A timely feature, we look at the best ways to stay safe whilst cycling on your own. Whether it be trail riding or gravel and adventure cycling, here are some good ideas and advice about how you can still get out and about on your own.
Whilst we are aware of the opinion that cycling in the current climate of Coronavirus may be a little irresponsible given the fact that riders may get injured and end up in a potentially overrun A&E unit. But as a collection of cycling journalists from across the titles of off-road.cc, road.cc and e-bike tips we recognise the positive effects of exercise for both the body and the mind in these times. With adequate precautions, we can enjoy being outside, staying fit and healthy, take some time for some mental self-care without risking more strain on the NHS.
1. Plan your route and tell someone
First things first, plan a good route and then tell someone where you are going and what time you will be back. Even if that means texting someone your route details and expected time of arrival back home, then let them know when you are back safe and sound. There are plenty of good mapping apps out there, we like using OS Maps on our PC and then transferring a GPX to our device. Viewranger does a similar thing, we have more details on various apps that are great for cycling here.
It's a great idea to share your location sharing via your smartphone, apps such as Whatsapp have this feature. It's called Live Location and it allows you to share your real-time location for a specific amount of time. Whatsapp says this feature is end-to-end encrypted, which means no one can see your live location except the people you shared with.
The What3words is a geolocating app that uses a three-word code to locate anywhere on earth. The downloadable app works by splitting all of the planet into three-metre by three-metre squares, which are then given a unique three-word code. That gives a rapid, simple and relatively foolproof way of sharing any location, which is coming in very handy for emergency services teams - download it and use it!
If you like a bit of tech then you can also check out Specialized Ambush Helmet with Angi, this lid features a new g-force indicator, ANGi, attached which in conjunction with a smartphone app can detect the impact forces as well as rotational and angular ones involved in a crash, it can call home and can send out your location so help can get on the way to you in an emergency. Some GPS devices do a similar thing, the Garmin 820 Edge can detect crashes, or at least if you stop very quickly and send a similar message to your emergency contact. Both offer you a little more protection and peace of mind when venturing out alone.
2. Be prepared
Take a load of gear with you that means you can fix your bike and get yourself out of trouble should you get into it. For us, our list of gear to put in our pack for bigger rides is as follows:
- Inner tube
- Multi tool that includes spoke key, torx, allen keys (including one for your pedals), screwdriver and a chain breaker
- Quick link
- Mini pump, shock pump
- Jacket and warm layer
- Water and food/snacks
- Group shelter or bivvy bag and foil blanket
- Small emergency first aid kit
- Phone (fully charged) and money
There is lots more info on the most useful gear to take with you on a gravel or bikepacking ride here, it's also super applicable to mountain bikers too.
If you choose to stay local and ride but don't want to carry all that kit then at least make sure you have a phone and some cash or a card in case you need to call someone in an emergency or find another way home via public transport should you encounter a mechanical you can't fix.
3. Wear a helmet
Yep, this one is contentious but we know that in our cycling groups of friends and colleagues the opinion is generally to wear one. We aren't going to go on about this much more, just protect your noggin, please.
4. Alter your typical ride a little
Give a little thought to how and where you ride. If you usually ride involves techy off-road riding on downhill tracks, perhaps the best thing to do in the coming months is to tailor your riding to something less high risk, take in some less technical trails or turn your pedal to cross-country riding and explore more of your local area. As our John says, "go sniff some spring flowers and leave the gnarly stuff for another time!"
For those gravel riders, its a time for the less technical and remote routes too. Perhaps you could sniff out some local bivvy spots that are accessive on smooth gravel? Our Jon recently tried to spend a night in the hills and make it to work on time? Can you bivvy locally and still get back to your home desk in time for work?
Whilst we are recommending you alter your type of ride, we don't recommend to change the way your ride. Riding the trails more tentatively or cautiously that you usually would my cause mistakes or lapses in concentration and therefore crashes. Keep your eyes up and ride as you normally would.
5. Make sure your bike is well maintained
Before heading out alone, make sure your bike is well maintained and unlikely to give you any mechanical problems when you are out and about. If taking the bike to your local bike shop isn't an option then get on YouTube and find some 'how to' videos
for the thing you are trying to fix. Road.cc have a load here.
6. You can train when alone
Riding alone means that you can put in some serious training miles without other riders changing your plans or altering your rides speed or distance. It's an ideal time to plan out a good training loop and then either add some sprint intervals or record your efforts and see how these change over time as your fitness increases.
7. Ride indoors
If you do choose to stay indoors you can make turbo sessions a lot more interesting by using something like Zwift, the online cycling platform has new mountain bike segments so there's plenty of reasons to stay indoors and cycle rather than face the hazards or the poor weather of the outdoors. In a nutshell, Zwift is a subscription-based service that creates an in-game virtual world, so that as you ride your turbo, your little avatar scoots about with other riders exploring the roads of the game world. Add in one of the new crop of smart trainers that can automatically vary the resistance and you can actually feel the climbs and descents of the Zwift world. By gamifying riding on your turbo, you should be able to a) actually enjoy it and b) be able to do it for longer.
Our Jon has been Zwifting all winter in order to improve his fitness levels without getting dirty outside, he says If you want to keep on top of your fitness over the winter in a serious way, a Zwift subscription and a smart trainer is an amazing way to do that. Though the setup I tested isn't cheap, it's possible to get a setup for almost any budget, as in the video in this link. If you want info on the best ways to get started with Zwift, click here.
8. Dig a trail
Another idea if you don't fancy riding, take a shovel and dig a new trail in your local woods. Now is the perfect time for digging, as the weather changes but the ground is still relatively soft and good for shaping. The trail will be ready in plenty of time to take groups of mates down it in the summer and you'll feel great about doing your bit to support your local trails.
If you can't commit to a whole trail then you could always repair current ones that are looking a bit worse for wear. We have a guide here for all the best tools you need to get going.
9. Take your dog
If your pooch is a fully-fledged trail dog he or she will no doubt love to keep you company whilst you ride alone. Not so lonely now, are you?! If you have a dog but not yet taken them on the trails, now is an ideal time to train them properly from the start, basics first. By the time it comes to riding with your mates again, they will be a top class trail shredder!
Our Rach says her dog Ebby, is a great trail dog when riding with one or two people but it a bit of a menace in large groups - she always wants to follow the fastest rider! Rach will be taking the time to ride alone and work on some good 'heel' skills over the coming months.
Do you have any other advice for riders that choose to ride alone, be it mountain bike, gravel or road? Leave the words of wisdom in the comments below.
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