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Riding Your Bike During a Pandemic:  How To Stay Safe

A man riding a bike with a mask on.

For many people, riding to work on a bicycle is the ideal way to save money and stay fit. But, when Covid-19 hit, the world needed to change rapidly. This included riding a bicycle.

There were a lot of questions that needed to be answered:

  • Can I ride a bicycle to work during a pandemic?
  • What type of safety procedures need to be followed? 
  • How can I protect my health when cycling? 

Here are the most important things you need to know to stay safe when riding during the pandemic.

Why Cycling is Becoming More Popular

As we’ll soon see, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the rules in the Covid-19 pandemic. One thing that is clear, though, is that cycling is becoming more popular than ever.

Most of the new sales seem to be focused on electric bicycles. This is likely to continue, with e-bike sales expected to double in Europe over the next five years. There are a few reasons why this could be happening. 

First, cycling is a great alternative to public transport. Depending on where you live, there might be a lockdown in your city that limits how you can travel. Many essential workers still need to go to work.

If they use public transport, there is a risk of catching a virus. However, the risks are greatly reduced when commuting to work on a bicycle so many people are turning to this form of transport. 

Cycling is also a popular form of exercise. Many governments have encouraged people to continue to exercise and cycling is a great way to do this. It works out several important muscle groups, including your:

  • arms
  • legs
  • core

You’ll be able to travel at your own pace, so you can control how hard you push yourself. 

Riding a bike will help improve your mental health. For many people, the lockdowns have led to a lot of negative emotions and made them feel more anxious.

Being separated from friends and family can make people feel depressed. But regular exercise has been shown to produce hormones that help you maintain a more mental outlook. Even a few minutes each day on a bike can have this effect. 

Finally, with many people spending time at home, it can get a little monotonous. Cycling is a relatively safe activity that can be a great way to explore the local area and get some fresh air. It’s a fun activity that the whole family can do together

Maintain Your Bike

One of the most important things to know during times like these is how to maintain your bike yourself. There are a few reasons why this can be so important. 

First, government restrictions might close bike shops down. If this is the case, it can pay to learn how to do the basics yourself. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources online to help you learn, using everything from articles to online video tutorials. 

Another potential issue facing the cycling community is a parts shortage. Factory shutdowns, combined with the increased demand for bikes, meaning that it is harder for the parts to come in.

It might take several months for the supply chains to return to normal. Because of this, you’ll need to focus on maintaining the bike. This will help extend the longevity of your parts.

NOTE: If you do need to replace something, try to order as far in advance as possible. 

Cycle Indoors

In some cases, a pandemic might make some people more hesitant about exercising outdoors. If this is the case, set up your bike indoors. This can allow you to continue your training routine without needing to worry about government regulations, and it makes it easier to maintain the bike

The first step is to get a bike stand, like this one on Amazon. This will allow you to fix the wheels in place so you can pedal safely. Set-up will depend on the model that you purchase. Some will require you to detach the wheels, while others will have a place for you to attach the wheel.

Take the time to find the right stand. It will play a big role in determining the experience you have when training indoors. 

You might want to get an app to ride with, it can help keep you motivated to continue riding. There are a few types of apps that you might want to use. Some will log the distance that you have covered, while others will project a landscape that you can ride over. This can transport you to the mountains or a seaside road, all from the comfort of your home.

Some apps might even be able to give a more interactive experience, and race against other people. You might even be able to find a virtual race to compete in!

Finally, you might want to get a stand to put your tablet or phone on to track your progress. You might even be able to connect these apps to a television

A hand with a small packable hand sanitizer squeezing some out into the other hand.
Antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizers are a must

Use Antibacterial Wipes

It’s unlikely that this virus can be transmitted on a surface. But it’s still a possibility, particularly if you are leaving your bike in a high-traffic area. People could touch, sneeze, or cough on the handlebars or other parts of the bike.

It’s estimated that the virus can stay on a stainless steel surface for around three days.  

The risks of this kind of transmission are higher if you are relying on a rental bike. In this case, you won’t have any control over who touched the bike before you, or how long they used it.

Because of this, it’s best to run an antibacterial wipe over the handlebars. You can also run it along your helmet straps. This only takes a few seconds and will give you peace of mind before you start riding. 

When you are riding, try to avoid touching your:

  • nose
  • mouth
  • face

After you have finished, wash your hands with some antibacterial soap. You should be able to find a compact antibacterial hand sanitizer, (here’s an example of one on Amazon), that you can stick into your saddlebag. 

Pick the Perfect Route

If you’re commuting to work, you’ll need to make sure that you pick the best route. Most likely, you did this before Covid-19 to minimize your travel time. But times have changed, and the things that you will be looking for in the best route need to be adjusted

Now, you’ll need to consider the number of people that you’re likely to come into contact with. Try to avoid areas that have a lot of people and situations where it might not be possible to remain socially distanced. Cut out busier streets for a bike path, and if it’s not possible to social distance, you might want to consider wearing a mask

Prepare for Longer Rides

If you’re planning one of these trips, there are a few extra precautions that you might want to take. First, make sure that you have plenty of supplies.

Take along your own food and water, rather than stop for snacks along the way. It’s also important to make sure that you have plenty of repair equipment in case the bike gets damaged. 

You’ll also need to take care to plan your route properly. The good news is that there are plenty of trails in your local area. Look for something that will be able to challenge your abilities, but won’t be so intensive that it could risk your health. 

Finally, you’ll want to check the local restrictions. Usually, a longer ride for exercise will be acceptable. There might be other things that you need to be aware of, for example, the national parks might be shut down, and you might need to sign in before you access certain areas. 

Avoid Riskier Tricks

Regardless of where you live, it’s a good idea to put some of the riskier stunts on hold until the pandemic is over so you don’t risk ending up in the hospital. Not only will this place a greater strain on the hospital staff, but it also increases the chances that you will contract the disease. 

If you still need to practice some potentially dangerous tricks, try to make it as safe as possible. For example, you might want to use mats to break your fall and make sure that you have all the appropriate safety equipment

Use Mild Intensity 

When you’re preparing for your ride, you’ll want to think about how hard you plan to push yourself. It’s best to try to stick to a milder intensity, rather than riding at a higher speed because of the effect this type of workout has on your immune system. 

When you use a mild intensity, it’s been shown to boost your immunity response. This is especially important during a pandemic. It will lower your chances of contracting the disease and could be one of your best defenses in fighting Covid-19. 

Riding harder is a great way to build more muscle. However, there is a potential downside. It places a greater strain on your immune system. How much of a strain it will be is currently being investigated by scientists.

For the moment, it can be a good idea to stick to a milder routine. This will still ensure that you stay fit, but won’t risk lowering your immune system response. 

A person stopped on their bike, doing a social distance elbow bump with a friend both wearing masks.
Mask when necessary and use social distance

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Symptoms of Covid-19? 

One of the best ways to protect yourself from Covid-19 is by being vigilant. You’ll need to make sure that you can recognize the symptoms. If you’re able to catch the virus early, you’ll be able to reduce the spread

Covid-19 might imitate a cold. It’s most common for those who are infected to get a fever. You might also develop a dry cough or feel more fatigued, or find that you have lost the sense of smell or taste. You can get a congested or runny nose. It’s also possible that you will have headaches

It should be noted that you may not have all these symptoms. As long as you have one or two, you should get a test. If you return a positive result, you will need to stay at home to help slow the spread of the virus, ensuring that you can’t pass it to anyone else.

You should also talk to contact tracers. They will try to piece together who you talked to while you were asymptomatic. You might have unknowingly passed it to them. 

Who is Most at Risk from Covid-19? 

Anyone can catch and die from Covid-19, so always be vigilant and try to take steps to protect yourself. However, some groups are at increased risk of severe symptoms. First, Covid-19 tends to take a greater toll on the elderly. If you are over 60, you are in a higher-risk group. 

It also tends to impact severely those with pre-existing conditions. This can include things like lung problems or heart issues. It’s also possible that those with diabetes could be in a higher risk category. Any other condition that can weaken your immune system will place you at a greater risk. 

Where Can I Ride? 

One of the biggest questions that you’ll need to answer is where you will be able to ride. This will ensure that you don’t receive a fine from the police for violating government restrictions.

But where can you ride?  This will depend on the rules in your local area. In the United States, it can vary based on the state that you live in

In most cases, though, you’ll be able to ride from your home to your workplace without any issues. If you need to ride across state lines, you’ll need to check the law.

Usually, though, you won’t have any issues. It can help to keep a driver’s license with you. This will provide the authorities with a way to verify where you live

Do I Need to Wear a Face Mask? 

A face mask is one of the best ways to combat the spread of Covid-19. It allows you to trap the droplets before they can disperse into the air and ensures that you don’t unknowingly spread the virus to anyone else. 

Usually, you won’t need to wear a face mask when you are riding. Though it’s been shown that masks won’t limit the amount you receive while exercising, they won’t be necessary.

As long as you are exercising, you generally won’t be required to wear a face mask. Though, you should double-check whether this is true for your local area

However, this might change depending on how close you get to other riders. You should always try to practice social distancing, even when outdoors. Though the risk of transmission outdoors is lower, it is still possible.

If you can’t socially distance yourself, it’s generally a good idea to wear a mask. This will ensure that you don’t accidentally pass the virus on to someone else

If you do need to wear a mask, make sure that you’re picking the right one. Ideally, the mask that you choose should allow you to breathe normally. You should also try to choose something that’s made from a light fabric that wicks away moisture. 

A black background with words written on torn out paper, all saying pandemic in different languages.
Learning how to stay safe during a pandemic is key to continuing to cycle

Can I Ride my Bike with Others? 

Many people like to ride in a group to support each other. However, during the Covid-19 period, you might want to re-evaluate riding as part of a group. 

Generally, governments will put restrictions on how many people will be able to ride together. There are a few ways that you’ll be able to deal with these changes.

First, you might want to suspend the group during the lockdowns. In other cases, you can split into several smaller groups. This will allow you to stay riding together. 

How Far Away Should I Ride? 

It’s also important to consider how far away you will need to ride. The six feet social distancing recommendation is based on people who aren’t moving to give the droplets in breath time to disperse safely.

However, when people are moving, you might need a longer distance to allow the droplets to disperse, because the droplets will be traveling in their slipstream. 

If someone is traveling at 18 miles per hour, you’ll need to stay at least 65 feet away. If they are moving faster, the safe distance will increase. There are a few ways to get around this:

  • avoid their slipstream
  • ride side-by-side
  • make sure that you are both wearing masks

How Often Can I Exercise? 

One of the most important things that you’ll need to consider is how often you’ll be able to exercise. Again, you’ll need to check the rules in your local area. Some places will let you exercise once a day, while others will let you out twice. In other states, there will be no limits. 

Can I Still Attend Races and Other Cycling Events?

This will depend on the regulations in your local area. Some places will allow certain events to go ahead, as long as they follow safety protocols. Others will ban them outright. If you are thinking about attending a cycling event, there are a few things to consider to make sure that it’s safe

First, you’ll need to think about whether or not there are any safety protocols in place. Usually, races will need to have a staggered start. This stops everyone from bunching up on the start line.

It’s also common for organizers to request that people wear masks before and after the race. When riding you often won’t need one. Consider the size of the crowd. Often, events will be going ahead without any spectators, and sometimes they will space spectators out

If the organizers do meet these requirements, you should go. It’s a lot of work to set up a Covid-19 safe event. By attending, you’ll be showing them that you support their efforts. Just remember to follow the rules.

It’s important to book your place quickly. Often, attendants will need to be capped to comply with guidelines. If you are going, make sure to check your emails or messages. Restrictions can change very quickly, so you need to know about any last-minute changes that might affect you. 

If an event does get canceled, there might be another unofficial event that pops up on the same weekend. These can often be tempting, but it’s usually best to avoid them.

The CDC advises that any gatherings involving a large number of people, who have to travel long distances, gives you a potentially high risk of contracting the disease.

If you are thinking of attending, make sure that they have all the correct safety standards in place. If in doubt, the safest option is to stay at home

Instead, if an event is canceled, you can try to shift it online. As we mentioned, there are plenty of apps that allow you to cycle virtually. This can allow everyone to participate, without needing to leave their homes

Can Covid-19 Spread Through Sweat?  

The risks of you catching Covid-19 through sweat are very low

Can You Catch Covid-19 Through Spit? 

If you are riding as part of a group, some people might spit as they ride. There are a few reasons to steer clear. First of all, it’s gross. Secondly, the Covid-19 virus is believed to be transmitted through spit.

If it does get on your clothes, wipe the area with an antibacterial wipe (these from Amazon are easily packable) and throw the wipe away. When you’re finished wash your hands with some hand sanitizer. When you get back home, wash the clothing

Can Children Contract and Spread Covid-19? 

If you have children, to make sure that they stay safe it’s important to understand how this disease can affect children and how you can protect them from Covid-19

Children, like adults, can catch Covid-19. They will be able to spread it to others, even if they are asymptomatic. In most cases, children will only have a mild form of the disease, and might not develop any symptoms at all.

However, there is still the chance that children can be hospitalized or die as a result of the disease. These risks are greater if they have a disease that compromises their immune system

The best way to keep your children safe is by following the same safety procedures as adults.

  • Encourage them to practice social distancing.
  • Get them used to washing their hands.
  • Monitor for the signs of Covid-19, and prompt action.
  • If they do start to get sick, test them

When Will the Covid-19 Vaccine Be Ready? 

The good news about Covid-19 is that there are several vaccines available that have been deployed around the world. Where you are in the world will determine how quickly you will receive the newest vaccine. 

A computer screen at an angle saying coronavirus with a person map in the background tracing contacts.
Keep up to date on vaccines and follow safety protocol

Final Thoughts

Covid-19 is a very serious disease that needs to be handled with precaution. As long as we all play our part, we can stop the virus from spreading and control infection numbers.

However, you don’t need to stop doing the things that you love. You will still be able to cycle during the pandemic. In fact, biking should be encouraged as it is fairly low risk.

The key to riding safely is common sense. Make sure that you:

  • keep social distance
  • use antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer
  • try to avoid densely populated areas

Hopefully, you’ll be able to use this information to keep cycling through Covid-19.

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