Zap’s Column: Covid & The Indoor Life

It was all a bit crazy until the Tour de France kicked on

As far as 2020 goes, I only have one question: who would’ve thunk?! COVID-19 showed up on the world’s doorstep with a steeled determination to wreak social, personal and financial havoc unlike any unseen force in modern times. Of course, there are hardly enough words available in any language to accurately describe the global impact of the virus. 

When it comes to our tidy world of bike geekdom, the outbreak has erased an entire spring campaign of bikes, shows, races, bike launches and group rides, all either canceled or postponed. Although no one in these pre-summer months can foresee what the fall season will look like, if the virus does indeed diminish, get ready for one of the hottest, heaviest, and most crowded race and event calendars ever imagined. 

In what I’m sure would come as little surprise to anyone, the world of indoor cycling literally exploded during the initial months of the pandemic. As reported in the New York Times (May 7, 2020), the stock for the indoor bike brand Peloton soared 95 percent in March to a value of $10 billion (that’s billion with a “b”!). Additionally, they had a backlog on bikes ordered (at $2,245 a pop), and out of their 2.6 million customers, a record 23,000 of them logged on for a single class in late April. 

“I would like to tip my beanie in appreciation to those who’ve lent aid and helped keep hope alive. Of course, high on the list for the unmatched sense of joy and wind-in-the-face freedom that
it provides is the bicycle itself.” 

The other big “winner” during these unfortunate days was the virtual training program from Zwift. Unlike a majority of Peloton customers who are more inclined to stay indoors, I think Zwift users are just the opposite—outdoor cyclists looking to stay fit when they are indoors. 

While the variety of Zwift’s virtual “rides” and “races” is impressive (like Peloton), its social nature is what I find most compelling. Owing to the social-distancing guidelines, the fabric that helps the cycling world stay together has become badly frayed. Just as it’s true everywhere else, our weekly Montrose ride has become a thing of the past. When the COVID coast is clear, I encourage everyone to do their best to get the group rides back together. 

If there were two headlines coming out of Europe that brought some pause to our everyday shenanigans, it was the news that legacy French wheel maker Mavic had gone into receivership and, bigger still, that Colnago was sold to a UAE investor group. Ouch and double ouch! However, as big of news as both transactions were, at the same time, neither were they all that surprising. 

That Colnago is already involved with the UAE through their sponsorship of the UCI WorldTour team—UAE Team Emirates—I can’t help but be reminded of when Eddy Merckx first sold his company to some Euro money group, with the most tangible result being a new line of kids’ bikes with Eddy’s hallowed name splashed on the downtube. In my opinion, the brand went utterly sideways until Ridley founder Jochim Aerts purchased the brand and brought it back under the auspices of authentic cycling enthusiasts. 

Having been in the bike industry for something just over 105 years, I can attest to the negative impact that hedge funds have frequently had on the industry as the money grubbers moved in to capitalize on cycling’s popularity. On more than one occasion I’ve witnessed these clueless louts in their high-digit leather loafers tout their “real-world” financial knowledge as they proceed to wag their fingers at the “bike people” all the while lining their pockets before things fall apart and they move on to their next victim. 

While these last few months (with possibly many more to come) have been traumatizing, I know there are many stories of outsized goodwill out there. It’s encouraging to hear the tales of people’s refusal to become divorced from our capacity for outreach.

Each of us has the capacity and, yes, even the responsibility to be there for each other. And so, I would like to tip my beanie in appreciation to those who’ve lent aid and helped keep hope alive. Of course, high on the list for the unmatched sense of joy and wind-in-the-face freedom that it provides is the bicycle itself. Cheers!

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