Cycling, especially road cycling, means being closely packed with riding companions or competitors for hours. But the coronavirus has changed all that. As the potentially deadly Covid-19 pandemic has escalated across the globe, cyclists wonder, “Is it safe to ride outside together?” Cyclingnews looked at the science and can only conclude that no, you should not, and in fact, you really should just stay home.
A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine has given some grave evidence that the coronavirus can remain viable in the air for hours and can be transmitted by people with no symptoms. Most countries are lagging woefully behind in testing, and some countries have basically given up on trying to identify all infected individuals.
In the United States, most states are discouraging healthy people from seeking tests to keep them away from doctors offices or hospitals with a potentially high number of infected people.
You can be infected and not know it, like the Republican Senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, who, asymptomatic, went to the Senate gym and swimming pool to work out, then got his positive coronavirus test results a few hours later.
The virus stability study, done by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and University of California in Los Angeles, compared the survival of the previous SARS coronavirus, SARS-CoV-1, to the new virus that emerged in China in December, SARS-CoV-2, in the air and on surfaces.
They simulated cough droplets by spraying a virus solution through a nebuliser (similar to an asthma inhaler) at sizes well within the range of the average person’s uncovered cough and measuring how many infectious particles they found at time points over three hours.
Like its predecessor, SARS-CoV-2 remained in the air at infectious levels in laboratory conditions (65% humidity and temperatures of 21-23°C) “throughout the duration of our experiment (3 hours)”, they wrote.
It might be quite different out in the open air, but the news should be quite worrying for anyone considering a group ride or even going outside to ride alone. Two other studies have shown evidence that asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2-infected people are capable of transmitting the virus because they have the same amount of virus particles in their lungs.
“The viral load that was detected in the asymptomatic patient was similar to that in the symptomatic patients, which suggests the transmission potential of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic patients,” a study by researchers in China concluded this week.
The two studies point towards cycling outside, even two metres apart from each other, not being a good idea. You might feel fine but have the virus, and then, with one cough or sneeze, you might leave an infectious cloud behind you for the next person.
That’s why Spain, France, Andorra and Italy have discouraged people from going outside, with varying degrees of punishment for violations. Knowing how easy it is to spread this disease might help keep them off the streets.
The better we are at keeping off the streets, away from anyone but your family or living companions, the quicker we can end the pandemic and get back to racing. We are all in this together, so please be smart, stay safe, stay healthy, and ride the trainer.