As I write this we still seem far from getting a final handle on how to deal with the coronavirus. Planned events, including USACycling competitive and other events, pro tour events and alternative events like the Belgian Waffle ride have all been canceled or rescheduled.
And your author is at the moment is a 14-day self-quarantine with a fellow cyclist after we were recently on a cycling vacation in Spain, a coronavirus hotspot. It may have been in the center of contagion, but the riding was epic.
So now that I’ve made it back to my hometown of Boise, Idaho the question becomes can I, should I, ride.
Looking about for what the experts tell us. The answer to can I ride is yes. But one needs to be thoughtful about it.
The plan for riding right now is to go out and ride solo or with my quarantine mate and enjoy the miles. Where we were traveling in Spain riding is shut down. People we know had to deal with the local police when they tried to ride recently. But cycling remains generally unrestricted here in the States.
To Group Ride Or Not
There’s been some controversy (at least on social media) about whether to continue in groups rides with lots of people. As we know too well, some of our cycling brothers hate to be told what to do. The well-founded concern is that such cyclists are flouting prohibitions against large gatherings and, at the very least, not being good role models in the current health crisis. There is also concern that a group ride crash (which is uncommon, of course, by not rare) could send a bunch to the ER and tax already overtaxed hospital facilities. On this point, Italy and Spain have banned cycling for fear of bike crashes burdening the health care system. So maybe a little self-restraint on group riding is called for. I think so.
Social Distancing and Riding
But in the States, even in places like San Francisco where residents were ordered to shelter in place until April 7th cycling remains available. The shelter in place directive explicitly provides that people can go outside and engage in outdoor activity, such as riding, as long as social distancing remains part of it and people do not gather in groups. As you likely know, the social distancing recommendation comes from the Centers for Disease Control. The guidance is to maintain a distance of six feet from others. That’s quite doable while riding solo or with my quarantine mate. It will not be surprising to see more and more locales adopt such shelter in place rules.
There are lots of reasons to keep riding. A half-hour or hour of moderately brisk activity has been shown to support the immune system. And it’s the immune system that fends off viruses. There are also the mental health benefits of exercise. Those seem particularly important given the social stresses we are all facing.
If I start to get symptomatic (finger-crossed that remains a no) though rest and hydration become the key. The basic guidance is one should not exercise when a virus impacts lungs and lung function.
Other Considerations for Riding in the Era of Coronavirus: No Snot Rockets!
All the reporting is that COVID-19 spreads primarily by respiratory droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. So. being conscious to not blow “snot rockets” or spit is part of socially conscious riding.
It also important, given that the coronavirus can live on surfaces for, at a minimum, hours to wipe down the bike immediately after a ride with soap and water or disinfectant wipes. Similarly, it makes sense to not lets ones cycling clothes sit around and to wash them immediately post-ride as well.
Be careful about touching anything. Things like buttons for traffic lights or door handles could be vectors for disease transmission. Try to use our jacket sleeve, elbow or a glove. Remember to not touch your face because that appears to be a primary transmission method. It makes sense then to also have a bottle of hand sanitizer. And use it if you are out and have to touch anything, stop by a store or use a restroom on your ride.
There is no data I’ve seen on whether sweat is in and of itself a method of transmission. It does not appear that sweat is a transmission method. The CDC tells us transmission happens through respiratory droplets, produced through a cough or sneeze but also between people who are in close contact with one another about six feet. So while it is not currently seen as a vector, staying out of another riders sweat droplets is a good conservative plan of action.
As is widely reported, you can be contagious without symptoms. And the contagion period is unknown. It is why I’m in the 14-day quarantine. It seems one would be more contagious once coughing or sneezing, but questions about transmission remain. Stay some distance apart, do not snot rocket, don’t sneeze on others, wash your hands- don’t touch your face and enjoy the ride