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Exercise During Coronavirus: How to Cycle Safely

We’re living in strange, difficult times. The challenge that the novel coronavirus presents to our physical, mental, social and economic health is unlike anything we have seen in years, if not centuries. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the daily news feed. And the harder we fight the virus, the more isolated we become by social distancing.

Many cyclists rely on riding for their physical and mental well-being. But, in the midst of this crisis, many are wondering: Can I ride my bike without fear of catching or spreading COVID-19? Is it safe to cycle during coronavirus?

The short answer is, yes. You can — and should — still ride during the pandemic, in most cases. In fact, cycling is a good source of exercise during the coronavirus pandemic. But there are some new ground rules for safe riding during COVID-19. Once again, we turned to Coach Darryl for advice. Coach recently attended a webinar with Dr. Michael Roshon, an M.D., Ph.D. in microbiology and team physician for many pro cycling teams. We discussed Dr. Roshon’s advice for cyclists, and here’s what we learned.

The Dangers of COVID-19

First things first. Coronavirus — and COVID-19, the disease it causes — is serious. So far, it appears more lethal than the flu. It also spreads more easily because none of us has immunity to it (until we recover from having it) and it is transmitted by respiratory droplets, even from those without symptoms. It’s hardest on those over age 65, but it can infect anyone and cause major illness and even death.

Even a fit, healthy cyclist is not invincible. There have been many cases in active people, young and old. Not all of these lead to serious illness, but some do. And doctors are just now beginning to learn of the possibilities for long-term lung damage, which is an obvious concern for cyclists.

Until we have the means to test en masse, better track the spread and, ultimately, develop a vaccine, the virus will present a serious threat to public health. Because the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) can spread so easily, cases are growing exponentially, and it threatens to overload hospitals across the country, as it already has in New York, Italy and other places. Because of this threat, we all have a part to play in slowing the virus down. Right now, that part is called social distancing.

Exact guidelines for what activities are currently allowed vary by state, and they are changing every day. Most states and many additional municipalities have issued some form of order to limit gathering sizes, shutter nonessential businesses, keep workers at home, and maintain a 6-foot distance from others. This map is updated daily with the current state rules, but you should also check your city or county guidelines as well. 

Guidelines for Cycling Safely During a Pandemic

“March was the first month in years that I put more miles on my bike than on my car,” says Coach Darryl. He’s staying in and doing his part to slow the virus, and so should all cyclists. But he hasn't stopped riding. Thankfully, right now exercise during the coronavirus pandemic is still considered an essential activity, as long as it follows certain guidelines. Here’s how to cycle safely during coronavirus:

1. Cycle solo if possible

The stationary trainer is your best option right now, as you can cycle without any risk of being close to others. If you have one at home, use it as often as you can. This is especially true if you have any health issues that might make you more vulnerable, including cancer, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. And gyms are strictly off limits (they should already be shut down anyway).

2. Keep your distance

If you don’t have a stationary trainer (or just need some fresh air), it’s still fairly safe to ride outdoors, as long as you maintain enough distance. Current guidelines call for at least 6 feet between people, but the verdict is still out on how much certain activities such as exercise or singing might spread the virus further. Darryl recommends at least 10 feet on all sides, just to be safe. Avoid all group cycling and be especially mindful of distance at any stops where cyclists might congregate.

3. Take it easy

By all means, stay healthy and get your needed exercise during the coronavirus pandemic. But this isn’t the time to push yourself too hard. A lot of deep, heavy breathing could potentially expose you to more of the virus, which could increase your risk of infection. But, even more simply, you don’t want to unnecessarily risk an accident right now. Space at the ER should be reserved for coronavirus patients, and you might have a much harder time getting the care you need if you hurt yourself.

4. Clean up carefully

After your rides, you need to plan on a little extra time for a thorough cleanup. Using wipes that are at least 60% alcohol, wipe down your handlebars, top tube, Garmin and any other touchpoints on your bike. Remove your cycling clothes immediately (before you enter the house if possible) and put them straight in the washer. Then hop in the shower.

5. Don’t ride sick

If you have a fever, do not ride. But it’s important to take even other minor signs of illness seriously right now. A slight cough, sneeze or nausea is still probably not a sign of COVID-19. But you don’t know, and it’s important to play it safe right now. This virus produces very minor symptoms (even no symptoms) in many people, so we must all take extra care to avoid spreading it unwittingly. And even if you do feel healthy and able to ride, please — no spitting. 

This pandemic is impacting everyone, and it’s likely to do so for a while. The good news is, you don’t need to give up cycling during COVID-19. You just need to take a little extra care in how you do it. Take care of your health, be mindful of others — and keep riding.

You can find more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.