Updated: Aug 22, 2021
I have always preferred to take my longest holiday of the year over Christmas and over the past 20 years have only twice taken more than a week during the summer. This is not because I have some puritanical loathing of enjoying myself in the sun, nor even that I love the crappy weather of December. It is more down to the fact that when you come back to work in January, everyone else is moving as slowly as you and you get to gradually wind yourself back up to working speed. Take two weeks off in the summer and get back to work and everything is flying around at 1000kph and no one gives a shit about your two weeks in Mallorca. You have to get straight back on it at work. It feels like being a track cyclist trying to restart your working brain in a massive gear that takes huge effort to get going. This January feels different though. It feels like we are suffering from a national post-holiday depression. Literally, no one I talk to is upbeat about their life. The COVID effect is in full force. We are back in full lockdown with no end in sight: unless you are placing all your hopes on the bloke who keeps telling you it will all be over soon. Johnson is like a builder promising to come and fix your roof and repeatedly failing to show up or showing up without his tools but still telling you not to worry about the leaks, while you are standing knee-deep in water.
Anyway, you didn't come here for a lecture on politics. No. You came here to read something positive and uplifting. You want your reasons to be cheerful parts one, two and three.
The end of the year is traditionally the time we look back on fond memories and look forward with eager anticipation. Excepts that's hard if COVID has taken away your past, present and future. Or at least it feels that way. But it is a matter of perspective you see. I have taken a conscious decision to take the positives out of anything I can last year and plan for a better 2021.
COVID forced me to ride indoors more than at any time in my life and I have always hated riding indoors - but those 5,000 kilometres resulted in my biggest ever year on a bike at just over 13,000km.
COVID stopped me from completing the long ride home I had planned for 2020 - but that meant I switched to plan B and rode home from Edinburgh with Rachel on a fantastic week on the bike.
COVID stopped me from joining any Club rides since March - but Zwift and Discord meant I could still ride with friends from the Club several times a week even though I have seen most of them on months. And the friends I had going into lockdown have become even closer friends.
COVID meant that I couldn't do the events I was booked into and forced me to ride alone most of the summer - but that meant I finally rode a solo audax during the summer, tried real bikepacking and rode in a gravel event. Three things I could never have guessed in March last year.
COVID meant I spent hours watching YouTube videos in the search to relieve my boredom - but that just convinced me to have a crack at making my own and it doesn't matter if I didn't become an overnight star, I enjoyed making them.
Plus I saved a ton of money by not travelling for work and promptly spent it on a new adventure bike which has opened up a whole new world for me and whisper it quietly I quite like riding off-road and could even be tempted to go the whole way to the dark side.
You see what I mean. I could go on. It is all too easy to feel sorry for yourself. I can be thankful that what COVID hasn't done is affected my health or that of my family. The same cannot be said for others who have had to deal with its tragic effects.
It may be months before I get vaccinated and so I am guessing that my Long Ride Home this year may have to wait until September or I may have to stick to another UK based ride. That's no hardship. I want to do a bikepacking trip that doesn't involve hotels and Airbnb's. I want to explore more of the gravel trails around the UK. I want to ride with family and friends again: the distance doesn't matter. I am going to play about more with YouTube just for the fun of it. There's a ton of stuff I can dream about and spend time thinking about what I need to do to make it happen.
I can distract myself today and tomorrow by planning for these things. They will be all the sweeter when they happen because of the anticipation. Don't give in to boredom, frustration and depression my friends. There is still so much you can do just by getting on your bike.
I will leave the final word on this post to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (he of Sherlock Holmes fame)
"When the day appears dark, when
work becomes monotonous,
when hope hardly seems worth
having, just mount a bicycle and
go out for a spin down the road,
without thought on anything
but the ride you are taking."