Social but distant.


Furlough has just been extended to October in the UK, this isn’t going to end soon. So what are your options to stay in touch with your former ride buddies & keep your motivation to ride during this difficult period?

Everybody has their own situation at this time, you could be in one of many, all with their own challenges, caring for young or older people, furloughed, working full time at home or still at work. Any ride solutions have to meet the needs of those most affected by the lock-down, people in your group may be transitioning in & out of different circumstances, so make this for everybody, not just the furloughed mile-eaters with no children who can ride 150km a day if they want. Those having the most difficulty are also those who need some level of social interaction, even if it’s just this, knowing that they’re riding the same roads as others & everybody is watching how you’re doing.

You’re not going to be racing or doing any organised mass rides this year, so you’re not realistically training for anything other than Strava K.O.M.’s and I’ll explain below why that’s a big no-no right now, and could actually do you some serious harm.

But, there is something you can do, something that is semi-competitive, inclusive, open to all abilities & gets you all doing the same routes each week, giving you a hint of riding with each other while staying completely apart. I’ll spell these out in the numbered sections listed below. But first you should read ‘The expert advice‘ so you’re aware that even without symptoms, you need to look after yourself & stay safe.

Refer to these sections in the text below:

  1. Keep it local: Choose a 10km radius or a 14km radius half circle
  2. Routes: Plan a number of varying routes within your chosen area that you think will take about an hour, based on the mid pace of your group riders. Pick 2 per week.
  3. Pick a speed: Each rider predicts their own speed, as slow or as fast as they like
  4. Scoring: Try to get as close to your predicted time as possible, one point per each second you are away from that time, lowest points score wins

The expert advice

The first place I saw this was from a very well respected cyclist & surgeon based in Scotland (also an animal on a bike, and a gentleman off it). Who tweeted:

All my keen cycling pals- keep yourselves healthy just now by staying aerobic in training to reduce autonomic stress and decrease your risk of a) catching coronavirus in the first place and b) not ending up with myocarditis by training with it! seen evidence of the latter already

There was also a communication from Scottish Cycling’s Craig McCulloch to coaches, entitled ‘Training through C19 – support for coaches’:

The general advice is to keep training aerobic which means mostly zone 3 and below with some lower zone 4 work for short periods.  As in the statement above, aerobic training means practically being able to speak in at least short sentences and not gasping hard for air. However, every training bout has an intensity and duration component which combines to equal the overall training load or stress.  So, an hour at the top end of zone 3 which is aerobic will become a high stress session of this time period and should be avoided, despite the intensity not being that high. So, the advice is to reduce both intensity and duration of training and efforts.  In summary training should be mostly moderate with a small amount of ‘harder’ work (for a shorter than normal period of time) and overall training sets should not feel overly hard or depleting with Rating of perceived exhaustion (RPE) reduced.

So it’s clear, use this time for base training, strength training, skills, flexibility, but don’t do flat out efforts, don’t try to get that Strava KOM, that’s not the smart way to spend this time.

1. Keep it local

Let’s look at keeping within the social distancing rules while getting out for a ride, not just for you but for those who’d have to come & get you if you need help . Everybody has their own situations, if you live by yourself, then if you travel too far on the bike (further than a decent hike), you’re going to have to get somebody from outside your household to rescue you if something goes wrong out on the road & you can’t ride home. So you’ll potentially not just get yourself in trouble if that does happen. If you live with others, it probably depends on whether or not they’d be willing to drive to come & get you, so your distant rides might be limited to before the kids go to bed, if you travel too far from home. So your distant social rides are going to have to let those with the most confinements take part.

Here’s something to try, put a 10km radius around your postcode & see how many roads it throws up, you might be surprised (Use the FreeMapTools website to do this). 10km is a good distance, it’s ‘just about’ walk-able in cycling shoes, your cleats will be wrecked & then you’ll do the rest in your socks, so it won’t be pleasant, but you’ll not have to call out anybody else & put them at risk of leaving the house if they don’t want to.  I did the 10km radius and quite easily managed to plan a 100km route in about 5 minutes on Strava route builder, without going over any of the same roads. It’s a bigger area than you’d imagine, give it a go.

As an alternative, for example if you live in a suburb, and a 10km radius would take you into a city centre, simply take a 14km radius & use a half circle, which equates to about the same area (although you’d have to walk a bit further if something happens, so SPD’s & mountain bike shoes might be your safe option).

This is important for what comes next, even if you’re lucky enough to have the ability to go further with no social distancing problems.

2. Routes

Ok, so you’ve got your 10km radius circle plotted (or your 14km radius half circle), you’ve probably got a few routes of varying distances planned out within that area, now the obvious solution to involve your ride buddies is to pick a route each week & see who can cover it the quickest time? No. That’s breaking the rule on riding too hard based on the expert advice, there’s no way you can control that, it will become a race. There is another way that encourages base training & teaches a valuable skill, but opens up a measurable competitiveness you can compete with your friends, using a different metric, pacing.

The distance needs to be inclusive, so the chances are somebody in your usual group is in a situation where they either can’t go far, or they have limited time, they probably need this semi-social solution more than you. So you can add a bit on at the end if you want, but keep everybody involved.

How far? We’ve been randomly advised to limit our rides to around one hour, although not officially, so lets use that for now, I’m sure everybody hopes they can get out for at least an hour twice a week. Take a look at your buddies Strava rides, look at their average speeds over varying terrain, a quick look at mine means a range of 24kmh to 32kmh. So an hours ride for the slower riders is going to be 24km, for the faster ones it’s 32km. So if you say 28km is the mid point, that’s your distance for looking at planning routes, anybody should be able to find a good number of local routes of that approximate distance within your radius.

3. Pick a speed

Ok, you’ve got your rides, you’ve picked 2 per week (or however many you think EVERYBODY will manage, keep them all involved), ideally rides of varying terrain if you have choices. They don’t have to be particularly challenging, in fact flat courses have their own unique pacing challenge as any time triallist will tell you.

Next, post your courses to your ride buddies or local group on Whats-app group, Facebook page, Strava club or Forums (if anybody still uses those), do it how you like. The Strava route builder is ideal for this, but again, use whatever you’re comfortable with. Just make sure its accessible to everybody involved, no point in using something you’ve paid for & others have to sign up to use. This has to be inclusive.

Everybody needs to pick a target speed BEFORE the ride, every rider does this themselves, this is where you come in (yes, you, reading this, you’re the administrator now), somebody has to collect the numbers & eventually score them. So riders pick a target average speed over the course, then post it on your local Whats-app group, Facebook page, Strava club or Forums (if anybody still uses those), do it how you like.

4. Scoring

Strava looks the best platform to do all this on, you can create & share public routes, create a club with messages to collect riders scores, it’ll also make it easy to gather the information. When the rider picks their individual average speed, it allows them to train in a certain target zone, it allows them to have a recovery ride, or, against the advice, they can go ballistic if they want, but whatever the speed, you’re competing on your pacing ability. This is a total freedom exercise, but I’d assume most would target a speed based on their recent rides.

Scoring is based on how far away they can get from their target time in seconds, lowest score on the weeks rides wins. You can attempt the rides as often as you like within the week. Publish the weeks rides on Saturday, get the riders predicted speeds by Sunday night & then the week runs from Monday to Sunday. You can do your rides any time you like. You might even choose a speed based on ride with your kids, or somebody else, that’s fine too if it’s very different to your normal speed, you can choose whatever you like.

You can add in some bonus & penalty issues to spice it up, like creating a Strava segment of the last 1000m or 500m, or both, to check whether anybody is sandbagging to ‘fix’ their speed, or absolutely tanking it, both frowned upon. I’d give them the next persons score if that’s obvious. You could add in an additional 10 point removal for the closest to your selected average on a segment within the ride.

Have some fun with this, get creative, mix it up, it’s up to you, this may make a small contribution to breaking the monotony of just doing things by yourself, it looks like currently, the small things might make a difference. Stay safe

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