Cycling is easily one of the best forms of exercise, where you can get fit, reduce stress, and explore your locality in a fun, easy, and relatively cheap way. What’s not to love?
But whether you’re a newbie or an expert, remember that the road can be dangerous for a cyclist. In the US alone, over 500 people die every year from bicycle crashes, with 500,000 people treated in emergency departments. And as more people return to the office, traveling by bike has some risks.
Before donning your helmet, it helps to be prepared. Below are essential safety tips new and experienced bike riders should know, each covering your personal safety, equipment, and how to stay safe while planning your routes online.
1. Inspect your bicycle before each ride
It doesn’t matter how great a cyclist you are—if your bike is worse for wear, it will surely let you down and cause problems on the road. Before each cycle, you should conduct a pre-bike test to see if your bike is road-worthy and safe.
A pre-ride bike check can consist of the following:
- Do a quick wipe-down to ensure your bike is clean, dirt-free, and dry before your cycle.
- Check and tighten the headset and bottom bracket of the bike. 3. Inspect tires for signs of damage, cuts, blisters, or baldness. Replace if needed.
- Check the spokes of each wheel, ensuring they’re tight.
- Periodically check the chainring bolts for loose fittings and tighten them accordingly.
Depending on the spec and design of your bike, you should also check that the lights and reflector are in good working order before taking them out, especially when dark.
2. Wear protective gear
The protective gear you wear when cycling can set you up for success. By investing in high-quality equipment, you’re helping improve your visibility, your comfort, and your ability to react to situations during your cycle.
Some critical pieces of gear to consider include:
A high-quality helmet
Besides your bike, your helmet is the most crucial piece of equipment for cycling. While wearing one isn’t always a requirement by law, you should still wear one fitted to the size of your head, as it can save your life. Research has shown that wearing one can drastically reduce serious head injuries by up to 60%.
Cyclists can find it challenging to stand out on roads and alert motorists of their presence, especially at night. If you can’t be seen, you’re more likely to be struck by a passing car.
An easy but effective way of ensuring you’re spotted is by wearing brightly colored clothing, such as yellow, orange, or red. You should also consider wearing reflective stripes, which will contrast well against dark backgrounds.
Visibility is not just about being seen but seeing, too. An integral part of cycling is seeing the route ahead of you, as you’ll spot hazards ahead of time, follow the side of the road, and see upcoming traffic.
You should invest in high-quality safety glasses or sunglasses approved for cycling. These glasses can stop everything from dirt, dust, and debris from irritating your eyes and throwing you off balance.
They can also help reduce sun glare or prevent rain from blurring your vision, giving you more comfort on your cycle regardless of the weather. Even if you usually wear glasses, you can get prescription sunglasses that maintain your vision standard, irrespective of the conditions.
Finally, a good pair of cycling gloves can help ensure you’re in total control during your cycle. They will ensure an excellent grip when cycling, thus improving your control. Good quality gloves will also keep sweat from gathering on your handlebars, thus keeping sore blisters at bay.
Additionally, if you do fall off your bike, your hands are one of the primary ways of protecting yourself. By wearing gloves, you’ll protect your hands from impact and potentially soften the blow of the fall.
3. Protect yourself off the road
With more and more people taking to cycling, there’s unfortunately a rise in the number of criminals ready to exploit them. For this reason, it’s important to be just as protective online as you are on the road.
One of the most effective ways of staying safe online is using a virtual private network (VPN). It encrypts your internet connection, ensuring your online activity is hidden from prying eyes.
Whether planning bike routes near your location or buying expensive cycling gadgets online, a VPN can protect your information from being intercepted and stolen.
Best of all, a mobile VPN protects you while out on your bike. This is because it will encrypt your connection on otherwise vulnerable connections, like public Wi-Fi networks. Whether at a café, shop, or college campus, you might want to log on to a hotspot to check your route or unwind during a break. A VPN will protect you from cyber threats that ordinarily could attack you on these networks.
4. Remember the rules of the road
The final aspect to keep in mind before you set off on your next cycle is the rules of the road. As a cyclist, you have the same rights (and expectations) set on you as any other road user.
Here are some road rules that you should pay close attention to:
- Cycle defensively—be focused and anticipate what other road users may do around you.
- Cycle predictably—you’re expected to be seen in the same direction as traffic.
- Signal your intention to turn before doing so. Always check over your shoulder before changing lanes.
- If you’re new to cycling, practice in a safe, quiet environment before venturing into traffic-heavy, busy spaces.
- Avoid listening to music or your phone when cycling. This can be a significant distraction.
- Finally, if you’re cycling on holidays, familiarizing yourself with the local rules of the road, including clothing to wear, is an essential part of staying safe on the road.