Spring has (almost) sprung, and you’re dusting off your bike and getting ready to take it for a spin. But wait, what about safety? If worrying about the rules of the road has you holding back, then these cycling tips are just what’s needed. Cycling pro Roxy Lo gives us a primer on bicycling basics. Take it from her!
1. Study up on cycling rules and etiquette.
Not only will you be a better rider, but you will learn to ride predictably in traffic and gain skills for confidently riding in your area, in any weather, and be prepared. You can find hands-on classes in most major cities. This is set up by the League of American Bicyclists, the largest cycling organization in the US.
2. When possible wear clear or lightly tinted eye protection.
Maybe it’s windy, perhaps you love to go fast, but nothing is worse than tearing up due to debris flying into your eye or your eyes watering due to lack of eye protection. Also, clearer lenses allow you to make direct eye contact with other cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists while riding.
3. Practice your ABCs each time you ride.
Each time you get on a bike (yours or shared ones), you want to ensure your safety first and foremost. A=Air. Always pump your tires to the recommended pressure. Air often escapes due to small punctures and sometimes leaky valves. Also, if you puncture your tire, chances are, it could have been a small one and you would only notice it after your bike sits for a while. B=Brakes. Check your brakes. Both front and rear should be operable, firm to use, and stop the wheel from turning. C=Chain. Make sure your chain is fairly well lubed so it can change gears well. It’s common now to have Teflon chain lube, typically known as “dry lube” so you no longer have greasy chains that muck up your socks or pants!
4. Saddles or your bike seat: buy something that fits your sit bones and padding level.
Our bodies aren’t used to sitting on a very small surface area and creating friction while pedaling so it takes some getting used to. If you cannot wear padded chamois under your clothing while on a bike, or even if you can, DO visit a bike shop and get an after-market saddle that works with the width of your sit bones. Using a gel pack on top of a board, your shop technician will have you sit on this and see how your bones “indent” on the form. Using a ruler, they can measure the distance of the sit bones and recommend a saddle (seat) that works with your body geometry. While there are seats marketed as “women’s’” saddles, I’ve measured the same sit-bone sizing as a man who was a foot taller than me, so the main goal is knowing the width of the saddle. When you have a saddle on your bike, it should always be level, meaning you can place a ruler on the top center from front to back and it is perfectly horizontal to the floor.
5. Ride with lights during the day.
Whether or not you might be wearing reflective commuting clothes, the best thing your bike can wear are blinking lights. Use front and rear lights during the day to give others a chance to see you and recognize you’re a moving object.
6. Ride in a straight line and look through your turns.
Some of us ride all the time, others very infrequently, but nothing is more freeing than riding a bike with the wind through your helmet hair. So, the best thing you can do is practice riding in straight, direct lines and modulating your speed through turns. Motorcyclists slow before taking a turn, but increase speed to finish the turn and are at a good speed when they need to go straight again. As a bicyclists, you don’t want to go wide into oncoming traffic, so learning to control your speed is first and foremost. Accelerating through a turn and looking where you want to go (not where you don’t) will help you focus on a point ahead. Try not to get distracted by static objects and use common sense with your awareness. Sometimes street corners have obstacles like sewer grates or accumulated gravel, so be careful and always scan the roadways for hazards.
Roxy would like to give a shout out to the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club for their thoughtful suggestions on topics to cover in this post.
Santa Cruz based industrial designer Roxy Lo is a graduate of California College of the Arts. Roxy is one of 5 owners of the boutique brand, Ibis Cycles Inc. and is responsible for the aesthetic shaping of all carbon fiber bicycle frames since 2006. Her sculpturally designed bicycles are often featured in Wired, Bike Magazine, Outside Magazine and other outdoor recreation-based web publications in the US and internationally. When she isn’t designing bikes or riding in the forest, she likes to chop wood and experiment with fermentation on food she grows in her garden. You can view her design work at www.roxylo.com.
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