March 22, 2020 7 min read

By now we're sure COVID-19 needs no introduction. As a UK based Cycling Brand, based in North East England, we were curious as to how Coronavirus was affecting other cyclists like us, all over Europe. 

Last week Band Of Climbers should have been in Calpe for our first ever ambassador camp. We hoped to use the trip to shoot, and launch our new SS20 performance apparel range. We had planned this trip for months and were looking forward to riding with 10 of our new brand ambassadors in the early season sun.

Midway through the previous week the situation was changing rapidly on a day to day basis across Europe. At the time, Spain was fully open, flights were all operating but we knew the situation was escalating. Suddenly, we had a decision to make between flying on the Sunday morning, or cancelling the whole trip. Months of work hanging in the balance. 

CALPE CANCELLED

After much deliberation with our ambassadors and our our team, we canceled the trip late on the Thursday night. At the time it was a really tough decision but now only a few days later it seems crazy that we were even considering it. The situation seemed to escalate rapidly from that Thursday night until the Sunday when we should have flown. By the time we were due to arrive in Spain, a 15 day lockdown was in place and there is still a €3000 fine for anyone caught cycling outside in Calpe and many parts of Spain.

We were lucky to be able to cancel without flying straight into 2 weeks in quarantine. Others we knew weren't so lucky. They're locked up in hotels as we speak.

One week later and we thought it would be useful to share some insight into how Band of Climbers and our ambassadors across Europe are coping with the effects Coronavirus in their daily, and cycling lives.

This is a personal account from each rider, and due to the situation changing rapidly any information or views in this article should be overwritten by any recommendations or laws by your local government authorities. 

At the time of writing Italy, France, Denmark, Belgium and Spain are in lockdown in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus and cycling outside is banned. In the UK, Schools have just closed until further notice, although there is no lockdown, and we are free to cycle outside, at least for now. We suspect this may change very soon as the situation escalates day by day. 

RACES CANCELLED

Only a few weeks ago, we watched the early season pro races get cancelled and as the virus spread more and more World Tour Teams took the decision to pull out of races. At first it may have seemed premature - after all the UCI and regional governments were saying it was safe to go ahead. Now of course we can see that they made the right call as more and more races were cancelled and eventually a blanket postponement across all events and all sports was put in place. This is unprecedented in the modern era. Following the World Tour and Professional racing it trickled down and eventually, amateur events and races were cancelled too.

For most of us we cycle as a hobby or for sport and enjoyment. The simple pleasure of riding a bike seems insignificant in light of everything that is going on worldwide as the infection rate and death toll rises.  In the UK those who can are being urged to work from home where possible and so many of us may have more time on our hands to ride. The question is, should we? Some would argue that we should not take the risk as any accidents had while riding would impact negatively on the emergency services. If that is true then maybe everyone should give up driving until the epidemic is contained? It's a difficult subject to discuss. For many, exercise is their only escape, but then staying home is absolutely the right thing to do.

IS CYCLING NOW SAFE OR RECOMMENDED?

The Chief Medical Officer in the UK and British Cycling are recommending that we keep active for the time being but exercise alone or in small groups whilst keeping a safe distance apart.

So while racing and large group activities may be off the cards we can still ride our bikes - as long as you are feeling well and have no symptoms cycling is recommended. More and more people have been commuting by bicycle over the past few weeks too as they look to avoid public transport in cities up and down the country.

In this uncertain and stressful time, a simple bike ride is good for the soul and the mind. Even if you can’t get outside then the turbo trainer is there so you can still enjoy pedalling and keep the fitness up. Online platforms such as Zwift, TrainerRoad and Sufferfest are probably enjoying a surge in user engagement at the moment, and rightly so.

How Coronavirus is affecting our ambassadors 

We asked our ambassadors across Europe how they are coping with the effects of Covid-19.

Luisa Werner - France/Germany //  Follow on Instagram

“I can explain you my personal view and what happened to me during the last days/weeks regarding the pandemia. Last weekend, I was still doing a bike packing trip with my friends through Vercors (French Alpes) and everything was going as planned. On Saturday evening, it was announced, that only grocery stores and pharmacies will be opened. That affected us a little on our bike packing trip, since we were not able to stop for coffee or cake. Luckily, in France supermarkets are often opened on Sunday, so we just grabbed some food there and continued enjoying our bike packing trip.

Originally, I am from Germany, but currently studying in Grenoble. When I came home on Sunday evening, I heard on the radio that Germany will close its borders and that only German citizens are allowed to enter Germany. Meanwhile, I heard some rumours that there might be a ban on going out in France which is already the case in Italy or Spain. I live in a small student apartment by myself and was already in the home office. I felt a bit frustrated about the situation and was afraid to be alone, locked inside a small apartment, without the ability to go riding or running or talk to friends in real-life. I can be happy that I have Zwift, but this is not a real alternative.

I decided very short-term, to make my way to Germany. I grabbed some stuff, jumped into the car and drove there. As mentioned, there was a huge traffic jam in front of the German border even though I arrived there at midnight. Everyone’s passport was checked, only germans or people with special admissions were allowed to pass.

At 3 in the night I arrived in Germany. Here, it’s still allowed to leave the home or go for a ride. I hope this situation will continue a bit. If not, I feel a bit more comfortable being in a place where we have a garden and at least the possibility to breathe some fresh air.

I hope this situation will change soon and we will fight the pandemia. I already planned a lot of rides I still want to do in and around Grenoble. So I hope I’ll be able to go back soon.”

Stay safe and here's hoping we get to ride together soon! The mountains will still be there once we’ve beaten this virus".

Anja and Miha - France/Slovenia //  Follow Anja on Instagram

“Anja and me were planning for Calpe and we were very sad when it was canceled. Of course now we are happy as the cycling trip would only become trip to stay inside and probably with problems to return. If not even more.

Our work plan changed a lot. We were in France (work-related) until 2 days ago, when all future activities were canceled. We do not know for how long. Now we are back home in Slovenia. Cycling wise that means we can start riding outside one month earlier, which is kind of positive thing in this difficult situation (of course alone). Hopefully it will all go back to normal soon and we will be able to travel and explore cycling routes across Europe. Until then we will need to find new routes at home."

Dean Tucker - Devon, UK  //  Follow on Instagram

“For me personally, I had arranged to do the Mont Ventoux Cingles Challenge with a friend in May. I don’t think that will be taking place, so there’s a postponement. 

I was also in the throes of arranging a trip to the Sierra Nevada to climb the Pico del Veleta in early September in Spain… so we’ll see what happens over the next few weeks/months as to what happens. It’s that unknown entity again.

My wife works in our local bike shop which also has a cafe. I think they're going to have to re-think and re-structure the way they do things somewhat as everybody becomes more conscious of this virus.

I do hope that we don’t go down the extreme route that our European neighbours have adopted and put everyone on lockdown, but again, we’ll wait and see as everything develops.

The vulnerable certainly need protecting in these unprecedented times.

I don’t own a turbo trainer, however I’m very lucky that I ride MTB. I’m often out on my Stumpjumper and do spend time talking to myself (weird eh?) and I do think a lot of road riders miss so much off-road.

Don’t get me wrong however, there is nothing better in life than being on your favourite Italian bike in the sunshine with your mates, but I do like thinking outside the box. I don’t know a lot of riders that ride road and MTB, yes a lot of riders gravel nowadays but I’m talking about proper fat tyres and suspension…

We’ve a few acres here at home, so again I’m lucky in the fact that we can keep ourselves active in and around our own area. ;-)

If you’ve seen my Strava or Insta post’s you’ll know I’m not adverse to going out in whatever and grinding away in the wet and mud.”

 

Angel King - Germany //  Follow on Instagram

"Everyone here in Germany is being precautious. We all work from home now only essential staff is present and there is no mixed contact permitted between employees.No social contact, and a 3 meter rule when speaking to colleagues.

Understanding the importance of social distancing is key to stopping the spread of the virus. With the ambassador camp being canceled as well as most of the events beginning to mid-season, I felt disappointed at first, but it is very crucial that we all as athletes must do our part.

Just because I am unable to race or attend social rides, doesn’t mean there are limitations to riding solo. I am still able to ride on my Wahoo system if a curfew is to take effect, but for now #bikesarentcancelled and last I checked going out into nature is free!"

 


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