Mountain Biking During the Covid-19 Quarantine in Italy

Here's what it looks like to mountain bike in Italy today, under a nationwide quarantine.
Photo: Rupert Fowler

I was attending a press camp in Tuscany at the end of February, and the British MTB brands and journalists were all summoned home by their respective bosses. The UK government had issued a decree stating that anyone who had traveled north of Pisa in Italy would have to self-quarantine for two weeks. We didn’t know when that seemingly haphazard Pisa line might be extended south, and no one wanted to be stuck away from home. At the time those measures felt a bit extreme, though they’re lenient compared to the containment laws we’re experiencing today.

I wanted to share what the quarantine means for those of us who live in Italy in case readers know someone here, or have the sense that their nation’s government will soon be closing borders to contain this nasty virus.

First off, though there are 9,172 very sick people in Italy as I write this, and elderly folks are dying from the virus at a rapid rate, there a few positive points to this tragic interruption in our humming routines. I don’t mean to minimize the hardship that this virus has caused thousands of people, but I want to focus on a few other points since mainstream news outlets are doing a fine job of covering the disease itself.

The travel ban means that the air is cleaner than ever, and more people are getting out to walk around town since they can’t go to work. Due to inversion and towering mountains that block the flow of toxic smog, the air quality in northern Italy can sometimes be worse than that of some industrial cities in China. For now, we can see the Alps clearly, which otherwise only happens on a blustery day.

Another shining spot in this chaos is that a lot of people are off work for the rest of the month and are taking time to check in on neighbors or family members who might not be able to get out of their homes or who have compromised immune systems that keep them housebound. All schools are closed, and students are home spending time with their families. It’s a great time to help elderly neighbors and ask if they need anything from the grocery store. Despite the fact that we’ve been ordered to stay one meter away from each other, we may just gain some community connections during the quarantine.

So, what is the quarantine decree, and can I still go mountain biking? First off, under the national quarantine decree, all travel between regions and out of the country is banned. Funerals, weddings, church services, sporting events, plays, and other social gatherings are canceled through the beginning of April. We can legally venture outside and can exercise as usual, as long as our chosen sport doesn’t require that we come within one meter of anyone else. No touching. It’s like a kindergarten playground, with potentially dire consequences.

The spread of Covid-19 (aka Coronavirus) in Italy is serious, and by no means do I want to be cavalier or self-righteous about riding my bike during the quarantine. The government said that based on the current containment measures it is okay to go out and exercise, and I am following their protocol. It’s a rare day that I value following the rules, but I see the severity of the situation herein. I also don’t want to get sick or be part of this rapidly expanding problem. I went for a ninety-minute spin this afternoon and saw a lot of other people out cautiously and anxiously enjoying some fresh air.

I definitely won’t be pushing the limit while riding over the next few weeks. Our hospitals are overcrowded, and the last thing the medical staff needs is my broken clavicle in their emergency room. Furthermore, if I go to the hospital there is a fairly good chance I will leave with a virus to fight off. No thanks.

This is what the quarantine looks like from my stoop today. The laws could change drastically if the rising numbers of infected patients and deaths don’t ebb soon. Let’s hope these quarantine measures that have been somewhat effective in China will help here as well.

Safe shredding y’all!