"Regardless of where I am or what I'm riding, cycling has always been my pressure valve, an escape for me to get away from the problems of the real world for a few hours by focusing on the simple pleasures of being outside..."
by Greg Genna, Pactimo Ambassador
I’ve been riding bikes seriously since about 2006, when I picked up a cheap road bike and started riding as an escape from the stresses of grad school. Things quickly escalated from there, starting with joining the University of Pittsburgh cycling club and dipping my toes into road racing.
While I’m mainly a roadie, I’ve also broadened my cycling scope with some time racing and riding cyclocross and mountain bikes, with a few less-than-successful attempts at bike packing thrown in.
Regardless of where I am or what I’m riding, cycling has always been my pressure valve, an escape for me to get away from the problems of the real world for a few hours by focusing on the simple pleasures of being outside, recharging me for taking on whatever tasks may be in store. It’s also been how I find my way around a new city, or after moving from Pennsylvania to the UK in 2017, a new country.
In the early months of 2020, I was patiently waiting for the dark, wet UK winter to subside so I could get out on the bike without getting covered in mud and road grime, to go a bit further afield in my exploration, and to get back out with one of the local shop rides.
We all know what happened next…
Say what you want about the UK government’s response to the pandemic, they did encourage people to get outside for exercise. While the guidance was not always exactly clear about what you could do or how far you could go, the ability to get outside was preserved throughout. For many now stuck at home, getting out for some sunshine was vital for their mental wellbeing. I definitely count myself as someone who was grateful for being able to go out to ride.
While getting out to ride was crucial for me during the various lockdowns, I found myself riding the same routes over and over. Surrey and the surrounding counties do have some fantastic routes (road surfaces notwithstanding), but it did not seem appropriate to go too far from home, so I spent the summer on a few routes of varying length. By the end of the summer, I was definitely a bit bored.
With the pandemic receding and the restrictions easing, I put together a plan to reinvigorate my riding. I bought a couple of GoPros, stuck them on my bike, and started filming some of my longer rides. This was for a few reasons: first, it encouraged me to ride new routes, as I didn’t want to repeatedly record the same rides.
With the easing of restrictions as well, I’m also motivated to ride further that I normally would and hop on a train to get home, something I’ve been wanting to do for a while but have never gotten around to doing. I’ve even dipped my toes into the UK time trial scene.
Filming the rides also encouraged me to slow down and enjoy the scenery; even though I haven’t raced for a good while, I still have trouble getting out of the “can’t stop, must go fast” mindset. Having to actually look around has helped me break out of this. Plus, now I have some nice records of the places I’ve been and the rides I’ve done, which is something I’ve never really had. I think of it like a photo album of my adventures.
As a nice little bonus, I’m also getting experience with video editing, which is something I didn’t know I would enjoy and which might come in handy in the future.
If you’re riding into a rut and are getting bored, I would encourage changing things up a little bit and trying something different. Whether that involves new routes, a new type of riding, riding with others, or adding something like filming a ride, even a small change can make a big difference.
I am posting my rides on YouTube, so if you want to see some of the sights of the south of England (and hopefully beyond), you can find my channel Greg Rides Bikes. If nothing else, you’ll get to see some pretty views of the UK countryside at bike level. You don’t need to go far to find some amazing riding. You never know what you might find in your backyard.