Planning to get back in the saddle this spring, but feeling a little rusty? Us too. If you’ve taken some time off the bike this winter, it’s likely time for a refresher. Here are some tips to get you back on the bike, safely.
1. Shine bright
Hopefully, you’re already riding with lights at dusk, dawn and after dark, but are you using a daytime running light? It’s been proven that cyclists using daytime running lights are easier to spot. But what exactly is a daytime running light? Lumens alone don’t make a light visible during daytime. A daytime running light has a specific focus, an interruptive flash pattern and a visible range of at least 400 meters during the day. If a light doesn’t meet these three criteria, it’s just a light.
2. Don’t blend in with your surroundings
Increase your visibility by wearing fluorescent colours and reflective materials. But don’t forget, you need both! Fluorescent colours are only effective in presence of ultraviolet rays during the day. So when a fluorescent colour gets hit by car lights during the night or in low-visibility conditions it won’t appear any brighter than black. That’s when reflective materials come into play. For maximum visibility wear fluorescent by day and reflective by night.
3. Wear a helmet
A helmet won’t prevent a crash, but it will definitely reduce injuries in the event of one. When fitted properly, helmets work to protect the head by absorbing and diffusing impact from collisions with hard surfaces. If it’s sliding around and isn’t snug on your head, it won’t work.
So what’s new in the helmet world? Manufacturers are investing time in research and are using new technologies and materials to better protect your head in case of an accident. MIPS is just one of them. MIPS stands for "Multi-directional Impact Protection System” and imitates the brain's way of protecting itself by giving the helmet its own low-friction layer between the outer shell and the liner. In the case of a crash, the helmet’s exterior shell will shift around the interior shell, absorbing rotational cranial forces that would otherwise be transferred to the brain causing serious brain damage.
Tip: Helmets have expiry dates. Check the inside of your helmet to ensure it’s not expired.
4. Show your bike some TLC
A safe bike is one that fits and is well maintained. And, if you needed any more incentive to treat your steed to regular tune-ups, a well maintained bike is also more fun to ride. It’s important to make sure moving parts are running smoothly and reliably. Give your bike a quick once-over before every ride - short or long.
Here’s a checklist:
- Brakes - Are they engaging properly? Are the brake pads worn? Are they rubbing?
- Tires - Do they have enough air? Are they worn?
- Chain - Is it dry or dirty? Does it need chain lube? Are your gears shifting smoothly?
5. Know the rules, and your rights
As a cyclist, you’re part of the traffic pattern and are expected to obey to rules of the road. For example, did you know that in some jurisdictions, cyclists are required by law to have a bell or horn on their bikes? If you’re riding on the road, give yourself space. Taking the lane is often safer than hugging the curb or riding close to parked cars. Just like when skiing, it’s safest to move predictably. Use hand signals, your bell and your voice, follow traffic signs, communicate and make eye contact with other road users.