Coronavirus Guidelines Are Different Everywhere. What Does It Mean to Ride Safe Now?

Selene Yeager
Photo credit: Imgorthand - Getty Images
Photo credit: Imgorthand - Getty Images

From Bicycling

This is a rapidly developing situation. For the most up-to-date information, check resources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) regularly. This story will be updated as new information becomes available.

When it comes to COVID-19, guidelines are literally all over the map. Depending on where you live, your local government may be giving you advice that’s different from what the federal government is saying. You may live in a town where everyone is wearing masks, but pedal 30 miles into another town where bare faces abound. Some areas are holding races; others have shut down all cycling competition. Everyone, everywhere is yelling at each other on Twitter over how to ride or not ride.

If you’re confused, you’ve got a lot of company. We’re all confused.

That’s why USA Cycling issued Team Club Guidelines to help you negotiate these uncharted waters as we try to wade into some remote semblance of “normalcy” as lockdowns are gradually lifted. The USA Cycling Team Guidelines state:

All Participants Must/Should

  • Self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and be clear of these for the previous 14 days.

  • Self-conduct a temperature check before participating.

  • Not have traveled extensively, or to an area with a high incidence of COVID-19.

  • Not be in a group that is at high-risk if exposed to COVID-19, or in regular contact with anyone who is.

  • Carry and/or wear a face covering depending on the type of ride, prevalence of local community spread, weather conditions, and size of the group.

  • Carry hand sanitizer.

Practices

  • Come prepared to be self-sufficient with food and drink, as well all tools, equipment and clothing needed so as not to have to share.

  • Consider ride types that limit the need to draft. MTB and gravel are examples.

  • Limit stops to resupply. When stopping, respect social distancing, wear a face covering, and wash your hands.

  • Meet any required group size requirements as set by your local community.

  • Meet in areas that lessen your exposure to others.

  • Bring all necessary supplies (tubes, CO2/bike pump, tire levers, etc) to fix or support your ride, and do not assist others in handling of their equipment while fixing any mechanical issue.

  • Dial back the intensity of the ride so that the exertion levels reduce risk of transmission.

Some teams have taken things into their own hands and crafted guidelines for their local riders to follow, like the Laser Cats in Philadelphia, an area that entered Code Yellow for COVID-19 in early June.

“We’ve been in constant contact during the pandemic and when we started seeing buzz about events or rides, we decided it would be helpful for us to think through our own and our collective decision-making about going for rides with people outside our households,” says Elizabeth Reinkordt, co-founder of Team Laser Cats. “We hope these guidelines can help us and others make decisions about how to assess and mitigate risk.”

The Team Laser Cats Guidelines are stated below. Please note: Guidelines are subject to change as more information becomes available.

  • Decisions to ride are individual and should be carefully considered based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to personal health, employment, mitigation of risk, family/living situation, and geographic location.

  • Be thoughtful about the decisions you are making, and don’t rush to judgment on another person’s decisions. Remember #1.

  • Philadelphia’s Code Yellow guidance from Parks & Recreation includes a prohibition on group sports.

  • Bike rides vary, but many of them could certainly be considered a group sport.

  • While CDC & public health guidance suggests aerosolized virus disperses quickly outdoors, precautions are still important.

  • Getting hurt and needing medical care is also still a risky proposition. How are you mitigating risk in your riding?

  • Riding in places where you may encounter other people in close range heightens the guidance that wearing a mask/face covering is important. Even if you are not sick, you may be carrying the virus. Wearing a mask helps protect others from you.

  • Riding with members of your household limits your exposure.

  • If you choose to expand to ride with people outside of your household, think seriously about the addition of other contacts. Be transparent about any other contacts you have with people outside your household (again, Remember #1), and disclose this to the people you ride with.

  • Keep track of people you are in contact with. Since the government isn’t doing contact tracing, how are you keeping track and informing people if you get sick? Do you trust they will inform you if they do?

  • Based on #9 and #10, if you do choose to expand riding with people other than your household, a lower risk option would be to combine with one other household in a monogamous households social relationship.

  • Another alternative is to ride to outdoor meeting places separately, then enjoy time in each other’s company at a safer distance apart. Again, be mindful of #9 and #10.

  • Think carefully about the impact you have based on the route you choose to ride. Think about the people you might be impacting–such as employees at businesses–and consider packing your own snacks instead. Minimize your need to enter into buildings, wear a mask if you do, and wash your hands. If that’s not possible, reconsider your route and the supplies you bring with you. Pack hand sanitizer.

  • This should go without saying, but if you’re sick, you should not be out riding. And if you’re sick and live with someone else who isn’t, they are still likely carriers and may infect others.

Bicycling checked in with riders and racers around the country and asked how they’re riding safely now. Not surprisingly, how they responded largely reflected the area in which they lived and how hard it was impacted by the COVID-19 virus. Here’s what they had to say.

Corey Hilliard, athlete and event organizer of Not So Friendly Laps in Brooklyn, NY




Hilliard lives and rides in New York City, one of the hardest hit regions in world. Though the city is slowly beginning to reopen, the self-proclaimed “World’s Most Legendary Bicycle Messenger” is still riding solo.

“I am not riding with others. The locals are eager to return to racing, but I am still hesitant to say the races are back on until everything is open again,” he says.

Instead, Hilliard is taking the path of many endurance racers right now: solo riding challenges, including an Everest for charity and the Leadville 100,000 ft Challenge.

Lea Davison, Olympic XC Mtb Racer from Sunderland, Vermont

Vermont had an outbreak over Memorial Day that had the state trending upward, but the situation is isolated, and the state is starting to gradually relax their lockdown measures. Davison, who had a pneumonia scare in early March following her return from Andalucía Bike Race, a six-day international mountain bike stage race in Spain, is still being cautious, only riding solo or with her wife, Frazier Blair.

“Back in early March, I was having a little trouble breathing and was so super fatigued and out of it I could barely walk straight,” Davison says, noting she was one of the first people in Vermont to be tested for COVID-19, the result of which ultimately came back negative.

“I’ve been racing on Zwift, which feels good, but is a very painful experience! I’m a competitor, and it feels like a real race, but even harder—super intense and there’s zero recovery. It’s made me a lot better because you have to push yourself way past your limits,” she says.

Her first foray into the real world with someone besides Blair will be a training block with her coach in northern Vermont next week. “We have a condo up there, so there’s a place to stay, and anytime we’re together, we’ll be outdoors where it’s safer and we can keep some space,” she says.

Rebecca Rusch, Adventure Athlete, 7x World Champion, organizer of Rebecca’s Private Idaho in Ketchum, Idaho

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“Love without action is meaningless and action without love is irrelevant.” Deepak Chopra. The fundamental reasons I launched Rebecca’s Giddy Up Challenge were simple. I needed to take action for my own personal emotional and physical health, I wanted to connect with my athletic community and I felt a strong desire to do something proactive to help heal our world. #GiddyUpForGood was a type of event that could meet the needs of self care, community and global support, fueled by love. The idea to challenge athletes worldwide to physically push beyond their limits and raise funds for COVID-19 relief was the best way I knew how to take action and #BeGood. What you did over the weekend is nothing short of a global phenomenon. The love, energy, sweat, tears, laughter and leg cramps were felt around the world. 890 of you joined me from 43 US states and 11 countries. Collectively we climbed over 10 million feet and raised over $130k for COVID-19 relief via the Be Good Foundation. We were 47% female/ 50% male and 13-66 years of age. This was the worlds largest combined discipline “everesting” attempt and the first event of this kind. My ride was the most elevation I’ve done in one day. I rode 23:15 hrs non stop, 21 times up and down trail creek. And you know what, it didn’t feel that hard. And that’s not because of me, it’s because of you. I felt strong, consistent, powerful for nearly a full day of riding because I was pushed forward by my commitment to you, my commitment to my Dad and his Be Good instructions and by the power of our collective love and action on Memorial Day Weekend. I am so proud of us and what we achieved. I’m so inspired by your stories. I’m so grateful to be part of such a positive and proactive community. I’m physically exhausted and emotionally elated and energized to continue taking action with love! Here are a few images from my ride thanks to @stellar_media My smile says it all. More cowbell, more action, more love! #GiddyUpForGood. NOW TO CELEBRATE!!! Live podium , awards and cheers on Instagram live today at 6 pm MDT! Join me for top finishers and also @livcycling and @giantbicycles give aways! #giddyupforgood

A post shared by Rebecca Rusch (@rebeccarusch) on May 27, 2020 at 8:41am PDT

Rusch’s home of Blaine County (which includes Sun Valley), Idaho was one of the hardest hit in the nation early on in the pandemic, overwhelming its relatively small local medical system. Though the area has recovered and is opening back up, Rusch and her husband, Greg Martin are both first responders and take the situation very seriously.

“I’m riding with one or two other people who I know well. No one here is really hosting group rides,” Rusch says, noting that her biggest concern is the influx of tourists coming to ride in remote, beautiful areas like Sun Valley, but who are letting their guards down.

“I’m grateful I get to live in a place that’s amazing to ride. People are coming here from surrounding cities because they have to get out because they’re going insane. I get that!” she says. “I just feel that if you travel, you have a responsibility to the small town and community that has limited medical resources. My ask for people who go to remote areas for nature would be: Up your game as cyclists and show responsible behavior. Wear a neck gaiter that you can pull up if you’re on a trail with others. We’re not through the coronavirus. Go overboard on protecting these beautiful areas you come to because you love them,” she says.

Jame Carney, Olympian, Piedmont College Head Cycling Coach, C.A.R.E. for Cycling Founder and President in Demorest, Georgia

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Chrome Dome and the Spider Monkey

A post shared by Jame Carney (@jamecarney) on May 24, 2018 at 6:01am PDT

Georgia is one of the states that is experiencing an increasing number of infections as restrictions are lifted. Carney who frequently checks in on his 74-year-old mother has been riding mostly solo for the past three months and continues to keep his distance from others. “Since the reopening, I have done mountain bike rides and some gravel in small groups, but we have kept a healthy distance from each other. If these rides have a meeting place, we all drive ourselves,” he says.

As far as the team goes, they just started going to their local Fox RaceFace MTB Time Trial Series on Tuesdays, which serve as NICA practices and fundraisers. “It’s a private course on the Road Atlanta property in Braselton, Georgia. Masks are required to be worn at all times you are not riding and social distancing has also been adhered to. They send off a rider every 30 seconds on the 4-plus mile course, you might be passed or pass a few people but it’s very limited contact,” he says.

Amity Rockwell, gravel racer, 2019 Dirty Kanza winner in Santa Barbara, California

California was one of the first states to recognize and respond to the gravity of the COVID-19 situation early on in the pandemic. Now that they’re in the gradual re-opening stages, Rockwell, who was one of the racers who decided against racing Mid South in March as the situation got serious nationwide, is becoming “somewhat less strict” herself.

“During quarantine, I was only riding alone and with my partner whom I live with, not starting at coffee shops, and trying to ride at times of the day where I wouldn’t encounter anyone else on the road,” she says.

“Now that things have relaxed, I sometimes ride with a friend or two, and grab the pre-ride espresso with a mask on. I haven’t been riding with a mask on, however. Still no hello or goodbye hugs. I think it’s still really important that we keep our circles small and take things gradually,” she says.

“I definitely miss the big group throw downs, the vibrant community, and of course, racing. In terms of my training itself, I am even less structured than I was before, which means I pretty much ride when I want and recover when I’m tired,” she says. “I don’t stress about being in a specific place fitness-wise, just generally strong and ready to turn up the heat and the volume when I can be sure I am going to compete.”

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