Happy Spring! If you’re like me, you’re excited to be getting off the trainer and biking outside more. The weather is warming up, the days are getting longer, and we can ride outside more consistently. Enjoy the nice weather, but keep in mind these few things to make sure you’re being safe.
#1 Wear your helmet.
Please, please, please wear your helmet! That should be the first thing you always check to make sure you bring when you’re going out for a ride.
#2 Leave your headphones at home.
When you’re riding outside, you need to be alert to what’s going on around you which means you need to be able to hear. Leave your headphones at home for the trainer rides.
#3 Pick a good, clockwise course.
Get to know the area you live in. Where are the good roads to ride? Look for bike paths, marked bike lanes on streets, and roads with wide shoulders. Look for roads that are well-maintained with minimal potholes and debris. If you’re riding a loop, ride clockwise. That means that you’ll be making mostly right turns which means you don’t have to cross in front of traffic to turn.
#4 Check your blind spot – way back.
If you do need to merge across traffic, make sure you check your blind spot. Remember that cars are going significantly faster than you, so they come up fast and from a long way back. When you check your blind spot, you should be looking a few hundred yards behind you – not just a couple car lengths – to make sure it’s clear.
#5 Signal with your left arm.
Always signal with your left arm. This keeps your right hand on the handlebars and your back brake – if you need to hit only one brake in a pinch, you want it to be your back brake because your front brake would send you into a front flip. Cars will also be on your left, so it’s easier for them to see your left arm. Pointing up signals a right turn, pointing left signals a left turn, and pointing down signals stop.
#6 Ensure you can see and be seen.
Especially if you ever ride at dawn or dusk, but also if you ride on overcast days, make sure drivers can see you well and that you can see well. Wear clothing with reflective paneling. Ride with a headlight and taillight on your bike. I know they’re not aerodynamic or lightweight, but most lights clip on easily so you don’t have to keep them on for race day.
#7 Establish yourself in the lane.
As I write this one, I know it will be the recommendation that is the most contentious. When there is not a shoulder or bike lane – and there won’t always be one – I believe it is important to establish yourself in the lane. Many cyclists will try to ride to the far right side of the road, literally tiptoeing the edge of the pavement. I don’t. When there is no shoulder, I will ride to the right side of the lane but still with a few feet on my right before the edge of the road. I do that to leave a margin of error on my right before the edge of the pavement – basically, space to swerve if a car passes too close. When I see other cyclists completely hug the right side of the pavement, I also see cars pass them dangerously close while trying to share the lane. By establishing yourself in the lane, but on the right side of it, it communicates to drivers that they need to cross over to the next lane/oncoming traffic in order to pass you. If oncoming traffic isn’t clear, then they need to be patient and wait. I will say that some drivers don’t particularly like being patient and I have been honked at many times in situations like this. I would rather have them honk than have them pass dangerously putting my life in danger. Better yet, review #3 above, and avoid this situation entirely.
If you want to get technical on this one, Colorado Law states, “…a bicyclist shall ride far enough to the right as judged safe by the bicyclist…” As the bicyclist, you’re in control of what you consider to be safe. Familiarize yourself with what the law is in your area if you live outside Colorado.
#8 Follow the rules of the road.
Stop at stop signs/stoplights and signal your turns. Doing something like running a stop sign or red light on your bike not only puts your life in danger, but it also builds animosity between you and any driver that just saw you break the law. As cyclists, we need to show drivers that we respect the rules of the road, and they’ll in turn respect us. I know it can be frustrating if you hit a stoplight right in the middle of an interval. I’ve been there too. Regardless of what you’re training for or what workout you’re doing, it does not justify running the light. Plus, look back to #3. In picking a good course, you should also consider things like whether or not your ride includes higher intensity intervals and if so, try to hit those intervals on sections of the course without stops and intersections.
Have fun and enjoy the nice weather, but above all, stay safe!