Cycling in the Era of COVID-19

Or: Remembering That Hills Exist

by Maya Jammulapati

On the dreaded day my close friend Ruby and I flew back home from college due to COVID-19, we experienced the reverse effects of an elevation advantage. All through our lives, practically everywhere we traveled, we had a nice lead. The copious amounts of oxygen allowed us to feel as though we ruled the world. Moving to college was no different. Running and playing ultimate frisbee felt effortless. Upon our return to Salt Lake City, Utah, we had over 4,500 feet working against us. She went to school at Cal Poly and I at Tulane. Both schools are at sea level.

When we were reunited, we decided to continue our high school tradition of road biking in the style of Utah’s middle-aged population. Allow me to explain: all those we know our age have a higher affinity for adrenaline sports, namely mountain biking. So, as we road bike, we do it with all the “oldies” who prefer a safer alternative to the more dangerous hurtling-yourself-down-a-rocky-mountainside version. We also decided to embrace the forty-year-old aesthetic of wearing neon colors and flashy lights no matter what time of day. After all, the saying goes, “safety first, sexy second.”

Don’t worry; despite our preference for pavement and the generation that precedes us by a few, we do still get a great workout. Salt Lake City is built at the base of the Wasatch Mountains and centered on a fault line. This means anywhere we bike there are hills to go up or down and absolutely beautiful, jagged, snowy mountain scenery. However, this is where our lack of elevation advantage comes into play. The first few days we were back home, any ride we went on made us feel absolutely winded. The hypochondriac in me had even convinced myself that I could have the coronavirus. After actually measuring my oxygen levels, and ensuring that I practiced proper social distancing, I ruled that possibility out. Ruby and I quickly realized we were out of shape according to our previous Utah standards.

In an effort to boost our stamina and regain our strength we decided to set a goal for ourselves. By the midsummer we are both going to be able to bike Emigration Canyon, a paved 30-mile route with over 2,5000 feet of elevation gain. Though the goal is not particularly strenuous, it gives us something to work for. We realized, after sitting at home fidgeting over our computers for hours trying to keep up with classes, that we needed a physical outlet. Now we go on a bike ride every day. It could be a commute to a friend’s house or a planned route. It forces us to be social, get outside and gain some much-appreciated endorphins.

So, moral of the story, GET OUTSIDE! It doesn’t matter how simple or strenuous it is. Being outside and moving, for any amount of time, does wonders for your brain and body. If you are interested in a more detailed account of why, check out the new book The Nature Fix by Florence Williams. It is an enlightening read and helping my motivation.


About the Author:







Name: Maya Jammulapati

Year in School: Freshman

Major: Evolutionary and Ecological Biology & Dance

Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah

Favorite Outdoor Activity: Backpacking

Favorite Camp Food: Trail mix Pancakes

Ideal Outdoor Adventure Trip Destination: Desert in Southern Utah

If you were stranded on a desert island, what/who would you bring with you: A boat and sunscreen.