Biking during a pandemic

With bicycling on the rise, riders advised to practice safety

The fresh air, the pumping blood, the sights and sounds––the health benefits of bicycling cannot be disputed.

With people stuck inside their homes staring at the same walls for the past few months, such an activity is more important than ever.

Many seem to be taking note.

According to data from advocacy organization PeopleForBikes, bike sales have increased by 65 percent nationwide so far this year compared to 2019.

Avid bicyclist Curt Hentschke of Gilroy said he frequently checks the California Bicycle Coalition website, calbike.org, for the latest rules and regulations. While biking is not prohibited under the Covid-19 shelter-in-place order, riders must take the same precautions as they do in any public space.

Those include wearing a face mask and staying at least six feet apart from others who are not in your household group.

Wearing a face mask while riding can be difficult, especially as the weather warms up. The California Bicycle Coalition offers the following tips:

• Wear a face mask designed for athletic use. A mask made from fabric that wicks moisture might help you bike more comfortably.

• If masks don’t work for you when you’re riding, experiment with other types of face coverings. A bandana or scarf that covers your nose and mouth could allow you more flexibility to create a breathable covering for your nose and mouth.

• Try a neck gaiter. It’s easier to pull a gaiter up or down as needed and one made from a lightweight fabric may be more breathable.

• Experiment with different types of face coverings and find what works for you. Remember that something is better than nothing when it comes to face coverings to fight coronavirus.

Hentschke advises that parents should choose a car-free route such as the Coyote Creek Trail if their children have not ridden for a while.

“Please do not assume they will be comfortable riding in or near automobile traffic,” he said. “If you must share the road, a parent should ride at the rear of the group, just to keep an eye on things. Blinky lights are a great idea, even during daylight hours. Leave the earbuds at home. Teach focus.”

Local bike shops are also getting a sharp increase in business, Hentschke observed.

“With all the vacations being cancelled, many folks are hauling bikes out of mothballs to provide much-needed diversions,” he said. “You can only imagine how local bike shops are being slammed with folks looking for tune-ups, flat fixing, etc.”

Off the Chain Bikes, 101 McCray St., Suite 101 in Hollister, is one of those shops.

“As many of you know, the bike shop got pretty much sold out of bicycles when the Covid hit,” the shop posted on its Facebook page in late June. “This has happened to all bike shops in the U.S. due to the Covid. We’re all waiting on receiving new bikes. It’s great that people are out riding and enjoying the benefits of biking.”

Need a bike, or have an extra one to give to someone in need?

Zachary Hilton, chair of the Gilroy Bicycle Pedestrian Commission, is working to pair bicycles to those who need them to get to their essential jobs and other critical activities in Gilroy and Morgan Hill. 

Hilton launched Bike Match Gilroy/Morgan Hill, where those who have an extra bicycle they want to donate can fill out a form at bit.ly/BikeMatch. People can also fill out the form indicating their need for a bike. 

Donated bikes should be in ready-to-ride condition. For bikes that need work before being donated, Hilton advises reaching out to a local bike shop to service it. 

As of July 2, Hilton said the program has garnered 48 bikes with 48 matches. For information, email [email protected]

Hentschke has one last piece of advice for people venturing out of their homes and onto their bikes.

“Ride into the wind at the beginning of your ride, so as to enjoy the tailwind on the ride home,” he said. “You’ll thank me later.”

For maps of local bike trails, visit tinyurl.com/yd2k8apz or tinyurl.com/y95kpjsm.