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June 08, 2021
As you very well know, Cycling can be one of the most enjoyable forms of exercise and sport, especially when the weather shows up. What’s better than getting outside, getting some fresh air, reducing your carbon footprint, and experiencing a moment of ecstasy in the saddle?
Naturally, bikes are one of many vehicles built for the open road. Unfortunately, as a result, the number of deaths each year from bicycle accidents continues to climb, many of them involving motor vehicles. Knowing how to navigate a host of potentially hazardous situations on the road can go a long way.
Most cyclists would agree that the most concerning and potentially dangerous variables when riding are unpredictable or dangerous motorists. Given most motor vehicles are much faster and heavier than bicycles, any potential collision can be fatally dangerous.
Before you set out next, review the following safety riding suggestions. It’s never a bad idea to err on the side of caution and prepare for an unexpectedly dangerous situation.
Like a routine oil change or tune-up on your car, take the time to check your bike at least every six weeks or so for safety and performance. Check the fit and functionality of essential components including the wheels, tires, seat, and any other essential parts fastened to the frame. The brakes, gears, and drivetrain should sound and function with ease to keep you safely performing.
Making yourself visible is an essential part of sharing the road with other motorists. One of the leading causes of bike accidents is limited visibility. If a driver can't see you, the likelihood of an accident occurring is significantly higher. Try to wear a few items with enough reflective material to be clearly spotted without looking like a traffic cone. Brands like Rapha and DNA Cycling add a reflective yarn and high visibility elements to comfortable garments that weren’t previously considered as such so that you are as cozy, safe, and stylish as possible.
While riding a bike may come to some more naturally than others, where and how you ride is a different story. No matter your level of riding experience, the blueprint for keeping yourself out of danger is the same. Familiarize yourself with signals that indicate to drivers your direction of travel. As a review, signal a left turn with an outstretched left arm. Signal a right turn with an outstretched right arm. A stop can be signaled with a palm backward downward left arm, although it is often safer to have both hands on the handlebar when stopping. Navigating on an open road or in traffic requires a great level of vision and maneuverability. Keep your head on a swivel for both motorists and the road. There’s nothing worse than gazing off in the distance while unexpectedly crushing a giant pothole in the road.
As a cyclist sharing the road countless large motor vehicles, it’s easy to assume things about drivers. The problem is, that in reality not all drivers are the same or even paying attention. You’re always better off assuming that drivers don’t see you. Stay as far right as possible and use the paved shoulder when possible. Check behind yourself frequently and listen for approaching cars. Regular shoulder checks, a helmet-mounted or eyeglass-mounted mirror can help you keep an eye out so that you can brace yourself for passing vehicles, especially large or wide trucks. It’s important to remember that the wind from passing vehicles tends to "pull" cyclists forward and toward the passing vehicle. Try gripping your handlebars and lower your center of gravity to combat wind resistance. Do your best to avoid actions that can cause accidents between bicycles, such as following too closely, poor communication, or lapses in concentration. Be especially cautious at intersections but ride with confidence.
While everyone may not be a fan of helmets, it is hard to argue with extensive research that proves they greatly reduce the risk of a serious or paralyzing injury. A head injury can change the trajectory of your life so It’s never a bad idea to prepare by wearing a helmet every time you ride. Approved helmets are lightweight, strong, ventilated, fit snugly, and have reflective tape. Some helmets actually improve aerodynamics and make riders faster. Once or if crashed on, a helmet should be replaced.
While there is no shortage of flashy new cycling accessories on the market, having the essentials to keep you safe is important. Take the Garmin Varia Smart Bike Lights. As speed increases, the headlight automatically projects light farther ahead to where it’s needed most. As ambient light fades or gets brighter, both the headlight and tail light adjust automatically. This simple piece of visibility equipment can give the peace of mind that wherever you're going there's a clearly lit path in front of you. If an accident does occur, supplementary features like Incident detection and assistance on the Garmin Edge 1030 can make the world of difference. When an incident is detected or you request assistance from your device, Garmin Connect will send your name and location to your emergency contacts. Your location is determined using our LiveTrack location tracking feature. LiveTrack creates a real-time feed of your location during an activity. You can set up emergency contacts in the Garmin Connect app. Other essential safety accessories should include mirrors, a bell, and a small first aid kit. Visit our list of the Best Cycling Accessories you should have in 2021 for more ideas.
Sometimes the road or weather conditions can be just as dangerous as a wild motorist. Potholes, cracked or uneven pavement, unfinished or hazardous road shoulders, trees, medians, confusing signage, poor street drainage, improperly cleared or plowed bike lanes and construction zones are all more than common hazards that you face daily. Do your best to prepare for what you may encounter and make plans to adjust in case something unexpected occurs.
Lastly, be kind and courteous on the roads. If another driver or pedestrian waves you through an intersection, lets you into traffic or is in any way courteous to you, a nod or a wave is all it takes to acknowledge them and put a smile on everyone's faces. This goes for other cyclists as well. Be aware of other riders and do your best to be courteous when passing or riding nearby. This same attitude of respect is equally important towards the environment and natural world. Sustain the natural beauty of our earth and avoid littering at all costs. A little consideration can go a long way.
The nature of cycling is that it can be as hazardous and dangerous as you make it. Be sure to do your part in being safe and preparing for the unexpected. For more inside tips and opinions, head over to our journal or shop any of the Thread + Spoke collections today.
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