During my time as a full-time athlete I developed a love-hate relationship with the road when training. On the one hand the road was where I spent the majority of my day, cycling, running, and rollerskiing; I was thankful for the smooth pavement and stretches of quiet road that I sought after while training. On the other hand it was nearly impossible to avoid the obstacles that the road can throw at you, fast cars, rough pavement, cracks, frost heaves, construction, steep downhills, blind corners, the list is endless. These obstacles have to be expected each time your wheels hit the road. Over the years I have also experienced the unexpected while on the road. I have been yelled at, swerved at, spit on, run off the road by crazy drivers, hit by a car, had a bottle rocket touched off at me out a car window, a wad of chewing tobacco thrown on my face, and even had a gun pulled on me once. This list of the unexpected is also endless. With all this being said, I am still alive and thankful for everyday that I am able to get out onto the road for a workout. Below is my top five list of safety tips for surviving your next adventure on the bike.
#5 – Know the terrain that you are about to ride.
This may seem obvious, but the knowledge about upcoming road hazards and obstacles can help eliminate needless accidents. Intersections, construction, blind corners, and steep hills, can all be managed better with prior knowledge. If you are like me and you like nothing better than heading out in the morning with a sense of adventure and a bike, ask your local bike shop first about any potential hazards in the area or roads to avoid.
#4 – Ride on the right, close to the shoulder, and single file.
While it is every cyclists right to use the roadways, cars are bigger and can go much faster. This is a simple rule to follow, do not tempt fate by taking up too much road or riding two abreast on a busy roadway.
#3 – Carry a cell phone. This is a no-brainer.
#2 – Check your gear before you ride.
This is a simple task that can help you avoid an accident or at least an afternoon of aggravation. Take the time to check your tires, tire air pressure, brakes, and chain and crank. It is also helpful to carry a small tool kit, spare tube, and air. These things can be purchased at your local bike shop.
#1 – Wear a helmet.
The reason this tip is number one is because it is the number one way to protect yourself in case of an accident while on a bike. I learned quickly as a youngster that skin is dispensable, your head is not. My head has hit the pavement more times than I would like to recount, and I am alive to tell about it simply because I had the sense to wear a helmet. There are many options for helmets and a big price range. The most important thing to look for is the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) stamp of approval. Any helmet with this stamp will protect your head. If you damage your helmet in any way, replace it immediately.
Keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list. The guys at Bike, Board, and Ski in Presque Isle have a terrific pamphlet called “Cycling Gear and Safety Reminders” that covers bike safety in much more detail. Stop by the shop and grab one. These guys are very knowledgeable and can talk you through all the bike safety points that you will need to know.
While there are hazards that need to be avoided while riding a bike, cycling does not need to be scary. Along with your sense of adventure, the spirit of bike safety simply needs to be lived while out riding your bike. Matt and