Top 10 Tips for mountain biking and social distancing with Coronavirus

Can one social distance while mountain biking?


Enjoy trails close to home and ride within your skill set to minimize the strain on healthcare facilities.

These are extraordinary times as each day brings more shocking news about the Coronavirus pandemic. Different countries are in different stages of infection and containment as the virus spreads around the globe.

A good source of information for the United States is the CDC site for Coronavirus prevention. And the most important part is understanding the current law and restrictions in your local area. This is a dynamic situation so check regularly.

Lockdown or Shelter in Place?

In general, a lockdown is the most severe restriction and folks are not allowed to leave their residence except for the most critical tasks. A permission slip is usually required to go outside, even for a valid reason.  A Shelter in Place order usually precedes a lockdown and is a less restrictive order, allowing essential travel like grocery shopping and medical visits.

And here’s where it gets tricky but important. Some governments with Shelter in Place mandates have identified outdoor recreation and trail hiking and biking as allowed activities.  The key is no group gatherings are allowed (usually less than 10) and social distancing guidelines need to be followed.

Bikes allow us to distance ourselves from others while boosting our physical and mental health.

10 tips

It is a confusing time for sure so here are 10 tips to navigate the activity of mountain biking during a pandemic.

    1. No events – no races, trail workdays, parties are allowed.
    2. Only ride in trails and parks that are open – Typically in a shelter in place scenario, all public gathering areas like playgrounds, picnic table areas, restrooms will be closed.
    3. Ride in safe but less crowded trails – Given the choice, go ride in that big trail network that sees 20 trail users instead of the tight network with 200 users.We all love riding singletrack but near the trailhead where it’s more crowded, stick to fire roads. 6-feet distancing is a problem on singletrack. Perhaps when you are miles away from people, narrower trails are more welcome.

Seek out less crowded routes on off-peak hours to recharge your body and mind

    1. Ride solo or with your housemates – Forego that rad crew you ride with every week and just ride by yourself or with one friend who is a known risk, preferably a roommate.
    2. Hygiene – When you sneeze or blow your nose, be absolutely sure you’re away from folks, especially the ones behind you.
    3. Do not share – Sharing is usually caring but no sharing of food, beer, snacks, gloves, helmets, anything.
    4. No touching – hugs and handshakes and high fives are common in our sport but let us completely avoid that for now. And keep riding without constant stops to talk and gather with other people. There will be a time and place for that when this is all over.
    5. Wash everything right away, especially your gloves.

Keep the riding safe and simple and ideally ride with members of your household.

  1. Ride at 80% of your ability – Instead of pushing the envelope and doing that drop or jump you’ve been wanting to step up to, tone it down and ride only at the very safe zones of your ability. And absolutely stay focused at all times and don’t get hurt because of inattention. Getting seriously hurt or lost will divert emergency response personnel from the Coronavirus war. Taking a hospital bed away from a virus patient is an even greater offense.
  2. While you can and while allowed by law, get out, keep healthy and boost your physical and mental health. – If you get to the stage where absolutely no outside activity is allowed in your area, you need all the health and well-being you’ve prepared to survive the pandemic.

About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


  • B. says:

    Honestly I’m ashamed for you. At this precise moment we should just stay home. Riding at 80% and washing our gloves won’t kill the risk of ending at the hospital and right now let me tell you that you won’t be welcome there for this reason. Respect the doctors and nurses and their war, f*cking stay home if that’s not too much to ask.

    • Francis Cebedo says:

      >>… f*cking stay home if that’s not too much to ask.

      Will have to disagree with your there. Different parts of the world are under different laws and advisories you have to look beyond just your situation.

      When a lockdown happens, definitely stay indoors. But under different stages, it is key to exercise outdoors and maintain physical and mental health.

      If and when we reach a lockdown state, it will be good to have a healthy mind and body if one is not to leave the house or studio apartment for 3-6 months. (aka Wuhan. China).

    • MikeL says:

      I disagree. I found some very helpful information from this article and good practices for people that will ride regardless. I think riding my MTB is far less risk of exposure than walking my dog around the neighborhood and both recreational/exercise activities are permitted if done responsibly as described on this article. Thankfully we are not on lock down in Northern California and if that were to happen, I like most will gladly abide by the rules. For now, I want to maintain my health and fitness while I can.

    • geddy chuda says:

      Honestly, I am ashamed of you. At this precise moment we should maintain social distancing. Riding under control does kill the risk of ending up at the hospital, this strategy has worked 100% for me for over 30 years of riding.

    • Bay Area Scientist says:

      Your risk of getting COVID is 100X higher going to COSCO for food then a solo and sensible mountain bike ride. Especially in sunny conditions with some wind, risk will be even further diminished. Some thoughts from a scientist 🙂 Francis thanks the common sense suggestions

  • JtotheC says:

    #9 has been on my mind a lot lately. Right now, the concern is being infected while getting treatment, but it seems that this will gradual shift towards a concern for the likelihood of getting good treatment at all.

  • Jellallaby says:

    I have to admit, I decided at the headline. Started reading with a cynical stance. But no, excellent article. Well done. People need to hear this stuff.

  • Edo says:

    If the situation becomes identical to EU, then it is simply forbidden to ride. high fine and risk of going to jail even if you ride alone in the woods or anywhere.
    Best tip is to enjoy at max before the situation changes….

    • Francis Cebedo says:

      >> If the situation becomes identical to EU
      Exactly. We’ve seen China and the EU and people absolutely long for a little sunlight and circulation. We have to participate safely while it’s available.

  • Stevo says:

    Great article, riding depends on locale. Here in Maine its pretty spread out, I can ride to open power line trails and spend 3 hours out, then return, often not even being passed by a car (40 degrees typical daytime temps here.

  • Paul Niehoff says:

    Also from Maine, Two of us rode, safely, for about two hours today. No risks taken. We encountered no other riders and only two trail users. We spoke, but remained well over 6′ from each other. Mental and physical well-being.

    • Francis Cebedo says:

      >>>Also from Maine, Two of us rode, safely, for about two hours today. No risks taken. We encountered no other riders and only two trail users. We spoke, but remained well over 6′ from each other. Mental and physical well-being.

      absolutely dialed. This is the gold standard. Biking balances our body and mind and to take it away now will cause harm. Let’s keep living, safely.

  • Frank says:

    Tip#12: Come prepared for zero contact. Bring all the water you will need with you. You aren’t going to want to to touch that spigot. Similarly bring your food for the ride and post-ride, and be prepared to avoid using any public restrooms.

    • Francis Cebedo says:

      >> Tip#12…
      Are you saying to bring our own toilet paper? Where do we buy that? 🙂

      • Frank says:

        I mean, I didn’t say you should sh!t in thew woods, but… you know… be prepared. That also might include eating a hearty breakfast to get the bowels moving early in the morning, before you head out. YMMV.

  • Amy says:

    I would add that you should ride local. Here in Tahoe we are trying to keep visitors away for the time being. We have very limited medical resources, yet we are still seeing visitors coming to town to recreate. Please recreate local. This is not the time to take a trip.

  • Marty says:

    Great article and I plan to share it with my friends

  • Mark says:

    And wear a Fucking HELMET !!… and wear it well.
    There’s nothing like a head injury to land you into the emergency room and taking up hospital resources

    • Mark says:

      I’m seeing so many people out there on the trails and routes not wearing helmets… i just wanna yell at them.

    • Doug says:

      This. I have seen a spike of people NOT wearing helmets. I’m thinking people who don’t ordinarily mountain bike are getting out there and trying it because they need exercise while social distancing (and maybe they’ve lost their jobs during this time and need to be out for mental health reasons).

      Great article Francis – we can practice social distancing and get out and ride – we need exercise and stress relief during this pandemic. We just need to do it responsibly.

  • Julie K. says:

    I like these tips! It takes some adjusting, but we can do it.

    I just wanted to add that I thought up until very recently that exercising a lot would make you more vulnerable to illness, but this is in fact not exactly true. It can help! Even in large amounts. This is a good one that explains the science ->

  • DF says:

    Excellent article Francis. See you around >6ft maybe one of these days soon back at Skeggs. It’s just common sense. F8ck the haters. I can go get a ride in and not come near anyone for hours. You just need to know where to go.

  • Frank says:

    Funny, I had posted a Tip #11, that one didn’t get through the filters maybe? One more time…

    TIP #11: Ride at times when the trails will be less busy. 7am on Sunday = 1 car in the parking lot 10am on Sunday =15 cars in the parking lot. Sunny afternoons are going to be crowded, best avoided.

  • Kathy, mayor of a small town who mtn bikes too. says:

    The most important thing is RIDE LOCALLY. Do not travel to that favorite away spot and use up their resources when the locals are trying to cope with this pandemic. If you need to get out RIDE LOCAL and yes follow the suggestions above. Especially ride at 80% no 110% Don’t get hurt dont’ need treatment, don’t get lost, and don’t use resources you don’t live near!!!! Can you tell I’m a little upset at folks who don’t know how to stay the Fuck home!!!!

  • Vincent tétreault says:

    Stay the fuck home and buy a home trainer.

    Even if you are paying attention with an extreme caution, its like talking about a “safe peing zone” in a pool.

  • Eric says:

    Went for a ride today. Beautiful weather, saw some people, smiled and waved hi, and talked to nobody at all. Probably the closest I came to anyone was perhaps 20′. Just be mindful of just getting out and riding, and not turning it into a social activity, and don’t push the envelope, and the benefits greatly outweigh the risks.

  • Ritch says:

    Yeah, we’re not meant to ride here in NZ. We’re on Lockdown for the foreseeable (maybe 4 weeks?), and are supposed to basically stay home. Walking/riding around the neighbourhood (eg with the dog) and keeping distance from people is allowed, but heading into the hills? NOPE. IF you were to have an accident, then you’re putting yourself and the emergency folk at risk (you might have the virus and they get it or vice versa) and as they say, potentially putting a hospital bed out of action for someone sick.

  • Tuscany Mtb Guide says:

    Here in Italy we are still in a complete Lockdown. We’re not allowed to leave the house, there is a fine of 5000€ for biking for leisure. I think that in a couple of months we’re going to be allowed to ride again but following the tips from this article. Let’s hope!

  • Stanley Crocker says:

    Might add to use extreme caution when riding single file especially at high respiration rates like climbing. 6′ is likely insufficient when you are breathing the same air the guy in front of you just exhaled. I rode yesterday with a buddy and we gave it a solid 50′. That might not have been enough.

  • Andrew says:

    It can’t be stated strongly enough that this is the worst, most selfish, time in your life to get an injury for discretionary of recreational activities. A non-covid trauma care or hospital visit this month will with absolute certainty put your own and other people’s actual lives at risk. Be wise in your choices and keep your demons on the chain.

    In Colorado the following activities are among those specifically identified as exempt and essential. activities:

    3.Engaging in outdoor activity, such as, by way of example and without limitation, walking, hiking, nordic skiing, snowshoeing, biking or running. For purposes of outdoor activity, State parks will remain open to the public to engage in walking, hiking, biking, running, and similar outdoor activities but all playgrounds, picnic areas, other similar areas conducive to public gathering, and attended areas shall be closed. For other parks, check with the local jurisdiction and follow any requirements for that jurisdiction. Additionally, the permitted outdoor activities in this PHO do not include activities that would violate the Social Distancing Requirements defined in Section III.F, below.

  • Chris Gribbin says:

    Here in the UK we are not yet in total lockdown (like parts of mainland Europe), but basically no non essential travel is allowed (so you can only go out for essential work, food, medicine or exercise). You are ok to go for a run, bike ride or walk your dog, (but the advice is not to get in your car to go to a trailhead). I am sure this will get more restrictive soon – all predictions are that things are getting worse.

    When I go to the grocery store (online delivery slots are all booked up), I have been trying to be very careful and wash hands on return etc). I honestly feel this is the most risky part of my week (to other people, my family and I). However, the local grocery store is limiting the store opening to 24 customers, asking for cashless payment, as well as wiping down surfaces that get regularly touched (shopping carts/trolleys).

    I have also been riding from the back door; going slowly, avoiding touching fence posts and opening gates with my elbows (the gates all have these levers designed for horse riders to be able to lean down and open gates, so it makes that easy to do). Riding shoes, helmet, pads and gloves stay out in the garage after use. I am lucky the local bit of trail is relatively close (I only have less than 0.5 mile through the town to get into the woods), trails are hardly used and well known to me. I know it is a risk but I am trying to keep that risk to the minimum, by riding at quiet times, wearing my pads and helmet and riding really steadily; certainly with no attempts at that drop …

    • Mary says:

      I plan to get my bike out this coming week just to ride in a large cemetery down the street. We are allowed to walk, hike, bike in Massachusetts. Thanks for the tip of leaving my gear out in the garage. That’s a great tip.

  • Matt says:

    Everyone in Denver is driving miles and miles to the trail heads. Trails are over crowded. People arent stepping off the trail to let others by. Everybody, hikers and bikers should move off trail 6ft in the opposite direction. Some dad took his not so skilled 10 yr old out to some tight but not so technical single track. The dad obviously hadnt talked to his son about distancing. When I came upon them and wanted to pass, I thought they’d move off trail. Nope, stood in the middle of trail and I had to go 12 feet off trail to avoid them. Probably not the best time to be teaching your son singletrack riding… Stay home people and exercise in your own neighborhoods. They are going to close trails next.

  • Derby Rims says:

    Another suggestion for outdoor activity is that if unable or accidentally passing others with less than 6 feet distance, HOLD YOUR BREATH a few seconds until well past them. Sometimes just by mistake anywhere, such as when shopping for food, or unavoidably getting closer passing on singletrack on a hike or bike or simply outside home walking on sidewalks, it can happen if not possible to stop in time and move well off trail or unable step wide enough in time.

  • Matthew says:

    On the basis of these results the scientist advises that for walking the distance of people moving in the same direction in 1 line should be at least 4–5 meter, for running and slow biking it should be 10 meters and for hard biking at least 20 meters. Also, when passing someone it is advised to already be in different lane at a considerable distance e.g. 20 meters for biking.

  • EG says:

    Mountain biking has kept my sanity intact all these years, not to mention the physical health benefits it has affforded me. If its a single track I usually hold my breath until Im about 10 feet away from the other rider but its difficult if Im going a steep climb.

  • Brian Dotson says:

    Local trails riding solo mostly or with my kid who is isolating with me anyway. Riding well within my limits as in “this is no time for a dumb injury”.

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