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Cycling in a locked down country: how Italian cyclists and bike brands are coping with coronavirus

Riders banned from training on the road, visitors banned from factories... is this a taste of things to come in the UK with the COVID-19 virus continuing to spread fast?

With no signs of the coronavirus outbreak slowing down and more than 800 deaths confirmed in Italy so far, all shops except food stores and pharmacies are now shut in the country – and the National Federation in Italy has issued specific guidelines to restrict cycling.

Coronavirus Watch: What's cancelled, what's postponed and what's still on?

Only riders who hold a professional licence are allowed to continue training on the road. Semi-pro Italian teams have voluntarily suspended all activities including training outdoors.

Diego Lombardi, owner of London-based bike brand Racer Rosa who have manufacturers and suppliers in Italy, explained: “The main reason is not the risk of contagion, you can still go for local walks after all, but the eventuality of accidents and being in need of care or hospitals when the resources should be used by the virus emergency.”

The Italian Continental road racing team Work Service Dynatek Vega issued a memo on 11th March that read: “We have decided to suspend - starting from today - any type of training, even individual.

“At this difficult time for our country, it does not make sense to think selfishly about our sporting needs, but we need to guarantee the greatest possible protection of public health. Our teams have about 40 athletes between 17 and 30 years old scattered throughout Italy; we are convinced that in addition to their protection, it is important to transmit a strong signal of attention and responsibility."

The team’s riders were asked to leave the house only in case of extreme urgency and necessity, and are ‘exempted’ from carrying out both bike and free body workouts in the open air.

However, Pisa-based brand Daccordi reported that the situation was quite confusing for their clients and cycling groups, with some riders taking the lockdown more seriously than others: “There has been a definite decrease in cyclists training on the roads. You can certainly still see some, not in big groups though.”

Logistically their work and shop carries on as normal, but Daccordi have confirmed a marked decrease of passing trade and enquiries.

Campagnolo factory - the outside

The biggest name in Italian cycling, Campagnolo, continues to run its Vicenza factory which employs 400 people. Press and PR manager Nicolo Ildos told us: “We are implementing smart working in all the departments that are able to work remotely. We are still running smoothly because we do everything in Italy and Europe (Campagnolo’s main production site is in Romania).  

“We have safety procedures, like reducing meetings to six people. We also have sanitiser for hand-washing, and we prevent visitors from entering the factory unless they are under contract and can testify that they are not arriving from dangerous areas.

“We have no limitation in receiving parts and no issue in shipping final products all around the world.”

Ildos did confirm that in the case of a positive test, the factory would have to close: “We sent a few people home who might have been in contact with someone from a dangerous area, but we’ve had no positive tests so far.

“We are really pleased by the support we are getting, even some of the media are guaranteeing us bigger visibility to help us sustain our business, which for now has not been affected.

“We see an opportunity as we’re the only ones manufacturing in Europe. It’s not something we want, but we could either have a nasty surprise if we shut down and the economy collapses, or a nice surprise being the only ones who can guarantee a supply chain with no delays – but it’s not a dream scenario.”

Basso - one of the few bike brands that are still producing frames 100% made in Italy - have found it similarly advantageous that everything is made in-house, with their PR manager Josh Riddle saying in a statement: "While the scenario in which we are living at the moment makes for a complicated and stressful atmosphere and simply getting to work is a challenge of sorts, we are quite lucky insofar as we produce our products in-house.

"This is an advantage that is proving to be quite beneficial at the moment as we are not experiencing shortages of product to fulfill existing orders nor do we have problems taking on new ones. Our factories remain fully staffed and our production, proudly based in Italy, has not suffered any setbacks. Logistical providers remain operative and as a result things are business as usual for Basso."

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roubaixcobbles | 3 years ago

So presumably also only professional rally drivers are allowed to drive on the roads there now? I'm not familiar with Italy's accident statistics but I'd place a small wager that even proportionate to the differing numbers of users Italy's drivers put far more strain on their health system than their amateur cyclists in training.

fixation80 | 3 years ago
1 like

I've already isolated myself, riding solo avoiding cafes, back to saddlebag and butties and flask! 

ant8 | 3 years ago

This article isn't factually correct. I'm living in Italy and this is from the Italian Government website as of 10 March.

Posso utilizzare la bicicletta? 
La bicicletta è consentita per raggiungere la sede di lavoro, il luogo di residenza, nonché per raggiungere i negozi di prima necessità e per svolgere attività motoria. E’ consentito svolgere attività sportiva o motoria all’aperto anche in bicicletta, purché sia osservata una distanza di sicurezza interpersonale di almeno un metro.

It talks about using the bicyle to get to work, essential shops like the supermarket. But it also allows cycling in the open for recreation as long as cyclists keep at least 1m distance from each other. So best to cycle alone.

It's heaven for cyclists, the roads are completely empty! Unfortunately the weather is still cold and wet.

ktache replied to ant8 | 3 years ago

There was a lady on Jeremy Vine on 5 this morning direct from Italy, who said you could do sport, but you had to be alone and at least 1 metre away from others.


Simon Smythe replied to ant8 | 3 years ago

Hi, the story is about the Italian Cycling Federation's guidelines, which are that its members should stay at home. You can read it here

The federation memo we saw originally dated March 9 said "Non si puo' uscire in bici per allenamento o divertimento" – you cannot ride your bike for training or fun. 

But, as we've said, there is confusion – most probably caused because some cyclists are interpreting the government advice to mean they can train on the road one metre apart. Do keep us in the UK up to date with what cycling life in Milan is like at the moment. 

HoarseMann | 3 years ago

Just sling on a backpack and say you are cycling around trying to find toilet roll and face masks.

The lower risk of infection travelling by bike over public transport surely cancels out the small risk of cycling related hospitalisation many times over.

shutuplegz | 3 years ago

I kind of see the point about not wanting to cause extra burden on the health service but are hospitals usually crammed with injured cyclists? I'd imagine they should also ban driving, walking, using knives or opening tins in the kitchen, climbing ladders etc at home (I could go on) if they want to have a bigger impact on numbers of admissions due to 'accidents'.

EddyBerckx replied to shutuplegz | 3 years ago
1 like

yeah this

Kendalred replied to shutuplegz | 3 years ago

Yes, I agree. I'm not sure if the Italian 'ban' applies to pro/semi pro cyclists only or all cycling, as it refers to 'training on the road' rather than just cycling in general. 

Simon E replied to shutuplegz | 3 years ago

I wondered what kind of burden cyclists might be causing to the NHS.

Government statistics for 2018 recorded 17,527 cyclist casualties, of which 4,132 KSI (of these 99 were killed).

For car drivers the numbers were 64,516, 7,606 KSI and 546 killed.

For car passengers they were 29,345, 351 KSI and 6 dead.

For pedestrians it's 22,397, 6,256 and 454.

So surely walking on the pavement or crossing the road is also 'increasing the burden'.

While cycling on UK roads is statistically more dangerous than driving a car the difference isn't that big (and hugely outweighed by the health benefits). So, even looking solely at these stats, car drivers are placing a bigger burden on the NHS. Drivers are the ones that cause most all of road casualties in the first place (and most of the pollution that kills thousands every year) yet no-one is telling them to stop driving to 'lessen the burden'.

hawkinspeter replied to shutuplegz | 3 years ago

shutuplegz wrote:

I kind of see the point about not wanting to cause extra burden on the health service but are hospitals usually crammed with injured cyclists? I'd imagine they should also ban driving, walking, using knives or opening tins in the kitchen, climbing ladders etc at home (I could go on) if they want to have a bigger impact on numbers of admissions due to 'accidents'.

I'd guess that banning alcohol would have a drastic effect on A&E admissions. Not that it would work, though.

Mybike replied to shutuplegz | 3 years ago

He simply saying if you could do your part and help the hospital by being safe be safe and not to take any chances of getting hurt. Hes using cycling as a example

Kendalred | 3 years ago
1 like

It's an interesting point regarding being able to get out on the bike if ever this was to happen here in the UK. I had assumed that given you'd be essentially self-contained on the road if you were to go out (alone), then there would be no objection - but I hadn't thought of the consequences if you were to be in an accident.

I had also assumed that the roads would be quieter in such a situation - but I suppose there's always the chance that this might not be the case as everyone ditches public transport in favour of the car.

Zwift it is then!

wildoo replied to Kendalred | 3 years ago

Thats  load of tosh.  A&E visits with home DIY, domestic & gardening injuries are alwys far far higher than bike accident injuries.  People on self isolation if feeling fine are going to use the opportinity to get on with DIY, gardening, getting creative in the kitchen etc etc resulting in a spike of domestic injuries.  Get out on your bike and enjoy if you have to self isolate!  Just take care!

Derk Davies replied to wildoo | 3 years ago
1 like

I saw 2 self isolated people interviewed on the news earlier and they'd been doing exactly this. Said how great it was to have time for home improvements.

I'll be isolating myself up mountain roads (as usual).

Glov Zaroff replied to Kendalred | 3 years ago

Kendalred wrote:

if ever this was to happen here in the UK

I can can guarantee you it will happen in the UK. It's a done deal now. It's only a matter of time before it's implimented. 

Secret_squirrel replied to Glov Zaroff | 3 years ago
1 like

Jimmy Walnuts wrote:

I can can guarantee you it will happen in the UK. 

I think that's overly paranoid and there is pretty much no-one in the country who can guarantee what happens next.   Thats only even feasible if the country is in full lockdown with a full curfew enforced by the military, and COVID-19 is already too widespread for the actions we have seen in China to work here.

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