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Do You Need To Wear A Mask While Cycling

man standing next to his bike wearing shorts, hoodie and a face mask

Thats the question, do you need to wear a mask while cycling. The world will probably slightly change due to the world wide effects of covid 19, remember there still is no cure. What if covid never happened. do you need to where a mask while cycling. I know I get it, part of the joy of cycling is the freedom and independence it brings. The connection to the outdoors, the countryside and the beauty of your surroundings as you glide through the wind on your pride and joy. However there is also the need to protect you and your health.

I am going to answer the question of do you need to wear a mask while cycling with, it depends. Yes it depends on your environment where you are going to be cycling, each scenario brings it own risk. Off roading probably presents the least risk to our lungs and internal defence system, that is unless you suffer from hay fever so that only applies usually in the summer months. The countryside presents the next easiest low risk from pollution, you just have to be careful of the boy racers whizzing around the corners not giving you enough room as they pass you at 60mph +.

Masks For Cycling and Covid 19 In The UK

There has been constant debates on if wear a mask will reduce the spread of COVID 19. I think we can agree that wearing a mask while cycling will not stop you getting infected. Especially a mask just made from material without any active filters built in. Wearing a mask is more about you NOT spreading germs, disease or COVID 19. Its to prevent the  aerosols coming out of your nose and mouth from being projected at other people.

Research suggests that cotton is the best fabric for a mask, and having more than one layer of fabric makes a mask more effective for everyday use. However for exercising, you’ll be best of using a face covering that isn’t so thick that you can’t easily breathe through it. Of course you are going to need multiple masks because once worn you need to wash it every time. Not washing between wears actually increases the chance of bacteria and disease to grown and flourish. Wear once, Wash once.

Time And A Place For Wearing A Face Mask When Cycling

The common excuse for not wearing a mask while excersing is that it’s more difficult to breath. Once there is a cure to COVID 19 then wearing a face mask will be a choice based on your personal preference and how you digest the information below. In the current climate we are being asked and expected to wear a mask in more and more public places. So picking your training routes and times is  becoming more  important if you don’t want to wear a mask.

Once it was the canal side to make sure that you are out and getting your physical exercise and seen by everyone. Of course there is the weekend destinations that all cyclist head too, to meet up and be seen with the latest cycling gear or a new bike. For today we have to think a little differently, if you do meet up when you stop pull up that mask. Reduce the risk of exposure too you and others, break the chan of the pandemic. I prefer the full face mask so its easier to pull of and wear it around your neck when in use. Then its just a simple pull up and hook it around the ears then it is on in a flash. Cycle at different times to discover when its less busy, just post more on social media so everyone still knows how healthy you are.

Tips For When To Wear A Mask During Covid19

  1. If you are out cycling but stop to buy refreshments from a shop you have to wear a mask inside the shop
  2. We you do stop to talk to your cycling circle of friends you should observe the 1 meter rule. If your respiratory rate its up from cycling hard I suggest 2 meters is safer until your breathing regulates.
  3. Do not cycle in large groups
  4. If you do cycle with someone stay out of there slip stream to avoid the droplets from treating or sneezing
    1. A study din Belgium suggest that released droplets can effect people from 10 meters away as the ride into the space you have just contaminated
  5. If you have to open a shop door place you face mask on first, do not touch your mask again until you have sanitised your hands, same for access for  gates on cross country routes.
  6. Always carry your own hand sanitiser.
Cyclist wearing a mask for Urban Environments

Mask For Urban Cycling UK

Again it depends on how urban the environment actually is the, the bigger the settlement (urban area) the greater the risks grows.

Face Masks For Cycling Off Road

This is purely a personal choice because the air quality should be pretty good to start with. The only time I would wear a mask would be when the tracks are dry and dusty. Its not a problem if you are cycling alone but if you are with a group of people and at the back you will literally eating dust.

Mask For Cycling On Country Roads

Again this is pretty low risk even with some traffic on the road. The trees and the rest of the living foliage with actually help to absorb fumes and toxins from the atmosphere. The only downside to cycling in the countryside is if you are travelling to a tourist destination. Once there they can become quite busy and a build up of traffic causing queues, congestion and standing cars produce a lot of fumes . So to be safe take a cycling mask with you as you never know what situations may Arise

Face Mask For Cycling In Towns And Cities

Most of us presume that the worst thing for is the toxins from the cars exhaust The diesel  four main pollutant emissions from diesel engines (carbon monoxide-CO, hydrocarbons-HC, particulate matter-PM and nitrogen oxides-NOx) (source)

Petrol engines, Carbon dioxide (CO2) – CO2 is a greenhouse gas, thought to be a major contributing factor to climate change. Although technically non-toxic, excessive volumes contribute towards ocean acidification. Carbon monoxide (CO) very toxic and is caused by unburnt fuel which is becoming less common due to efficient engines. Hydrocarbons (HC) are also produced by unburnt fuel. Nitrogen oxides (NOx), Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and Benzene (C6H6) which is a carcinogenic substance which is harmful to us mere mortals if enough is inhaled. We can see these as a visible threat because of the smoke coming out of the exhaust so naturally we see it as a danger to our health.

The Unseen Pollutants

The things that we cannot see we naturally presume that there is no risk to our health and well-being. Microplastics are a real threat to our health and we cant even see them, but what are microplastics and where do they come from. Microplastics are plastic pieces that measure less than five millimetres.

The tyres on all our vehicles are responsible for a lot of microplastics in the air, yes even your bike produces it as well but not at the rate of mechanical vehicles. Tyre abrasion is responsible for creating up to 68,000 tonnes of microplastic pollution each year, between 7,000 and 19,000 of which end up in UK waterways. So the question do you need to wear a mask while cycling ? remember the microplastics when you are cycling through traffic. Would you believe that the paint used for road markings even produces microplastics. As the sun and weather erode the paint over time it releases micro-plastics. Also external paint is a contributor. Inclement weather and natural flaking means that the paint used on buildings and road markings can contribute between 1,400 and 3,700 tonnes of microplastic pollution to our waterways every year.

More Reason To Wear A Mask When Cycling

Everyone is hoping that when all cars are electric it will help to keep the air quality better. However thats not going to happen as we have already mentioned about the vehicles tyres cause pollution. The other unseen pollutant is brake dust and clutch dust. These tiny particles measure less than 2.5 thousandths of a millimetre across, less than one thirtieth the width of a human hair. They can reach deep into the heart, lungs and bloodstream causing asthma, heart disease, lung cancer and strokes.

Do you still need ask the question do you need to wear a mask while cycling ?Well if your cycling in a town or city II would highly recommend that you do wear a mask for cycling. The other reason to wear a mask is also to stop you transmitting any airborne disease. With physical activity the heart rate goes up and pumps the blood faster, you breath heaver in order to get the oxygen in quicker. As you expel air the 2m social distancing isn’t much good, it would be more like 3m to keep people safe around you.

What to look out for when buying a bike mask?

When purchasing a bike mask make sure that it carries a N95 or N99 certification. These ratings  show the percentage of air particulate matter that can get through the mask. So its 95% or 99% the N99 includes tiny PM2.5 particles which are the most dangerous as they can remain in the lungs for a while.

How do I get the right size bike mask?

It’s important to pick up an anti-pollution mask that fits correctly; it’ll allow unfiltered air to pass through the sides if it’s gaping off your face. Bike masks that are too tight will restrict breathing and feel uncomfortable during cycling. Luckily, most manufacturers offer a sizing guide to help you get the right fit.

Types Of Masks For Cycling

You need to consider what type of mask you are getting for cycling now you realise the dangers out there. The practicality of the mask, the cost of the mask and for some how cool you will look when wearing one.

Respro® Ultralight Mask Black

The Respro Ultralight Mask delivers on everything we’d expect from a high quality bike mask. It uses N99-rated filtering technology and replaceable Hepa Sport 2.5 PM filters to block out pollutants, allergens and even bad smells.

This mask has been raved about on other cycling publications but after reading the reviews on Amazon I am not so sure now. The biggest complaint is that it does not fit well, the strap at the back isn’t high enough and it slides down once you perform any physical activity. Also complaints about excessive condensation, they are currently out of stock at amazon. Priced at around £40 so not cheap.

1 Pack Anti-pollution Cycling Face Cover with 6 Pack Activated Carbon Filters Dust Proof Washable Sports Outdoor Mouth Face Guard

Some good reviews on Amazon about the mask, 50% of the reviews were 5 star reviews so thats pretty good.. The most common complaint on ALL masks is the quality of the items. Is this down to quality control because at the moment companies cannot make the quick enough. Lots and lots of the masks are just out of stock. When travel opens up again and you decide to travel with your bike make sure you get our bike box for your flight.

Cycling Pollution Mask

Now it depends how seriously you want to take your mask as the everyday face coverings doo not stop pollutants. If you want medical grade face masks then you need to have the N95 or the N99. The labels N95 and N99 are used in the UK to describe the amount of particles that are filtered – 95 per cent and 99 per cent respectively.

Will an anti-pollution cycling mask protect me from the coronavirus?

The UK Government has advised members of the public to wear a face covering when travelling on public transport or going to the shops to avoid the spread of coronavirus. While these anti-pollution masks might offer some level of protection, it’s important to note that as they are not designed for medical uses, and they are not regulated in the same way, so protection levels can vary.

How do I get the right fit for my bike pollution mask?

It’s essential that your mask fits correctly. If it’s too loose, polluted air will slip in at the sides; too tight and it will restrict your breathing. Look for a sizing chart before you buy, so you can ensure you’re ordering the correct size.

There are also a few different ways to attach the thing to your head: some masks use ear loops, while others have behind-the-head straps. Which you choose is largely down to your comfort preference. The majority of masks have a bendy metal strip in the nose bridge to ensure a good fit above and around your nose.

Is it better to get a mask with replaceable filters or valves, or neither?

Certain manufacturers make masks with replaceable filters or valves; other models have built-in filters, which means you have to replace the whole thing once it’s reached the end of its lifespan. It’s up to you which you go for: disposable masks may not be quite so environmentally friendly, but they’re simpler and each one should last between six months and a year, depending on the frequency of use and pollution levels.

Where To Cycle

Hopefully the covid 19 will not effect our lives forever and we can dream of better days to come with the best cycling destinations in Europe. Also read our beginners guide to owning a cycle.

Checking in a Shokbox Bike Travel case