Bicycles are becoming ubiquitous. Towns and cities across the nation are accommodating cyclists with marked bike lanes, traffic signals for cyclists, and off-road trails. It is not uncommon to see commuters taking to their bicyclists for rides of 20 miles or more each way to their office on side roads and trails to avoid the frustrating congestion while experiencing the benefits of exercise.
Bike riding clubs are also found in most urban and suburban areas for riders of all ages and levels. These provide friendship, encouragement to take longer and more challenging rides, and a safe way to ride.
If you are just getting into bike riding or have been for some time, here are some common sense tips to follow so you can avoid cycling mistakes that can ruin your commute or riding experience and possibly lead to injuries:
1. Find a bike that fits you. There are probably a number of bike shops near you but go to Yelp for reviews or ask anyone who rides regularly for a bike shop that has a good reputation for helping cyclists. Finding the right kind of bike is essential if you want a safe and comfortable ride. Spending a few thousand dollars on a racing bike may make you look good but if you are only commuting or like a challenging ride once in a while, it may be a waste of money. A good road bike is more suitable for commuters and recreational riders. Also, the bike shop staff will fit you to your seat so that you can ride comfortably and efficiently with the right seat height and bike shoes. For example, you will want a slight bend to your knee when your foot touches the pedal at its lowest point and your upper body is at a 45 degree angle over the bike. Any reputable bike shop will want you to buy the bike that fits your needs and will properly adjust it to your body type so that you will have a comfortable ride while not straining your knees, back and neck.
2. Wear the proper clothing. Few riders wear their regular clothes while riding as it is just too uncomfortable so get the following:
- Riding shorts
- Colorful shirts
- Bike socks for comfort
- A proper helmet
- A windbreaker in a small pouch
Many municipalities require bike helmets for children but wear one in any case. They may feel flimsy, but all studies show that wearing one can significantly reduce the risk of a serious head injury. Wear glasses regardless of the weather since insects, debris or other objects can sail into your eye at any time. Colorful shirts are a necessity so motorists can see you. If the weather is cold, overdress rather than under-dress since the weather can change rapidly. Stash a windbreaker in your saddle bag for rain or a sudden chill.
3. Get into shape slowly. Take care to ease into your new routine. Ride whenever you can and on weekend mornings when traffic is light. If you are not ready for a bike club or do not want to join one, go to your bike shop and find out where trails are located and where you can challenge yourself on longer rides and hills. Test out the gears on your bike or ask the bike shop staff how to use them efficiently. Find some hills and start slowly and acclimate your body to the stress while alternating hills with flat surfaces. Ride hard and fast at times to get your body in tune. If you do this regularly and challenge yourself, you will find yourself in excellent condition within a few months. You can also do spinning classes at a local gym to compliment your riding on the open road.
4. Practice proper braking. Be cautious when approaching a corner and do not go into one too fast. Brake before the corner for if you brake on the corner while banked over at an angle, your brakes could lock up. Also, do not grab the brakes unless you absolutely have to so as to avoid a collision or you could be ejected. Anticipate stops and brake slowly.
5. Carry the right gear with you. One of the most common cycling mistakes is not being prepared for a flat tire. You don’t have to carry a spare tire but it helps to have the following:
- Mini-bike pump
- Tire patches
- Tire lever
- At least one replacement tube
- Water bottle
- Energy bars
- Dog spray repellant or horn
Changing a front tire is not that hard but the rear tire requires taking the chain off. You might consider taking a class on changing tires and servicing your bike. Many bike shops offer these classes for free or for a nominal fee. Have a water bottle with you and a small first-aid kit that can fit into a small pouch. There are bike tools or levers that are small and easy to carry that can help with adjusting your seat. If your ride is longer than 2-hours, bring some energy bars with you and re-fuel your body after 45 minutes and then every 20 to 25-minutes. Be sure your water bottle is replenished every chance you get. Without water and proper food, your body will tire easily and cause dizziness. Also, riding home will be that much harder.
As for dogs chasing you, all it takes is one encounter to wish you had a spray repellant or horn.
6. Practice bike maintenance. Keeping your investment in good shape will only increase your enjoyment and lessen the chance of a mishap. Check your tires before each ride and use an oil spray on your chains to lubricate it before a long ride. Wipe the dirt off after each ride. If you have not ridden in a few months, take it your bike shop for a full service check. These can cost about $75 but the bike technician will ensure your tires are in good shape, will clean your chain, ensure your brakes are finely tuned and tighten the screws. You should also check your brakes before riding as well.
7. If riding with the pack. If you joined a bike club, you will likely be doing challenging rides at times so be sure you are in shape for the ride. When just starting with them, hang in the back or at least with riders at your level of conditioning and speed. The pack should stay together or at least have a leader who will stay with your group. Before starting out, the group leader should be aware that this is your first time with the group and should explain the etiquette and rules that they follow to you. If not, then ask someone.
8. Observe all traffic laws. While a bike is not a motor vehicle, you still have to follow all the basic traffic laws. Many cycling mistakes occur because a cyclist assumes that the traffic laws do not apply to him or her and expect traffic to stop for them. Obeying the law and riding safely means;
- Stopping at stop signs and at red lights
- Not riding on sidewalks
- Not riding in crosswalks
- Not riding on roads where bicycles are prohibited
- Stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks
- Giving hand signals when turning
- Keeping to the side of the road if riding at under the normal speed of traffic and not impeding traffic
- Having saddle bags to carry items so both hands are on the bike
- Equipping your bike with front and rear lights when riding at night
Although you commonly see cyclists not observing the traffic laws, not doing so can expose you to a traffic citation. It is also safe practice to do so.
If riding alongside vehicles, keep a distance of at least 3 feet if possible. Be cautious when approaching parked vehicles for doors that suddenly open. Further, assume that motorists do not see you and ride defensively at all times while in traffic. If you do get into an accident, contact a local, experienced bicycle accident attorney.
Ride for Enjoyment and Your Health
Riding a bike is generally much easier on your knees and legs than running and you can go much further while enjoying the scenery. It is an excellent for your cardiovascular system and you should see progress in lowering your weight, cholesterol and blood pressure if combined with good nutrition.
Whether you ride alone, for commuting, or with a group, few exercises are as enjoyable and diverse as bicycle riding so long as you follow these tips for ensuring a safe, efficient and rewarding experience.
If you or a loved one is injured on a bicycle caused by a motorist, road or bicycle defect, or some other factor, contact a bicycling accident attorney from West, Longenbaugh & Zickerman. You will want an attorney with the knowledge and experience to hold all responsible parties accountable for your injuries and who can give you the best opportunity to obtain the most compensation available. Call now at (520) 790-7337.