Can I go for a bike ride in lockdown?

What are the current rules on cycling in the different UK nations?

Cyclist in blue riding a blue Cannondale Topstone Carbon gravel bike

Coronavirus is spreading rapidly in the UK, driven by the new variant that’s more easily passed on. That means that England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all have stay at home orders in place, restricting where and why you can leave your house. 

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The rules are slightly different between jurisdictions, but all allow you to go out locally to take exercise, although the definition of “local” differs. You can also cycle to work if your job means that you can’t work from home.

In general, you should ride from home or close-by and alone or (except in Wales) with one other person.

The situation is still developing quickly, so be sure to check your local government’s official guidelines for the latest advice. We’ve got links to each government’s site here:

What are the rules for exercising during the 2021 lockdowns?

The rules for what you can do, when, where and with whom differ slightly between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We’ve summarised the current rules across the UK below and highlighted any specific differences, but in general you should limit the number of people you interact with, keep exercise local and wash your hands regularly.

If you or someone you are in contact with has symptoms, you should stay at home and self-isolate.

If you break the rules, the police can fine you. Fines start from £200, but can rise to as much as £10,000 for severe breaches or repeat offences. There’s increasing emphasis on enforcement too.

Can I ride with others?

The lockdown is designed to limit opportunities for coronavirus to spread, so you should look to limit your social interactions, ideally riding alone.

Winter mountain biking in the mud
A solo ride close to home will limit the chances of spreading the virus.
Andy Lloyd

If you do decide to ride with another cyclist, they can be a member of your household. In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland one person can also ride with one other buddy from outside their household or “support bubble”. In Wales, meeting someone outside your family or support bubble isn’t allowed. In all cases, group rides aren’t an option.

There’s also a stipulation in the regulations for England that you should stay at least two metres away from anyone outside your household when you exercise. So drafting might be an issue and you’re not likely to be very popular if you ride abreast on a road two metres apart. You can get to within one-metre of them if you wear a face mask, though.

Cafe stop
Cafe stops with scenes like this might be off the cards right now, so a takeaway is your next best bet (or, better still, brew up your own artisan roast at home).
Rob Ainsley / Immediate Media

Cafes, bars and pubs will be closed, so a mid-ride cake stop isn’t an option unless your favourite pitstop has a takeaway service. And you can’t meet socially indoors or in a private garden, so a post-ride cuppa is a no-no.

You’re not allowed to travel outside your local area, so if you do want to ride you should do so from home or make only a short journey. You can’t stay overnight, can’t stay with other people and can’t stay in a second home if you have one.

Finally, you must not travel if you have any coronavirus symptoms, are self-isolating, in a household or support bubble with someone who has symptoms, or have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace.

What constitutes my local area?

That’s ambiguous in the regulations for England. Boris Johnson travelled seven miles to East London for a ride in the Olympic Park in early January. Did he break the rules? It’s not clear if he cycled there from Downing Street or was driven, or what in England constitutes “local”. 

In general, we’d recommend riding from home.

Contessa Ransom 910
Popular riding destinations such as Bikepark Wales are currently out of bounds.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media

Many bike rides for exercise will take you further than seven miles from home. Health secretary Matt Hancock has said that that’s allowed, responding in a daily briefing: “It is okay to go if you went for a long walk and ended up seven miles from home, that is okay, but you should stay local. It is okay to go for a long walk or a cycle ride or to exercise but stay local.”

The rules are tighter in the other UK countries. Scotland says you can’t travel more than five miles outside your local authority area for exercise and your ride must start and finish in the same place, while for Northern Ireland you can only travel 10 miles from home.

Meanwhile, Welsh regs say that you must start and finish your ride from your home.

Can I cycle to work during the coronavirus pandemic?

Commuter riding in a London cycle lane during the coronavirus pandemic
Cycling is encouraged if you need to get to work during the current coronavirus lockdown.
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Cycling has been actively encouraged as a form of transport for cycling to work, with the UK government advising against the use of public transport where possible. Cycling is also still considered an appropriate form of transport for shopping for essential food or medicines.

The government is encouraging those who can to work from home during the pandemic, to increase social distancing and reduce the opportunities for the virus to spread.

But, if it’s essential that you need to get into work, cycling is an ideal way to avoid the close quarters, touching of surfaces and mixing with other people that’s inevitable in mass transit systems.

Are bike shops still open?

Queue outside a bike shop during the coronavirus crisis
Shops are struggling to keep up with the demand for bikes.
Simon Wilkinson/SWPix.com

Bike shops are among the businesses exempt from the current UK shutdowns and are experiencing a boom in sales, with many people turning to cycling for exercise or to commute to work.

We’d recommend calling your local bike shop in advance of visiting to ensure the business remains open and to check what social distancing steps they are taking to protect staff and customers.

Am I okay to cycle indoors?

Cyclist riding on a turbo trainer
Many cyclists have turned to riding indoors during the crisis.
Dave Caudery/Immediate Media

If you’re feeling healthy and want to keep active without going outdoors, indoor cycling is a good option. 

Indoor training has a range of benefits, including the fact you don’t have to endure the winter weather and will reduce post-ride bike cleaning.

Turning to Zwift or other indoor training apps such as Rouvy, RGT Cycling and TrainerRoad will be the obvious options for many to keep indoor cycling interesting.

Finally, keep safe

We all love to be out on our bikes, but some time without a ride or just riding indoors on the trainer is a sacrifice worth making to help get the pandemic under control.

If you do choose to ride outdoors, please ride safely.

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Do you have any further questions about cycling and coronavirus? Leave your thoughts in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them.

This guide was last updated on 12 January 2021 to reflect the latest advice and guidance from the UK government and each of the UK’s devolved administrations.