I'm pretty sure that the phrase 'social distancing' would have sounded like an insult only a short time ago. ''He's one of those social distancing types
,'' might have been something you'd have quietly said about that odd duck you've seen on the trails for years who's always wearing definitely-not-comical-to-him mismatched riding gear and headphones. And always by himself, of course. He's not even listening to anything, by the way. Those cords are only there to dissuade any unwanted attempts at conversation when the trails are busy. It works.
If you're lucky enough to be able to ride your mountain bike during these strange times, you're probably doing your own version of social distancing. Maybe that means staying out of sweat and spittle range when riding with a friend, or maybe you're sticking to those solo missions until being told that the world is safer. Either way, mountain biking has become a much more solitary activity than many of us would prefer, which got me thinking: What if you couldn't ride with anyone?
I'm talking forever, not just a few more months.
One of the ways I've thought about different types of riders is to break it down into two distinct categories. There are those who love the social aspect of mountain biking; most of their singletrack time is spent with other people, often in groups, and the banter runs before, during, and after the ride ends. They probably need two hands to add up the buddies who're ready to head out at a moment's notice, and is it even a weekend if they didn't squeeze in a silly road trip that involved too much riding, too much alcohol, and not enough sleep?
For them, the social aspect of mountain biking can bring just as many smiles as the trail itself.
And then there are those that think that all that sounds, well, not terrible, but also not that much fun. They don't mean any offense, and they're probably not an a*shole, for the most part. But they're definitely not serious when they say, "Yeah, give me a shout and we'll go for a ride
,'' while slowly inching away. They probably have one or two a*shole-ish friends they roll with sometimes but not all the times, and they're more concerned with having a good ride than having good friends along with them. And they didn't hear you say hello because of the headphones that aren't plugged into anything. No offence.
For them, it's the riding itself that brings the most smiles.
Yes, mountain biking is, of course, not the least bit important during these surreal times of social distancing, shelter-in-place orders, and the actual pain and suffering that's happening. But let's not pretend that it isn't very important to all of us, regardless of if you're a social butterfly or if you've been social distancing for last few decades.
So, in a worst-case scenario, one where necessary social distancing is enforced to the point where your rides had to be solo from here on in, do you see yourself still riding years and years, even decades, into the future? Or does no riding buddies mean no riding?