March 2021 Top Talk
Masks 101 for Cyclists. Wearing masks and maintaining interpersonal separation are the two essential elements of reducing the spread of SARS-CoV-2, or “COVID-19.” I’ve observed both proper and improper use of masks, including dangling them from one ear. One of our sister bike clubs has required the wearing of masks while riding. There seems to be a lot of uncertainty about when, and how, masks should be worn. As someone who has worn surgical masks professionally for over thirty years, I’d like to take this opportunity to share some principles.
Masks are meant to keep you from contaminating others with your respiratory secretions. If you have COVID, droplets that form when you sneeze or cough can contain enough viruses to infect other people.
Masks are not designed to protect you fully. If someone coughs or sneezes on you, your mouth and nose will be covered, but your eyes, face, and your coat or jersey will be contaminated. Your best defense is . . . ✎ distancing.
Masks need to be clean and dry to be effective. If your mask is damp, anything that comes in contact with either surface will be transported to the other side by moisture, and that moisture will be in contact with your nose and lips. This is especially relevant to cyclists, as masks will almost instantly become soaking wet during exercise in cold weather.
Masks need to be worn and handled properly. How often have you seen noses protruding over the top of masks, or people adjusting their masks by grasping them in front of their nose or mouth? The only safe place to touch a mask is on its strings. Otherwise, whatever is on your mask will be on your fingers, and subsequently on everything, and everyone, that you touch.
What should riders do to protect themselves and others? Stay home if you’re ill, coughing, or sneezing, even if it’s due to allergies. Stay away from other people who are ill, coughing, or sneezing. Don’t spit or blow your nose while riding unless you’re behind all other riders. If you must venture within six feet of other people, wear a clean, dry mask. Never touch the front of your mask. Avoid physically contacting people or objects that might be contaminated with droplets, and if you do, wash immediately (definitely before eating or touching your face). And do not wear a mask that’s moist or wet, which could increase the risk of Coronavirus transmission. Remember, cycling is considered a safe outdoor activity as long as riders are acting responsibly.
Be safe, considerate of others, and enjoy the road!
Doug Myers, President