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We asked you how coronavirus had changed your cycling habits and the response was overwhelming – here’s what you told us

Quieter roads, busier towpaths, cutting down the miles and staying safe - road.cc readers share their views

It's a week now since Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined measures aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and told people should only leave home for four reasons, one of those being to undertake one form of exercise each day, cycling being one of the examples he gave, provided it’s done alone or with members of your household.

> Daily exercise rules: current cycling dos and don'ts

Yesterday on social media we asked you how your riding habits had changed in response to the new rules – here’s what you told us, with common themes including reining back on the distance ridden and not taking unnecessary risks, while enjoying roads that are much quieter than usual.

We had an overwhelming response, and we’ve gathered the pick of your replies here. We’ve grouped them by broad category, although inevitably there is some overlap. Let us know your own experience in the comments.

The argument for and against riding outdoors

There is an argument, of course, that even if going out for a bike ride is permitted, we should not be doing it, while the lack of clarity in the guidelines in terms of how long you should ride for, and how far from home, leaves them open to individual interpretation, as this reader acknowledged.

> Updated: How to cycle responsibly in a time of pandemic

I see a lot of polarisation on Facebook about cycling, even though the UK government & British Cycling are condoning it. The people against it state that it is simple and we must stay at home, and that cycling outdoors is irresponsible, as it may lead to accidents and overwhelm the NHS. But boiling a kettle or falling downstairs causes more A&E admissions. And being cooped up indoors with no exercise obviously has physical and mental health issues.

The people for it seem to fall into two camps, the ones who cycle alone, from home, and responsibly. And then there’s the ones who go by the letter of the law but not the spirit, doing 9 hour rides as their one form of exercise, or even driving somewhere to start a ride. Maybe even arranging to meet friends for a group ride.

I continue to ride, but I do ride from my home, I do a mixture of road riding, gravel or easy off road stuff on my mountain bike. I also do a lot more on the turbo. So whilst I haven’t changed my habits that much, I am more aware of the need to ride responsibly, and do my utmost to not have any accidents.

– Chris

Juggling exercise with other responsibilities

For a lot of you, there’s a balance to be struck with getting out on the bike and other responsibilities – whether that be looking after the kids now the schools are closed, doing essential shopping, or walking the dog.

My habits have changed slightly but only in the way that I’m cycling for leisure less because we have had two poorly children (not COVID-19 thankfully), so to pee off on a bike ride on Saturday morning would be rather insensitive as the Mrs. is knackered. I am still biking to work and I’m loving the quieter roads. I will ride for leisure soon though.

– Paul

Probably doing more outdoor rides at the moment due to a lack of work, and many of these are with daughter so rides are shorter, about 10 miles with no mad descent, in fact all speeds generally slower with only the odd sprint.

Fewer cars seem to make them go faster and the most annoying thing is other experienced cyclists whipping past you without a warning, the ‘on your right’ from sportives would be great, just because were only doing 15mph we are not riding clunkers that have been in the garage for 10 years.

– Simon

I’ve been combining cycling and shopping using my Ribble with a Carradice saddlebag. Keeping the rides local, short and not pushing too hard.

– Steve

I have decided since lockdown to use my daily exercise to walk the dog, and use the ancient exercise bike to keep fit and take part in Joe Wicks' PE class!

– Lucy

Key workers keep commuting – but avoid busy towpaths

Of course, many key workers are still travelling to work and are cycling to get there, whether as long-term bike commuters or first-timers as they look to avoid public transports. Quieter roads are a bonus, although it seems that towpaths – not the ideal location to perform social distancing, of course – are best avoided since they are even busier than usual.

I'm a key worker in Defence Logistics and still commuting by bike on the days I'm in (2 days, 3 days rotating shifts). Roughly 7.5 mile commute in Greater London.

Still managing to get out on the days off for an hour or so as well.

The roads are mainly a dream now!

– Graham

Still commuting to my hospital job. Not far but pleasant.

– Gavin

Back riding to work as a key worker after a six- week layoff with a collarbone break, it’s a joy to be out on the roads at the moment, better than our local shared cycleway which is actually busier than normal, full of dog walkers.

– Chris

The roads are a joy and everyone is sharing the road with respect. Perhaps folk just have a bit more respect for each other now and value life?

– Gary

I've been commuting as I can't drive at the moment and only wish I did it sooner, I'm back to enjoying cycling!! Not much difference in the amount of traffic round here though …

– Gareth

Ride to work most days, and have now started using my commute home as my one a day, putting in a few extra miles as the roads are some much quieter.

– Murrey

I've cycled to work, but other days done a very local loop around home. I try to go early. My route is busier than usual with walkers and other wheelers. We usually exchange the regulation nod, whilst keeping our distance.

– Tim

Cycling to work, as I don’t think, that public transport is safe. And about changes, going home- work-home only, no extra detours ...

– Marek

I'm a key worker still cycling to and from work, seeing a lot less traffic, makes it a lot safer.

– Mitchell

I commute to work by bike. In the mornings I use my usual commute of disused railway and then new bypass cycle way/footpath.

Coming home I use my old route of main roads as it’s safer. The cycle way/footpath and disused railway are brimming with people spread across them, passing each other too closely. Whilst it’s great to see people exercising, these people are never usually there, and sadly are not practising social distancing.

– Andrew

I've been commuting from Hackney to University College Hospital in Euston for the past 18 years or so. The only change I've had to make is to stop riding home along the towpath due to the amount of people taking their daily exercise on it. However, it's still pretty quiet at 6.30am – just me and the ducks/geese/swans and the odd runner ...

– Amanda

Before I was getting the gravel bike to avoid traffic, cutting through towpaths. Now I'm getting the road bike to avoid busy towpaths.

– Luis

It's so quiet, I don’t feel rushed or stressed by idiots driving up my arse – can it stay like this forever please, don’t want to go back to commuting through rush hour ever again.

– Steven

We work in cycle logistics/courier services – we’re out five days a week at the moment and flat out – we have strict measures in place, and they seem to be holding up so far with contactless delivery.

– Christopher

Quieter roads are welcomed by all

If you have been out on your bike in recent days, you’ll know that the roads are way quieter than usual. On the whole, that’s a great thing – cycling on the North Circular near Gunnersbury in London, for example, is suddenly a viable option rather than taking the stop-start shared use path alongside – although there is evidence that some motorists are using less busy roads to drive above the speed limit, and some of you are still experiencing close passes. But many of you also pointed out that generally, people seem friendlier than before.

I've done my highest road mileage in March ever, mostly riding alone, but with a mate before that was banned. Loving the empty roads, the wider berth the few vehicles are giving us, and not being cooped up in the house. I don't have an indoor trainer!

– Phil

Been out every day recently, although that's mainly because the weather has actually been nice for a change. Staying local but in the quiet country roads, not towns etc. When I have ventured onto busier roads I've been given way more room than usual …

– Bradleigh

It's so quiet, I don’t feel rushed or stressed by idiots driving up my arse – can it stay like this forever please, don’t want to go back to commuting through rush hour ever again.

– Steven

It’s like riding was 25 years ago, lovely quiet roads.

– Dod

I have been working at home for over two weeks now but was getting up to do a ride before starting work. However, I was knocked off my bike last Monday and bike is in a right state and I’m a bit bruised. Did a little on my mountain bike but miss my roadie.

– Paul

The benefit of working from home gives me an extra hour before work. This means that I have been riding most mornings

I tend to go out early to avoid most people usually before 6.30. It’s great and has massively improved my working day.

– Chris

The roads are a joy and everyone is sharing the road with respect. Perhaps folk just have a bit more respect for each other now and value life?

– Gary

Local loops in Bath, 1½ hours-ish. Amazing quiet roads and drivers are a lot more respectful. I have been finding that they hang back if they can't overtake and when they do overtake they are giving plenty of room.

More walkers in the lanes but able to keep the distance when passing and kind words exchanged. Feels like people have stepped out of their own little selfish bubbles and are aware and respectful of others.

I hope this continues after we return to 'normal'.

– Claire

Local circuit. Trans Pennine-Warrington-Widnes over the Bridge to Runcorn and back down the Bridgewater Canal towards Home … 22 miles, Quiet.

– Bill

I am now exploring new roads as I don’t have to commute the same 3-4 routes in and out. People are lot friendlier, everyone now says “hello”. Plus the big bonus, no traffic.

– Paul

Trying to get out every other day, usually 20 to 30 miles. Lanes lovely and quiet round Malvern.

– Mark

Two hours-plus most day in loops close to home in quiet roads in my own. See a few mates out cycling together which has been annoying, but mainly single cyclists. Agree most car drivers more respectful but boy racers also in higher numbers than usual.

Nathan

I have been out most days. Making sure I keep it peaceful and avoid pushing it, just really enjoying the ride/air. The lack of cars is lovely but I still get passed too close! Just jealous probably.

– Miles

Cutting down on distance

While many of you are venturing outside to ride, you told us you are mindful of warnings that a crash could land you in hospital and put further strain on an already overstretched NHS are being more cautious than usual. Tying in with that, it’s clear that many cyclists are cutting down on the distances they would usually ride, and are staying close to home – there’s also some criticism of those who continue to go on longer rides.

> How much distance should you leave to the cyclist ahead in a time of pandemic?

Just riding local from home 1-2 hrs, frustrating but needs must.

– Derek

Various local 8 to 15-mile Strava segments ITT style ... we have a league going (no risk taking allowed).

– Peter

I've only been doing about 2 hours outdoors, it doesn't feel right going any longer.

– David

Riding outside for me has changed completely, I am cutting rides shorter and am paranoid about crashing, even though I have not crashed for many years.

– Ray

I'm not riding audax distances. Currently sticking to around 40-50km a ride, because that's easy non-stop. I'll probably get up to no more than 100k in that vein.

It's easier to keep a distance on a bike, being in the road rather than on a footpath or pavement. Having said that, down here in the SW we have been able to walk for around 15k without any problematic interactions.

And hand-washing.

– Ian

I still am [riding] but keeping it local, keeping effort levels down (trying maintain fitness, not taking risks and maintain immunity etc) and of course solo. Some are still doing long rides ... out of order, mechanical results in someone having to come out to rescue. Local circuits are still beneficial and mean that still able to walk home if required ...these 50-100 milers are just being selfish.

– Neil

I live in N. Ireland and I'm a key worker, but I don't commute at the moment. My rides have changed to shorter, more local rides. I have started to ride for 30 miles or so every day, and push the hills & the odd internal. Me being out for 1 1/2 to 2 hours definitely suits the current situation.

– Gareth

One observation shared by many is how pleasant it is to ride now that the roads are so quiet – with many of you also telling us that people are more likely to greet each other, whether they are in a vehicle, on a bike, or on foot.

 

Yes, my riding habits are changing. More indoors, with a guilty feeling if go out. I want to ride 100km (Strava GF distance) this weekend, and I’m thinking 1 hour in the garage on a Wattbike, 1 hour on the road and then 1 to 1.5 hours back on the Wattbike, all recorded on a Garmin ... not the same as a nice 100km down into the Surrey hills ...

– Duncan

I’ve been doing a 1hr solo ride most days, local loop that’s quiet, keeping my distance from any other cyclists and pedestrians.

It’s important not to take the piss so that we can all keep riding. I’ve seen a lot of 40 - 80 mile rides on Strava this week. not cool in my opinion … let’s all play within the rules so we don’t get grounded!

– Dan

More police around is making some of you nervous

A few of you have noticed a heightened police presence. We’re sure you have no particular reason to feel nervous at the sight of officers, and hopefully you will be reassured by yesterday’s news that senior police officers have agreed to adopt a “common sense” approach and not be over-zealous in enforcement of government rules.

>  Enforcement “a last resort” – police chiefs agree “common sense” approach to applying emergency coronavirus law

I’m a lot more conscious where I’m riding when planning. I have numerous rides around Wiltshire area but trying to keep nearer home now seeing police are about! It’s difficult to with limited kit. I came back from London and left most of it there so difficult to get out as much but it’s my way to clear my head and to let some steam out!

– Nathan

I’m actually quite worried about biking to and from work. I’ve never seen so many police about.

– Dave

Maintaining your existing health regime

Meanwhile, riding your bike remains an essential part of staying fit and healthy, with this reader explaining why it is essential to him.

I am 61, male, and with a history of bronchitis and pneumonia: all of which contribute to putting me into a moderate risk category. I am trying to get a ride in every day, whether to shop or purely for exercise.

The reason I find this so important is that it maintains my cardio-vascular fitness, which would be critical if I were to become ill. To be effective this exercise needs to open-up my lungs and get my heart pumping. There is no more effective way to do this than solo cycling and the roads empty of traffic can even make this a pleasurable experience.

– Chris

Finally, if you’re staying indoors … be careful!

And finally … one argument made against staying indoors and not riding outside, and thereby avoid the risk of a crash that may put you in hospital is that you’re more likely to suffer an injury at home.

Proof that riding is safer than staying in. 450 km since the lockdown. Did this tripping on a garden step. It proves a point, though. I'm certainly more accident prone at home than on the bike. Still haven't troubled the NHS with it though.

– Clive

Clive's big toe

 

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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