It’s not quite that easy to reopen, is it? A magical incantation may have worked in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves but it will take something beyond words to get the club to really open up and reveal its treasures. It’s proved that way at other Bay Area cycling clubs as well—being able to reopen for rides has not led to a spate of listings nor of participation. Most members are still eschewing group rides even though they check off just about all the safety boxes: health and safety protocols, outdoor and mostly uncrowded, and constantly moving air. Everybody’s assessement of risk is going to be different and although we’d like to think there is a rational calculus, so much is unknown about COVID spread that the penumbra of uncertainty seems large and hazy. I have read anecdotally that in Florida, which pandemic-wise is a world unto itself, large group rides (e.g. 50+ riders) take place almost every day of the week where riders ride in close quarters unmasked, i.e. conduct rides as if nothing were different today. Actually I still see a few “relatives” of those Florida training rides out here although they aren’t quite as big and more of the riders are carrying face coverings even if they aren’t wearing them. But for the most part Bay Area cyclists seem to be riding by themselves or only with small groups of family or friends.
We restarted our club rides in October and they’ve mostly been led or co-led by our Secretary Jeff Pekrul. They seem small—maybe four to eight participants—but those numbers were pretty typical prepandemic. Of course you can’t have club rides without ride leaders/hosts and since that population has always been small—about fifteen or so members—the limiting factor is going to be the number of hosts that are willing to lead now. Whether it’s because the pandemic has upended personal lives, fear of COVID transmission, or the fact that it’s currently the rainy season and cold, ride leaders aren’t leaping forward to grab the reins, so to speak.
Looking at who’s showing up on our pandemic rides it’s mostly the same people, ie. those who aren’t fearful of congregating with fellow Spokers. Everybody else seems to be hunkered down waiting for the plague to blow over. But with mass vaccination no longer on the horizons and well into view, more Spokers are certain to emerge like Punxsutawney Phil and not be scared by their shadows.
I’ve certainly been pondering this question although it’s mostly theoretical since I’m still recovering from an injury that’s keeping me off the bike: when I’m vaccinated, will I then start leading club rides just like before? Will I then join a club ride? I hate to admit it but there is one thing that is a real turn-off for doing a group ride right now: I can’t stop someplace, sit down, and have a nice lunch midride. Restaurants are currently open only for takeout and it’s cold outside. Eating takeout under those conditions is not a whole lot different than stopping at the Kwik-E-Mart for a snack. Yeah, it’ll get you home but it’s…disappointing.
I’m looking forward to the day when we can do a ride, sit down for a delightful meal filled with insouciant and witty conversation, and then after an inspiring postprandial coffee saddle up again for a slow roll back to the manse. Without a mask.