Biking in the pandemic: Activity becoming popular; changes how we look at the world


On Thursdays, members of the private Facebook group, Social Distant Cycling Club, are encouraged to write or submit a short video sharing what they appreciate about bicycling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reason why members are cycling–and appreciate doing so–are as wide and varied as is the international membership, which now stands at 6,590 people. One thing is for certain: These folks are doing a lot of cycling!

News reports indicate that this pandemic has created an unexpected boom in cycling. Bicycle retailers across the United States can't keep up with the demand for new bikes and inventories are running low or non-existent in some places.

The New York Times reported on this splurge of sales under a headline “Thinking about buying a bike? Get ready for a long wait,” in its May 19 edition.

Reporter Christina Goldbaum shared that Brooklyn, N.Y., bicycle shops sold twice as many bikes as normal since the start of the pandemic. Block-long lines of customers waited to get in stores. In Phoenix, a chain of bicycle shops sold three times more bikes than normal. A bicycle shop in Washington, D.C., sold all entry-level bikes by the end of April and “had more pre-orders than ever in its 50-year history.”

The same is happening in Dubuque, Iowa. While at Free Flight Bikes late last month, a customer talked about ordering a bike for his daughter and asked about a delivery date. The sales representative mentioned it might arrive sometime in July. The store owner said, “I don’t know if we can answer that question.”

At the Galena Wal-Mart, the rack supporting new bikes for sale is empty!

When ordering a new bike in mid-May, I learned that there were just 10 of the model I wanted. . .in the entire country.

The pandemic has shut down or slowed bicycle manufacturing in China and other areas of Asia impacting the supply chains and inventory.

The fact that more people are out bicycling has not been lost on anyone who has been a frequent user of the Galena River Trail. “I think this is great,” Galena City Administrator Mark Moran shared while we rode along the trail. He remarked about how many cars he’s seen at the Aiken Trailhead, which showed the trail being used from both directions.

We followed River Road on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend over to Chestnut Mountain Resort. It was, in some ways, a bittersweet sightseeing that the alpine slide had yet to be installed, a victim of this pandemic. Two weeks later, it was great to see the slide installed and ready for its first riders on June 27. Chestnut reopens this Friday with the Soaring Eagle and Segway tours starting on Saturday, June 20.

It’s been heart-warming to see families and friends using the trail. While some have biked, others walked and talked while still others jogged or ran. A few brought fishing poles and found a place to fish along the Galena River.

All of this has given greater appreciation of the vision and dogged support of the trail by Mark, the mayors and council members of the city of Galena, the state and other financial supporters. This is an outdoor recreational project that has paid big dividends at a time when it’s needed most.

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On the Social Distant Cycling Club Facebook page, members also share, with words and photos, their experiences riding during the pandemic.

Participating in this group has changed how I ride. . .for the better. Now, as I bike along the trails and roads of northwest Illinois and southwest Wisconsin, I’m paying more attention to the landscape.

The predominant question is, “What photo can I make which represents this bike ride?” I’ve become a keener observer of light and how it intersects with the land. I look for interesting landmarks that dot the landscape, including a Stonehenge structure along Longhollow Road or a garbage bin painted in red, white and blue.

I’ve been doing this since mid-March and now have a near-daily photo chronicle of these activities. What I’m going to do with it all of these photos?

The pandemic has impacted our lives and possibly changed our lives in a multitude of ways–some bad, some challenging and some good. I think it’s easy to find the good in good times. The challenge is finding opportunity and beauty in those challenging times. . .those bad times.

The Social Distant Cycling Club has helped develop a new routine to find beauty during this time of pandemic. I hope you’ve had a similar opportunity.


Note from a pen pal...

Some of you old timers around here might remember former Galena resident, Margaret Haldorson. In one fashion or another we’ve become pen pals of sorts. She sends me the most interesting, friendly letters. The last arrived in early June with a clipping from Dick Cogan’s obituary: “Dick loved polka music, Farmall tractors and spending time with his grandchildren.”

Margaret sent a photo of her uncle holding her as a child and shared “(the clipping) reminded me of my uncle holding me, as we looked at his Farmall tractor. My dad was the International Harvester Farmall dealer in town. It brought back memories.

“Farmall tractor” were Margaret’s first words other than a child’s normal first words. She also included a photo of one of her grandchildren on a Farmall tractor.

Margaret also shared that the COVID-19 pandemic brought great sadness to her family. A nephew, 25 years of age, who lived in Florida, died from the virus. How sad.

P. Carter Newton, publisher