Responsible Cycling In The Time Of Corona – Let’s Do This
The rapid onset of the corona pandemic has left us all reeling. From worries about staying healthy to concern for the accelerating damage to the economy, it feels overwhelming, and we could all use a head-clearing bike ride right now.
And unless corona has already put you in quarantine, or a stay-at-home order expressly forbids it, you can and should do exactly that. But during this unprecedented time, it’s not business as usual. Here are some changes you should make to your usual riding routine.
Seriously. We love group rides, but now is not ? the ? time?. We’re conditioned—culturally and by infrastructure—to ride close together, and that’s simply not safe yet. Even if you think you can maintain the suggested distance of at least a meter, it’s best to err on the side of caution here and go solo. Corona loves company.
Take Everything You Need
One benefit of group rides is a form of social insurance. Someone on the ride always forgets food or tools, but someone else always has them. That support network is sidelined for now. Make sure you have plenty of food and water; your phone and necessary cards (ID, insurance, credit or debit); and a proper toolkit. Check the battery charge for parts like electronic shifting, lights, and computer after every ride and recharge regularly.
Double-Check Your Toolkit
Most of us bring at least a small assortment of roadside repair gear on rides. But right now, you may need to bring more to ensure you’ve got everything to address the most possible issues. It’s also a great time to check to make sure that the inner tube that’s been in your seatbag since last fall still holds air (jostling against items like mini-tools can wear holes in spare tubes over time). Here’s what you need:
- At least one spare tube
- A glueless patch kit
- A mini-tool with fittings for the most crucial bolts on your bike (most common are 2mm to 6mm hex keys, T25 Torx head, Phillips-head screwdriver)
- A chain tool
- Spare chain link or connector pin
- Two tyre levers
- A pump and/or CO2 inflator (with two cartridges)
- Bonus: zip-ties and a short section of duct tape, wrapped around one tire lever
Consider Shorter Routes
While many stay-at-home orders make an exception for exercise, don’t abuse it. You might have time right now for a four-hour expedition, but it’s wisest to stay closer to home.
Aside from the well-being of all, if you need further convincing: You don’t need those long rides. A recent review of studies on the positive impact of being outside found that studies show as little as 10 minutes in natural settings can lead to an improvement in physiological stress markers like lower heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol.
You can still get a great workout in a 60- to 90-minute loop. Bear in mind that high training loads (duration or intensity) can suppress the immune system, and corona just loves that. Not to worry: There aren’t any races to do at the moment anyway. Building to peak fitness isn’t the goal right now, but moderate workouts can help maintain your base and keep the legs fresh. After a 15-minute warmup, try one of these:
- Tempo Time
- Increase your effort to a hard but sustainable level—heart rate Zone 4 (75 to 85 percent max heart rate) or 7 to 8 on the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. Hold that pace for 10 to 20 minutes. Recover for half the interval time. Repeat 1 to 2 more times.
- Increase your effort to Zone 4 (75 to 85 percent max heart rate)/RPE 8 and hold for 5 minutes, then lift your effort just a few BPM (low Zone 5/RPE 9) for 1 to 2 minutes. Drop back down to Zone 4/RPE 8 for 5 minutes. Recover at an easy pace for 10 minutes, then repeat 1 to 2 times.
- Gears for Hills
- On a moderate climb, alternate climbing in a big gear at a lower cadence (below 70 rpm) for 1 to 2 minutes, then spin an easy gear (above 90 rpm) for 1 to 2 minutes.
Communicate With Loved Ones
If you’re at home with family, tell them where you’re going, and be specific: what roads you’ll take or trails you’re riding, and how long you expect to be gone. If you have a Strava account or compatible Garmin or Wahoo devices, consider signing up for the GPS-tracking options (Strava Beacon, Garmin LiveTrack, Wahoo Live Track). Wahoo’s and Garmin’s services are free, but only available on compatible devices (here’s Garmin’s list, and Wahoo’s); Beacon is available for a fee as part of Strava’s Summit package but there’s a 30-day free trial. It works in the iOS or Android app, or on certain Garmin devices. You can also opt to share your location via Google maps on iOS.
Use the 80 Percent Rule
You might have heard of the Pareto principle of training (roughly: 80 percent of effects come from 20 percent of causes). Our 80 Percent Rule is a similar idea that’s a time-tested aphorism for Bicycling’s test crew on first rides and product launches. It basically goes like this: When on a new test bike, and/or new trails and roads, dial back your speed to no more than 80 percent of your technical ability (you’re more likely to crash when you’re pushing that last 20 percent).
We’ve seen many a gear writer get hurt on product launches by ignoring this rule out of ego or exuberance, and it’s relevant here because your number-one goal is to remain healthy and get home safe. EMS responders, doctors’ offices, urgent care facilities, and hospitals either are or will soon be fighting to keep up with the rush of COVID-19 cases. They don’t need a crashed cyclist in there, and the last place you want to be is in a waiting room surrounded by corona patients.
Yes, traffic is lighter right now, but it’s not the time for a PR on that descent. Dial back your risky moves a bit; walk that tricky rock garden you’ve been trying to clean but haven’t so far. Everyone’s in a bit of a corona brain fog right now, and you can count on distracted drivers. With so many people at home now, parks, trails, and multi-use paths are also more crowded, particularly as families try to keep young children occupied.
Be smart, be kind to others (wave to kids; this is a wrenching time for them, too), and slow down. Remember that you’re not out here today to boost your threshold power. You’re here because you need a break from stress and an outlet for the anxiety we are all feeling. Remember that you started riding in part because it made you feel good. You’re here because research shows that time in nature is essential to our health in a variety of ways. You’re here because you can be here, and that is a gift.