Mountain Biking And The Corona Virus

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The coronavirus pandemic is fast spreading and has led to the cancellation or postponement of major sporting events around the world. The situation may seem out of control is some places, while other countries have tried to put up measures that slow down the rate of new infections. In the light of all this, riders are wondering what they should do and how the virus can affect them. According to many researchers, there are, however, alternative ways that you can use to train or ride and still stay safe. This article explores the grey lines to give you accurate information on how to stay safe during this medical pandemic.

Mountain Biking And The Corona Virus:

  • Is Going For A Ride Safe?
  • Is It Safe To Ride Outside During A Lock-Down?
  • Are There Any Measures In Place For Riding In Groups?
  • Is It Dangerous To Spit While Cycling?
  • How Long Can Covid-19 Live On Your Cycling Gears?
  • Is It Safe To Touch Objects Outside While On A Ride?
  • Is It Possible To Spread The Virus Through Sweat?
  • Can Someone Be Contagious If He/She Does Not Have Symptoms?
  • How Does The Immune System Compare After A Ride And Before?
  • Is It Safe To Train In Gyms?
  • What Are The Precautionary Measures For People Using Public Bike Shares?
  • Is It Safe To Proceed With A Race If It Is Not Cancelled?

This article is organized in question-answer format, and it looks at cyclists’ most frequently asked questions at the moment. The answers to these questions are accurate at the time of reporting and were obtained with the help of David Nieman, Dr.PH., Brian Labus, Ph.D., MPH, and Matt Ferrari Ph.D., who are all experts in the field of medicine. It is worth noting that the situation is rapidly developing. You may want to check the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) for updates on coronavirus pandemic.

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So, let’s take a look at some concerns that cyclists are currently raising amid the outbreak of COVID-19.

Is Going For A Ride Safe?

If you are wondering if it is still safe to go out for a ride, then the answer is yes, but under strict conditions. The first thing to note is that you must be alone to be sure of your safety. People are currently advised to keep off crowded places. The virus is fast-spread when people congregate together. If someone without a face masks coughs or sneezes, droplets get into things you touch, and it becomes easier for you to be infected once you reach those surfaces and then touch your face without sanitizing your hands. Nieman suggests that the best way to ride safely is riding solo in areas that are not crowded.

It is said that getting engaged in a brisk activity for 30 minutes helps in boosting the immune system and may, in turn, help to keep the virus away. But again, you should follow the procedures and directives from the government, depending on your jurisdiction. If you are restricted to some areas or if your government has imposed a compulsory lock-down, then you should not go out for a ride. Additionally, if you are sick, it is wise to stay in isolation to avoid passing on the virus to other riders. In case of a lock-down or compulsory quarantine, you can engage in other activities to keep yourself healthy. For instance, you can still ride in your backyard.

If you are riding in some places where you cannot maintain social distancing, then you should follow CDC guidelines that are updated to reduce the spread of the virus in such circumstances. These guidelines evolve every day, and you must stay on the know.  Additionally, some states like California and Pennsylvania, have come up with suggestions that people should cover their faces when going out in public places to help stop the spread of the virus, especially from asymptomatic people. What you should from this as a rider is that we are facing a difficult medical situation, and every action you take will have consequences.

As suggested by Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, Rachel Levine, people should follow the guidelines and avoid wearing face masks that are damp from spit or mucus. The same instructions also suggest that covering your face or wearing a mask when on a solo ride may not be necessary. If you are sure that you will not encounter anyone, then it is safe to go out without a face mask because the virus is not airborne. There is no need to put on a face mask if you are not going to meet people. That means that you should strive to keep significant distances as much as possible.

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The essence of a face mask when riding is limited to two possibilities. The first one is to prevent sick people from contaminating the surrounding and surfaces with spit or mucus droplets when they sneeze or cough. The second possibility is to avoid the inhalation of droplets by healthy people. The extent to which these two are achieved is still debatable. However, the masks are effective if they are used in the right way. Since most people lack proper training on how to use the masks, the risk of hand to mouth exposure is still high, especially when taking off the face masks.  

Wearing a facial mask when going out for a ride and maintain at least a meter from other people may reduce the chances of spreading the virus through droplets due to heavy breathing, especially when you are in an area with other people. However, Labus insists that the essence of masks is not to protect a person. The face cover is meant to protect other people from the already infected. That means that if you want to go out for a ride, then the best you can do is to avoid other people as much as you can. The virus is highly contagious and requires that you become very careful. If your usual route has some people, then you should change the course.

Lastly, it is equally crucial to note that a facial mask is not an alternative to hand washing and sanitizing, keeping social distance, or staying home. Follow the laid down procedures and government directives to be safe. You can also find some guidelines from the state health departments here.

Is It Safe To Ride Outside During A Lock-Down?

Depending on where you reside, your movement may be restricted by government directives and orders. For instance, some states are under complete lock-down. That means people are not allowed to leave their homes unless for essential services. Some shelter-in-place directives may let you go out for some hours. In such situations where you are allowed to go outside for solo outdoor engagements, then it is safe to ride as long as you practice social distancing. Just remember to avoid groups.

The bottom line is you should always check the public health recommendations from your local government and observe the directives given. If you are required to stay home, please do so. If you are allowed some time for exercise, avoid gatherings and do not go out if you are experiencing any symptoms of the coronavirus.

Are There Any Measures In Place For Riding In Groups?

The answer is quite simple. You should not ride in groups. You are reminded to avoid coming in close contact with people as much as you can. USA Cycling recommended the cancellation or postponement of races and related gatherings on March 18, 2020.  This and other directives discourage meetings, and you should not take them for granted. Accordingly, if you are experiencing any symptoms, you should stay in isolation to avoid infecting other people.

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Is It Dangerous To Spit While Cycling?

According to Amy Treakle, M.D., COVID-19 is highly spread by respiratory droplets. That means that when you cough, sneeze or spit, you release these droplets. If you are infected, then your spit can transmit the virus to other people that come in contact with your droplets and touch their mouth, nose, or eyes. That is basically how the virus is transmitted. Amy explains that spit contains sputum from the lungs. It is therefore risky to spit or snot rocket in public. As much as the recommended safe distance is six feet apart, cycling may be a bit different. When you are riding, the air current is likely to spread your spit far and put other people at the risk of being infected if you are sick. You do not have to see the symptoms to know that you are affected. Some people may be asymptomatic but still spread the virus. You are advised to stay at home, for your safety and protection of other people.

How Long Can Covid-19 Live On Your Cycling Gears?

Most experts still do not know the extent of the risk of transmission of the virus through some surfaces like your clothes or the bike. However, the World Health Organization has published essential updates and reports about the virus. For instance, it is reported that the virus can survive on surfaces for hours or even up to 3 days, depending on the prevailing conditions. That means that your clothing can transmit the virus if you get in contact with affected surfaces. If you have been riding where other people are then, you should change your clothes and wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer. Also, remember to disinfect your bike after the ride and wash the clothes in hot water and hang them in a high dryer setting.

Is It Safe To Touch Objects Outside While On A Ride?

According to the latest data on coronavirus, the sunlight and hot conditions create a harsh environment for the virus. That means that it can rarely survive outdoors. Generally, anything that is under direct sunlight should have little if no virus. However, if an infected person coughs into his/her hand and touches the surface, then the object is most likely to have the virus. It is hard to know the extent of infection from such objects, and it is advisable to avoid touching things as much as you can. But if you must touch anything outdoors, then do not touch your face before you wash your hands with clean water and soap for not less than twenty seconds. Alternatively, you can use gloves, sleeve, or elbow.

Is It Possible To Spread The Virus Through Sweat?

According to the reports from the CDC, coronavirus can be transmitted when two or more people are in close contact and only through respiratory droplets when you sneeze, cough, or spit.  Sweat cannot transmit the virus.

Can Someone Be Contagious If He/She Does Not Have Symptoms?

It is not fully known if you can transmit the virus before you start showing the symptoms. However, it is reported that a person becomes contagious right before they begin experiencing the first symptoms. The period is not yet defined at the moment, and the extent of infection is also not known. What makes sense is that you become more contagious when you start coughing and sneezing. Measures such as social distancing are the best way to stay safe and protect other people.

How Does The Immune System Compare After A Ride And Before?

Science has it that your immune system seizes to function at the normal level when the glycogen content in your body is reduced. The glycogen store in the body can be depleted after a physical exercise like riding. That means that when you come in contact with an infected person after a ride, your immunity will be down. Additionally, mental exhaustion caused by exerting the body in physical exercise like racing can increase the chances of a person to be infected. It recommended that you avoid long rides or intense workout at this moment until when the virus has been put under control. This statement does not mean that you do away with riding. Regular exercise also boosts the immune system. You only need to watch out for the intensity you exert on yourself.

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Is It Safe To Train In Gyms?

Many states and municipalities are currently trying as hard as possible to contain the spread of COVID-19. Among the measures that are put in place is the ban on social gatherings. That means that non-essential activities are not allowed; the same applies to gyms. However, this also depends on where you are. You have to check with the local authority if you are allowed to train in a gym. At the moment, it is safer to avoid gyms altogether. You can still rain at home and maintain your daily fitness routine through home workouts. Alternatively, you can access training assistance by streaming some workout channels on YouTube.

Additionally, most gyms are currently offering home training assistance online to reach out to their members. It does not matter whether you are restricted from accessing these facilities or not. The best option is staying at home and avoiding other people.

What Are The Precautionary Measures For People Using Public Bike Shares?

Sharing bikes at this time is very risky. For instance, if someone infected uses the bike right before you, there are chances that they could leave the virus on the surface of the bike, especially the handlebars. It would be safer if you avoided using these bikes at the moment. Alternatively, you can disinfect the bike before you use it by wiping the entire surface with alcohol wipes or antibacterial wipes.  

The CDC has maintained that COVID-19 can be transmitted if a person touches a surface that has the virus and then touches their face (mouth, nose, and eyes). If there are measures that guarantee the bikes are disinfected after someone has used it before another person can use it, then it is safe to use bike shares. Alternatively, you can use gloves and discard them properly after use before proceeding to follow other safety measures like washing your hands, etc. Remember not to touch your face before washing your hands, no matter the situation.

Is It Safe To Proceed With A Race If It Is Not Cancelled?

At the moment, all races and major sporting events are either canceled or postponed. If you had organized a competition that is not recognized by the government or any sports body, then you should consider it canceled or postponed to a later date when it is safe to ride in groups. According to the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America, all social gatherings of more than ten people are supposed to be avoided to prevent the spread of the virus. The goal right now should be avoiding crowds and groups, whether it is indoors or outdoors.

And lastly, if your race is canceled or postponed and you find some group ride, please stay clear. Anytime that people congregate, the risk of spreading the virus increases. The best thing to do is wait until there are clear directives that it is safe to ride in groups or races. Before that announcement is made, do not put your life on the balance.

The Bottom Line

At this moment, many people are gutted that they cannot continue with their activities the way they used to. The risk of spreading the coronavirus is high, and everyone has a responsibility to protect themselves and other people. Following the guidelines offered by the government and the world health organization is the best way of staying safe regardless of where you are. Generally, you should be mindful of how you interact with other people and take the necessary precautions to keep yourself and the people you love safe. Wash your hands often using water plus soap, keep a safe social distance, avoid touching your face, and above all, stay home.