Whenever I go out on the bike, which is most days, I sometimes get the feeling I’m pedalling one of the many well-publicised virtual turbo systems where I can virtually climb Mont Ventoux, or race with a bunch of elite cyclists. The fact that you can now do this without ever having to leave the ‘comfort of your own home’ is testament to the versatility of technology these days, but there is a striking paradox here: riding a bike is absolutely all about ‘getting out of the comfort of your own home’, and getting into the countryside. Don’t rely on virtual wind and hills to get your kicks, go out and feel a real 30kph wind in your face, attack a real 15% hill just a few miles from your home, and above all, feel the autumnal sun on your face, smell the early wood smoke of those first fires, and fend off the wasps as they try to eat your energy bar before you do.
My experience of ‘the virtual’ hangs on two things. Firstly, the fact that I have continued to do all my riding on my home patch since the beginning of the pandemic restrictions, and secondly, the fact that a real 6 week trek on some distant continent is just not going to happen this year. So, I have imagined myself riding the world as I have climbed on the bike each day.
On my virtual ride around the world from Paris, I reached the border of Turkey after three months of lockdown, but that was three months ago. A quick re-calculation now shows me to be in Tehran, and I’ve had no fuss at the border with visas nor have I had my luggage checked for illegal substances. But the one thing I have really missed is being able to sleep wild in my little tent. That is definitely something you cannot do in the comfort of your own home.