‘Flattening the Curve’ with Velo Club Walcot

Velo Club Walcot members take selfies on shorter-than-usual solo bike rides to keep fit during the Coronavirus crisis.

Rather than be understandably sad about the Covid-19 crisis, this Bath cycling club has kept physically fit and mentally alert on solo bike rides a bit closer to home than usual.

When the UK government announced a public lockdown in March 2020 in response to the worldwide Covid-19 virus pandemic, otherwise fit and healthy people were concerned that all outdoor exercise would be banned in line with countries like Italy, France and Spain.

The logic was to curtail the upward trend of the infection graph – to flatten the curve – so that health services could cope with a huge influx of critical illness.

However, in response to calls from bodies like Sport England and British Cycling, it was felt that as long as people maintained the same ‘social distancing’ methods recommended for essentials like food shopping, then it was deemed desirable for normal exercise activities that can be performed solo or in household groups to continue and thereby maintain health, fitness and mental wellbeing, and hopefully boosted immunity.

Or, at least ‘normal’ within the understanding that those taking exercise should keep it brief, stay close to home and take no risks that could place any additional load on hospitals.

Goodbye group rides, hello selfies

Velo Club Walcot realised that although its usual Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday rides over anything from 30 to 100 miles, and for multiple groups of members, were on compulsory lockdown like everyone else, there was however an opportunity to maintain a little normality, even if it was just to maintain a level of basic fitness and that feeling of wellbeing.

Which meant publishing a planned route for the members as usual, but much shorter and only to be ridden solo or with household members and at any time in the week; what was termed a ‘Virtual Club Ride’ on account of it being a Club Ride but without the usual company.

According to Jason Power, committee member responsible for Group Rides, “For many members the VC Walcot sociable rides are a highlight of the week, an opportunity, yes, for a workout at whatever level is appropriate depending on the group they ride with, but also an opportunity to enjoy our beautiful countryside and the company of people you don’t necessarily need to talk to about work.”

John Lakin, chair of the club added, “We were concerned about the mental well-being of our members as well as their physical fitness, and also wanted them to feel still part of a community even though we could no longer meet together in person.”

“Here’s how we’re doing this”

  • While we can, we’ll publish the route of a new Virtual Club Ride every Friday via the Facebook members’ group and our club page on Strava. Ride it anytime over the following 7 days, so pick a time that suits and helps you avoid others.
  • Ride solo, or with people you live with.
  • Follow social distancing guidance, and keep >2m away from anyone you encounter.
  • Stop and wait if necessary. If any sections are too busy at the time you ride, flex the route, we won’t be offended.
  • Wear your club kit, if you have it, with pride.
  • Take a snap somewhere nice on the week’s route, and share it with us on Facebook and Strava.
  • Take it easy. If there’s a steep descent on the route, save your PR for another time.
  • Have a great Virtual Club Ride!

The result so far has been a big success with as many members as normal participating in the group events but just cycling on their own and posting pictures of their ride. In fact, for members with work and family commitments that would normally coincide with the times of the group rides, it is even an advantage. And it works well for our members who are key workers, as they can fit it around their duties on the front-line.

By now in the fourth week of Virtual Club Rides since the commencement of lockdown, more routes have been added, miles ridden and smiling photo selfies posted.

You can see the Virtual Club Ride routes here.

You can read a nostalgic account of the 2018 Classics Ride here.

Click on the big picture below for a gallery of VCW members’ selfies from the Virtual Club Rides so far: