Tuesday, March 31, 2020


Washington County government announced yesterday the county’s first COVID-19 fatality, one of 37 confirmed cases here. The man was my age and, like me, was employed in Waukesha County. Health department officials cited pre-existing medical conditions that made this unfortunate man more susceptible to the coronavirus. I suppose I also have a pre-existing condition: asthma. It’s not a big deal in normal circumstances, but we’re no longer living in normal circumstances.

I can go months at a time without taking a hit off my inhaler. Things were worse before I became a cyclist. I’m no doctor, but I feel like I have so greatly increased my lung capacity and efficiency that I am no longer troubled by some of the triggers that used to make me wheeze. And in recent years I have taken several measures to improve the quality of the air inside my home. Replacing the old carpet in the lower level was the biggest step forward. I shudder to think of all the dust mites, mold spores, and pet dander that resided therein. My home is smoke-free, pet-free, and more-or-less radon free. Not that radon is an asthma trigger … it’s just the second-leading cause of lung cancer behind cigarettes. So, yes, my asthma is very well controlled. But I can easily imagine that it would complicate COVID-19. Asthma or no asthma, the best thing to do is to stay uninfected.

For the last week I have been working from home, and I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to do so. In most ways, the last week has felt like the work-from-home arrangement I had with my previous employer. The big difference is the schedule: these days I’m working overnight instead of normal business hours. I’ve been doing the nighttime thing for 4.5 years now, but it has felt very different during the last week. Without the 66 miles per day of commuting between West Bend and Brookfield, I have more free time and less stress. I’m sleeping longer and better. I’m probably even eating a little better, as there’s no break room vending machine to tempt me. I’m a little ashamed to say this, given how negatively the current crisis is impacting so many others, but I’m actually better off. As long as the economy doesn’t nosedive so dramatically that I lose my job, I’m going to be OK.

Bike riding? Well, here on the last day of the first quarter of 2020, at least I can say that I’m ahead of last year’s pace. Ever so slightly. That’s got nothing to do with the coronavirus or even with the decimated racing and special events calendars that disincentivize training; it’s all about the weather. We still haven’t turned the corner. We’re 2 weeks into spring but we’re struggling to stay above 40 degrees. The thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that last spring was a crapfest too and I still got close to 5,000 miles before the end of the year. It’s impossible to believe that Wisconsin’s quarantine is going to be lifted before the end of April. I’m hoping that the combination of improving weather and continuing home-based employment will contribute to a big mileage total in the month to come.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Yes, You Can Ride Your Bike

As expected, today the governor announced much stricter quarantine rules to fight the spread of the coronavirus in Wisconsin. The rules cover almost every aspect of daily life, and collectively they amount to a Stay at Home order. Activities deemed essential—going to the grocery store to buy food, for example—are expressly permitted.

So, too, is cycling. Section 11 of the governor’s order defines Essential Activities. Paragraph C reads as follows:

Outdoor activity. To engage in outdoor activity, including visiting public and state parks, provided individuals comply with Social Distancing Requirements as defined below. Such activities include, by way of example and without limitation, walking, biking, hiking, or running. Individuals may not engage in team or contact sports such as by way of example and without limitation, basketball, ultimate frisbee, soccer, or football, as these activities do not comply with Social Distancing Requirements. Playgrounds are closed.

State parks and trails are not closed. In fact, you can use them for free.

Washington County parks and trails are not closed. In fact, you can use them for free (though county trails remain off-limits to bicycles because of an old, ill-conceived rule that has nothing to do with the pandemic).

Bike shops are not closed. You can’t use them for free, of course, but Section 13, Paragraph K recognizes them as essential businesses:

Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation. Gas stations; auto and motorcycle supply, repair and sales; boat supply, repair, and sales; and bicycle supply, repair, and sales.

Yes, you can ride your bike. Get outside and engage in healthy activities to keep your body strong, your head clear, and your spirits high.

Monday, March 23, 2020

My Own Private Eisenbahn

This coronavirus is the real deal, and it’s going to become an even bigger deal tomorrow when the governor announces that Wisconsin is basically closed. Individual outdoor exercise should be allowed to continue, but I’ll bet the unpaved parts of the Eisenbahn State Trail stay quiet. Today I saw nobody north of Northwestern Avenue in West Bend, where the pavement ends.

I’m cool with that.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Monday, March 16, 2020

RTC Postpones Opening Day For Trails

Today the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy postponed Opening Day For Trails, a nationwide event originally scheduled for April 18. Locally, Bike Friendly West Bend had partnered with RTC and other groups to plan activities on and around the Eisenbahn State Trail. But the coronavirus pandemic strikes again, and there’s no end in sight. This is turning into a lost season for cycling at almost every level.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Cycling’s Disappearing Calendar

All joking aside, educate yourself about this imminent threat to public health.

Today I watched the final stage of Paris-Nice, compelled by morbid curiosity. Was it the last major bike race of the 2020 season? Is the coronavirus pandemic going to wipe out everything else? I’ve never seen anything like the measures that are being taken right now. And it’s not just cycling. The NBA and NHL seasons are on hold, NASCAR has canceled a couple of races, the start of the Major League Baseball season is being pushed back, and the NCAA basketball tournament will not be held. This is extraordinary stuff, the social and economic impact of which will be huge.

Cycling is getting off relatively easy, given that it doesn’t really generate attendance and concessions income from its fans. Paris-Nice held 7 of its 8 scheduled stages, canceling Sunday’s finale. In that respect it was still a proper stage race, but some riders stayed home or went home early. Some teams stayed away altogether. It wasn’t the race that it should have been, but at least it went on. Cyclingnews now has a running list of races that weren’t so fortunate, and it’s probably going to grow. In a world turned upside down, Australia-based Mitchelton-Scott has replaced actual racing with virtual racing … only temporarily, let’s hope.

Here in Wisconsin, American Bicycle Racing has canceled tomorrow’s criterium in Kenosha and may cancel the crits scheduled for March 22 and March 29. We’re still several weeks away from the WCA, WEMS, Wisport, and WORS season openers. Hopefully they will be spared, but the impact of the epidemic is still expanding. We don’t really know how bad it’s going to get and how long it’s going to last.

Watching Paris-Nice today was the extent of my personal cycling plans for this weekend. I’m picking up 24 hours of overtime at work—12-hour shifts today and tomorrow—so I won’t have a chance to get back on the bike until Monday afternoon. That’s OK; it’s going to be a chilly weekend. I wasn’t sure about this when I wrote last Sunday’s post, but apparently West Bend hit 61° that afternoon, making it our first day in the 60s since October 21. There isn’t another day remotely like that in our current forecast.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Flirting With Spring

(It wouldn't kill you to read something other than cycling blogs.)

Decent weekend, wasn’t it? We got into the 50s and had plenty of sunshine, but we also had an abundance of wind. That’s not uncommon at this time of year. It was limiting, though: I rode far fewer miles than I would have otherwise. I’m also still limited by the snow and ice that lingers on many of our trails and park paths. I’m really looking forward to a firm, dry Eisenbahn State Trail, as its unpaved miles are essential to my training.

For several of my friends, this weekend was the start of the road season. Until this weekend they were training indoors only or riding fat bikes on snow-covered mountain bike trails. My ride this afternoon was my 9th, and it got me to 200 miles, year-to-date. Those aren’t boast-worthy numbers, but they do put me about 10 days ahead of last year’s pace.

My Sunday began with Stage 1 of Paris-Nice on NBC Sports Gold, and I’m looking forward to daily coverage for the next week. Typically regarded as a Tour de France scouting trip rather than a major objective in its own right, Paris-Nice is going to get some extra attention this season because it’s the only option. Fear of coronavirus has decimated the spring calendar in Italy: no Tirreno-Adriatico, no Milano-Sanremo, no Tour of Sicily, no Strade Bianche, no Settimana Coppi e Bartali. Italian racing is closed for business until at least the beginning of April. We'll see if some of the events get rescheduled, but things don’t look good.

On Friday I posted my tentative 2020 calendar and, as you can see, it’s pretty light. This is starting to look like a high-mileage spring and summer followed by a (hopefully) long cyclocross season. And the full cyclocross calendar probably won’t be out until May at the earliest, so it could be a while before I know how I’m going to justify my USA Cycling license. Keep checking back. The calendar is always a work in progress.

Monday, March 2, 2020

A New Spin On Track Cycling

Berlin's velodrome is a stunning architectural achievement.

Last week I invested considerable time in the UCI Track Cycling World Championships, held in Berlin and available to me on NBC Sports Gold. It was a staggering amount of coverage—21 hours, 38 minutes, 18 seconds—starting on Wednesday and ending on Sunday. (I got off easy: for the fans in attendance at the velodrome, those were 8-hour days!) I watched all of the broadcasts … perhaps not with complete absorption, but certainly with a greater appreciation of track cycling than I could muster before. I had seen only a handful of World Cup events and had failed to achieve a full understanding of the structure of the competition. I get it now and, for the most part, it’s OK.

But it’s only OK. The points race and the Madison are a total mess, incomprehensible without an announcer and a scoreboard. With so many riders on the track, it’s impossible to watch everything. Who’s in the lead? Who’s a lap up or a lap down? Who’s actually racing and not just riding around? Who thought it was a good idea to invent races where the person who crosses the finish line first isn’t necessarily the winner? The pursuits, sprints, and elimination races do work. They’re short and exciting and easy to follow. If it were up to me, then I would build my tournament around those and throw out the longer events. I would drop the Keirin too, on the grounds that it’s just too goofy to start a 6-lap race on Lap 4 after being paced up to full speed by a bowlegged man on a Derny.

I’m not the only one who thinks track cycling could use a facelift. The UCI has announced sweeping changes to begin next season. Its partnership with Eurosport will result in track events that are condensed into a TV-friendly, 2-hour schedule. The Keirin is still in the plans, despite being a real race for less than half of the time it takes to complete. But team events are out. Traditionalists will hate that, but the UCI and Eurosport appear to believe it will be easier to create a narrative around a handful of individual stars to compel fans to watch the broadcasts. And that’s not a bad idea. You’ve heard of American swimmer Michael Phelps, right? With 28 medals, he’s the most decorated Olympian in history. Now, name any of the other three men with whom he won the 4x100 medley relay at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. Each one is a gold medalist, after all, and they did set an Olympic record on that occasion. Still drawing a blank? Exactly.

Having come through so many hours of track cycling in the last few days, I’m looking forward to a pared-down presentation when this year’s Olympics begin in Tokyo. It’s probably enough to see just the gold medal races and not the qualification runs or bronze medal matchups. Yesterday in Berlin, one of the races was run only to determine places 7-12; a separate race for the top 6 qualifiers determined the medals. Come on. It’s time to cut track events down to a size that modern audiences can swallow.

Sunday, March 1, 2020


Today was the first 50° day in West Bend this year. We haven’t had the coldest of winters—in both January and February we had days that topped out at 49°—but 50° had eluded us since December 29. This was a good day to climb aboard the road bike and dare to hope for an early spring. The current weather forecast suggests today’s ride was just the first of several in the early days of March. Who knows? Maybe I can make a run at my personal record for March miles: 538, set in 2015. That’s one of my oldest records, and I didn’t set any new monthly marks in 2019, so it’s a good target.