Twin Cities Social Distancing Ride Planning

Minnesota's Stay at Home Order has all of us experiencing a little cabin fever and riding a bike is a great way to cure it.  Social distancing is key right now to help flatten the Covid-19 curve but since implementation of the order some Twin Cities trails have become quite crowded.  For those not comfortable with road cycling, bike trails are a great alternative but with fewer people driving I've found taking to the road is more enjoyable now and definitely helps avoid getting too close to others.  Lately I've been using a mix of road and trails, low traffic routes, times of day and the weather to practice social distancing riding with great success.  Another tactic I have been using for some time is to ride from home.  This has helped me discover the bike infrastructure in my neighborhood and beyond.  In this post I will introduce you to some ways to find areas to explore and plan rides to help you avoid the crowds and still put on plenty of miles.

Image Credit: Bikeverywhere

Doug Shidell has been producing the most up-to-date, accurate and readable cycling maps since 1984.  His Twin Cities Bike Map has been a staple for cyclists navigating the Twin Cities for just as long.  It is available in tear and water resistant print form from Bikeverywhere and Twin Cities bike shops for $13.50.  For those that prefer to carry the map on their phone there is a mobile version that works with the free Avenza Maps app for both IOS and Android.  The mobile version of the Twin Cities Bike Map sells for $5.99 and covers 1,000 square miles of bike trails and bike friendly roads.  It works with the GPS in your phone to show you exactly where you are on the map so you can never get lost.  Pick up a print map today or download the mobile version and start exploring the roads and trails in your neighborhood.

Google Maps
Google Maps for mobile has been a long time favorite of mine for getting from point A to point B while cycling.  Using Bicycling Directions in the app, it will help you get to where you want to go by offering several route options showing mileage, elevation gain/loss and estimated travel time.  I have used this many times over the years to find the fastest or best bicycle friendly route to get home when I'm out on one of my ramblings.  

By visiting Google Maps on the web you can plan out a destination ride and send the route directly to your phone to use in the Google Maps app.  A pair of earbuds or a Bluetooth speaker to get turn-by-turn audio directions in real time can be used so you don't have to keep looking at your phone.  Google Maps is a free app that is available for both IOS and Android.


I've been a gravel advocate for a very long time and these low traffic roads are perfect for practicing social distancing cycling.  With the help of Gravelmap.com you'll see that you don't have to travel far to find gravel roads and routes close to and within the metro area. 

In addition to the changing scenery you'll find that in most cases you have the road all to yourself making gravel a great choice to avoid people out exercising.  Search the map for gravel roads and routes near you today and go on a bike adventure away from everyone.


Off peak times are perfect for getting out and riding to avoid crowds.  One of my favorite times is early in the morning when everyone is still in bed.  Pedestrian and cycle traffic is very light or non-existent which makes it very easy to practice social distancing.

My other favorite time is just after dark.  By now most others have already got in their walk, ride or errands done and are back home for the night leaving the trails and roads empty.  I can ride areas that are normally busy during daylight hours without having to come near or pass others.

Being a year round cyclist I've ridden in every type of weather and just because conditions aren't ideal doesn't mean it won't be an enjoyable ride.  Staying warm and dry during the spring months is pretty easy with the proper ride apparel for the conditions.  Get out there and ride during the rain, most everyone else will be inside.  Windy days are fun when the gusts are at your back and they add some resistance training to make you a stronger cyclist when they're not.  It's these times when the weather isn't as favorable that there are few people out recreating on the paths and trails.

Housing neighborhoods are another good place to ride to practice social distancing.  Depending on the proximity to main roads and trunk-ways, they can be low traffic making them a good area to do some road riding for those not comfortable with riding on higher traffic roadways.

When I want to get in a road ride but avoid the hustle and bustle of the city I will venture out to the lower traffic country roads near my home.  I've been riding these roads for years and have my favorite routes and roads.  If you are unfamiliar with country roads in your area, plan out a route using Google Maps in the satellite mode.  By zooming in you will be able to tell if the roads you want to ride have a wide shoulder or no shoulder at all.

If I'm riding during hours of the day that tend to see more trail users I will avoid the high traffic areas and opt for those that don't get used as much.  If you are familiar with the trail systems near your home, chances are you already know which ones to steer clear of during peak times. 

Make yourself visible to drivers, other cyclists and pedestrians.  Drivers may not be used to seeing cyclists as much this time of year and with more people out biking during the Stay At Home Order we are currently under in Minnesota there will be a lot more of them to watch out for.  Use daytime running lights front and rear and position yourself to be seen by motorists and others.

There are plenty of opportunities to ride bikes and avoid higher pedestrian and cyclist trafficked areas to practice social distancing.  By using some of the resources and tips mentioned above you should be able to put on some serious solo mileage that will lift your spirits and put a smile on your face.  Now get out there and ride your bike.

Central Lakes Trail
The Central Lakes Trail is a 55-mile trail 
that runs through the heart of 
west-central Minnesota 
from Osakis to Fergus Falls
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