By Michael Bello
Published 01/01/2021; Updated 01/01/2021

As with the majority of annual events, the Northampton Cycling Club adjusted its traditional New Year’s Day ride.

Using the temperature that is displayed on the clock in downtown Northampton as our guide, we normally ride the corresponding mileage. The hope for most of us is the noon time temperature displayed will be in the mid-30s with zero wind, which means a pleasant ride of about 30 miles.

Part of the fun of any outdoor group ride is seeing and chatting with fellow NCC members. To be good citizens and adhere to the COVID-19 protocols, we could not hold our typical New Year’s Day in person gathering. As we did for all of 2020, we shifted the group ride to Zwift, the virtual cycling and running platform. To converse with each other, we used Discord and many of us had our video cameras on.

Zwift recently launched a few new routes in its main virtual world, Watopia. We rode multiple laps of the Ocean Lava Cliffside Loop. By the end of the 90-minute ride, we covered approximately 27 miles with 1,109 feet of climbing. For some of us, the noon temperature was 27 degrees, while a few of us stayed on for 3 more miles because we thought it was 30 degrees out. It was hard to get a clear view of the clock in downtown Northampton from our trainers.

We had 17 riders participate in the New Year’s Day ride, which broke the record for an NCC Zwift ride. On the ride we had Ashley, Chris, Dan, Dusty, Emmy, Greg, Henry, Jaime, John C., John F., John S., Jon L., Jonathan, Melissa, Sean, Zinj, and me.

The majority of us were on Discord, which allowed us to verbally chat. Ashley joined the ride a few minutes late and spent time catching up to the group. We urged her on and slowed to allow her to catch the group. Just as she caught up, Zwift beamed her to our lead rider! This is what Zwift is supposed to do for late joins, but just much earlier. As is customary, each time Zinj got off his bike, we all took drinks from our water bottles. We need to start having an extra water bottle on hand. Zinj updated us on his power meter experiments. We also shared stories from the holidays. John C. told an amusing antidote about how a few years ago he piloted the Good Year blimp over Hartford. John S. reminisced about an extremely cold and short NCC New Year’s Day ride in 2019. We discussed recent movies. Sean recommended the “Death to 2020” on Netflix.

As is customary for NCC Zwift group rides, we recognize Zwift accomplishments. Ashley, Chris, Dan, Greg, Jaime, John C., John F., John S., Melissa, Sean, Zinj, and I all earned the Ocean Lava Cliffside Loop route achievement, which doubled our XP points for the first lap. Ashley completed Zwift level 11 and earned her avatar the Basic Kit Pack 2. She also got the Marathoner badge for completing 40 kilometers in one ride.

It was fantastic to have six riders join an NCC Zwift event for the first time. We hope more NCC Zwifters join us on Zwift in 2021.

Here is the NCC Zwift schedule:

– Mon afternoon – Road Race (times will vary between 5 PM and 7 PM EST)
– Tue 8:00 PM – Social Ride (invite required)
– Thu 5:30 PM – Time Trial / Hill Climb (solo effort, TT bike required) (invite required)
– Sat 9:00 AM – Social Ride (invite required)

Follow “Michael Bello – NCC” on Zwift for invites to the invite-only rides.

Check the NCC calendar for full details on all events. To learn more about the NCC and Zwift rides, please visit our Zwift page.