Biking is a great way to stay active, get outdoors, commute to work, and protect the environment as you get from here to there in style. It’s a versatile activity people of all ages can enjoy. But, depending on how and where you prefer to cycle, there are certain safety guidelines you should keep in mind. From mountain biking to commuting, it’s important to know how to protect yourself and those around you.
If you’re looking for the full guide to bicycle safety, look no further!
Universal Bike Safety
Regardless of whether you’re a hardcore sports cyclist or simply bike to work on a regular basis, there are a few universal safety rules to keep in mind.
Biking can be a high-risk activity if you’re not prepared. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how many incidents happen in a given timeframe because biking accidents are typically under-reported. But still, injuries due to overuse and carelessness are not uncommon. We’ve also observed a troubling trend toward increased fatalities associated with biking as the activity grows in popularity.
Luckily, accidents can be greatly reduced if you follow these core safety rules of biking.
Don’t Text and Bike
It’s recommended that you keep both hands on the handlebars at all times when you’re riding. Save the texting for when you dismount. If you need to navigate, invest in a smartphone mount for your bike. Not only does handling your phone make you unstable, but it can also pose as a distraction when you should be giving the bulk of your attention to biking and your surroundings.
Ride DNA wants to keep every bike rider safe and connected. That’s why we created the RODL Grips. This revolutionary product makes it possible to take calls, control your music, and use Siri – all while keeping your grip on the handlebars. Simply slip it on your handlebar and ride distraction-free.
For more information about RODL, check out the features.
Wear a Helmet
Obvious but overlooked. Rule number one of cycling across the board is to wear a helmet. Many people choose not to wear a helmet, but wearing one is vital to keeping you safe on the road. Recent research shows that wearing a helmet can reduce the chance of a serious brain injury by 50%.
It’s also important that you wear the helmet properly and double-check that it fits your head. It should fit snugly to your head and only move 15 millimeters in any direction. The chin strap should be tightened and buckled at all times.
Biking at Night
Want to know what happens when your bike isn’t visible on the road at night? Yeah, neither do we! Avoid potential catastrophe by making yourself as visible as possible while riding in the evening. Lights and reflective gear (reflective safety vest) can literally be a lifesaver. At a minimum, fix flashing lights on the front and back of your bike. Ankle lights and headlights can also be a good idea to wear while riding.
Another important way to stay safe at night is to keep your route in mind. The evening isn’t the time to get experimental with your path home. Choose a route you know well so you can prepare for any potholes or lane changes along the way.
Keep Up With Maintenance
Bikes require regular maintenance to run as smoothly as possible. Here are a few rules of thumb when it comes to keeping your bike in tip-top shape.
- Most chains typically last 800-1000 miles in normal conditions. Mountain bike chains tend to need service after 400-600 miles due to the strain on the bike.
- Keeping up with chain maintenance can prevent other, more expensive, parts from wearing out.
- Pump up road bike tires at least once a week, hybrid tires every two weeks, and mountain bike tires every two to three weeks.
- Check your bike every so often for corroded, rusted parts. This is common after a winter in storage so be sure to give your bike a once over before your first ride of the warmer months.
- Keep an allen wrench set or multitool, bike lube, and a degreaser handy for DIY bike maintenance.
- Check your brakes before every ride. Be sure the brake pads touch the rims, not the tires. If the pad doesn’t touch or seems thin, it might be time for a service.
- Address any issues with your bike as soon as possible and avoid riding on it until you fix the problem.
One easy way to see if your bike might need maintenance is to conduct a drop test. Lift the bike a few inches off the ground, let it fall, and catch it right before it hits the ground. If it makes any rattling noises, that could be an indication that there are loose, worn-out components you should address.
Know Your Hand Signals
When sharing the road with other cyclists and cars, it’s vital to use universal biking hand signals. Generally, you’ll only need three signals: right turn, left turn, and stop. Each of these signals are fairly intuitive and easy to remember. If you have a driver’s license, then you’re already familiar. They’re an important way to clue in the other bikes and vehicles around you so they can anticipate your next move.
Keep water with you at all times when you’re riding. Dehydration is a possibility even in cold climates, especially while exercising. Keep enough water on your person or on your bike to make it through the entire trip. To keep your hands on the handlebars, get yourself a hydration pack - a backpack that contains water you can sip through a tube like a straw.
Always prepare for the unexpected. The more you hop on your bike, the better you’ll be at the activity and the safer your rides will be. However, don’t get too comfortable where to start to let your guard down. Always be prepared for the unexpected while you bike so you keep safe.
Commuter biking is growing in popularity. Some studies predict that biking will be the standard mode of transportation in many urban areas across the globe. They say the number of individuals that will take to cycling for navigating to work will likely double by 2022. And for good reason!
It’s not only a great way to stay in shape, but it can also significantly reduce your carbon footprint. But with an influx in commuters hitting the road, bike safety is more important now than ever.
Avoid Riding on Sidewalks
In many states, it’s actually illegal to bike on sidewalks. The legality behind it varies from region to region but a good rule of thumb is to simply dismount if you get on the sidewalk. Something that is agreed upon in all states is that bicyclists should conduct themselves under the same rules and responsibilities as motorists while on the roadways. So if a car can’t take a casual ride on the sidewalk, neither should you.
Go With Traffic Flow
As we just covered, bicycle riders must follow the same traffic laws as vehicles. Remain on the right side of the road. You’re 3.6 times more likely to get in an accident if you’re riding on the left side of the road. That figure jumps up to 6.6 times for those 17 and under. People in cars aren’t naturally looking your way to check for cyclists so this makes turning right from the left-hand side of the road extremely difficult if not impossible.
Keep your focus on the road. Distractions can lead to injury or even fatality. Many experts recommend not wearing headphones so you can use every available sense to keep your bearings.
But if you’re one that can’t stand biking in silence, there’s a solution for you too. Bone conducting headphones make it so you can listen to music and your surroundings simultaneously. They rest on your cheekbone instead of in the ear and transmit sound waves through the bone. These waves forgo your eardrum and get sent directly to your cochlea.
If you're sticking with headphones, leave one out or turn the volume down low when in higher traffic areas. The best way to turn your volume down will be to keep your hands on the handlebars while using your RODL Grips to control the volume.
Plot Out a Smart Route
Plan ahead! If you plan on commuting on a regular basis, you’ll make your life a whole lot easier if you pick a bike-friendly route. You’ll want to shoot for a path with either wide roads or built-in bike lanes.
Every city will have different degrees of infrastructure in place for cyclists. If your route doesn’t include many wide roads or bike lanes, try to plan out a path where there’s less traffic. Plotting out the perfect route may take some trial and error. But once you nail it down, you’ll thank yourself for your efforts.
The RODL Grips can be a useful tool to control your navigation apps too so take advantage of it while exploring new routes!
Sports Cycling Safety
Sport cycling can attract a vast crowd of individuals. Professional athletes and leisure enthusiasts alike prize the sport for several reasons. Not only is it a fun pastime, but it’s also an exceptional way to stay healthy.
According to Harvard Medical School, regular cycling can lead to improved heart health, increased bone density, and toned muscles. There’s also a social aspect to the sport which is linked to a host of health benefits.
While sports cycling can provide countless benefits, it can also lead to injury if you’re not careful. Here are a few of the most important safety considerations to keep in mind while participating in this sport.
Take Caution in Urban Areas
Cyclists should continually take proactive measures to prevent the potential for collisions. Around 70% of fatal cycling accidents occur in urban areas. While you’re passing through a city, take extra care to watch for vehicles. While rural areas pose their own set of risk factors, you’ll probably encounter fewer vehicles to watch for.
Install Rear View Mirrors
Whether you’re putting in 15 to 20 hours a week or just riding for 30 minutes a day, turning to look behind you can get old fast. One way to add safety and efficiency to your rides is to install rear view mirrors on your handlebars or helmet. They allow you to check behind you with a reduced eye movement rather than a full head swivel. This will improve your stability and keep you safer on the road.
Ride With Friends
Not only is riding with a buddy a great social experience, but it can also be an important safety measure. Unforeseen circumstances can throw your whole ride off, whether it’s due to a flat tire or an injury. Having friends to lean on can help resolve any snags a lot quicker. Plus, you never know what safety knowledge your friends have that you don’t in the face of a crisis.
Carry a Bike Repair Kit
Flat tires are the most common issue cyclists will face on the road. You’ll likely need to fix a broken chain or tighten a loose bolt at some point or another too. If you don’t have the right supplies for the job, you could end up stranded. This is a troublesome dilemma to find yourself miles away from home – especially if you abide by our rural areas tip. Carrying a bike repair kit on every ride can save you a lot of trouble.
Here’s what a kit should include:
- Bike Pump
- Tire Levers
- Spare Tube and Patch Kit
- Cash and Your ID
Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard
Overuse is a leading cause of injury in cycling. While the sport is often praised for being low impact, the static holds can pose an issue for avid cyclists. It’s not uncommon for bikers to report neck, shoulder, knee, and back pain. When your body tells you it’s time for a break, believe it. Don’t continue to ride on a sore knee or with a tweaked back. This could lead to further damage.
Mountain Biking Safety
Mountain biking is a dynamic, rugged offshoot of cycling crafted with the outdoor enthusiast in mind. The bike itself is quite different from its road cruising counterpart. The tires are fatter, riders are in a more upright position, and the suspension systems are augmented.
These bikes are built to bound down a mountain path with the rider in control, tackling many obstacles it may encounter. But as you can imagine, things can get dangerous fast. Here are some safety guidelines to follow for the optimal mountain biking experience.
Ride Trails in Your Skillset
This sport takes a risky activity and throws it on a dirt path riddled with roots, rocks, and drops. As you can imagine, accidents can happen quickly – especially if you’re attempting paths outside of your skillset. When you’re just starting out in mountain biking, start with the easiest paths possible. Even if you think you’ll be a natural, get a feel for how to navigate this type of terrain and slowly work your way up to harder paths.
There are 4 categories of mountain bike trail difficulties:
- Blue: Easy trails
- Red: Intermediate trails
- Black: Difficult trails
- Yellow: Expert trails
Stay On the Trail
If you’re going out on a path, you should be following it. Don’t steer off because you’re curious. Many times, venturing off the path even by what you consider to be “just a few feet” can lead you further away from the trail than you thought. Stick to the trail and only venture away when you have friends with you or your GPS.
Invest in Quality Gear
There’s a lot of specialty gear involved in mountain biking. You’ll need a set of standard supplies similar to what you might take on a hike too. With such an intense sport, you should be prepared for any and all possible outcomes – from exhaustion to the inevitable crash.
Here’s a list of gear you should have:
- Mountain biking specific helmet
- Mountain bike jersey and shorts
- Knee protection
- Sports SPF
- First aid kit
- Tools and a patch kit
- Mountain biking-specific shoes (for higher levels)
- RODL Grips to keep your eyes forward and your hands on your handlebar
Watch For Blind Corners
Always slow down near blind corners. Even the most lightly traffic paths aren’t safe to peel around a corner with nothing but luck to protect you. If there happens to be another cyclist or hiker around the corner, you could cause some serious damage. Be courteous and take it slow around blind corners.
Maintain Trail Etiquette
Speaking of courtesy, it’s a good idea to read up on common trail etiquette before you get riding. There are some universal rules every mountain biker should live by. First and foremost, yield to people and horses. In the same vein, uphill riders have the right of way so if you’re on your way down, pull off to the side for your fellow biker.
When you encounter anyone, be vocal. Yell “hello!” or “on your left!” as you pass hikers so they know you’re coming. Get a bell installed on your bike if you have to. Generally, respect everyone else sharing the trail. They’re trying to enjoy nature just like you. And, of course, remember to be a good steward of any open space you ride in.
Study Up On First Aid
You will crash eventually if you make mountain biking a regular hobby. Get ahead of future accidents by bringing a first aid kit and knowing how to use it. Common injuries to prepare for are straps, gashes, sprains, and broken bones. Be smart and take every precaution to prevent injuries but also keep in mind that your buddy might just walk away with a few bumps and bruises.
It’s also not a bad idea to be familiar with the critters you may encounter along the way. Outdoor recreation requires a solid respect for wildlife. Remember, you’re a visitor in their home. Keep your head on a swivel. Watch out for rattlesnakes, deer, and coyotes. Your RODL bike handles are a great way to reduce distractions so you can keep your eyes peeled for animals.
You’re entering natural wildlife habitats when you’re riding in the wilderness. Animals of all kinds will be around you, so you need to properly respect their space and guard yours. Before heading out on your adventure, research the wildlife in the area you’ll be trekking. Mountain lions and snakes are typical in many regions. Prepare and be alert at all times so you don’t cross paths with the wrong animals.
Whether you’re riding to work or tearing down a mountainside, safety is a vital part of cycling. If you keep each of these tips in mind, you’ll be on the road to endless adventures with peace of mind knowing you’ve taken all the right precautions.
Here at Ride DNA we believe that cycling should be fun and stress-free.. That’s why our founder set out to create the RODL grip – to create a safer, improved experience for people everywhere to truly enjoy their ride. Join us as we move closer to a future where bike safety is the norm!