Nothing about this year has felt normal, but there’s something comforting and familiar about riding mountain bikes in the woods.

As the world hurtles through an especially divisive, and important, election season, a worrisome return to school and work, and a looming sense of uncertainty as winter inches closer, day-to-day life feels exceptionally strange. As a community, we’ve been divided about fact and fiction, good and bad, right and wrong. As a cycling community, we’ve largely been kept in our own boats, eager to sail on while being careful to respect and give way to the paths of others.

But right now, with the leaves hitting this autumnal zenith and a much-needed ‘second summer’ to bring us to the ides of October, things feel somehow closer to normal. Last weekend, I rode a big stretch of what would have been the 2020 Bell’s Iceman Cometh course. Even riding quite early, I crossed paths with a dozen of more riders also out on the route, putting in miles as if the race was still happening, albeit with fewer layers and, if I might observe, rather large smiles.

Even without the race, I’ve found a real enthusiasm and comfort in thinking about the 2021 Iceman as a goal and a benchmark. In a year, where will we be as a country and as a community? For me, the measure will be based on running a normal edition of the Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge, with 4,500 friends from all over the country gathered without worry and without risk. Success will be losing sleep over weather and tire choice, not COVID-19 tests and crowd restrictions.

To get there, we need everyone on board right now to do the things that will put the pandemic behind us; it’s down to our choices, and no one else’s.

And that certainly includes going for a quiet, solo ride in the woods.

Maybe that’s what we all need right now. We need something, some activity that brings us out of ourselves to leave the news and the stresses of a world living in a pandemic, an election, and a economic uncertainty we haven’t seen in over a decade.

If you need a reason to ride, there are plenty. It’s only going to get colder, it’s only going to get wetter and, sooner enough, many of the trails we’re seeing at their absolute best will be covered in several inches of snow. Before that happens, make an effort to enjoy them at their most accessible and, under the changing leaves, their most beautiful.

Cody Sovis is the creative director for Q+M, a cyclist for Norte Youth Cycling and an avid reader, writer and consumer of cookies.

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