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Strength in Solitude

Professional cyclocross and mountain bike racer Rebecca Gross takes a mindful look inward to contemplate how cycling can spark new significance for everyone amid the pandemic.

Ritchey is proud to support Rebecca Gross, a US-based cyclocross and mountain bike racer. Words and photos courtesy of Rebecca.

The great spectrum of personalities encompasses those of us who embrace minimizing social interactions and those of us who bristle at the thought of losing their connections.  We shape our lives around what suits us, whether it be more one side of the equation than the other or a balance of both.

Where we fall along that spectrum helps to dictate what type of cyclist we are: the kind who wanders solo in search of meditation, finds comradery in the pack, gains fitness from a spark of competitiveness, relishes the safety in companionship, or prefers the interactions that are gained from being the lone and approachable figure on the trails.


In one form or another we are all a bit shell-shocked from the changes forcibly implemented on our lives, and we strive to connect with the good it brings. For a few the excuse to maintain your bubble of privacy has been expanded, no longer do we look strange choosing the path of avoidance, going out of our way to avoid an exchange.  For others it’s a blow to our psyche, meetups, group rides, races, the chance to prove your strength and persistence, the opportunity to expand your circle.  All suddenly taboo; whisked away with the introduction of terms of “social distancing” and “COVID.”

While the abruptness of the change brought a stigma of judgement upon recreating with companionship, the atmosphere progressed though the same stages any adjustment would occupy:  Initial skepticism, reluctant compliance, normalization, relaxing of recommendations, accepting of permanent changes. In there but not mentioned is also the implied confusion; we don’t know what is safe, as responsible members of society we should air on the side of caution.


So, preference dictates that ones and twos prevail and independence is valued over the group. While playing into the strengths of some folks, others are left blindsided – seeking the motivations to replace the grief of social loss.  As dedicated cyclists we consider ourselves resilient, thrifty, capable, and especially attuned to face challenge, thriving in the presence of adversity.  Yet we struggle with this remodeling of everything we ever knew.


We roll out: facing that steep hill, that open stretch of road, that twisty downhill, the sketchy technical span of trail, the town limit sign, all without the familiar presence of another set of wheels, the whirr of a fellow freehub; another spark in the fight to tackle the upcoming obstacle or the comfort of knowing a friendly face has your back when you attempt something beyond your comfort level. 


In place of companionship we ponder over the problems in our day for resolution, sparks of solutions jumping in as situations are played out and connections are made. We notice our surroundings with heightened attention, details of the scenery sharpening and gaining more significance.  We slide into that “not thinking” flow of meditation as the consistent rotations of our own pedal stroke drown out the other stimuli. We self-regulate our pacing, developing a deeper understanding for how hard and when we can push and what it is that drives us to push our hardest. We discover pride in independence, an inner strength derived from the ability to carry ourselves with grace and efficiency alone in the world.  Our minds wander as we forget that there is new normal, this whole ordeal will only begin again when our time spent pedaling concludes.

And in that solo excursion we begin to find something else: we find ourselves. 

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