‘Pedal power’ goes virtual in COVID time

Fadhil Yunus

With the sporting calendar barely starting, the cycling community in Brunei Darussalam staged one of the few domestic events this year before all sports came to a standstill due to the strict measures laid out to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jointly organised by the Brunei Darussalam Cycling Federation (BDCF) and the Department of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, the National Championship for Individual Time Trial (ITT) 2020 was supposed to kick off the 2020 cycling season last February.

At a time when the cycling boom is apparent with the growing number of recreational and competitive athletes among the youth, the Individual Time Trial race turned out to be one of the few sporting events this year.

The BSB120, which was proposed to be the second major event in the cycling calendar, was also supposed to assemble leading cyclists in the country.

However, due to prohibitions on mass gatherings and closure of sporting facilities, the cycling community has turned to virtual cycling or racing.

Brunei cyclists Muhd Azwar Hairolani and Luqman bin Hadzid are the high-profile names that have produced great results in the regional scene mainly in the Zwift competition.

Organised by Cycling Selangor, Muhd Azwar emerged the winner of the Zwift Time Trial with a time of 14 minutes and 42 seconds while Luqman was placed second in the power metre open category with a time

of 42.38s. Despite the perceived absence of a real environment, Zwift does share similar characteristics with live cycling as the application allows a change of weight if the virtual track is uphill, automatically adding weight resistance.

The app also allows users to create races, create group rides, training programmes and organise events. In accommodating the growing number of cycling enthusiasts, the country has also stepped up its efforts to organise virtual competitions, such as the Riding Beyond Limits Virtual Cycling Challenge.

Similar events included Virtual Run and Cycle 2020 in conjunction with World Health Day 2020, providing cyclists the opportunity to take part in a 100-mile race, the JDBM Virtual Charity Run and Mental Health for All Virtual Run. These virtual meets also provided the cycling the option to complement running activities.

Other than the Zwift application which can be set up in the comfort of cyclists’ own homes, virtual cycling can also be done anywhere according to their choice of location regardless of being in the country or overseas.

Cycling can also be done in their own time and at their own convenience regardless of the time of day, provided the race is completed before the stated deadline set by the organisers.

The distance of the race could be accumulated through multiple sessions in accordance with the wishes of the cyclist.

Riders also need to ensure that their time or the pace of their virtual cycling activity is recorded through applications equipped with a GPS tracker and found in smartphones or smartwatches such as iWatch and Garmin. Among the apps which are often used by local cyclists are Endomondo and Strava.

Once completed, the cyclists are required to upload their results through designated applications including submitting and completing information as required by the organisers.

If the organiser is satisfied with the cycling results of the participants, rewards such as t-shirts and medals will be handed out.

Common challenges faced by cyclists taking part in the real environment is that they will tend to get nervous or restless both at the start and when they are about to reach the finish line.

However, this is not the case in virtual cycling whereby there are no starting and finishing lines. This means that participants can complete the race at any time as long as they meet the deadline.

The unique experience of taking part in a virtual race may provide cyclists a rare sense of satisfaction for completing a new challenge which is not normally seen in live competition.

Virtual cycling can also provide incentives in the form of a finisher’s medal that can be treated as a symbol of their accomplishments.