Is it Okay to Ride during Coronavirus?

In the end, it's up to you, but stay within the law.

UPDATE Tues 31 March: So, there have been some developments. At the time of writing, leaving your place of residence ‘without reasonable excuse’ was not punishable by law. That has changed. As we move closer to a full lock-down, riding for leisure is effectively off the table. Laws vary slightly from state to state, but any riding must now conform to the definition of ‘essential travel’. No country jaunts. No ‘just popping in’ to visit mates. As I read the new legislation, you can still take your bike to the shops for food or other ‘essential services’. ARR has never – and will never – encourage riders to flout the law. While it may be harder to make a case for riding as ‘exercise’*, going to the shops or place of work may now be your only legitimate option. Above all, be safe, considerate and legal, this is not a time to push the envelope.

* As of today, the National Hotline (run by the Dept of Health 1800 020 080) acknowledged motorcycle riding was ‘allowable exercise’.

(For clarity, the original text below remains unedited)

It is a discussion that has already divided some of the riding community and it is a decision not to be taken lightly whether you decide to lockdown or ride.

The Prime Minister has just announced (as of 20:00 Sunday 29 March) that ‘public gatherings’ are now limited to two persons – down from 10 – and that we should only go out if absolutely necessary.

While ‘non-essential travel’ is strongly discouraged, it is currently not banned (ie enforceable by law). People can still go shopping, kids are still going to school and the trains and buses are running (more or less) as normal. And according to media reports. the measures are not legally binding – yet.

You will already be aware that entertainment venues, clubs, pubs and sit-down restaurants are closed. Many, however, remain open for takeaway service including – quite likely – your favourite biker cafe. 

I took a ride with one mate down to the beautiful Southern Highlands of NSW last week. Sure, it wasn’t as lively as we would remember, but people were still going about their business with a grim determination, giving each other plenty of space and otherwise trying to be as normal as possible.

Waiting at arm's length for our pies at Bundanoon. (RE)
Waiting at arm’s length for our pies at Bundanoon. (RE)

We’ve just been notified that the annual ‘Pie Time’ festival is cancelled for 2020, but I can assure you the bakers and pie makers are not off the gas. Ovens are still turning out great pies and pastries.

One of our favourite piemen, Will Bleeker at the famous Robertson Pie Shop, assures me that as an essential service, bakeries will remain open.

“We’re not be getting the usual 200-plus bikes at the moment, but we’re still baking just like we’ve done here for four generations.”

He’s closed his sit-down section but his award-winning pies (like his Beef Bourguignon and Chicken and Camembert) are still available for takeaway. Yes, we tucked into a couple in the comfort of the car park. 

Will at the Robertson Pie
Will at the Robertson Pie is still baking up a storm (RE)

We visited many of the famous flakey pastry establishments including The Gumnut Patisserie, Bundanoon’s Delilicious, HeatherBrae and the Country Store at Sutton Forest as well as the much-loved Scottish Arms at East Bowral where Luke and Nathan are happy to deliver your meal to the car park in a sturdy takeaway box.

I’m also told that everyone’s favourite stop on the Putty Road, The Grey Gum Cafe, did a respectable trade over the weekend despite the restrictions.

“We had the police pop in a couple of times over the weekend to make sure all was in order,” Kim told me over the phone, “they were happy everyone was being responsible and doing the proper social distancing, so yes, we intend to remain open as long as regulations allow. We’re on 28 acres, so there’s plenty of room to spread out!”

There is a strong argument that responsible, relaxed motorcycle riding is good for mental health and equates to allowable ‘exercise’, especially if you’ve been cooped up for days on end. 

Three’s a crowd. Ride in pairs only. (RE)

And if you do decide to ride, then you must do so responsibly and abide by all current regulations and directions, namely:

  • Limit rides to yourself and maybe a pal. Keeping separation on the road is not an issue, but when you stop for a takeaway coffee or snack, be mindful of the ‘social distancing’ requirements and keep well clear (2m) of each other and other customers. Don’t ‘congregate’. 
  • No pillions unless it’s your at-home partner/wife/husband/pet.
  • Keep rides manageably short, say a couple of hours at most. Use one fuel stop and rest break as a guide.
  • While you may currently cross between NSW and ACT without restriction, all other borders should be regarded as closed.
  • Older riders should take note of the advice, specifically those ‘over 70, those with chronic illnesses aged over 60, and Indigenous people aged over 50 to stay home “to the maximum extent practical” ‘.
  • Of course, if you are unwell or suspect you may have Covid-19 symptoms, you should not ride or go outside, but follow reporting procedures
  • And, yes you’ve heard this numerous times, but ALWAYS wash your hands at every opportunity, especially after stopping for a ‘break’ or refuelling. Carry personal hand sanitiser and use it liberally. Keep gloves on when handling fuel pumps.

Even if you decide to just go shopping at your local motorcycle dealership, most stores remain open and there will always be something on the ‘specials’ rack.

Now may be the perfect time to get that overdue service or fit that accessory you’ve been dreaming of.