Cycling during lockdown: Group rides return from March 29 with restrictions in place

Here are the changes you need to know as rules are updated on Monday in England

(Image credit: chris catchpole)

The rules and restrictions affecting cyclists in England are due to change on March 29, as the government eases the country out of the coronavirus lockdown.

Cycling organisations have been sharing their guidance as small group rides will be allowed from March 29, with some restrictions still in place.

We've put together all the key dates and information you need so you can keep riding without breaching the rules as they change.

In January, the whole of England went back into a national lockdown as authorities tried to slow the spread of Covid-19, with the devolved Scottish government also implementing their own lockdown.

But in late February, Prime Minister Boris Johnson shared the government’s ‘roadmap’ for cautiously easing the country out of the lockdown, as the number of coronavirus cases has continued to fall and the vaccination process begins to take effect.

On March 9, national governing body British Cycling and Cycling UK released their own pathway out of lockdown for cyclists and shared the key dates for riders.

Group rides allowed from March 29

Charity Cycling UK has released the latest update to its group riding guidance as the rules change in England on Monday, March 29.

From Monday, groups of up to six people or two households will be allowed to meet outside.

Organised sport can also restart from March 29 and will not be subject to the rule of six, which means that group rides of more than six will be allowed, according to Cycling UK.

But Cycling UK recommends that group rides are restricted to an absolute maximum of 15 people and that people should use common sense when considering numbers for a group ride.

The Cycling UK guidance says: "The government’s roadmap out of lockdown document sets out proposed relaxations to restrictions in England on or after 29 March. These include allowing groups of up to six people, or two households, to meet outdoors.

"The roadmap also indicates (para 102) that organised sports can restart, which will not be subject to the rule of six gathering limit, but should be compliant with guidance issued by national governing bodies. Sport England has subsequently published guidance confirming that organised sport and activity includes group cycle rides, so group rides of more than six are allowed from 29 March onwards under the organised sport and activity exemption."

"Cycling UK’s general advice to clubs pre-Covid was to restrict group rides to a maximum of 15 people, however currently we are advising that this should be treated as an absolute maximum for group rides, not a target number, and that people should exercise some discretion and common sense depending on where they are riding."

Cycling roadmap out of lockdown

British Cycling has been in contact with Sport England and other national governing bodies to discuss the return to sanctioned activities and events.

While there are still a number of details to confirm with Sport England and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport including travel restrictions, indoor activity, spectating and facility use, the governing body has shared some important dates as the restrictions are eased.

Step one

From March 8

  • Under-18 and school sport as part of education provision and wraparound care.
  • People can leave their house to cycle alone, within their household bubble or with one other person.

From March 29

  • British Cycling-affiliated Club rides or recreation programme rides for up to 15 participants (or limited to relevant leader/rider ratios), on highways, trails and tracks.
  • Outdoor coach-led club training and coaching for all ages. Numbers to be determined by a coach’s qualification.
  • Indoor coaching for under-18s and disabled people, subject to facility access.
  • Outdoor club, local and regional competition and challenge events, such as sportives, across a range of disciplines. This will be subject to guidance set out in The Way Forward.
  • Indoor regional competition for under-18s and disabled people, subject to facility access.
  • Private provision of education courses limited to six people, delivered outdoors.

Step two

From April 12 at the earliest 

  • Outdoor regional and some national competition and challenge events across a range of disciplines, including pilots for road racing and downhill mountain bike events with uplift.
  • British Cycling education course delivery, subject to facility access.

Step three

From May 17 at the earliest 

  • Recreational group and club riding in any number (or limited to relevant leader/rider ratios), on highways, trails and tracks.
  • Indoor and outdoor coach-led club training and coaching for all ages.
  • Indoor regional and national competition all ages.

Step four

From June 21 at the earliest 

  • All activity to resume.
  • Restrictions at this stage TBC.

British Cycling’s delivery director Dani Every said: “We are working hard now, as we have been throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, to enable a safe and responsible return to sanctioned activities as soon as we are able, while also looking after the health and wellbeing of all involved.

“Like everybody in the cycling community, we are excited to get back to racing, riding with friends, coaching sessions and challenging ourselves, and fortunately the firm foundations we laid in developing The Way Forward guidance and practical experience of delivering events and activities last year means that we are in a strong position looking ahead to the spring and summer.

“While we know that certain challenges remain, particularly in securing local permissions for road racing and Covid-secure uplift facilities in downhill mountain biking, we are working hard alongside our discipline commissions and other key stakeholder groups to find solutions. We remain confident that we can reintroduce these events over the coming months, and hope to deliver test events at Steps two and three of the roadmap, planning for which is currently well underway.

“We thank the government for their support in enabling certain cycling activities to continue during the pandemic, by maintaining the elite sport exemption and enabling individuals, households and pairs to ride together, and now look forward to beginning the process of rebuilding the grassroots of our sport.”

National-level events

Due to the remaining uncertainty race organisers face, British Cycling has announced the cancellation of a number of national level events in April, May and June, including BMX events, downhill and cross country races, the National Masters Track Championships in Newport, the National Track Series and the cycle speedway elite GP round one.

Group riding

From March 29, British Cycling said formally organised outdoor sport and physical activity will return and will not be subject to the ‘rule of six’.

This means BC sanction club and recreation programme rides will be able to take place in groups of up to 15 people.

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Riders will be required to maintain a ‘one metre plus’ distance from others, and follow other relevant guidance on hygiene, self-sufficiency and equipment sharing.

Clubs and groups which do not feel confident or comfortable riding in groups of 15 at this stage are encouraged to set a lower limit.

Cycling Time Trials

Under the roadmap for England, time trials organised by Cycling Time Trials (CTT) are set to return from March 29.

But currently Scotland and Wales still have restrictions on organised outdoor activities so time trials will not yet be returning in the devolved nations.

Current Coronavirus rules for cyclists in England

With the government readopting its stay at home message, the latest rules echo the first lockdown in March 2020, with the emphasis on keeping people at home to try and stop the escalating Covid-19 numbers. People should only leave home for essential shopping trips, to go to work if they can’t work from home, and for outdoor exercise (among other exceptions).

Only essential shops will remain open, however that does include cycling shops, meaning you’ll be able to take your bike for urgent repairs if you need to.

The government continues to encourage people to take outdoor exercise, so riding your bike is still very much allowed. The rules state that you should stay local and that you should only take exercise once per day. You can exercise with those in your household or with your support bubble (if you’re eligible for one).

The key difference to the March 2020 lockdown is that you can continue to exercise with one other person from outside of your household, however the government says you should keep two metres apart from anyone not in your household at all times. Again, you can only do this once per day.

All group rides and organised cycling activities are cancelled and you should not attend or organise rides with more than one person from outside of your household.

Organised outdoor sport for disabled people is allowed to continue.

Coronavirus rules for cyclists in Scotland

The lockdown rules in Scotland, which came into effect on Jan 5, are similar to those in England.

You can leave your home only for exceptional reasons stated by the government, but this does include going outside to take exercise once per day.

Like those in England, cyclists (and their household) in Scotland can meet up with one person from another household to take part in exercise. Unlike in England though, people in Scotland can still meet one person from another household for social interaction outdoors with proper social distancing. Another difference in the rules is that those riding in Scotland can only ride up to five miles from the boundary of their local authority area. Rides must start and finish in the same place.

Organised sport for under-12s can still go ahead if it complies with workplace and socialising guidance and sport-specific guidance from Sport Scotland.

 Coronavirus rules for cyclists in Wales

Wales has been under tighter restrictions for some time now, moving to alert level four before Christmas.

The rules here are crucially different from those that have been introduced in England and Scotland. There are very limited reasons for leaving home, but you can still take in exercise once per day and there is no limit on how long the activity is or how far you go. However, only those with specific health or mobility issues are permitted to drive to a different area to exercise. The Welsh government does advise those exercising to stay as local as possible.

The main difference in the rules in Wales is that there are no circumstances in which you can exercise with someone from another household, so all rides must be solo or with members of your household or support bubble (if you are eligible for one).

Coronavirus rules for cyclists in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland tightened its rules on Boxing Day for a six week period, with even tighter rules up to January 2.

The key point for cyclists is that they should only ride alone or with members of their household or support bubble. There should be no mixing of households during exercise and one to one training sessions and group activities are banned.

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There is no specific guidance on where or how long you should exercise for, however the rules state you should avoid all unnecessary travel.

 What has British Cycling said?

British Cycling outlined the following points in relation to riding safely during the latest lockdown:

  • You should only ride alone, with your household/support bubble or one other person.
  • Stay local, ride within your limits and ensure you are self-sufficient.
  • Leave the house to exercise only once each day.
  • Keep a safe distance from others and practice good respiratory hygiene (i.e., no spitting, use a tissue).
  • You can only leave your home to exercise, and not for the purpose of leisure (such as a picnic or a coffee break).
  • If you need to travel, such as to work or go to the shops, you are encouraged to cycle where possible.

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.