Cycling in 2020



James Fetter

The Paly Cycling Club on Skyline.

James Fetter

On March 13th of this year, my high school announced that in-person classes would be canceled due to the Coronavirus. Then my swim team canceled practices. My schedule was empty for the foreseeable future.

For the first couple of days, I was glad to have a break from my busy schedule. But after the novelty wore off, I grew increasingly bored just moping around the house. I realized how much I missed being active.

So I started riding my bike. For as long as I can remember, my dad has been big on biking, but I never really got into the sport because I was constantly swimming. I always enjoyed biking as a mode of transport to school and swim practice, but I had never gone riding just for the sake of it.

My brother Peter and I take on Montebello road. (James Fetter)

As I rode longer distances, my perception of distance changed as I branched out and saw new places. On one memorable ride, I had originally planned to go to a friend’s house a couple of miles away. But when he texted me that he was busy, I decided to just keep on going to see where the road ended. 

It turns out that northbound El Camino starting in Palo Alto doesn’t end until it hits San Francisco, so I ended up biking 75 miles before making it back home. Despite being sunburnt and exhausted, the freedom of mindlessly riding was a welcome escape.

I wasn’t alone in wanting an escape – according to a report released by the NPD (National Purchase Diary), bicycle sales from April 2020 to July 2020 increased by 81% from 2019. It seems that many others just like me decided to use cycling to get a break from being inside.

But as an athlete who loves to train, I also enjoyed seeing how hard I could push my body. During this same time I was averaging about 250 miles every week, and I found myself going on rides that lasted the entire day.

The training started to pay off, and despite losing strength in my upper body from not swimming, my legs felt great. Every week I felt motivated to push the limits and ride further than before.

In late May, I caught wind of a popular cycling trend, called the Everesting Challenge. The premise is simple — you ride up and down any hill as many times as it takes to climb 29,032 feet, the height of Mt. Everest.

As someone who loves taking on challenges, I was immediately drawn to Everesting. I decided that I would try it out.

The plan was to ride up and down Bonny Doon road, a steep segment roughly ten miles north of Santa Cruz. At the crack of dawn on June 20th, my uncle dropped me, my bike, and a box of food and drinks at the base of the hill, and I began riding.

The descent on Bonny Doon road. Thanks to Uncle Bob (left) for providing moral support. Link to Strava Activity:  (James Fetter)

Despite having ridden in preparation for the attempt, it took everything I had, both mentally and physically, to complete the Everesting. As I crested the final climb of lap twenty-five at 8:37 pm — 14 hours and 36 minutes after I started — I felt a profound sense of accomplishment. Only 11,971 people internationally have completed an Everesting, according to the official website’s count, and now I was one of them.

After my Everesting, it was announced that our swim team would resume training, albeit in a reduced capacity. Because of the restrictions, we could only swim a single person in each lane, which limited the hours we could practice each week. This meant that I still had time to ride my bike. 

This schedule continued through the summer, and as it became apparent that school would not be in person come August, I realized that things might not be back to normal for a while.

In August, with distanced learning and limited pool access, I still was riding roughly 100 miles every week. In September I re-founded the Paly Cycling Club with my good friend Alex Selwyn, and later I even designed custom jerseys for us to wear.

Now at the end of December, I’m maintaining a similar schedule as before: roughly 100-200 miles a week. With everything going on and a lot of uncertainty about high school sports happening, at least I know I can always rely on cycling to get some exercise. Hopefully, 2021 will bring an end to this whole debacle, but in the meantime, you can find me riding my bike.