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Opinion: For now, I’m happier riding indoors

"The sense of relief I feel everyday from taking this extra measure to stay safe is far better than riding outside."

Stay home as much as possible. Stay safe. Get outside for fresh air and exercise. The government recommendations are important to flattening the curve of COVID-19, but finding the balance between them can be confusing as an individual.

Some countries, like France, have imposed strict limitations on personal movement. Canada has left us with the responsibility to decide for ourselves how we get fresh air and what the limits are on exercise. Canadians cyclists looking to get outside after a long winter on the trainer must now figure out what is healthy and responsible.

This five part COVID-19 ride guide will attempt to give you all the information currently available so you can make an informed decision on the riding during the pandemic.

Canada is a big country, and regulations differ from province to province. This is also a rapidly changing situation. All the information presented is current as of publishing date.

Part 1) Seriously, stop group riding
Part 2) Opinion: For now, I’m happier riding indoors
Part 3) Be Kind: Community and respect in a rapidly changing environment
Part 4) Opinion: Why its ok to ride outside, within limits
Part 5) FAQ for cyclists during COVID-19

by Jeff Wills

As far as I can tell, no one else benefits from me being a cyclist. Until Team Ineos calls me up for the Tour, cycling will be a life-long hobby that I love to do as much as I can, anywhere I can. I ride outside year-round and have never really considered ‘riding’ indoors as actual riding. I love to ride my bike but it’s pretty much just for me.

Not riding bikes outside, I like to think, is for everyone else.

It’s easy to rationalize riding outside during the pandemic while it’s still allowed: I’m so removed from other humans on my local country roads and I truly believe I would never contract COVID-19 riding outside. Cycling is a natural for social distancing. If car traffic is now lighter than usual where you live (not the case where I am), it makes the opportunity to ride even more enjoyable and safer. Add on the benefits of fresh air and exercise for our minds and immune systems and we should all be out there spinning our legs off right now.

But unlike most activities we can currently do, cycling adds more risk of having an accident: Your front wheel washing out on a gravelly corner, screwing up a log over, not noticing a pot hole or rock, tangling with a car, or forgetting how to unclip. Things that we’re all careful about but still happen. Often, these accidents are just funny little memories from a ride but once in a while they turn into something that requires an X-ray or a few stitches. Just like everyone else, I ‘never’ crash but I still have metal plates holding my neck and shoulder together from falling off my bike. I was being careful but accidents do happen.

RELATED: Seriously, stop group riding. 

In a normal world, I’m OK with these risks. Today, risks need to be reconsidered and perspectives adjusted, as there is a far greater knock-on effect with the healthcare system and our personal communities. I will avoid hospitals at all costs. They’re COVID-19 hotspots and even if I don’t contract the virus, I don’t want to be quarantined after I leave. Healthcare resources are limited in this crisis and even if I don’t require an ICU bed, I don’t know if I could look a nurse in the eye wearing a precious mask and say “I fell off my bike”.

If I’m laying on the side of the road, I’m putting the next passerby in a really bad spot. I hope they’d stop, but I understand if they choose to help from a distance.

Like many riders, I could argue that my risk management is overboard. But I have a bigger reason for stopping: I cannot call my family to say I’ve been hurt or that I’m in a hospital. I’ve done that before and it’s not cool. I don’t even need to complete their thought process to know it would end in a meltdown in today’s circumstances. I didn’t know it, but my family was already worrying about me. It was a relief to everyone when I announced no more outdoor rides for now.

The author riding inside photo: Jeff Wills

Making this decision and committing to it is tough but I wasn’t going to get a reward for sticking it out on my bike anyway. Between daily walks and riding my trainer, I’m covered for fresh air, exercise, and clearing my head. All my spring events and races have been postponed or canceled. It’s just one adjustment in a massive pile of others that we’re all making to get things back on track.

Riding outside would be great but, for now, the sense of relief I feel everyday from taking this extra measure to stay safe is far better.