One of the positive aspects of the current crisis is that more people are going outside more often. Even folks who are not naturally inclined to get moving are doing so. Walking is something nearly everyone can do, but people are also rediscovering the joys of riding a bicycle.
Cycling is an excellent way to be outside while keeping a safe distance. A short spin around the neighborhood is always rejuvenating and can be done quickly. Longer rides close to home are excellent for maintaining healthy habits in this time of social distancing.
Elizabeth Skinner, co-author of Bicycling the Blue Ridge, has noticed that more people have turned to their bicycles for exercise and fresh air. “In the past few weeks, I’ve seen bikes all over my neighborhood: kids on bikes, adults on bikes, bikes strewn all over yards and in driveways. It has reminded me of the freedom and empowerment that I discovered on my bike as a kid.”
As with all outdoor activities, it is important to ride a bicycle safely. Elizabeth shares some simple and practical tips for hopping on your bike and enjoying the great outdoors:
- Check your local guidelines: Visiting parks and trails has been discouraged, and many are not currently open. So choose a place that’s close to home, and verify that it is available for biking. Most importantly, make sure that you comply with local guidelines for social distancing.
- Pick a quiet time to go: Whether you’re zipping around your neighborhood or pedaling along a country road, skip the busiest places at the busiest times. Instead, go whenever and wherever the fewest people are out and about during daylight hours.
- Bring your family: A bicycle ride is more fun when shared with others, but group rides have been highly discouraged. Instead, go alone or share a ride with your immediate family members. Now more than ever, it feels good to get out of the house, out of the yard, and into some open space. Remember to implement bicycling safety practices, such as wearing a helmet, obeying traffic laws, and riding single file.
- Carry what you need: Try to avoid stopping to buy water or snacks. If you think you might need either—or anything else, for that matter—bring it along. A small backpack works nicely.
- Be safe: This isn’t the time for dangerous terrain or daredevil stunts. A serious injury means a trip to the hospital, which could put you at greater risk for exposure to viruses and which could further tax a hospital staff that might already be overwhelmed with patients.
- Keep it clean: Follow guidelines from the CDC to protect yourself. This includes washing hands often; avoiding contact with your mouth, nose, and eyes; and wearing a mask over your mouth and nose while in public.
Elizabeth also encourages cyclists to look ahead to the coming months, when we return to our normal routines. Planning a future trip and imagining where to take your next long ride might be a fun mental exercise for you and your family.
For Elizabeth, that place is the Blue Ridge Parkway. “The beauty and solace of the Blue Ridge mountains is the perfect balm for these stressful, uncertain times.”
Bicycling the Blue Ridge, 6th Edition by Elizabeth and Charlie Skinner is the definitive guide to Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It features detailed, mile-by-mile descriptions that provide information on lodging, restaurants, stores, and bike shops. Professionally designed maps and elevation profiles are also included, so you always know where you are, where you’re going, and what to expect along the way. The guidebook is available wherever books are sold, including bookstores, gift shops, and online retailers.
About the Authors
Elizabeth Skinner and Charlie Skinner have spent the last two decades bicycling, hiking, and exploring the Piedmont, foothills, and mountains of North Carolina. They share their love of outdoor adventuring with two daughters and continue to pass along their years of experience to grateful readers. They live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.