There are so many people riding bikes lately that most bike shops are selling out of their inventory! I love seeing people enjoying one of my favorite activities. However, knowing some important guidelines can keep you safe. I want to share eight bike safety tips below.
Biking after cancer
I grew up biking. My sisters, friends and I were always biking around our small town, loving the freedom and fun on two wheels. Diagnosed with my first cancer at 21, part of my left femur and upper tibia were replaced with titanium. I’m incredibly grateful to have my own leg, but that surgery meant I have to be cautious about falling and injuring my leg. So it took me a few years after my bone cancer surgery to have confidence with physical activity, including biking. But when I finally started biking again, I enjoyed it. And then, about five years ago, I bought my road bike (read about my decision to buy my bike). And I re-discovered confidence, physical stamina, ways to relieve stress and more. I also made lots of new friends.
I still recall seeing my oncologist during my second year with my road bike. He raved about how fit I was, especially my heart (resting rate of 49!). He even called me an athlete, which cracked me up. Then my cardiologist commended me for improving some of my heart function. That reinforced the great benefits of biking. Not to mention the mental and emotional benefits.
My point in sharing this is there are so many great things that can happen on a bike! You certainly don’t have to train for a long ride, bike multiple times per week, buy as many bikes as I do (ha!) or love it as much as I do, but you may! It’s great fun and exercise.
Regardless of the type of bike, how often you ride, whether it’s leisure or training, bike safety is important. For you and others. These eight bike safety tips can get you started.
8 bike safety tips
Wear a helmet.
You should wear a helmet whether you bike on mountain bike trails, the road, gravel paths or down your street. Hitting your head on the ground, tree, whatever still causes life-threatening injuries. It also has protected me from tree branches or debris flying up from the road. Remember that you should replace your helmet if you get into an accident with it, the padding is breaking down, it doesn’t fit properly or is as old as you are. Read my previous blog about helmets.
Check your bike (air pressure, tires, spare parts).
Before your ride, check your tires. Having correct air pressure in your tires can prevent accidents. You should also carry spare supplies in case of a flat tire (many local bike shops offer classes on changing a flat, which I recommend. While you often will find someone to help change a flat, it helps to not be stuck in the middle of nowhere without the knowledge of doing yourself). My saddle bag carries a spare tire tube, tire levers and CO2 cartridge to inflate the tube. Make sure there are lights on the front and back of your bike.
Make sure your bike fits you.
The height of your saddle/seat, the tilt of the seat, handlebar placement (width, etc), frame size and other features on a bike can make for a great, or greatly uncomfortable, bike ride. I never realized how important a good fit is until I started biking long miles. And you start feeling every annoyance. Many bike shops will offer a complimentary fit with new bike purchases – take the offer.
Be aware of your surroundings.
Pay attention to your surrounding, whether people, cars, cyclists, animals (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve swerved from a chipmunk or squirrel!). If you must listen to music on your ride, don’t use earbuds in both ears as it will dull you to what’s around you – you don’t want to ignore the approaching car.
Follow the road/path rules.
Ride single file or at the very least ride single file when others are approaching or passing from behind. Call out when passing from behind (I can NOT understand why this is so difficult for people to do). Stop at road crossings. Do not stop in the middle of the road or path (if you have flat or mechanical issue, move to the side or off the path). Read my blog about trail courtesy tips.
Be polite to those around you.
Give plenty of room to pedestrians and other cyclists when passing. You may be comfortable with only 3″ of space, but that doesn’t mean others are. In a ‘normal’ world, I don’t like when strangers try to draft (ride close) behind me without alerting me to their presence, and I especially don’t like it during a pandemic/social distancing.
Fuel your body.
Hydration and nutrition are important, whether biking a few or many miles. Obviously the more miles and energy exerted, the more you need to replenish. I like to take one bottle of plain water and another of water mixed with a hydration/electrolyte tablet or powder. I usually also take a granola/protein bar and maybe another snack, depending on how many miles I’m planning.
Alert someone if you bike alone.
I do silence my phone when I’m biking and try to ignore it, however, I text my mom or sisters when I start my ride and again when I’m back in my car heading home. I also wear an identification bracelet when I bike, hike or other activity without a family member. This lists my name, an emergency contact name/phone and that I have a rod in my left femur.
I also created a check list of some of my favorite cycling items that I take along on each ride. You can view it here.
The moral of this post is to be thoughtful to yourself and others while biking. This activity is a ton of fun but requires common sense, awareness and some preparation. These eight bike safety tips are a start. What tips do you have to be safe on a bike?