Cycling during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak?

Covid19 is a topic a bit too close for comfort, a subject I'm familiar with. So, I've decided to put together this page with the help of a great internet article (Balton, 2020) to help people enjoy cycling and stay safe, but please bear in mind this web page doesn't represent or replace professional advice and you are urged to read our T&C's regarding this, there's plenty of relevant and interesting details here, so take a look. The Covid19 information will change over time, this page was written and will not be updated, except for some interviews coming soon with cyclists who have all had covid19. These people have statures ranging from race fit, to plump to older cyclists with pre-existing medical conditions. Stay tuned- it may change your whole outlook on the virus.

When this outbreak began in China, little was known about the virus. As it infected country after country (who were all slow too react), the knowledge about the effects of the illness began to filter through. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that range from the common cold to more severe respiratory illnesses, and although it does have some similar symptoms to the flu, you might as well compare apples and oranges and call them the same thing- thus Covid19 is not influenza, and seasonal flu is not classed as a global pandemic.

Covid-19 belongs to a family viruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), or Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Covid-19 is a whole new strain of a virus, there is currently no vaccine and currently no cure (2019), it can only be managed. For those of us who have had flu like symptoms during our life, we can share and agree it was a very unpleasant experience, but I would guess few would be planning their funeral when their symptoms began. Covid-19 can cause serious respiratory distress that can manifest itself as bronchitis, pneumonia, or multiple pulmonary embolisms and can irreparably damage the lungs. As if this wasn't bad enough on its own, the virus can have secondary complications ultimately resulting in negatively affecting other organs in the body. The doom and gloom doesn't stop there- Some people who have recovered report- breathlessness, fatigue, and body pain months after first becoming infected. Then there's mutation; all viruses, including the one that causes Covid-19, mutate. These tiny genetic changes happen as the virus makes new copies of itself to spread and thrive. Most are inconsequential, but some can make it more infectious or threatening to the human host. For the 'holier-than-thou' cyclists who are fit as a fiddle and believe this illness will not affect them, it just attacks the infirm- think again! A vaccine will eventually help, but the easiest way to stay healthy is not to get it; by adhering to lockdown rules, wearing a mask, wash your hands regularly, and keep away from other people.

Corona virus can have no effect at all with some people although they may still carry it, some will have mild symptoms, some will be so unwell and debilitated it can be the worst illness they've ever felt. Although it's worth pointing out Covid19 is only fatal for a small percentage of people, it is true- people of all ages can become critically ill and sadly, some of those won't see next Christmas. Which category do you think you are? The nastiest attribute about this virus is it doesn't discriminate between young [i] and old, underlying illness or not [ii]. The thing is, until you catch it- you don't actually know how your body is going to react to it, and just because you may of caught it once, doesn't mean you won't catch it again with different symptoms. Anybody who isn't already scared by now is either lying or a Gurkha solider, but scared isn't always bad; as a high voltage electrician in my previous life, I worked with something knowing it could kill me. This produced respect, once you lose that respect, well you can work that one out for yourself! Though, there is a way to stay sane, healthy, and of course remain safe. We can still cycle and are encouraged to do so (cycling is one of the outdoor exercises allowed), we just have to do it slightly differently. There are some positive affects of cycling which might just sway the balance with your health, but we need to address some important things and learn how to act in order to protect ourselves and others.

To stay up-to-date with the latest information regarding the coronavirus pandemic, make sure to check official and reputable resources such as the World Health Organization. For the current England rules about going out to exercise (sorry NI and Scotland, I can't comment about every country)- click here, and for the Welsh rules on exercise- click here. You might be wondering what you can and can't do during this pandemic, and how this will impact your training, leisure routine or commute to work.

Let's go through some important points and answer some crucial questions you may be thinking about.

Can I go for a ride with my friends?

Under lockdowns- Absolutely not! Under no circumstances should you cycle or take part in any cycling activity involving groups. It's through contact with other people the virus is spread. A simulation of how droplets could be spread while people are walking and running has been widely shared on social media. The simulation, which went viral on Twitter, suggested that the government guidance of staying two metres apart is only appropriate when people are standing still.

It is agreed, the way the data has been interpreted leave a lot to be desired, and you can argue about specific distances droplets will travel before they disperse and become less volatile, but it is feasible the virus can travel further when delivered to the air at speed. Plus- There's always at least one guy on every group ride who spits way too often, and not forgetting being hit by snot rockets when someone blows their nose in a bunch. Both disgusting I know, but tell me you've never experienced this, it's a real issue when group riding. So cycle alone or with one other household member (this is strict in the UK) and stay side by side if it's safe to do so.

If You Feel Okay, It Doesn't Mean You're Not Infected!

First things first, one of the reasons that coronavirus is especially dangerous is that the symptoms do not appear immediately after becoming infected. The incubation period can be as long as 14 days and in some rare cases even longer. Though, the average incubation period is around 5 days.

During this time, you can be spreading the virus around without even knowing it. That's why it's important to limit your social contacts and self-isolate as much as possible during these strange times.

Does that mean you should stop cycling altogether? Well, yes and no.

Numerous studies have found that moderate cycling keeps your immune system strong. A strong immune response is absolutely crucial in the fight against coronavirus, which is why young people usually have none or very mild symptoms [i].

Therefore, it seems like cycling is an advisable activity to do. It could also help us keep our sanity and lift our spirits during this pandemic. However! It is important to do it in such a way that you will not put yourself or others around you in danger.

Can a Hard Ride Weaken Your Immune System?

As you know, a very long ride or an arduous workout will deplete your glycogen reserves. Glycogen is not only used by your muscles, it's involved in numerous other processes in the body, including the immune system's response to pathogens.

According to a study published in the Journal of Sport and Health Medicine, “Illness risk is increased in athletes during periods of intensified training and competition”.

Without glycogen, the immune system will not function as well as it normally does. Therefore, it is not advisable to do very long and hard rides that could leave you exhausted.

Can a mask protect you?

It's important to note that 'surgical' masks are generally manufactured not to protect you, they're made to protect the people around you. They prevent your breath which might contain droplets big enough to carry infectious virions from landing on people or surfaces where they can be unwittingly picked up. You could use your buff to slow the particles being expelled, but it will soon become saturated with your excretions.

Only wearing a properly fitted fluid replant mask will prevent droplets going into your mouth, but there's no guarantee. The kn95 mask Antiviral Filter Face Mask (shown left) claims to filter out dust, exhaust fumes, pollen, and airborne virions. It is also believed that the virus can also find its way in through your eyes, so wear your glasses and avoid touching your face during and after a ride until you shower.

Should You Ride Outside During the Corona Pandemic?

First, don't cycle in very crowded places or on busy cycling lanes. Pick a route you are familiar with, one where you expect few people to be and if you feel fine health-wise, you should definitely go for a ride. Be mindful your government may have already imposed a limit on travelling, like the closure of public beauty spots, canals, public parks, national parks, cycle paths, cycle lanes, and picnic areas. Anyway, they're all likely to have people at these places, so steer clear.

Second, please try to avoid serious cycling injuries at a time when the healthcare system is becoming overwhelmed, that means no downhill mountain biking. We should keep all of the healthcare resources for those who need them the most. Don't take any risks when cycling these days.

Commuting to Work on a Bike — Yes or No?

A lot of people have been asking whether or not it is safe to continue commuting to work during the coronavirus pandemic. The answer is yes! Cycling as a means of commuting is still advised and there's no reason to stop doing it if you feel well. Just make sure to wash your hands when you reach work or come back home — the same goes for your cycling gloves.

If you used to commute to work via public transportation, it's advisable to stop doing it in order to stay away from the crowds. Cycling is the best alternative in this situation. As a matter of fact, many big cities in the world are seeing a surge in biking, as people are trying to avoid metros, buses, and trains.

The positive upshot from this is- The Coronavirus has led to reduced pollution, re-emerging wildlife and plunging oil prices and shown the size of the task facing humanity (Milman, 2020).


What You can't Do At The Moment!


To flatten the curve and slow down the spreading of the Covid-19 virus, make sure you avoid the following activities as much as possible. We'll give you some recommendations for alternatives as well!

Avoid bike Sharing (especialy after Borris)

If your city has a bike-sharing scheme, you should exercise caution when using it. If the person that rode the bike before you was infected with Covid19, they could have left the virus on the parts of the bike they've touched, coughed, or sneezed upon, but don't be paranoid- healthy unbroken skin is a barrier to most pathogens including Covid19. Therefore, if you have to use shared bikes to commute, make sure you use a disinfectant wipe to clean the handlebar and the saddle before you ride. Also, don't forget to wash your hands [iii] afterward and not touch your face in the meantime!

Avoid Spinning Classes

All spinning classes should be discontinued, for a good reason. When you go to a spinning class, you're sweating, huffing and puffing in a close proximity to other people around you, and they're doing it as well. This is an ideal situation for the virus to spread. Therefore, if you're enrolled in a spinning class, it's likely already been canceled.

Avoid Visiting Public Places

Most public places such as shops, cafes, restaurants, malls, and such are already shut. In most quarantined areas, people are only allowed to visit supermarkets and pharmacies. If you have to make some purchases, it's advisable to do it online whenever possible. If you're out on a ride make sure you've enough water and food, so you don't need to go in a shop.

If you have to go to a public place you can wear a mask. Sneeze and cough in a paper tissue or your elbow, and avoid touching your face.

Avoid Driving to a place to ride

Driving to a place just out of town to exercise is allowed in England, but driving for a prolonged period with only a brief amount of exercise is not acceptable. In Wales, you're not allowed to drive then exercise, you must ride from your house and only a distance you could reasonably walk (which for capable walker is around 15 miles).

Avoid Going on Group Rides

As we stated ealier, group rides are definitely not allowed during the coronavirus pandemic. Even though they take place outdoors, there is a high chance that you could get infected by the virus or infect other people around you.

Therefore, if the conditions for going on a ride are good, make sure to do it alone or with one member of your household (with the exception of your children).

Avoid Riding with Coronavirus symptoms

When you feel like total crap, skipping your workout is an obvious choice, but with the current situation if you have any symptoms that you identify as a common cold or flu, it's imperative not to go for a ride and rest for a few days while limiting your contact with others. If you have reasons to suspect you're down with Covid-19, you should get tested. Coronavirus is often confused with other respiratory infections and vice versa. The symptoms of coronavirus vary from person to person, so it's sometimes difficult to distinguish them from other health issues. Once tested, please don't go for ride if you've been tested positive, even if you feel fine. Riding with coronavirus is irresponsible and could put you and others in danger, so it's best to play safe, don't put other people at risk until you're no longer infectious.


What You can Do

Work Out Inside

Now is the perfect time to drag that trainer or roller out from under your bed and wipe the dust off it. Cycling trainers and rollers are an excellent way to cycle inside, maintain your fitness, and even improve it. If you find it to be boring, you can do it together with your friends over Skype or Facetime, watch TV or a cycling race. There has been a surge in virtual cycling, the cycling is obviously real on a static bike, but the trainer or coach or view is virtual. I've never been a fan of these, but they do seem to be filling a gap at the moment.

This is also the perfect time to pay more attention to developing the strength of other parts of your body, apart from your rock-solid legs. We recommend trying out some core programs for cyclists which will help you build stronger abs, improve stability, and prevent potential injuries later on. Most cyclists skip these exercises, but they are almost as important as the time spent on the bike. For those with a little less motivation for exercise, click here.

Use social media to have a group workout

After a long, hard day at work, it can be difficult to drag yourself to the gym. This is especially true when it's cold or wet outside. So when you're scrolling through your feeds and seeing other people exercising, you're more motivated to get to it! Now more than ever there are so many ways to see your friends and relatives without going out of the house. For loads of free online workouts click here, there's enough different exercises to suit everyones abilities.

Switch on the Wii, Xbox, or PlayStation

Video game playing has been blamed for years for being one of the causes of children's (and maybe ours as well) lack of exercise, obesity, and general malaise. Now during lockdown, it's a great opportunity to play with your kids, giving you and your children a workout. Dubbed 'exergames', all the best game makers have one, and one of the older and more popular games is Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) where players dance to popular songs on a floor mat with pressure sensors. A newer crop of exergaming systems sense movement using a handheld device, with these you can virtualy play any outdoor sport.

What happens now?

"Coronavirus, like climate change, is partly a problem of our economic structure. Although both appear to be 'environmental' or 'natural' problems, they are socially driven." (Khan 2020).

Global warming is a massive subject at the moment, and economists, scientists, politicians, and the 'Greta Thunberg' movement all argue about how we can cut pollution and essentially save the planet. Well, it's proved with a few months of forced industrial rest-bite, less people were driving, and the biggy- less people were flying. The result- the planet has recovered a little, nature has showed us if we leave it alone it will recover. The global economic impact of the coronavirus crisis is already severe and expected to worsen. Many governments are contemplating massive infrastructure projects that can generate jobs and stimulate economic activity.

Monumental decisions have to be made, we could use this pandemic as a turning point, it's shown us humanity can still have a positive effect on the planet. There is a strong case for the environment, public health and the economy to avoid projects and infrastructure that cause more burning of fossil fuels. Investing in projects to support biking— from protected lanes, to mass parking facilities, bikeshare programs, bike taxis, cycle paramedics or police on bikes, more deliveries using cycle couriers, this is exactly the type of win-win investment that will help economies recover while curbing climate change, reducing air pollution, and promoting human health. There isn't any excuse any more, a pandemic like Covid19 was predicted many years before it hit the world and the government/ NHS was arrogant enough to believe they were prepared for it. Clearly they were not.

So, should we carry on commuting to jobs or attending meetings that can be done remotely, keep clogging up motorways or the London underground or flying to that stupidly reduced price package holiday (because we can), or keep having a takeaway delivered by car. Of course, suggesting cycling can save the planet is a utopian ideal, but should'nt we at least try? Or is the alternative to continue the way we were, put the extreme weather down to natural causes, and wait for the next pandemic to hit? Is it really all out of our hands?


Credits, & References:

  • Arthurs-Brennan. M. 2020. How to build a core strength programme for cycling [online] Cycling weekly. Available at: https://www.cyclingweekly.com/fitness/training/top-ten-core-drills-31170 [Accessed 15 May 2020]
  • Balton, J., 2020. Cycling During Coronavirus Pandemic- A Guide To Do's And Don'ts. [online] Bicycle Guider. Available at: https://www.bicycle-guider.com/cycling-during-coronavirus [Accessed 26 April 2020].
  • Barr, S. 2020. How to stay motivated to workout from home. [online] Independent. availble at: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/coronavirus-workout-home-exercise-fitness-motivation-tips-experts-a9440806.html [Accessed 26 April 2020].
  • Branswell. H. 2020. Why 'flattening the curve' may be the world's best bet to slow the coronavirus. [online] STAT. Available at: https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/11/flattening-curve-coronavirus/ [Accessed 26 April 2020].
  • Cabinet office. 2020. Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can't do [online] Guidance. Avilable at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do [Accessed 15 May 2020]
  • Khan, S., 2020. The Conversation. What Will The World Be Like After Coronavirus? [online] Four Possible Futures. Available at: https://theconversation.com/what-will-the-world-be-like-after-coronavirus-four-possible-futures-134085 [Accessed 30 April 2020].
  • Lauer. S,A, et al. 2020. The Incubation Period of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) From Publicly Reported Confirmed Cases: [online] Estimation and Application. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32150748 [Accessed 26 April 2020].
  • Milman, O., 2020. Pandemic Side-Effects Offer Glimpse Of Alternative Future On Earth Day 2020. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/22/environment-pandemic-side-effects-earth-day-coronavirus [Accessed 26 April 2020].
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  • Welsh Government. 2020. Leaving home to exercise: [online] guidance. Avilable at: https://gov.wales/leaving-home-exercise-guidance [Accessed 15 May 2020]
  • WHO. 2020. Coronavirus. Available at: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_1 [Accessed 30 April 2020].

  • Designer of icons: dDara [online] Available at: https://www.iconfinder.com/dDara [Accessed 30 April 2020].
  • Blue man and man of different ages courtesy of clip art. Available at: https://www.clipart.email/ [Accessed 30 April 2020].

  • [i] There have been deaths of children linked to Covid-19, but thankfully (and statistically) these are rare.
  • [ii] Some people are at greater risk when they've caught it.
  • [iii] 'Better the devil you know than the devil you don't'- don't over wash your hands it may dry out your skin, damaged skin may be susceptible to invasion by infective agents.


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