You wait for those milder temps all year. Finally, one day, it is upon you: bike season. Time to load up your bicycle so you and your family can hit the trails. Bicycling is a great way to get exercise and enjoy the sunshine, but there are logistics involved. After all, just tossing your bike in the back seat isn’t going to do it. We’ve included tips for cycling safety that will ensure you bike season is off to a great start!
If you’re an avid cyclist or just a weekend warrior, consider getting a bike rack. It can be confusing; there are so many types to choose from! Here’s a list of the most common types, along with their pros and cons.
- Easily stored
- Lifting and securing bikes is a breeze!
- Fits many types of vehicles
- Typically the most inexpensive type of bike rack
- May create blind spots
- Limits ability to open trunk when installed
- Straps need to be monitored for wear and tear
- Padding may be needed to protect bikes or car paint
- More secure; some version are lockable
- Can be used for other cargo, not just bikes
- Can hold multiple bikes
- May not fit vehicles with curved roofs
- Increased wind resistance, which means poorer gas mileage
- Watch out for low clearance!
- Can be tough to install
- Easy to lift and secure bikes
- Easy to install
- Less chance of scratching your vehicle’s paint
- Typically pricier than other options
- Bikes can be damaged from being hit from behind
- Can create blind spots in driver’s side rear window
- May not work on smaller vehicles not rated for towing (lacking a hitch)
When choosing a bike rack, you really have to examine your options carefully. How many bikes you have, what kind of vehicle you drive (some racks are designed specifically for trucks or SUVs), how tall you are, and how often you’ll use your bike rack are all things to consider. On top of that, safety remains paramount; will installing your bike rack create blind spots? Will it obstruct your tail lights or license plate, which can be illegal?
Hitting the Trails
Once you’ve figured out the best way to transport your bike, you’re not quite done. Now is a perfect time to review safe riding tips with your family. Before you hop on your bike, consider these important tenets of safe cycling.
Make sure your helmet is properly fitted. A bicycle helmet should be level, snug, and cover most of your forehead. To check your helmet’s fit, place it on your head without buckling the chin strap. Trying shaking your head gently; does it shift from side to side? If it moves a lot, it’s too loose. You will either need to add pads or a smaller helmet. Does it cover your forehead? If not, you need a bigger helmet. A helmet is possibly the most important piece of bicycling safety equipment you can own: helmets can reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by 88 percent*. Don’t even think of getting on a bike without one!
Lights and Reflective Gear
If you plan on riding your bike at night, lights and reflective gear are nonnegotiable. A headlight helps oncoming traffic see you, and can also light your way on a poorly-lit trail. A flashing tail light alerts cyclists and motorists that are approaching you from behind. There are also more fun add-ons that are readily available at online retailers or specialty stores that come in a variety of colors and styles that will make you more visible in dim lighting. Reflective tape, vests and arm bands can add another layer of visibility when you hit the trails at night.
Share the Road
Always ride single-file on the right side of the road—don’t go against traffic. Be aware of parked cars to avoid painful contact with the door of a vehicle. Act like a car and be predictable; startling motorists by running lights or stop signs is not only dangerous, but could get you a ticket.
Know Your Signals
Always communicate your intention to stop, turn, and change lanes. If riding with a group, it is courteous to warn them if you’re stopping or if other cyclists are approaching. Similarly, don’t pass another group of cyclists without a warning ring of a bell (if your bike has one), or a simple “On your left!” When you’re lacking brake lights and turn signals, it’s easy to forget that your actions aren’t as predictable to those around you.
Preventative care for your bicycle is a must. Make sure your tires are properly inflated, your chain is oiled and free of rust, and your brakes are in good working order. Bicycle shops offer tune-ups, and often run specials in the spring. Another option is to take a bicycle maintenance class, where you can learn important skills like tire replacement and basic repairs. Regardless, it’s a good idea to take an emergency kit with you when you ride. These often include items such as a multi-tool, tire patch kit, and CO2 inflators that can help keep you on the road if your bike suffers a mechanical mishap.
Bicycling Around the Country
Bicycling is a popular pastime, which means there are plenty of resources available, whether you’re a competitive cyclist or just enjoy a leisurely weekend wheel around town. If you’re looking for new trails, check your state’s website; most will have a list of trails, as well as important updates on trail conditions.
Want to learn more? May is National Bike Month. Established in 1956 and sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, it is a way to encourage more people to give biking a try. Your state probably has a local Bike to Work Week or Month as well; check local listings to find out how you can participate.
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*Safe Kids Worldwide