Coronavirus and cycling: what are the new rules for exercising?

Can I still go out and ride? Can I still cycle to work? What races have been cancelled? All your key Covid-19 and cycling questions answered.

Postman work courier with bag on bike delivering correspondence

Updated 12 May 2020 to reflect the latest UK government advice

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Boris Johnson announced the first steps of the United Kingdom’s coronavirus exit strategy on Sunday 10 May – but, with guidelines varying across the four nations of the UK, what are the latest rules for exercising and, specifically, cycling?

With the global coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic continuing to dominate events across the planet, we take a look at its ongoing effect on recreational cycling and professional racing.

The situation is still developing rapidly, so check your local government’s official guidelines for the latest advice.

What are the new rules about exercising during lockdown?

A lone cyclist riding a Pinarello
Restrictions on exercise have been relaxed in England.
Russell Burton/Immediate Media

Recreational cycling is permitted in the UK providing you adhere to the government’s guidelines on social distancing. However, specific rules are in place for each of the United Kingdom’s four nations.

The UK government updated its guidance on 11 May (to take effect from Wednesday 13 May), however this advice only applies to England.

People in England can now:

  • Exercise outside alone or with members of their household as many times each day as they wish; social distancing must be maintained (particular care should be taken on narrow roads, paths and trails)
  • Drive to outdoor open spaces irrespective of distance, providing it is alone or with members of their own household, and social distancing guidelines are followed while they are there
  • Spend time outdoors with one person from outside their household (including to exercise, but not team sports), subject to complying with social distancing guidelines and remaining two metres (6ft) apart

Good hand hygiene must also be maintained, particularly with respect to shared surfaces.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, you must stay at home.

Visit gov.uk for more information and the latest guidelines.

Can I drive to a destination before riding?

Can I drive to a destination before riding?
Guidance varies significantly across the UK’s four nations. Check your local guidelines.
Alex Evans

Change in guidance for England now permits people to drive to an open outdoor space for exercise.

For cyclists, this means visiting a local forest is now possible but it’s important to check whether the facility you are wishing to visit is open and prepared for visitors, with appropriate social distancing measures in place.

The government is advising against going to ticketed outdoor leisure venues, however.

It is not permitted to drive from England to other parts of the UK to exercise.

“When travelling to outdoor spaces, it is important that people respect the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and do not travel to different parts of the UK where it would be inconsistent with guidance or regulations issued by the relevant devolved administration,” according to UK government guidance.

What about exercising in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

What about exercising in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?
Popular riding destinations such as BikePark Wales are out of bounds.
Andy Lloyd

Despite the change in advice from the UK government (relevant specifically to England) the devolved Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish powers have all chosen to maintain their current lockdown restrictions.

If you live close to the English, Scottish or Welsh borders, it is important to respect the guidance of each government.

Wales

In Wales, you can now exercise as much as you want, but it must still be alone or with members of your household, and social distancing must be maintained.

You must not drive away from home to exercise, unless you have a specific health or mobility issue, nor are you permitted to meet other people for exercise.

Though no hard limit is defined, the Welsh government also suggests that “cycling should be local, as a rule of thumb limited to travelling no further than a reasonable walking distance from home”, adding that “exercising by cycling significant distances from home is not considered to be a reasonable excuse for leaving home”.

Guidance also states: “People are expected to only cycle on routes they know well and are well within their ability level. Cyclists on shared paths should be considerate of walkers, runners and other people cycling: they should stay two metres away from others, slow their pace and stop to let people pass as appropriate.”

Visit gov.wales for more information and the latest guidelines.

Scotland

As in England and Wales, people in Scotland can now exercise multiple times per day. This must be alone or with members of your own household.

The Scottish government states that “you can go outside to exercise as often as you wish.” This applies to cycling but the administration stresses “high risk exercise (that may result in injury and require medical care or emergency services support) should be avoided.”

Social and physical distancing must be maintained: stay two metres away from other people (apart from members of your own household), maintain hand and cough hygiene, and avoid touching hard surfaces.

Visit gov.scot for more information and the latest guidelines.

Northern Ireland

While current guidelines remain unchanged – exercise is permitted alone or with members of your own household – the Northern Ireland executive has laid out a five-stage plan for easing lockdown.

A timeline for implementing the plan has not yet been established.

The first stage will see outdoor spaces and public sport amenities open, with cycling, walking, running, golf, tennis and some water activities permitted.

Four to six people who are not from the same household will be allowed to meet outdoors if social distancing is maintained.

Visit nidirect.gov.uk for more information and the latest guidelines.

Are group rides allowed? Can I ride with a friend?

Coronavirus and cycling: everything you need to know
A mid-ride coffee stop may be traditional, but you’ll now need to make it a takeaway – or better still, wait until you get home.
Oli Woodman/Immediate Media

Group rides are still not allowed but if you’re in England you can ride with one friend under the following conditions.

UK government advice applicable to England only permits exercise alone, between members of the same household or with one person from another household if you stay at least two metres apart at all times. Refer to the section above for guidelines in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In England, common sense should be used as to whether it is possible to maintain social distancing at all times if cycling with someone from another household.

With pubs, clubs, theatres and coffee shops closed – except for takeaway orders, in some cases – a mid-ride coffee stop shouldn’t be a part of your ride. You also certainly shouldn’t be showing up to any cafe, takeaway or otherwise, in a group.

Current guidelines for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland only permit exercise alone or with members of your own household.

Do I need to wear a face mask while cycling?

While UK government guidance applicable to England has changed regarding wearing a face mask or covering, it is not directly applicable to exercising.

Guidance states: “As more people return to work, there will be more movement outside people’s immediate household.

“This increased mobility means the government is now advising that people should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops.

“Homemade cloth face-coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission in some circumstances. Face-coverings are not intended to help the wearer, but to protect against inadvertent transmission of the disease to others if you have it asymptomatically.”

Can I cycle to work during the coronavirus pandemic?

Can I cycle to work during the coronavirus pandemic?
Commuting by bike is encouraged if you need to get to work, but it’s best to check local advice first.
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Cycling has also 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 disease 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. 

On Saturday 9 May, transport secretary Grant Shapps announced plans for £2bn of spending on active travel.

A £250m emergency fund has been made immediately available to improve infrastructure and encourage cycling, in order to ease the pressure on public transport (and maintain social distancing) as lockdown restrictions are eased.

Should you choose to cycle to work then it is vitally important that you adhere to the government’s guidelines on exercise and social distancing.

Are bike shops still open?

Coronavirus and cycling: everything you need to know
Bike shops have experienced an unexpected boom.
Oliver Woodman / Immediate Media

Bike shops are among the few businesses exempt from the current UK shutdown 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?

Coronavirus and cycling: everything you need to know
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, taking to the indoor trainer is a good option.

Turning to Zwift or other training apps will be the obvious option for many to keep indoor riding interesting.

Road Grand Tours has also made its subscription platform available for free during the crisis. 

How has coronavirus affected professional racing?

How has coronavirus affected professional racing?
The revised UCI WorldTour calendar will see Paris-Roubaix take place on 25 October.
Alex Broadway/SWPix.com

The WorldTour cycling calendar has been severely affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.

The UAE Tour was cancelled mid-race in late February as the crisis took hold, with a number of cyclists held in quarantine in Abu Dhabi.

Following this, some teams did not take part in Paris-Nice in early March, with the race finishing early on its penultimate scheduled stage.

The entire racing calendar was then effectively cancelled.

However, the UCI has now announced a revised WorldTour calendar for 2020, starting with Strade Bianche on 1 August. This, of course, is subject to change as the crisis evolves.

The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo have also been officially postponed to 2021 and will now take place next summer, from Friday 23 July to Sunday 8 August.

Many riders will have shaped their season and training around the Olympics, throwing an already chaotic season into disarray. Some WorldTour teams are also likely to be severely affected by the crisis.

Will the Tour de France be cancelled due to coronavirus? 

Will the Tour de France be cancelled due to coronavirus?
The Tour de France has been postponed until 29 August.
HENNING BAGGER/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images

While Christian Prudhomme, boss of ASO, which runs both Paris-Roubaix and the Tour de France, was initially optimistic that the latter would start as planned on 27 June, the race was eventually pushed back.

With France banning all large public events until at least mid-July, ASO’s hand was forced, with the 2020 Tour postponed until 29 August.

The race will still start in Nice, before finishing in Paris on 20 September.

Has the Tour of Britain been cancelled?

The Tour of Britain has been cancelled for 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The race had been due to take place on 6-13 September.

The 2021 Tour of Britain will be held between 5-12 September, according to the race’s organisers, and will use the route planned for 2020

Will the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España take place in 2020?

Will the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España take place in 2020?
The Giro d’Italia has been postponed to October.
Getty Images / Tim de Waele / Staff

The UCI’s updated WorldTour calendar for 2020 will see the Giro d’Italia take place on 3 October to 25 October.

The Vuelta a España has been shortened to 18 stages and will take place from 20 October to 8 November.

What impact has Covid-19 had on UK domestic racing?

Following advice from the UK government, British Cycling has cancelled all activities that it sanctions until June 30.

That includes competitive events at all levels, sportives registered with it, recreational rides and its programme of courses.

You can view the latest British Cycling advice on its website.

Announcing the suspension, British Cycling chief executive Julie Harrington said: “We fully understand and appreciate the financial, social and community impact that this suspension could have, and we are working now to ensure that cycling is in the best possible health once the suspension can be lifted.”

On Tuesday 17 March, Cycling Time Trials – the body that regulates all time-trial racing in the UK – stopped all events too.

Will sportives and other amateur events still take place?

Sportives and other mass participation cycling events have also been severely affected by the coronavirus outbreak. 

Headline sportives later in the year, such as Etape du Tour and the Maratona dles Dolomites, have both been postponed, with the latter pushed back until 2021. A new date is yet to be confirmed for the Etape.

Most UK-based sportive organisers have cancelled their spring and summer events. Long-term, the future of many events remains in doubt, with the need to maintain social distancing a priority.

As reported above, British Cycling-registered events have been postponed or cancelled. Most say that they will offer a refund if an event has been cancelled.

Refer to the British Cycling website for advice and more information on cancelled events, for both riders and organisers.

Will my training camp take place?

Will my training camp take place?
Popular training camp destinations such as Spain, Italy and France have been severely impacted by the crisis.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Restrictions on recreational cycling have started to lift in Italy, Spain and France.

However, given the current restrictions on travel and general movement, it is likely any training camps and cycling holidays will be postponed or cancelled for the foreseeable future.

Will bike makers be affected by coronavirus?

Will bike makers be affected by coronavirus?
Italian bike makers have been particularly hard-hit.
Colin Levitch / Immediate Media

Early spring until the Tour de France is peak time for bike and equipment manufacturers to gear up for their new product launches.

Many bike companies are based in northern Italy and other areas of Europe already hard-hit by coronavirus, and some were forced to halt final assembly and distribution as the virus took hold. 

A number of launch events BikeRadar was planning to attend have been cancelled.

Despite this, a number of high-profile products have still been announced, with launch events replaced by video calls and online press conferences.

The long-term effect of the coronavirus crisis on product development is unknown. However, with cycling manufacture concentrated in Taiwan, which has been relatively unscathed by the outbreak, product availability may not be too severely impacted.

Finally, keep safe

We all love to be out on our bikes, but some time without a ride or just riding indoors on the turbo is a sacrifice worth making to help get the Covid-19 pandemic under control.

Finally, ride safely; the last thing hospitals need now is an injured cyclist to treat and you may not be a priority for overstretched staff.

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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.