2020 on the saddle: a retrospective

Many factors have conspired to keep me indoors for far longer than I’d like.

There’s the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which isn’t going away any time soon, no thanks to government fumbling and underestimation. There’s my current work shift schedule, which sees each workday end at 2 am…so Sunday morning long rides are effectively no bueno. Finally there are my family commitments.

You’re probably sick of me, then, once again extolling the virtues of having the Wahoo KICKR SNAP around. The simple reality is, though, that if it were not for the very fortunate arrival of my indoor training setup, I would not have been much of a cyclist. If virtual rides and indoor cycling miles are fake, they certainly feel pretty damn real to my legs.

They were real enough for Strava to acknowledge, I guess.

My single longest ride in 2020 was a four-hour marathon effort to pedal 100 km around RGT Cycling’s Borrego Springs track. While flat and very gentle in profile, the sheer effort required to complete this feat is quite high, because on a turbo trainer, you have zero respite and no chance to freewheel. I am highly doubtful I am ever going to exceed this distance indoors.

Simply keeping any habitual modicum of physical activity is made more challenging by the pandemic. As a shut-in cyclist, having 146 active days in the year that was, ain’t all that bad.

One of my proudest moments in cycling in 2020 was completing the grueling 14.4-kilometer virtual monument to pain that is RGT Cycling’s Passo dello Stelvio. At an average of 8% gradient, with a nasty 22% spike at the final kilometer, this famously steep and winding Italian climb took me three hours to finish. My feet were in such pain and my head so deep in oxygen debt at that point that I had to step off and take a five-minute break.

It is arguably one of RGT’s most beautiful routes.

Finally we come to the headline figure: 3,385 kilometers ridden in 2020. Of these, more than half were spent indoors. As “fake” as indoor cycling distance is, it’s still comfortably more than what I did in 2019, by quite a clear margin. If nothing else, my gains in functional threshold power are about as real as it gets, too.

For me, in spite of all the challenges and difficulties, there is much to be proud about 2020 as a cyclist. Twenty-three days into 2021, I’m already making efforts to go beyond these achievements, and so should you. Let’s all keep pedaling, one foot at a time.

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