If the symptoms are above the neck only, you can ride. A little bit of a scratch in your throat, runny nose, clogged head. You can hop on a bike with those. However, you should still take it easy. No intervals. A light ride will help to push white blood cells into circulation where they can seek out and destroy invading bacteria and viruses. It can also open your nasal areas thanks to epinephrine and provide temporary relief.
If the symptoms are below the neck, you should definitely rest. We mean a hard cough, pressure on the chest and so on. Riding would actually harm your recovery. It makes more sense to stay at home for a few days than to be forced to stay at home for weeks later on. If you have a combination of symptoms above the neck and below the neck, stay at home as well.
Interesting way to prevent a cold is to keep training during winter. A high level of fitness offers extra protection as proved in a 2015 study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. The researchers found that after a 30-minute ride, a group of fit cyclists had higher levels of salivary antimicrobial proteins (sAMPs) than their less-fit peers after the same ride. The proteins ward off illnesses but it takes consistent physical activity to have such high levels of germ fighters.
So, ready to go out for a “prevention ride”? Just remember to cover up your head and neck. Drink up to fight dehydration and sleep a solid 8 hours a day. These few simple rules should see you arriving healthy into spring.