Friday, January 31, 2014

The basics for staying upright.

Like all things, cycling can be both advantageous and disadvantageous. Cyclists love it because it gets them high on smugness. That smugness can come from avoiding traffic jams, finding parking more easily, not paying for gasoline, etc. Among all of those benefits there lies just one major caveat. It's the fact that sometimes cycling can result in a serious injury or death. The ghost-bikes we've all seen at some point are a reminder that bad shit can happen. It's safe to say that the one thing every cyclist doesn't want is a ghost-bike made in their memory.

A sobering sight.
Most of the time even the stupidest, most unaware cyclist can ride through town and avoid the reaper. The thing is that eventually bad habits or lack of attention can catch up and that lucky streak might run out. So what should cyclists do to avoid injury besides staying home and watching Wendy Williams?

This doesn't mean you have to be OCD about it. Just pay attention to things. Does your bike squeak? Does your chain look like crap? Are your tires bald? The benefit of having a bike in good working order isn't just efficiency. A bike that won't break down in a bad neighborhood might just save from getting jumped. 

2. Carry a flat kit.

You're gonna get a flat. Maybe not today, or tomorrow but eventually you'll hear a hiss and realize you've run over a piece of glass or something. You need to have seat bag attached to your bike (carrying stuff in a backpack just means that the one day you don't bring your backpack is the one day you get a flat). Stuff the seat bag with at least 1 tube, 1 tire lever, 1 patch kit and carry a real pump. Don't be a sissy and insist that a Co2 pump is enough. You don't want to end up feeling like a dumbass because the only thing holding you back from riding home is a Co2 cartridge that you DON'T have.

3. Plan your ride.

There's this thing called Google and it has these things called maps. It's freakin' amazing! If you're starting a commute for the first time then you need to plan out where you're gonna ride. Select the view that shows you all the bike paths in your area. Use as many roads with bike paths even if it means riding a little bit out of your way. If parts of your route have no bike paths then find the streets with the lightest traffic and the widest shoulders. Sometimes that means creating detours, but a detour is better than a shattered femur. Besides lets be honest, you probably need the extra mileage. 

This might sound like common knowledge but I've met riders that never take the time to research a safe route. They're the ones you see riding in the gutter on major boulevards where cars are flying past them at 55 mph.

4. You're invisible.

It's true! You've mastered invisibility. As soon as you straddle a bike you become invisible. This is a fact because when you get hit by a car the first thing a driver will say is that they didn't see you. You can counteract this by doing things like riding with lights on, even during the day. Riding in the same direction as traffic. Avoiding situations where a car might cut you off as they make a right turn and being as predictable as possible. 

Don't be an idiot and try to save yourself from danger by riding on the sidewalk. It will only result with your face on someones windshield. You'll be riding along and a car will pull straight out of a driveway and into the sidewalk. Drivers only look out for other cars. Be where the cars are and maybe drivers will see you and mistake you for a car too. Riding on the street will give you more time to see cars as they exit driveways or merge into your path. 

5. Learn from every close-call.

If you ride long enough you'll eventually have a close call. A moment where you could have gotten injured but didn't. Life lessons usually come with a price, close calls are freebies. Don't waste them. Think about what you could have done differently and put it to use. Every town has it's own special mix of dangers, learn them.

There's probably 100 more tips for safe riding but these are the ones that I think are most important. I might add some pointers later on if more come to mind.  

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