But it can be dangerous, recent statistics show biking accidents result yearly in :
- 113 deaths
- 3,401 serious injuries
- 17,773 minor injuries
So what should you do to keep yourself safe?
Keep reading, this guide may well save your life….
Road Riding Safety Tactics
When riding on the road your main threats come not from your actions, but from those of the people around you. People in cars make poor decisions that affect everyone else around them, particularly bikers.
Acting in a sensible predictable way is the easiest way to keep yourself safe. Acting in an unpredictable way, is the fasted way to the hospital.
Always follow all the same traffic rules you would expect cars to follow. These rules apply to you too, and they guide what others on the road expect you to do. Always ride in the same direction as the rest of the traffic. Watch out for and obey the street signs and stop at all appropriate times.
Stay to the side of the road, where cars can pass, but not so far that you are at risk from gutters or drains. It’s better to position yourself in the middle of your lane than have to keep swerving out to avoid drains.
Stay alert and ready to react
Keep both hands on the handle bars at all times. If something unpredictable happens, you need to be able to react straight away. With no or only one hand on the handle bars, there isn’t going to be anything that you can do to save yourself.
When approaching a junction, watch drivers about to pull out. Make eye contact with them. If you haven’t made eye contact with them, they likely haven’t registered you and might hit you or cut you up.
Read the road and those on it
Ride defensively. What does this mean? Ride as if everyone else on the road is stupid. Assume they will try to do things to kill you, so watch what they’re doing and be prepared to act quickly to get yourself out of trouble.
Slow down before sharp bends until you know what is on the other side. There could be a car, an accident, or some obstruction.
Watch for parked cars. This is one of the most common mistakes that people make. It’s all to easy to stay focused on the moving traffic around you and not realize you’re coming up on a parked car. There’s nothing more embarrassing and painful riding full pelt into a parked car.
Surround yourself with fellow cyclists
Ride with other people where possible. If you are riding with other people, there are going to be more eyes on the road for potentially dangerous obstacles. All of you can look out for each other, and there are more people to help in the unfortunate case that there is an accident.
If you are in the front of a riding group, make sure to shout out to the riders behind you if you notice anything dangerous coming up. By making everyone else around you aware of the situation, you will be more likely to avoid a dangerous situation.
Want to cycle in better weather?
Get a bike strong enough for your weight
If you’re less than 250lbs then fairly any bike you find will be fine to take your weight.
If however you’re closer to or above 300lbs you will need to pay attention to finding something that is specifically built for higher weights.
See bikes for big guys for a more detailed look at how to find the right bike or other accessories for larger riders.
Biking Clothing to Keep you Safe
Not only do you have to be thinking about all the rules of the road while you’re out there riding, but you also need to think about what you can wear to make sure that you keep yourself safe.
Protect your head
Helmets reduce head injury risk by 85% and save people’s lives. You never know when you are going to come off of your bike, a helmet will help to make sure that your head isn’t injured in the process.
Some helmets also have lights built into them, helping to keep you even more visible.
Protect your eyes
sun glasses* provide not only protection from the sun’s glare, meaning you can see the road without problem. They also help protect your eyes from, bugs, leaves or anything else that happens to be flying about at eye level.
Protect your hands
Biking gloves provide you with protection from handlebar blisters and cuts and scrapes should you come off your bike. The padding on gloves will also prevent a common problem for cyclists of numbness and hand nerve injury known as cyclist palsy.
As well as protection, gloves help with comfort by keeping your hands and fingers warm, preventing numb hands in the winter chill. Gloves will also increase your grip preventing your hands slipping from the handlebars because of rain or sweat.
Look after your feet
What happens when your shoes are wet and you’re pedaling hard?
It’s all too easy for your feet to slip off the pedals. At the best this results in you crushing your groin on the frame. If not causing you to lose complete control and face plant the road.
Bike shoes* keep your feet anchored to the pedals. Leaving you free to focus on your ride.
If you’re looking for indoor cycling shoes be sure to read our guide to spin shoes.
Or if you’ve got extra wide feet, see our guide to choosing the best wide cycling shoes
Make sure you’re seen
A biking jersey or jacket will not only keep you comfortable. Choosing one with the right design, will make you much more visible. Bright colors and built in reflectors combine to make sure all cars know you’re there.
Take a look at the most popular jerseys and jackets:
Protect your backside
Biking shorts, biking underwear or leggings all prevent chaffing injuries. The seams are in places so they won’t rub. They are flexible and tight fitting, while being breathable to draw sweat away from you. Biking shorts or leggings have a padding cushion called a chamois.
The chamois gives your bum padding when sitting on the saddle. If you don’t want to wear tight lycra. There are still more baggy looking casual shorts.
Take a look at the most popular shorts, tights, underwear and clothing:
Biking Accessories to Keep you Safe
Try to ride on roads that are well lit. It isn’t always possible, but if you’re going to be out riding at night, try to make sure that you are on streets that are already well lit so that drivers are able to see you a little bit better. Plan out your route beforehand to maximize the amount of time you can spend under the lights.
Add as much lighting and reflective gear as possible
Add reflectors to your bike. There are many types of lights available to both help you to see and be seen. Bike lights can be attached to your bike, or other types are helmet mounted.
Having to change the big bulky round batteries on bike lights are a thing of the past these days. Most bike lights are now rechargeable via USB connections, and cheap.
View bike reflectors and lights*.
Record what happens
A relatively new, tech safety accessory is the helmet mounted camera. These small cameras attach to your helmet and record everything you see. These common wear for commuters in cities, where road rage situations can occur.
Drivers seeing you with a camera recording their actions act much less aggressive. If something does happen, be it road rage, or just plain stupidity, you have full video evidence.
View helmet cameras*.
Don’t lose your bike
As well as keeping your body safe, you also want to keep your bike safe, from theft. And prevent you from getting stranded. If you are ever planning on leaving your bike out in the open while you are doing something else, you need to pick up a good quality bike lock* so that nobody is tempted to steal your transportation.
Taking Care of Your Bike to Ensure it’s Safe
There’s plenty of things to do with your bike when you aren’t even on it that will keep you safe. Keeping your bike well maintained helps you stay safe and prevent potential problems.
Adjust your bicycle to fit you
Your seat should be level from front to back, and your knees should be slightly bent when they are fully extended to the pedal. Adjust your saddle so you can sit with your tiptoes just touching the ground either side. Make sure you can reach the handle bars with ease.
If you can’t reach the handlebars comfortably then choose a smaller size frame and raise the saddle higher.
Keep your bike out of the rain
If you let your bike sit outside in the rain or snow, it’s eventually going to start rusting and falling apart. This will cause the bike chain and breaks to wear down, which will cause a lot of problems for you when you’re out riding.
Ensure you have somewhere to store your bike out of the rain or at the very least a cheap rain cover.
Check out various bike storage solutions*.
Keep your tires well inflated
It’s very easy to forget about keeping your tires inflated since it can be a bit of a hassle to pump them up every time they get a little bit low. However, keeping them inflated to the point that they should be makes for a smoother and safer ride. Make sure you have a good quality floor pump* for home and a mini pump* for out on the road.
Tighten your breaks
The more often that you use your breaks, the more likely it is that you need to adjust them. Regularly bouncing up and down on the road causes the breaks to loosen, which then makes them less effective. Since your breaks are what keep you from riding yourself into walls, you need to make sure they are taken care of.
Oil your chain regularly
Your bike chain is key to your bike moving, and it will stop doing that if you don’t regularly oil it. This will only take you a few minutes, but it will make a tremendous difference over time. If you don’t already have some, get some chain oil* now.
So in summary, biking is a great way to exercise, burn calories and have fun. But it can be dangerous if you’re not clued up.
- Look after yourself on the road
- Dress to avoid injury
- Kit yourself out with the accessories to keep you safe
- Look after your bike.