of things like Cross Crusade being cancelled, I am curious how other cyclists are connecting.”

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In follow-up messages Jason described himself as an introvert who uses cycling to be more social. “Being out on the commuter roads (like Williams Avenue for example) or racing is where I meet people,” he shared. After working from home for six months and with so many bike events scuttled, Jason misses those connections.

How is your mental health lately? Do you have any advice for Jason and others who are feeling isolated during these physically and socially-distant times?

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Middle of the Road Guy
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Middle of the Road Guy

There are other people out there feeling the same as Jason. Those people would probably jump at the opportunity to do something but might not be the people to initiate the “something”.

David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

panem et circenses: the ancient Romans learned from long experience that if you don’t feed regularly your people (panem – bread) and constantly entertain them (circenses – public entertainment), your populace quickly discovers how truly miserable their short lives actually are, and how corrupt and incompetent their government really is, and they typically rioted as a result.

Cancelling public events in a health emergency makes sense on the short immediate term, but it’s been 4 or 5 months now, so if our local event organizers and governments haven’t learned yet how to do events other than by cancelling them, then something is really rotten at the core of our local and state governments. With social distancing, it should be safe to hold large outdoor events, and to require that people wear masks when social distancing isn’t practical or possible.

Jason
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Jason

For me, the worst part is the edict to not travel unnecessarily. Summer in Oregon is the best time and we / I am missing out on a lot of tourist opportunities. Of course, just yesterday I saw a car with Idaho plates with the windows down, no masks. I know we get a lot of people taking refuge from Idaho, by taking up residence here in PDX. I trust my gut when it tells me they were here for tourism. Kind of frustrating, even if these particular people weren’t tourists, I know that it’s happening.

I cope by exploring new ways of expressing my self as a cyclist. Doing more work on my own bike, doing more challenging, but close to home rides. There’s no substitute for the social aspect, but I don’t miss the crowds of bike events.

dan
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dan

I’m pretty damn sick and tired of riding Skyline/St John’s Bridge/the Bluff loops solo, but I’m still not willing to get in a pace line. I guess it’s good mental toughness training to prepare for the 8 months of Zwifting that will start in October :-/

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

I’ve never thought of riding as social — I ride with others maybe a few times a year and actively avoid riding near people I don’t know.

If someone wants to be social with strangers, the parks seem like a good place to do that as people expect to encounter others and it’s easy to both distance and be social at the same time. Dog parks are probably the best bet (you don’t have to have a dog) because the people that do this are naturally social and stay awhile.

The comments on social events make me wonder if one of the reasons the protests have so much staying power is that’s how a bunch of people are socializing — it helps explain why so many of them are held late at night when most people are trying to sleep rather than at times when others would see/hear them.

Ben
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Ben

From my experience during the pandemic, the best way to connect with other riders is to either

A) fall into a ditch, or
B) get a blown out tire

Either way, if you are on a popular route, multiple friendly cyclists will stop to see if they can offer any assistance. I have made many friends this way, although the method was pretty unintentional.

Johnny Bye Carter
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Johnny Bye Carter

There are still regularly scheduled social rides such as Thursday Night Ride, Foster Night Ride, and tomorrow’s Midnight Mystery Ride.

Maria
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Maria

Hey everyone, hi Jonathan. I feel it too. As an “extreme extrovert”, the alone time is definitely tough. If I view it as a challenge to be beat, that does help.

In terms of bike socializing, I’ve split the difference between solo and group rides. I have a few regular friends that I do one on one rides with. And I’ve put together a couple of weekend bike-camping trips with 3-4-5 riders, with an agreement to distance ourselves physically. (Pro tip: inviting couples or families is a big win, because they effectively count as a single viral entity).

I will say that I’ve initiated every single ride / camp trip. I have not been invited on a ride even once since March. Luckily, I like inviting others and making a plan. It gives me a great chance to create the route I want to ride and “make” my friends do it.

That said, feel free to invite me on a ride, friends!!

Vince
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Vince

Perhaps this is the place to make this suggestion: It is time to end the practice of launching snot rockets. Saw one being launched at the start of a busy MUP yesterday by a rider in full kit and carbon. If you can afford that, you can afford a Kleenex. Bike and clothing choices aside, sending nasal juice airborne is just gross at anytime and now seems callous to leave what could be a disease vector lying around. Yeah pros do just about every bodily function while keeping their bikes in motion, but just about all of them will tell you that they have gotten splattered by fluids at some point.