The re-opening ride guide: How to safely cycle outside in Canada this summer
Minimize risk by following provincial guidelines
Staggered re-opening means different rules in different provinces
Different re-opening rules apply in every province right now. That means it is important to pay attention to what your local health authority is recommending, and what phase of re-opening your province is in, before making decisions about how to ride. Progress may not be linear so continue to check back with your provincial authority throughout the season.
There are some general rules, which we will outline below. Some provinces have removed more restrictions than others, thus allowing more activity. Some cycling authorities have yet to comment on re-starting activities, and some have back-tracked on their initial statements.
Should I ride outside?
This is now more acceptable, but there are still limitations.
First, ride close to home. Every provincial health authority is still asking Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside their immediate community. That means staying away from cottages and mountain towns, for now. Those towns themselves are echoing the health authorities, saying they will be excited to welcome Canadians to visit when they are allowed to do so, but are still asking potential tourists to remain patient.
Second, it is still really important to be as self-sufficient as possible. Bring everything you need for your ride with you. Snacks, tools and tubes to fix common mechanicals should all be in your pockets, or on your bike. As the weather gets warmer, it is especially important to pack enough water to make it through your ride. While some stores are opening in a limited fashion, water refills will still be tricky to find mid-ride. It’s also recommended to carry hand sanitizer and a mask for unexpected stops.
Should I ride in a group?
In general, this is still a no-go. Some provincial health authorities and sport organizations are allowing limited group activity, with strict guidelines. Where people are allowed to ride together, riders are still subject to the same group-size restrictions as determined by the provincial health authority. All cycling authorities continue to emphasize that cycling alone (or with riders you live with) is safer than cycling with others. If you’re allowed to ride together where you are, its not a full return to normal. There are still considerations that wouldn’t normally apply, so be sure to read up on your local guidelines.
It also goes without saying at this point, but if you’re experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, stay home.
In B.C., groups of 2-6 are allowed to gather. It is recommended that they maintain distancing, still, and meet in lower-risk locations outdoors. Cycling BC and VIA Sport have approved guides, coaching and day camps to re-open, as has Alberta (as long as strict health measures are put in place).
In Manitoba, as long as physical distancing is maintained club/team rides and group rides have been given the go-ahead, although riders are still encouraged to consider riding solo.
In Quebec and Ontario, where there are more cases, restrictions are heavier. In Ontario, the OCA has allowed club, team and group activities with some heavy restrictions. There must be under 5 cyclists participating and social distancing must be maintained at all times, including during the ride itself. The OCA initially approved team rides conducted on a set route and ridden at different times by every participant but the organization revoked the approval due to insurance issues.
No grouped activities are yet permitted in Quebec, although the FQSC says cyclists can ride with one other non-household member from the same region as long as social distancing is maintained.
RELATED: The Quebec cycling federation’s three stage plan to restart activities sheds light on what racing will look like when it resumes
Should I modify my training?
While it’s ok to train outside, it is still a good idea to adapt your training.
RELATED: The guide to training during COVID-19
This means low-risk riding. Dialling back the difficulty to avoid injury will avoid placing unnecessary stress on the health care system.
With no races on the horizon, consider focusing on developing skills and base fitness instead of intensity and interval sessions. High-volume and high intensity can weaken your immune system, which is still not a great idea right now.
How to adjust to new riders
There are more Canadians riding bikes than ever right now, which is exciting. It could mean more new cycling infrastructure for everyone from commuters to mountain bikers. Some Canadian cities are already opening more temporary cycling infrastructure to help deal with the increased volume and have made plans for big, permanent changes.
RELATED: While many Canadian cities implement emergency bike lanes, some lag behind in their response
While the cycling boom is great news, it does require that more experienced cyclists make some small adjustments to effectively share space.
Give them space and be respectful. New riders have just as much right to be there as you do. Try and take routes you know will be less busy and avoid adding to the crowds. Be a leader in good road/trail etiquette and ride cautiously, not angrily, when navigating newly busy bike routes.