Riding a bike is one of life’s simplest pleasures. Bicycling is easy, enjoyable and good for you. It strengthens your heart and cardiovascular system; exercises the joints of the hip, knee and ankle; and is an environmentally friendly form of recreation and transportation.
Choosing the right bicycle and keeping it in good condition, handling your bike with skill and confidence, and understanding and adhering to the “rules of the road” are the basics of safe bicycling. By reviewing this guide and establishing safe and responsible bicycling habits, you’ll be doing yourself and fellow bicyclists a favor.
Choose the bike that’s right for you
The best bike for you depends on factors such as your riding style, terrain, body size, and budget.Making a well informed buying decision takes some research and effort. So, before visiting a bike shop for a test ride it is recommended that you consider why you are buying a bicycle.
The best bike for you depends on factors such as your riding style, terrain, body size, and budget. Making a well informed buying decision takes some research and effort. So, before visiting a bike shop for a test ride it is recommended that you consider why you are buying a bicycle.
If you do, the shopping process will be quicker and easier. Which of the three general bike categories best describes your intended use and experience?
Road Bikes: Ideal for racing and touring. These bikes are lightweight, sophisticated and rather fragile pieces of equipment. Road bikes perform best on smooth pavement and are not recommended for rough terrain. This might be your choice if you are looking for speed and distance and are an experienced bicyclist.
Hybrid Bikes: Great choice for urban and light off-road recreational use. Hybrid bikes fall between road and mountain bikes. Hybrids can include so-called “comfort bikes” which offer a cushy seat, straight handlebar and are ridden in a very upright position. Mountain Bikes: Rugged “go-everywhere” bikes designed for off-road cycling. Special features include thicker tires for stability and traction, a straight handlebar, powerful brakes, a number of speeds, and suspension forks to absorb shock. Once you have chosen a bike that meets your needs, you’ll need to make sure it “fits” properly.
Maintaining your bike for safe riding
Keeping your bike in good repair increases performance and safety. Have your local bike shop do an annual check-up and refer to the 8-point checklist regularly.
- Tires — Look for rips or cuts, sidewall bulges, cracking or loss of tread. Replace if needed before tube is damaged.
- Spokes — Check for bends or breaks. Tighten loose spokes. Broken spokes may mean a bent rim needs to be replaced.
- Rims — Bulging spoke holes and sidewalls affect breaking. Try to flatten spoke hole bulges by squeezing with pliers.
- Freewheel — Pedal hard in each gear to check for skipping cogs. Replace worn cogs or entire freewheel. Clean by removing wheel and running a rag between cogs.
- Chain — Replace chains with rusted or frozen links. Remove dirt and lubricate with chain lube where chain passes over freewheel. When you lubricate the chain, there should be no excess (dripping) lubricant – if there is, wipe away with a rag.
- Crankset — Creaking noise indicates a loose chain ring or crank arm bolts. Replace chain ring that has worn or broken teeth. Make sure the cranks are tight by rocking from side to side – they should not move laterally.
- Pedals — Roughness indicates pedals need to be repacked with grease. Tighten loose pedals on crank arm.
- Brakes — Squeeze each brake lever to be sure it stops
before touching the handlebar. While riding, test each brake alone. The rear brake must be strong enough to skid the wheel when applied firmly. The front brake, when fully applied, should lift the rear wheel off the ground. Inspect brake pads. If surface is worn away, pads should be replaced. The forward part of the brake pads must strike the rim first to prevent squealing.
Six Important Rules For Safe Bicycling
Most bicycling safety rules are really just common sense. Riding smart is the best way to avoid bicycling accidents.
Bicycling Safety Rule Number 1 Wear a helmet
Whether or not a motor vehicle is involved, there are a number of “rules of the road” which will help prevent many bicycle accidents and/or lessen their severity. But following just this first prevention rule can protect you more than any other: Wear a helmet.
Finally, follow these important helmet tips:
- Wear the helmet flat atop your head, not tilted back at an angle.
- Make sure the helmet fits snugly and does not obstruct your field of vision.
- Make sure the chin strap fits securely and that the buckle stays fastened (no combination of twisting or pulling should remove the helmet from the head or loosen the buckle on the strap).
- Do not use a helmet after it has been involved in an accident. Damage to the helmet may not be visible to the untrained eye. Even very small cracks in the helmet may greatly reduce a helmet’s effectiveness in preventing injury. Either destroy the helmet and get a new one or have it inspected by the manufacturer.
The manufacturer will tell you if the helmet needs to be replaced.
- Know the law in your state. Many states and localities began adopting mandatory helmet laws in 1987. For information on helmet laws by state and local jurisdiction, visit the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute’s website at http://www.helmets.org or call (703) 486-0100.
Rule Number 2 Ride Defensively
The majority of bike accidents are caused by the bicyclist. Guard against these accidents by looking and thinking ahead. Don’t assume the “other guy” (or dog or hole in the road) is watching out for you.
One of the best examples of riding defensively is as near as your own driveway. Nearly 8% of all bicycle/auto accidents happen when cyclists ride out of their own driveways and into the path of oncoming cars. (Similarly, many accidents involve motorists exiting their driveways into a passing bicyclist.)
The best defense for driveway accidents is to always stop before entering a street and scan for traffic. While riding,be alert for emerging vehicles when passing driveways.
Rule Number 3 Obey All Traffic Laws
Bicyclists must follow the same laws as motor vehicles.
If you want to be safe in traffic you must act like traffic. Likewise, if you commit a traffic offense you can be fined. Ride a bicycle as you would drive a car. Obeying stop signs and stoplights are a must. Over 10% of all bicycle/auto collisions happen when a cyclist runs a stop sign or stoplight. In fact, more accidents happen to those going straight than turning, particularly in residential areas. It sounds simple, but learn to stop at all stoplights and stop and yield signs, regardless of the visible traffic. Scan in all directions (including to the rear where oncoming traffic may be turning) and wait for traffic to clear.
Rule Number 4 Learn to Turn
Another major accident type involves bicyclists that make unexpected left turns. Turning accidents account for about 10% of all bicycle/auto collisions each year. The major cause of these accidents are cyclists who don’t scan to the rear for cars coming up from behind, stay in the right hand lane without gradually moving to the center, or fail to signal their intention to turn. Left-hand turns are the most complicated of all bicycling turns. Depending on the traffic and number of lanes, the left turn is made most safely by starting well ahead of the intersection, moving predictably to the left side of the lane, looking behind you and signaling your intention to move. Turn into the middle position of your new lane and reverse the process to resume the right hand position.
Hand signals are mandatory in most states, as long as gravel or other slippery conditions do not impair riding with one hand. Start signaling 100 feet before you turn by stretching out the arm in the direction of the turn for several seconds. Remember, simply signaling does not give you the right of way or the guarantee that traffic has seen and understood your intention to turn – be defensive.
Rule Number 5 Be Predictable
The overwhelming majority of biking accidents result from a cyclist doing the unexpected. Maintain as straight a line as possible when riding, signal your intentions and share the road.
Rule Number 6 Be Visible
In all conditions it’s a good idea to make yourself as visible as possible. Many states and cities require bicyclists riding at night to have a white headlight and a red or orange reflector. This is highly recommended, and many cyclists use red rear lights as well. Wearing a helmet adds to your being seen, as does brightly colored clothing.
For nighttime riding use bright lights and reflectors, and wear light colored clothing with reflective tape. Another good tip about riding at night – watch your shadow in the headlights of overtaking cars. If your shadow moves to the right as the car approaches from the rear, this means it is moving left to pass you. If your shadow stays right in front of you, it means the car is headed straight for you. Get out of the way fast!
Know the laws of bicycling
Riding two abreast — Try to restrict side-by-side riding to quiet roads and change to single file riding when traffic becomes evident. Some states require single file riding at all times.
Riding on sidewalks — In most states this is lawful, as long as bicyclists yield the right of way to pedestrians. Many cities ban bicycles on sidewalks in business districts, so check your local ordinances before you ride.
Parent’s responsibility for children — Most states make it unlawful for a parent to knowingly permit a child to violate any rules of the road. Teach your child the rules of bicycle safety.
Bicycling accidents — A bicyclist involved in an accident must stop, identify him or herself and render aid to any person injured. If death, injury or substantial property damage result from the accident, the bicyclist must notify the police immediately and should file a written accident report with the state department of motor vehicles. After an accident, a biker may be disoriented from the crash, and not realize that there is damage to their vehicle or their body, and having an accident report could mean the difference in collecting compensation.
Always get an accident report and request an ambulance if needed.
- Protect your head Wear a helmet
- See and be seen Wear bright fluorescent colors during the day
- Avoid biking at night If riding at night, equip your bicycle with head and tail lights and wear reflective clothing
- Stay alert Keep a lookout for obstacles in your path
- Go with the flow Ride with traffic
- Check for traffic Be aware of traffic around you
- Learn the rules of the road Obey traffic laws
- Assure bicycle readiness Is your bicycle properly adjusted?
- Check brakes before riding your bike
- Check your wheels “Quick release” wheels should be securely fastened