Bicycle Touring in a Pandemic

I have been riding my bicycle like a mad man this year, especially since my other three activities, part time work, travel, and street photography, have been suspended by COVID-19. Everybody must be going nuts by having their usual activities cut off. Of course, people who work for a living have it the worst. At least I have cycling, which means that I am doing it more often to fill in the voids left by other activities.

In a typical year, I train for about 2000 miles and tour for nearly 800 miles. There are two supported tours that I do every year and they are personal benchmarks for me. I do the Cycle the Erie Canal tour organized by Parks and Trails New York, a 400 mile ride from Buffalo, New York, to Albany. I do the C&O and GAP tour provided by the Adventure Cycling Association, a 380 mile ride from Washington DC to Pittsburgh. The CTEC ride draws up to 700 riders and the C&O and GAP up to 50.

I have registered for the 2020 CTEC since PTNY has committed to refunding the registration fees if the ride is cancelled. They are working with the health authorities in New York to determine whether or not the ride is feasible and it may be a while before that determination is made. The ride is scheduled to begin 12 July, so there is time for things to stabilize.

The C&O and GAP ride is scheduled to begin two months later in September. I have not registered for that one yet, but probably will, provided the ACA gives assurances concerning cancellation and refunds. ACA is very good about those things. They provided a refund for the ride in 2018 when rains and flooding on the Potomac River made the route and potential work-a rounds impossible.

Another factor for the organizers of those rides is that even if procedures are in place to ensure the safety of the riders and staff, people may be reluctant to participate. I will evaluate the risks when the decisions are made to hold the rides, but I will be inclined to ride. I would recommend registering if you have been planning to ride, but it is really dependent on everybody’s personal comfort level.

I have given some thought to going beck to self-supported touring this summer. The risk is that support services will not be open along the way, such as those that provide lodging, food, and water. My backup plan is to do day tours locally, such as Cape Cod and nearby states, including Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine. I can get to all of those places for a 50 to 70 mile self-contained day ride and not need lodging.

Those are my thoughts about bicycle touring in the current environment with COVID-19. Personally, I will continue training, especially since I have little else that will make me happy other than a return to normalcy and I believe that the risks are low. The tours are a great tradition for me and for many others, but we will need to wait for decisions to be made. Hopefully my backup plan can keep me sane until things get closer to normal.

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