If you need to leave home during the COVID-19 pandemic – whether to pick up groceries or get to and from an essential job – you might be wondering how to get around your community safely. Now that warmer spring temperatures are upon us, biking could be a good option.
Here we share tips to keep you healthy when cycling in the current environment. Before you ride, check your local public health recommendations and the current health mandates in your area. This information can be found on your state and local government websites.
Sanitize your equipment
Because the tires kick up debris, it’s advised to wipe down all the high-contact surfaces of the bike with a disinfectant before you get on. This includes the handlebars, with a special focus on the handgrips, the gear shift and the bell. The stem of the bike, where you can adjust the height and position of the seat, should be wiped down as well. Generally, you wouldn’t have much contact with other parts of the bike, but if you need to pump your tires or change a flat, be sure to wipe down the pump, the valve and the tire. Latex gloves offer an additional layer of protection by keeping the grease off your hands and creating a barrier between your skin and whatever germs might be on the bike.
It is wise to disinfect your helmet as well. You may have placed the helmet on a contaminated surface when you reached your destination or left it hanging on the bike when you got off. Err on the side of caution and clean anything that is going to come in contact with you.
Bike sharing programs in most cities have experienced a surge in usage as people try to avoid the close quarters of public transportation. In New York City, the Citi Bike program has increased their cleaning protocols and regularly sanitizes their bikes with high-level disinfectants. However, it is clearly not possible for a bike sharing program to clean each bike between each use. It is up to the individual rider to take responsibility for protecting themselves by wiping the bike down before touching it.
Riding solo vs. with a group
During this time, it is advised to ride solo. Enjoy the fresh air, avoid overpopulated bike paths by planning your rides when you know your route will be less crowded, if possible, and keep your distance from other riders. Keep in mind that others may be going in both directions without allowing for a safe distance.
Avoid racking your bike in contact with other bikes. When you’re picking up or dropping off a bike at a docking station, choose a dock at least six feet away from other riders who are at the same docking station. If necessary, wait until other riders have cleared the docking station to go to a dock.
Practice proper hygiene
To prevent illness, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after you ride. If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
There is some evidence that while moderate-intensity exercise boosts your immune system, very high-intensity exercise can be a challenge for your immune system. This is a very stressful time for everyone, so now wouldn’t be the time to ramp up your training program. The evidence for the negative effects of high-intensity exercise on the immune system is still under review. But it’s better to take precautions by sticking to a moderate training intensity and ensuring that you are getting adequate recovery after you finish your ride.
Happy Freedman is a bike fitting specialist at HSS. He has established a synergy between the cycling and medical communities, advancing the science and art of bike fit, to help riders of all abilities to achieve their performance goals and contribute to research in the field. He has been instrumental in developing the first multi-disciplinary, hospital-based, state-of-the-art clinical bike fitting program of its kind at HSS, where he has worked in a range of capacities for more than 15 years. At HSS, he works in close cooperation with physical therapists and investigators in the motion lab, where the bike fit program advances performance, comfort and efficiency for cyclists. He has also lectured on bike fit throughout Europe and North America.
Polly de Mille is the Director of Sports Performance at HSS, where she oversees all aspects of performance programming, from sport-specific analysis to metabolic testing to training clients across the spectrum of age and ability. Her research interests focus on bridging the gap between injury and return to peak performance and she has authored chapters and journal articles and presented nationally on this topic. Polly has also made numerous appearances in national media serving as an expert on the science behind fitness trends.