Cycling is an inherently dangerous sport. When we go out on the roads or trails, we subject ourselves to the dangers that we can cause ourselves as well as the dangers from the world around us.
Crashing, road or trail obstructions, equipment malfunctions, traffic and cars, weather, and more are all elements that can cause a simple training ride to go from a fun activity to a life threatening situation.
That said, there are dangers with just about everything we do, so instead of letting fears or possible hazards stop us from enjoying the sport we love, we should prepare ourselves to handle whatever situation is thrown our way.
- Training: The dos and don’ts of mental energy for bike racing
- Ready to repeat? How to race back-to-back events
- Seven tips for fitting in your ride during the holiday season
Wear a Helmet
You’ve heard it since you were a little kid, wear your helmet! The helmet is a life-saving device and speaking from personal experience, my helmet has actually saved my life. This is so important, but you likely already know that so I want to focus on two specific elements of helmet wear:
Wear it Correctly: First make sure that you have the correct size of helmet. It should be snug but not uncomfortably tight. It shouldn’t easily move or shift on your head. When and if your head does hit the ground or another object, the helmet should stay on your head and not be able to slide all the way forward or backward. Next, make sure that the helmet is flat and level on the head. It should be worn low on the forehead only about 1-2 inches above the eyebrows. Next, make sure that the strap is appropriately tightened. You should only be able to fit 1-2 fingers in between the strap and your chin.
Wear it Always: There is a misconception that we only wear helmets when we think we might crash. The truth of the matter is, crashes happen when we least expect them. If you ride down the street to get ice cream or if you’re riding uphill for extended periods of time, you should still wear your helmet. I know many people think that they might not crash while riding uphill, but wearing the helmet isn’t just about you. A car could come out of nowhere and hit you and it wouldn’t be your fault and there would be no way to stop it, but the helmet could still save your life.
Tell Someone Where You’re Going and When You’ll be Back
This is a very simple text you should send whenever you leave the house. Just quickly let someone know the general direction you are riding and when they should expect you to come home. It may seem silly in the moment, but it can be critical reassurance that someone will come looking for you if things go sideways.
If you crash and become injured or if you have a mechanical too far from home, you may not always be able to call for help. Phones run out of battery and sometimes service can be spotty out on the trails. If you’re sitting on the side of the trail with a broken bone, knowing that someone knows where you are and will start looking soon can be the hope you need to stay calm and make wise decisions.
Use Lights and Bright Colors
When you’re on the road it’s important to be seen. Unfortunately, motorists are chronically distracted and while the accident may be objectively their fault, it’s still your life and wellbeing at risk. Do your best to be seen on the road at all times. Wear bright colors while riding as well as attach lights to the rear of your bike to catch a motorist’s attention. Lights on the rear of your bike can be especially important in dim light, rain, fog, or even just winding roads.
Pick a Safe Route
As cyclists, we like to ride our bikes everywhere. That said, there should be limitations to what we consider safe or appropriate. If you are counting entirely on others to maintain your safety then your route is probably not a good one. If you’re on a high-speed single lane highway or busy road without a shoulder and every car has to move over in order to pass you then it may not be the best place to be riding. All it takes is one distracted driver for a catastrophic incident. Look for roads with slow speed limits, wide shoulders, and where cyclists are common. Even better seek out bike paths, fireroads, and trails.
Have an ID
Have some form of ID on your person. This could be a literal ID, a note on your phone (that can be accessed by anyone), a Road ID, or even just a piece of paper in your pocket. In the worst-case scenario if you are injured to the point of being incapacitated, you want emergency personnel to be able to ID you and better yet, call your emergency contact in a timely manner.
Carry The Essentials
Whenever you leave your house to go on a bike ride you should have the tools you need to fix any common or ride-ending issue. In other words, have all of the supplies you need to fix a flat tire or a broken chain. You should also have plenty of water and some extra food in case the ride lasts longer than intended. It might be worth it to carry a small, compact rain jacket in case the weather takes a turn for the worse especially if you are in the mountains. If the ride is extra adventurous or dangerous then you might also consider taking a small first aid bag or at minimum a pressure dressing as well as any materials specific to your area such as bear spray.
Complete a Bike Check
There are many things that can cause you problems out on the road or trails so make sure you control the controllables. Before you set off on your adventure, make sure that you check your equipment. Complete a bolt check if you haven’t ridden in a while or if you’ve taken your bike apart recently. Also check your tire pressure. Taking just an extra minute or two to make sure that everything is in working condition can save you hours and trips to the doctor later.
We all love riding our bikes, so let’s stay safe so that we can always keep pedaling.