As soon as the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak started transforming into closed borders, recommendations to stay at home, and even city- and country-wide lockdowns, motorcycle riders everywhere started thinking:

Can I still ride my motorcycle during the coronavirus pandemic??

Riding motorcycles during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic crisis
Roads are empty during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Is it time to ride a motorcycle? (Photo taken months ago... just early in the morning)

Reasons why you may want to ride a motorcycle during the COVID-19 Pandemic

There are good reasons to think why you can ride a motorcycle during the pandemic.

  1. You can easily practise "social distancing" on a motorcycle. As long as you're not travelling anywhere (or with anywhere), only you have contact with your gear and your bike. You can also pack gloves and disinfectant for when you need to gas up.
  2. The roads are basically empty. This means it's a lot safer to ride motorcycles because the main danger of oncoming traffic isn't there. Plus, riding is a lot more fun!
  3. Pretty much nothing will stop you riding. Nobody gets into riding motorcycles for fun because they like rules and doing what they're told.

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That last reason makes this entire article a waste of time. As someone just wrote in to tell me: "The lamest article ever, why not you start (sic) wasting bandwidth with this dribble. I could say alot (sic) more but your moronic advice is like asking people to quit eating."

But here are three reasons why you shouldn't ride during the coronavirus pandemic. Or at least, take it easy with the wheelies.

In this article...

And if you have to ride, maybe stay safer than you usually do.

Read on for more details...

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Reason 1: Hospitals are Strained

I'm not fatalistic, but I'm pragmatic. I dress like I might crash, because I have and I may again. I'm not a god. Animals jump out at me, slicks and gravel appear out of nowhere, and machinery fails.

ICU during the coronavirus pandemic - not a great time to be motorcycling if you might crash
ICU during the coronavirus pandemic (source: Washington Post). Do you want to arrive in this hospital with your gravel rash-covered buttocks?

So if I might crash, then I might need a hospital. And right now, hospital staff in many parts of the world are dealing with a pandemic the proportions of which they never expected.

This is particularly the case in the US, where health systems have been strained for a long time anyway.

So this means if you crash and need to go to a hospital:

  1. You take away resources that others need: Your ambulance and hospital bed would be taking away from the one or several other Coronavirus patients who could have been treated in that time.
  2. You might get sick (and die): You'll be spending time in a hospital where lots of Coronavirus patients come, greatly increasing your own exposure to the virus.

On top of that, there's the cumulative effect of diminishing resources — the opposite of "flattening the curve". The fewer the resources, the fewer are treated, and the higher the mortality rate creeps.

Since motorcycling is (in this case) a discretionary activity — don't do it.

(OR of course, wear ample gear, and don't go too fast. I say this knowing — wearing gear and going slow isn't something most people are willing to do! Most people don't put on full suits and ALSO stay under 60 mph/100 km/h...)

Reason 2: Emergency Services are Everywhere

In cities with locked borders, curfews, or even full closures, police and emergency services are fully occupied trying to keep everyone at home.

Police blockade during Cartagena coronavirus lockdown - should you ride motorcycles in these conditions?
Police blockade in Cartagena during lockdown

They've set up checkpoints at intersections, patrol major highways to make sure that only emergency traffic is proceeding, and are stopping people for any reason they want.

In states with lockdowns like California, this means cops are patrolling the major highways. Do you really want to get pulled over and be given a ticket — and maybe face jail time — just for a joyride?

On top of that, emergency services are already strained. Which means that if you have an emergency of your own you can't expect a reasonable response time.

Reason 3: You could be doing something better with your time

For motorcycle nuts, this may be blasphemy. What possible better thing could there be to do than to ride a motorcycle?

In fact, I half expect people to just stop reading this article. How obsessed could I be with motorcycles if I'm recommending NOT riding them?

(I'm quite obsessed. I spend most of my spare non-riding time thinking about them, shopping, writing, riding. So don't get me wrong, I'm all for riding, which is why I even started going down this line of thinking.)

But in a time of crisis, there are better things to be doing than riding a motorcycle. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Donate your gas money to someone who needs food. Even if this is just $20, it might be much more than they have. In much of the world, people are going to go hungry because of the pandemic, even if they don't get sick.

2. Doing maintenance or even a rebuild. You know that valve job you were putting off on the Ducati? Or even a carburettor clean on your ancient Honda? Just like many do this during the winter months, now's a perfect time to get out the tools — even if it's for the first time.

Try disassembling your motorcycle during the Coronavirus pandemic
A Ninja 650 I was working on a couple of months ago

3. Go buy groceries for the elderly who put themselves at great risk by going to supermarkets. Do this on your motorcycle. Motorcyclists love to ride for charitable causes, and this can be one of them.

Hey! That last one's a good use of riding a motorcycle. Go do this :)

If you have to ride... stay safe

Again, if you do ride now — and look, some of us do (or have to, to get to work, or to do emergency services, or you'll pry my bike from my cold, dead hands) — in most places, nobody will stop you. But the pandemic maybe isn't the best time to squid it up doing wheelies up and down the highway.

squid motorcyclist doing wheelies in shorts down highway
Maybe not the time to squid it up. (Photo: Reddit)

I know, don't tell a rider what to do. So many people ride because it embodies freedom.

But being extra cautious now is just an idea that might help other people not die — and help you not die, too.