Bicycle Network: Ride On magazine
Safety: Easy as ABC
Bo Li has some suggestions for making riding safer and more fun
Got a new bike from Santa? Or, perhaps made a New Year’s resolution to get fit and do some recreational rides and even have a go at ride to work? For many people, getting back on the saddle can be both a rewarding and an anxious experience. But, as we all know “once you learn to ride a bike, you will never forget it”. Here are three steps to ensure you have fun and stay safe on your bike, and they are as easy as A-B-C.
A is for Attitude
Having the right attitude before hopping on a bike is more important than you think. Chances are you will be riding on roads with cars, motorbikes and other riders or on bike paths shared with pedestrians. While warp 8 is great at evading a Klingon attack or achieving a personal best in a velodrome, it is unlikely to get to your destination any sooner if you are travelling on the road and only puts yourself and others at risk. Yes, you have rights as a rider, but they also come with responsibilities. That new $5000 full carbon bike with matching jersey and knicks will not make you the next Robbie or Cadel; and your loved ones would rather see you home late than see you in hospital casualty.
It is said that assumption is the mother of all stuff ups. As a rider, it is important to anticipate what’s ahead and ride at sensible speeds, particularly in challenging conditions, such as during peak hours, in the rain or near major intersections. Many of us do this instinctively as drivers, but somehow neglect it once we get on a bike. Make eye contact with drivers; see if they are busy (and illegally) talking on the phone while trying to do a left-hand turn in front of you and have your fingers on the brake levers can all help to prevent a crash. Similarly, check your six and give some warning as you are about to pass someone will also minimise any nasty surprises for yourself and others.
Riding is about enjoying the ride, be it in a competition, recreation or commuting. Having the right mind set will help you prolong that enjoyment, repeat it and share it with others.
B is for Behaviour
Having the right mind set is one thing, acting them out is another. As a bike commuter, I have seen my fair share of riders flouting road rule by running red lights, not stopping for trams and talking on their phones while riding. Equally, I have witnessed many rude drivers, motorcyclists who hop into the bike lane and pedestrians busy texting while crossing the road. Road safety is everyone’s responsibility. If you are behind a car turning left, you are legally obliged to give way to the turning vehicle. Just because a driver was rude to you does not mean you need to reciprocate with a one finger salute.
Perhaps it is worthwhile revisiting Newton’s Second Law that states Force equals to Mass times Acceleration. So the bigger mass you have (trucks compared to cars compared to bikes) or the faster you are travelling, the bigger the force you will feel when there is an impact. Relax and share the road instead of seeing the ride as a battle between riders and others. Try it, you will be surprised at how good it feels to let a car pass in front of you, or give the driver who pulled back a bit a friendly wave as you pass. Leaving a gap of one or two bike lengths between you and the rider in front will also allow for sufficient braking distance in an emergency. After all, being nice never hurt anyone.
Motorists and other road users are increasingly aware of bike riders, thanks to enhanced biking infrastructure and lobbying by bodies such as Bicycle Victoria. Many riders mistakenly believe that road rules are for motor vehicles only, and are surprised to learn that a bike on a road is considered a vehicle. So next time you pull up next to a fellow rider who just turned left at the last junction on a red light, have a polite conversation, you might just save a few dollars from their pocket the next time.
C is for Clothing
“Clothes maketh the man” so goes the saying (and women too, no doubt). Ensuring you have the correct clothing can be literally a matter of life and death. Helmets must be worn by law while you are riding. While they can make great handlebar ornaments and mess up your hair, they are still the cheapest form of life insurance around at between $50 and $100. A good replacement helmet can always be found in your local bike shop, a replacement head, on the other hand, is slightly more difficult to find.
Gloves not only protects against chaffing and blisters, they also absorb sweat, which means you are less likely to have slippery grip or grazed knuckles. Riding with flowing scarves, shirts and skirts look great in a slow-mo movie shoot, but those loose ends also have a nasty tendency to get caught on protruding mirrors, bike brakes and spinning wheels. Finally, sensible flat soled shoes win over thongs (of the flip flop variety) and ten inch stilettos at any speed over 5km per hour.
Commuters should also invest in some reflective vests, arm/leg bands as well as rain gear, especially during the winter months, when it can get dark before 5pm with a chance of a shower as you step outside to ride home.
Clothing is not confined to the rider; your bike should also be sensibly “dressed”. Having good tyres inflated to the correct pressure will improve handling and decrease your pedaling efforts. Mudguards are great accessories in the wet to minimise that unique water-dripping-down-the-back-of-your-pants sensation, with the added bonus of not giving the face of the rider behind you a full spray of the “rooster tail” by your bike. Having working front AND rear brakes are essential, and required by law; as is an audible warning device, commonly referred to as a bell.
Ok, so getting back on the bike takes a bit of effort, but it is not that hard. Follow the simple A-B-Cs above and enjoy your ride!
About the author
Bo started riding to work after the 2008 National Ride to Work Day. He has an Avanti Blade 4 commuting bike and a Malvern Star 12 speed racer which he converted to a flat bar “summer bike”. He has restored a Northern Star step-through bike for his wife and is currently attempting to restore a Road Star Dragster so he can fulfill a teenage dream.