Coping with COVID-19 as a Cyclist

by Jeff Whitfield on | Comments

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Woman with Face Mask on Bike
Woman with Face Mask on Bike

For a good month now, many of us within the United States have been on lockdown due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Cyclists have been hit pretty hard with virtually all cycling events being delayed or cancelled. Along with that, many cycling clubs and organizations have stopped doing group rides. With social distancing guidelines in full effect, cyclists are now left to their own devices on how to cope.

One way to cope is to do more indoor riding on a smart trainer. Platforms like Zwift, RGT Cycling, and, most recently, TrainerRoad, cyclists can still cycle together even indoors. That definitely has eased the stress I’m sure for many cyclists, keeping them from going completely stir crazy.

Regardless, many of us would still like to ride outdoors. But it’s not always clear how the rules apply to cyclists. Can you safely ride outdoors? Are there things you need to do to properly apply social distancing rules while riding on a bike?

Fortunately, many news outlets have been writing about this very topic. One in particular, Canadian Cycling Magazine, started posting a five part COVID-19 ride guide to help inform cyclists on the things they need to know. Here’s a breakdown of what they’ve written:

  1. Seriously, stop group riding
  2. Opinion: For now, I’m happier riding indoors
  3. Be Kind: Community and respect in a rapidly changing environment
  4. Opinion: Why it’s ok to ride outside, within limits
  5. FAQ for cyclists during COVID-19

The last one hasn’t been published yet. I’ll update the link later once it is.

Now, even though this is from a Canadian publication, much of what they write about applies to pretty much anywhere, regardless of country. I highly suggest reading all the articles but, to help you along, I’ll be summarizing much of it here as well as add some of my own thoughts in the process.

Stop Group Riding!

One of the graphics listed in the Canadian Cycling Magazine article on group riding that really stuck out for me was this one:

Social distancing graphic from Road.cc
Social distancing graphic from Road.cc

Consider the average speed that you might have on a group ride. Even the highest they show on this graphic is eye opening. At 20 kph, or nearly 12.5 mph, everyone in your group would have to maintain a distance of 7.5 meters, or over 24.6 feet, from each other. Can you imagine trying to ride with a dozen people, each of them trying to keep their distance from each other? That means the first and last person would be nearly the length of a football field from each other. Damn near impossible to maintain that for every rider.

So, yeah, maintaining proper social distancing on a group ride isn’t really possible right now. When you put it into perspective, group rides just aren’t worth it. If you want to maintain the social aspect of your club or organization, you’re better off organizing group ride events on Zwift and other online cycling platforms.

Riding Indoors

If structured training is your bag then you’re probably already doing some indoor training with a smart trainer. But if you’re not then you might want to consider it. If you’re stuck indoors and can’t ride, having the ability to do virtual rides is a blessing. Plus, with virtual group rides, you can maintain the social aspect and not feel like you’re cycling all by yourself.

I’ve been doing indoor cycling for the better part of a year now, primarily using TrainerRoad. It’s a great platform for those who want to focus on just structured training and workouts. If you have a group who likes to do structured workouts then you might consider using TrainerRoad’s new Group Workouts feature. Unfortunately for me, I don’t know anyone who uses TrainerRoad so it’s a feature that is completely useless for me.

Personally, most of the cyclists I know are on Zwift. As such, I’ve decided to switch from TrainerRoad to Zwift for a while. One of the main benefits of Zwift is that it provides a more immersive, virtualized environment. Instead of just having a screen with a bunch of numbers and graphs, you see a virtual avatar of yourself on a bike riding through virtual landscapes. It certainly helps pass the time and makes for more entertaining bike workouts.

I’ve learned that there are quite a number of riding groups online that you can join. In fact, one of my friends introduced me to The Herd, a Zwift cycling group on Facebook. If your local cycling club doesn’t organize online rides then this might be a good way to do virtual rides with others.

Be Kind and Conscientious of Others

During this stressful time, it’s easy to get worked up about the news regarding the Coronavirus. There’s a lot of media being thrown around and a lot of it isn’t good news. On top of that, there’s a lot of misinformation going around as well. Getting to the truth can be difficult at times. But try your best to get the right information, factual information, about COVID-19 from the professionals who know what they’re talking about. Doing so will allow you to educate others on what they need to know.

One of the trends I’ve noticed in the past month, especially on social networks, is the nasty debates others are having about the whole COVID-19 affair. People here in the United States tend to debate a lot. But the current debate sometimes goes outside the norm and escalates into darn near yelling. The reason is that people’s ideas on what is the truth are all over the place. There’s a lot of confusion, fear, uncertainty, and doubt (COFUD? :P). That said, debates become a cesspool of people disrespecting one another.

Whether it’s family, friends, co-workers, associates, or people you don’t even know, words will be written that could be construed as a direct insult to you. It’s so easy to respond in a way that’s quite visceral and reactionary. The trick is to not let it get to you, which we know can be really, really hard. Best advice is to be mindful of what you say and always be conscientious of what you say to others. Always be kind and try to steer people towards talking in a civil way. If you can’t then simply walk away from the argument.

But if you can have a civil conversation, definitely take the time to engage. Like I said, there’s a lot of misinformation going around so the best we can do is inform those we know and correct them on any false information they might believe in. When you do, just remember to inform them in a respectful tone. Making sure others are well informed is perhaps the best thing you can do for your community.

Ride Outside But With Caution

Ever since the Coronavirus breakout, I’ve continued to ride outdoors. Even with social distancing and lockdown policies in place, I still get out and ride. However, doing so doesn’t mean that I’m being irresponsible. There are ways to ride by yourself while keeping you and others safe from infection.

One of the primary rules of riding outdoors is to know the path you’re going to take ahead of time. If you have a variety of different ways you normally go it’s ok to diverge a bit. But going on a path that you’ve never been on does require that you research it a bit. Otherwise, you could be setting yourself up for a failure, like the inability to avoid people. It’s always good to play it safe and make sure that any new path won’t lead you to exposing yourself to others. So, do your homework before going on a new route.

Be wary of popular walking/biking trails in your area, especially on weekends when everyone is out trying to get some exercise for themselves and/or family. I’ve ridden on quite a few trails over the past month and some of them tend to get a little crowded...almost uncomfortably so. A crowded trail can make it hard to maintain a good distance from others while riding. As such, if the trail you’re riding on gets crowded, consider riding on a side street or some other path that isn’t so crowded.

It might be tempting to ride with a good friend or someone you know from your cycling club. Don’t...just don’t. As much as we would all like to trust our friends and riding buddies, it’s just not a good idea to take any chances. Just like your trips to the grocery store, your activities outside should be limited to as little exposure to others as possible. That includes folks you might normally ride with. As mentioned before, unless you can maintain a distance of 24-25 feet, it’s just not worth the risk.

Lastly, as always with any ride, practice good cycling etiquette and safety measures. This is not a good time to have an accident that requires you to go to the hospital. That’s not out of fear of being in the hospital though. It’s more of a matter of helping your local hospital by avoiding an unnecessary trip. If people end up getting sick due to COVID-19 in your area, your local hospital will need all the room they can get. You being dumb and getting into an accident due to not being mindful of your safety doesn’t help. So, yeah, safety first! I can’t express that enough.

Conclusion

So, that’s how I’m coping with COVID-19. I highly suggest that you follow the information and opinions given by myself and others during this crisis. Ride outdoors but please do so with caution and avoid group rides. If you’re unsure, ride indoors...maybe even join an indoor riding club. However, as much as we want to ride it out on our bike, we also need to be mindful on how we ride out the wave of this virus. Be kind and courteous with others, especially those within your community. They need you just as much as you need them. But, more importantly, be kind to yourself. This is a very stressful times so, please, take care of yourself.

Be safe, my friends!



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