Ride it out through winter lockdown with Cycling UK's top tips

Cycling is a great way to stay fit and retain some normality in an unreal situation, so stay local, stay safe and stay happy and together we can get through this

Cycling for exercise and mental health is more important than ever as everyone adjusts to the new restrictions announced in England and Scotland this week to limit the rising coronavirus infection rates. As the national cycling charity, Cycling UK wants to remind its members and supporters of some of the reasons to be cheerful despite the difficult times, and to inspire you to ride it out during lockdown 3.0.

The first lockdown in March 2020 saw a surge in the number of people cycling, with many bike shops struggling to keep their racks stocked. Others brought their old bike out of the shed and returned to riding during those sunny, largely traffic-free spring and summer days.

We may not have the weather on our side this time around but everyone is still encouraged to get inspired again and continue cycling – whether for daily outdoor exercise or for essential journeys.

Whatever type of cycling you do, we want to share our top tips for cycling during the current pandemic; stay local, stay safe and stay happy. We’ve also highlighted some of the simple pleasures to look forward to, as and when restrictions begin to be lifted.

Stay local

The government guidance in England says exercise should only be undertaken once a day and within your local area. In Scotland, exercise must begin and end at the same place and that place must be within your local authority area or within five miles of that area, while in Wales exercise must begin and end from home wherever possible. There is no precise definition of the term local and given the variation between nations, you should always check and follow the instructions for the area in which you live.

The English government guidance suggests staying local means avoiding travelling outside of your 'village, town or part of the city in which you live’. However, that doesn’t mean you have to rely on overly familiar paths. Staying closer to home gives you the opportunity to unearth new routes you may not have explored before. Read our guide on how to find new local routes and the best ways to plan a ride from your doorstep.

A cyclists stops to look at a map at a crossroads sign in the countryside

We’ve also teamed up with route-planning app Komoot to offer Cycling UK members a free region map bundle worth £8.99 when they register as a new Komoot user. You get access to customised routes, either on or off road, which you can edit, save and share to your phone or smartwatch to guide you with turn-by-turn instructions.

Stay safe

In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, you can ride solo, with members of your household or support bubble or with one other person (observing social distancing). In Wales, you should only ride by yourself or with members of your own household or social bubble.

Being on a bicycle doesn’t mean we can be any less diligent about potential contamination risk, so try to keep at least two metres away from anyone else you encounter who is not from your household group, avoid touching your face, and wash your hands as soon as you can. Take tissues with you on a ride to catch coughs and sneezes, and dispose of them appropriately as soon as possible.

As well as looking after yourself and others, remember not to neglect the bike. With more time indoors, the winter is an opportunity to give it a thorough clean to remove any dirt or grit which could prevent it from running smoothly. A lovely sparkly frame will also give you a lift when you set off on a ride. Check our article for advice on how to look after and clean your bike during winter.

You could also make use of the extra free time to learn a new skill. If baking or learning a new language don’t appeal, how about gaining an understanding of basic bike maintenance.

Buying a book and teaching yourself, or swotting up with the how to guides on our website, is a great way to ensure you feel confident setting off on a ride with the knowledge you should be able to fix any mechanical problem should it arise.

You can also check out some simple tips on our YouTube channel, too.

Stay happy

Not leaving your house as much as you would like means running the risk of leading even more sedentary lives. This is not jus bad for your physical health but also potentially for your mind.

A Cycling UK survey of more than 11,000 people found that 91% of participants rated off-road cycling as fairly or very important for their mental health – strong evidence that heading out on the bike is a good way to de-stress and clear your head.

Two cyclists in yellow hi-vis riding an off-road path

During the two lockdowns last year it was inspiring to see the way communities came together to support each other and go the extra mile for others. You can also play a role in helping others stay happy, whether its checking in with friends through messages to see how they are coping, virtual get-togethers or volunteering in your local community. Volunteering is one of the exemptions to stay at home guidance, so find out more about volunteering opportunities with Cycling UK.

It can be all to easy to focus on what we’ve lost and activities we can no longer enjoy giving the current restrictions. The next few months will inevitably be a challenge but the long slog could soon be nearing its end. The main reason this lockdown won’t be as bad as before is that this time there is hope on the horizon and here are some things to look forward to.

1. Vaccinations are on the way

The Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccination will be rolled out at vaccination centres and GP practices, alongside continuing delivery of the Pfizer vaccine. The aim is to vaccinate every care-home resident by the end of January and offer jabs to other priority groups after that, possibly by Easter. By this point around 30m people will have been covered by the vaccine, so unlike during the first lockdown, this time there is a potential end point to the crisis. Read our article on how cycling can give the body’s immune system a boost in the meantime.

2. More time for families 

Following the closure of schools to reduce the further spread of coronavirus, youngsters are spending more time at home. That can also mean more opportunities for family cycling. Whether it's online learning or working from home, we all need a break from screen and what could be better than getting out for a ride. Having already been through this experience before, many of us already know what aspects of cycling their kids enjoy and have some tried and tested family cycle journeys that always work. Read our article on how to create a family cycle routine. We’ve also produced a video and tips for those looking to teach a child how to cycle.

3. Simple pleasures

A cup of coffee being poured from a filter pot and a piece of cake on a table

Whether it’s getting to the top of a hill first on an impromptu after-work group ride or warming yourself with a coffee-shop stop after an early-morning ride on a Sunday, those little moments of joy are currently off-limits. However, that is just going to make simple pleasures like these even more special once a semblance of normality does return. Although we don’t know exactly what shape cycling will take in 2021, you can still plan tentatively towards a project for later in the year. If you are looking for some inspiration, read our guide to 21 of our favourite routes around the UK, and calendar of cycling events to look forward to.