Bicycling has taken off in recent years. Lance Armstrong’s successes in the Tour de France, the worlds’ premiere bicycle race, though ultimately tainted, enticed millions of people to get interested in riding and that trend has continued. But if you want to be safe, comfortable, and enjoy bicycling, and get the most out of its health benefits, then avoid certain cycling mistakes that can interfere with your overall experience.
Having the Wrong Bike and Wrong Adjustments
Most people get their bicycles from a bike shop, but a fair number buy them online. At a reputable dealer, a staff person can ensure that you have the type of bike for your needs, whether it is for commuting, recreational rides, or for more serious pursuits like touring or racing. If you are only doing recreational rides or commuting, you don’t need a $4000 racing bike. If you are doing triathlons, a commuter bike will leave you far behind.
Bike shops usually will fit you for your bike so that the seat is at the right height and the handlebars at the right distance from your upper body. If you got the bike online or from someone personally, take the time to adjust the seat so that your knee barely bends when your leg extends downward and that the handlebars are not too far forward or too close.
Not Doing a Pre-Ride Inspection
Before you go out riding, failing to do an inspection can lead to a flat tire, breakdown or brake failure that could lead to injuries. A proper inspection consists of;
- Ensuring the tires are inflated–just a slight impression when squeezed
- Tightening the quick release wheel skewers
- Checking brake pads
- Greasing the chain or clean off dirt from the previous ride
- Being sure the brakes are working and there are no loose cables
- Checking your rear and front lights if riding at night
Not Knowing How to Ride Your Bike or Ride Safely
Know how to use the gears for your bike, especially when encountering steep hills. If you are not sure, just ask an experienced rider or someone at the bike shop or check additional bike riding guide online. Many bikes have 18 to 27 gears but not every rider knows how to use them properly. Practice shifting down when going uphill and shifting up when traveling downhill. You will be thankful when you meet a hill with a 20% grade or riding on a steep switchback road.
When coming to a stop, disengage your cleats from the bike before you stop or you could easily fall over if still engaged. Be careful when riding in a curve: do not go too fast and do not brake in the curve or you could lose control of the bike.
Ride to the right when in traffic and stay at least 3-feet from an adjoining car. If there are parked cars, be cautious of car doors suddenly opening. Finally, when approaching a pedestrian from the rear, advise them of which side you are on.
Riding in traffic can be hazardous since motorists are not so eager to share the road. Be especially cautious at intersections and when riding at night and always assume that motorists do not see you. The last thing you want is a collision and having to contact a bicycle accident attorney.
Not having the Proper Clothing and Gear
Unless you are riding down the street to 7-11, riding with proper gear and clothing will make your ride more comfortable, less stressful and make you less likely to be injured. Many cyclists make mistakes by wearing cheap bike clothing or the wrong clothing for the weather, or not using commonsense. For instance:
- Be visible to motorists. Wear colorful shirts so others can easily see you
- Lycra shorts are advisable but do not wear underwear under them or your skin will chafe
- If the weather is cool, bring a windbreaker and wear leggings that can easily come off
- Always wear sunglasses
- Apply sunscreen in any kind of weather and never ride without a shirt on
- Have a water bottle (or 2 if you can) and carry energy bars
- Be prepared for a flat tire by carrying 2 tubes, a patch kit, tire lever, and mini-pump
- Carry a dog repellent spray or horn
- Always wear a helmet–they will save you from traumatic brain injury in many cases
The worst feeling for a cyclist is being on a rural road with no spare tube or patch kit and you are out of water and feeling bonked. Another is being unprepared for sudden rain or cold weather or being chased by a large dog that you are unable to out-sprint and have no capacity to repel. And if you neglected to apply sunscreen on a hot, clear day, you will be in pain for several days.
Not Being in Shape for a Tour or Hill Climbing
If you are only used to short rides of about 10 miles or only on flat roads, then tackling a 50-mile or more ride with steep grades will be a real challenge that you should not attempt unless you are in shape and prepared. It is also dangerous if you are older and not used to vigorous exercise.
Prepare for a long ride by mixing easy with higher intensity rides several times per week that includes hill climbing. Drink water when you ride and eat an energy bar within the first hour of a challenging ride and every 20 to 30 minutes afterward. Pace yourself up a hill by starting in low gear and then gradually shifting to a higher gear so you can increase the pace. Training with a partner provides motivation and will make your training rides more fun to do. Also, mix in upper body workouts with your bike rides for the proper balance.
If you are training or riding with a pack, take your turn at the front and alternate. You are drafting when behind other riders and use 40% less effort as a result, so give the leaders a break.
Not Obeying Traffic Laws or Rules
Bicyclists are considered motor vehicles so bicyclists are required to obey the traffic laws. This includes stopping at stop signs and red traffic signals. When making turns, use the proper hand signals. Many bicyclists are unaware that they can be cited for a traffic violation, including drunk driving.
Many municipalities require that your bike have front and rear lights if riding at night and you can be ticketed if you do not. You want to be as visible as possible when riding at any time of day. If you are injured in an accident with a motorist, an injury attorney will want to know not only how the accident happened but how you were dressed and, if it was at night, whether your bicycle was properly equipped with lights. If not, it could adversely affect your claim for damages.
Contact a Bicycle Injury Attorney at West, Longenbaugh and Zickerman
The bicycle injury attorneys at West, Longenbaugh and Zickerman want you to be safe and to enjoy your bicycle rides in and around the Tuscon area or anywhere else within our great state.
Safety and comfort are the paramount concerns when riding a bicycle. Take the time to be ready physically for a ride and to take the proper gear with you if you plan to be riding for several hours. Be sure your bike and tires are in shape and that you have the necessary tools for a flat or an encounter with a dog. Lastly, just use common sense so you can enjoy the full riding experience.
If you or a loved one are injured while on a bicycle, contact us at (520) 790-7337 for an in-depth analysis of your injury claim.