Ride Safe This Summer by Following 6 Important Bicycle Safety Tips
There’s nothing quite as fun as a bicycle ride in the summer. With your feet on the pedals and the wind in your face, biking feels exhilarating and free! Riding a bike takes us back to our younger years. After spending the spring months cooped up indoors this year, biking is especially appealing.
Better still, biking is accessible for many people at different fitness levels. It’s terrific cardio exercise and as a low-impact activity, it tends to be easy on your joints. It’s a sport you can enjoy solo or with friends and family.
It’s essential to familiarize yourself with bicycle safety before you take your bike out for a ride. Biking is a healthy sport, but not without certain dangers, many of which are easily preventable. Over 800 bicyclists are killed per year in accidents and many others are injured. Proper safety precautions are crucial.
So before you hit the road, take some time to learn the latest bicycle safety tips and familiarize yourself with the right gear. Bike safely (and encourage your kids to do the same) so you can enjoy the sport for years to come!
1. Pay Attention & Follow the Rules of the Road
Did you know that there are certain rules of the road you should follow when you bike? For example, you should follow street signs and ride with the flow of traffic. Adults should bike in the road, not on the sidewalk, and stay in designated bike lanes when possible. You should also signal before turning and during stops.
Bike safety starts with awareness. Even if you bike in a rural or secluded area, you should pay close attention to your surroundings. Don’t distract yourself with headphones or phone calls. Keep your eyes on the road and always assume that drivers don’t see you, even if you think they do.
2. Choose a Comfortable Bike
Selecting a suitable bike is another important step for bicycle safety. We’ve all attempted to ride a bike that wasn’t the right fit. It’s uncomfortable, and at worst, dangerous. Your feet should touch the ground when you’re on your bike seat. You should feel balanced on the bike—your seat should feel comfortable and you should smoothly pedal, with your knees not quite fully extending.
Use a bike size chart to ensure your bike is right for your height. Bike shops and sporting goods retailers will often help fit you for the right bike for your body. It’s also important that you choose the type of bike you’re comfortable with. Some people may prefer a mountain bike, a road bike, or a hybrid. Weekend leisure riders may even enjoy a casual “beach cruiser” bike for short trips around town. The key is to find a bike you like and feel comfortable riding.
3. Wear a Helmet for Bicycle Safety (Always)
One of the essential pieces of advice on bicycle safety is to always wear a helmet. Even if you are only going out for a short ride, a helmet can protect you from serious injury, should you hit a pothole or a small bump in the road. Over the past few decades, helmets have become more ubiquitous, but there’s still room to improve, especially among adult bike riders.
With over 300 models and many different brands, there are many kinds of helmets to choose from. Technology has come a long way over the years with helmets that are ingeniously designed with layers to protect your brain from injury during a bike crash. Buy a helmet that’s comfortable to wear for a full ride. When it comes to choosing the right bike helmet, go ahead and splurge. When you invest in a helmet, you’ll be even more likely to put it on!
4. Use Reflective Gear, Lights, & Bells
Think bells and lights are just for kids? While you might think of a bike bell as a needless accessory, it can actually be a useful piece of bicycle safety gear. A simple ring will let people know when you’re approaching—a warning that can improve everyone’s safety on a crowded trail or pedestrian walkway.
Reflectors and lights are also critical safety components for biking. Specially designed bike clothing often features reflective patterns and even LED lights. If you’re not ready to invest in a bike wardrobe, a few strips of reflective tape can help a regular t-shirt and a pair of shorts improve your bicycle safety.
5. Carry Your Phone, a Small First Aid Kit & Water
As with any sport, you should prepare whenever you head out on a bike ride. A small zip pack is ideal for holding your phone, a small first aid kit, and a bottle of water. With any summertime physical activity, hydration is crucial.
Your biking first aid kit should contain bandages for blisters, small sunscreen, lip balm, and alcohol prep pads. Depending on the distance of your journey, you may also want to take a patch kit and bike repair tools. Prepare for any situation by letting friends or family members know your planned route and carrying your phone with you for safety.
6. Listen to Your Body
Whenever you start a sport or new exercise routine, it’s essential to listen to your body. When biking, especially if it’s been several years since you’ve taken a ride, stay attuned to your feelings. Bicycle safety includes keeping your rides short at first and taking rest breaks whenever you need them.
As you build up to longer rides, stay aware of any discomfort you may experience. Upper back pain can indicate that you need to reposition your handlebars or seat. Knee, hip, or ankle pain could indicate a strain or injury. Don’t “play through the pain.” If you’re experiencing discomfort during your bike rides, check in with a professional.
At Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, we’re here to help you stay in the game. If you have any concerns, set up an appointment with a member of our physical therapy team to restore your strength and mobility. Often with the guidance of a physical therapy professional, you’ll get back on the road in no time!