The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is having a massive impact across the globe. Unfortunately the mountain biking world isn’t immune. While the UK’s lockdown restrictions are gradually being lifted, there’s still a risk of infection, trails remain closed in some places and many events have been cancelled. This is the situation as it stands right now…
What’s the current government guidance regarding COVID-19 and cycling?
Under the changes to the UK lockdown announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday 10 May, people in England can do unlimited exercise each day outside of the home. This means cycle rides of any length are allowed (previously, a single daily exercise ride was permitted, with government ministers suggesting that a half-hour duration was sufficient), as long as you keep your distance from others – ideally at least 2m (6ft 6in), but if that’s not possible, the official recommendation is to allow “one metre plus”.
The latest guidelines also allow people in England to meet others outdoors, including for non-contact sports such as cycling, provided that they practise social distancing. This was originally restricted to one person, but was increased to five from 1 June, putting group rides back on the agenda. From 4 July, if two households meet, there’s no limit on the number of people present, making life easier for families or groups of housemates who want to ride together. (These two households can also meet indoors, providing they follow social distancing advice.) You can read British Cycling’s latest guidance here.
People in England may also now travel as far as they like to do exercise or use outdoor spaces. From 4 July, holiday accommodation can reopen and you can also stay with another household overnight. But check before planning that big weekend trip to the bike park – some riding venues are still closed as they work out how to implement social distancing measures and keep users safe.
Elsewhere in the UK, the situation is slightly different. Up in Scotland, you’re now allowed to travel for recreation, with the previous five-mile limit being lifted from 3 July. You can meet with two other households outdoors (and from 10 July, indoors) each day, up to a maximum of eight people, as long as you stay 2m apart. Self-contained holiday accommodation can reopen.
In Wales, any number of people from two different households can now gather outdoors, for as long as wanted. From Monday 6 July, you’ll also be allowed to stay together indoors. On that date, “stay local” guidance will end, travel restrictions will lift (allowing people from other parts of the UK to enter the country) and outdoor attractions, including bike parks, will be able to reopen.
Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, you can drive to do exercise anywhere outdoors. Groups of up to six people who don’t share a home can now meet outdoors (or indoors) as long as they stay at least 1m apart.
Still not entirely sure what’s allowed in your area? Ordnance Survey and Natural England have collated the latest advice about outdoor exercise, usefully sortable by sport and region, here: www.getoutside.co.uk/covid.
At the beginning of the lockdown, the emergency services and mountain rescue groups were urging people not to take any risks, to avoid placing unnecessary strain on the NHS at a time when they were desperately trying to free up hospital beds and equipment to treat patients with COVID-19. For this reason, we advised sticking to roads, fireroads and less technical trails. While the situation is more settled now and in many areas hospitals are less busy, it’s still not a good time to end up in A&E, due to the higher risk of infection. So it’s best to take things steady and put off tackling that 50/50 drop you’ve been eyeing up.
It should go without saying that if you start exhibiting any flu-like symptoms – such as a dry cough and high temperature – it’s essential that you avoid the temptation to leave the house for exercise and instead self-isolate at home.
The restrictions on cycling are gradually being eased. Photo: Russell Burton
Which riding spots are closed due to COVID-19?
Under the original lockdown, all UK bike parks and trail centres closed, along with many forest car parks and all cafes, plus many waymarked trails.
Forestry England are now carrying out a phased reopening of sites, starting with small car parks with no facilities and gradually building towards opening larger centres. Other organisations have been following suit, but some cafes and other facilities remain closed and social-distancing measures have been put in place. We’d advise checking venues’ websites and social media feeds before travelling anywhere to ride.
Welsh bike parks started reopening from 6 July, with BikePark Wales opening its gates on 9 July. Riding is on a push/pedal-up basis for now. A £3 supplement has been added to the usual pricing while lockdown restrictions are still in place (£7 for uplifts, once they recommence). Check the centres’ websites or social media accounts for details. XC trails on Natural Resources Wales sites started reopening from 6 July too.
Forestry and Land Scotland started reopening their car parks from 3 July.
What impact is COVID-19 having on racing and events?
The UCI World Cup series has been cut to just two cross-country (XC) and four downhill (DH) rounds and postponed until the autumn, with all venues now hosting two races on the same weekend:
- Nove Mesto na Morave World Cups, Czech Republic (XC #1 and XC #2), 29 September-4 October
- Maribor World Cups, Slovenia (DH #1 and DH #2), 15-18 October
- Lousa World Cups, Portugal (DH #3 and DH #4), 19 October-1 November
Both the DH and XC World Championships are still set to go ahead, in Leogang, Austria, from 5-11 October. The 4X World Championships has been cancelled. The Marathon World Championships is scheduled for 24-25 October, in Sakarya Turkey.
The Enduro World Series (EWS) has been reduced to five rounds:
Zermatt EWS (#1) , Switzerland, 30 August
Petzen/Jamnica EWS (#2), Austria/Slovenia, 3-4 October
Montagnes Du Caroux EWS (#3), France, 17-18 October
Manizales EWS (#4), Colombia, 6-7 November
Farellones EWS (#5), Chile, 14-15 November
The Trophy of Nations is currently set to go ahead as planned in Finale Ligure, Italy, on 26-27 September.
The following MBUK favourites and new events have been postponed or cancelled, along with many others:
Ard Dales Enduro, Yorkshire – postponed until 2021
Ard Rock Enduro, Yorkshire – postponed until 2021
Bespoked handmade bike show, Bristol – postponed until 2021 (initially put back to October)
British National Enduro Series #1, Glentress – rescheduled for 15-16 August
Crankworx Innsbruck, Austria – rescheduled for 30 September-4 October
Crankworx Whistler, Canada – cancelled
Eurobike trade show, Germany – rescheduled for 24-26 November
London E-Bike Festival – postponed (new dates TBC)
Olympic Games, Tokyo – postponed until 2021
Naughty Northumbrian Enduro – postponed until 2021
Red Bull District Ride, Munich – cancelled
Steel City DH, Sheffield – cancelled
TweedLove bike festival, Scotland – postponed until 2021 (initially rescheduled for 25-27 September)
Welsh Gravity Enduro Series – all events cancelled
We’re gutted that the Fort Bill World Cup – one of our favourite events of the year – has been cancelled. Photo: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool
What effect is COVID-19 having on the bike industry?
Product launches have been delayed, staff have been furloughed and there’s likely to be longer-term disruption to R&D and supply chains, but availability of new bikes and kit hasn’t been too badly affected, and many retailers are reporting excellent sales, especially of lower-end bikes and spares. According to the Bicycle Association of Great Britain, sales of £400-£1,000 bikes more than doubled in April, while overall sales rose by 60 per cent. You can read more on the pandemic’s impact on the bike industry here.
For some brands it’s business as usual, but others have been hit hard. Photo: Steve Behr
How is the situation affecting MBUK?
It’s business as usual here at MBUK – or as close as it can be, in the circumstances. We’re all working from home but we’ve got loads of great content in progress and are working closely with suppliers to make sure that everything continues as usual.
We’re asking subscribers to check that we’ve got the correct email address for them, just in case of disruption. Don’t worry – if we’re unable to deliver your magazine to you, we’ll extend your subscription free of charge, so you won’t lose out. Also, we’ll send you a complimentary digital edition. Full details here.
If you normally buy the mag in the shops, don’t fear – we’ve got a great subscription offer for you with a welcome gift or you can download our digital edition from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
Right, that’s the hard sell over! All that remains to say is that we hope you, your family and friends stay safe at this difficult time, and we look forward to seeing you out on the trails again soon.