Road cycling is a beautiful sport; it allows a sense of freedom that is difficult to define. Maybe defining it as ‘simple’ is the best method of communicating the message. The only pertinent pieces are the bicycle and your body. You and your machine can travel together through mountain passes and forests, across country roads and rolling plains, or even through a major metropolitan area on the way to work. An essential piece of cycling on the road is how one interacts with the other people and objects moving around them; vehicles, pedestrians, and even other cyclists. In this blog, we’ll discuss some tips to help ensure a safe end enjoyable ride.
Time of day: Many people live in urban settings. This can get complicated when trying to find good spots for a workout on two wheels. Unless one wants to ride on a trainer inside (great option for when it’s cold or the weather is bad), the time of day chosen for the ride is of paramount importance. Optimally, one is riding in the early morning, middle of the day, or just after rush hour traffic. If the sun is not out, pick up some lights for your bike - one for the handlebars that points forward, and another to clamp to your seat post, so that the bike can be easily seen from behind.
Type of road: The safest roads to ride on are the ones which have the least amount of traffic. The key is the find a wide road with a bike path. This way, even if there is traffic, one knows that the vehicles on the road know where to expect a bike rider. Mapmyride.com is a great tool to use for finding places to ride that are safe and relatively untrafficked. The site features mapped routes from actual people who have ridden that specific loop, with their feedback on safety/enjoyment/difficult.
Redundancies: Always be prepared for a flat or mechanical failure. I always carry two spare inner tubes, two co2 cartridges (for inflating the inner tubes in the event of a flat tire), two tire levers, a patch kit, a multitool (which has different sized allen wrenches, among other things), and my phone with me. These items can all be picked up at your local bike shop and are relatively inexpensive (except for phones, unless you use an apple store as your bike shop). The mantra better safe than sorry reigns true in the event that something goes wrong while out riding. A good rule of thumb to use is to be self-sufficient. Most of the time, one may be riding in a group and can rely on other people to have items like a tire iron or spare inner tube. However, lightning tends to strike at the most inopportune times. Don’t get stuck in that situation, always be prepared!
Communication: Another key is to always communicate effectively with the people around you on the road. If you’re turning right or left, utilize hand signals to let vehicles and other cyclists on the road know where you are going. If you are riding in a group, this is especially important. Never assume the people you’re riding with know which way you are turning or that there is a hole in the ground. Most crashes can be avoided, so do your part to keep everyone's wheels on the road, even if it seems to like you are over-communicating.
Awareness: Always stay alert of the world around you. It is easy to block out what’s happening in your peripherals, especially if you’re riding hard. However, you always need to be aware of your surroundings so that you don’t get lost, hit an animal or object in the road, or collide with a car, cyclist, or other person on the road. When I was training in Australia, kangaroos loved to jump out in the road right before you passed by. This taught me to always stay alert, even if I’m not dealing with the same kickboxing animals here in the USA.
Ride Defensively: At the end of the day, reacting to what other people around you are doing is the best way to stay safe. If a car is closing in on the bike lane, get off the road before they hit you. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself on the road (given that you’re following the legal rules of riding on the road), but make sure to remember that even the smallest car will beat you in a fight.
Dylan Sorensen, Professional Triathlete + Marketing Associate with Major League Triathlon
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