Cycling is a pleasurable activity that can turn into horror should you find yourself in an accident. At the end of the day the bike is an elegant frame, that is no match for speeding vehicles. It is thus important for the cyclist to cycle safely and be responsible (for his life!).
Safety for cyclists falls in three categories:
- Technical safety, related to your riding style, so you don’t land up in accidents.
- Safety by way of protection gear, like helmets.
- Safety via awareness so you don’t find yourself in unsafe situations in the first place.
Let’s go through all things you should do to be safe on your bike quickly.
1. Communicate Clearly – Make Noise, Use Hand Signals
Let drivers behind you know if you are going to turn left or right, by sticking out your hand. Do this well in advance, preferably 15 seconds before.
Ring your bell to catch others’ attention or even call out if you feel you need to. Communicate your intentions to other drivers and cyclists through your body language as much as you can to cycle safely. Poor communication is often a major cause of accidents. Be predictable!
2. Ride Behind Large Vehicles, Not On The Left
Truck drivers usually don’t watch out for possible vehicles or riders on their left. The left rearview mirror is quite far from the driver’s seat in a lorry/truck, which creates a blind spot. You never know when a truck might maneuver to the left while you are on its left, causing an accident.
3. Don’t Do Drafting
Sometimes cyclists tend to cycle behind a truck. Cycling behind a truck may seem convenient, since it tends to create a vacuum and you can cycle at a higher speed with less effort. However, if the truck decides to pull brakes suddenly, you might collide which can also result in a serious accident.
4. Keep a Metre’s Distance From Cars
You never know when the door of a parked car may be flung open, hitting your bike and causing a crash! Just keep a distance from parked cars to begin with and save yourself from accidents. Also keep ample distance from vehicles in front of you, so that you can cycle safely and if they stop suddenly you don’t ram into them.
5. Back Brakes First
Press the back brake first. Suddenly squeezing your front brakes can lead you to fly over the handlebar and fall face first as your back wheel would still be in motion. This is particularly important when whizzing down flyovers.
6. Don’t Stop In The Middle Of Trails
When riding on trails never stop in the middle to check your bike, or for a sip of water. The rider behind will not be expecting the obstacle (that is you) and may crash into you. Always take your cycle to the side when you stop, however narrow the trail.
7. Wear a Helmet – Always!
Helmets are specifically designed to protect the most precious part of your body – your head! A serious injury to your skull can be fatal.
Helmets have a hard outer shell that spreads the force of an impact over a broader area, and a soft inner shell is designed such that it squeezes inwards and absorbs shock.
Read our article: How to buy a helmet
8. Use Front And Back Lights
Front lights help you see the road in front of you, and back lights help you be seen by others on the road, especially in darkness. Rear lights particularly help you in being seen; they have various modes – flashing/ blinking that alert drivers to your presence even more.
9. Wear Bright Colors
Wear vibrant colors, preferably reflective clothing to cycle safely during rides at dawn or night. When riding on forest trails, green clothing will act as camouflage but orange and red clothing will help you stand out, and help your fellow cyclists spot you from a distance, and stay in touch with you.
10. Install Bike Reflectors
Reflectors are usually installed at the rear, front, pedal, or on the wheel of a bike. These come as bike add-ons, or in apparel as piping on your jersey, as loops around your ankles, or you can just wear reflective vests.
11. Install Rear-View Mirrors on Your Bicycle or Helmet
You may get a rearview mirror and install it on your handlebars or your helmet. It helps you keep a check on who is behind you and how close, without having to turn around.
12. Wear Cycling Shoes
It is a good idea to get cycling shoes. These do not have shoelaces as shoelaces can get caught in the chain and gears of your bike and cause accidents.
Read our article: Best cycle wears and gears
13. Ride In Groups
Ride in groups especially when riding in remote areas that may not be safe. Avoid being in a situation where you may be assaulted for any reason. Riding with people also makes sure that if an accident should happen, you have people to take care of you.
Read our article: Tips for group cycling
14. Choose Bike-Friendly Roads
Avoid riding on highways and expressways with speeding vehicles. These roads are meant for speed and it is not fair to the driver to suddenly come upon a slow moving bike, and adjust speed for it. Instead cycle on village roads, and other non-main roads, or in a cycling lane (if there’s one) to cycle safely. If there is no option, cyclists sometimes have a support vehicle tail them so it can be seen from afar and there is no danger of a fast-moving vehicle coming upon the cyclists suddenly.
15. Stay Lowkey In Remote Areas
Unfortunately, there have been incidents where cyclists riding in rural areas have been assaulted. Be realistic. Don’t flash expensive bikes in low income areas. If asked about the price of your bike, it may be a good idea to tell a lower than real figure.
Carry these so you are well prepared on your ride
Rain jacket in case of rain. Some cyclists just enjoy getting wet though! If riding in hot and dry climate, getting wet is OK, but in cold weather this may not be nice at all
Water: A bottle or two of water is a must. Add electrolyte so you replenish the salts you lose in sweat.
Check out: water bottles for cyclists.
Spare tube or patch kit: You never know when your tire runs flat, and leaves you stranded in an unknown area or neighbourhood. Know how to use a patch kit, or change the tube. It’s easy and oddly satisfying. You’ll also need a mini pump to do this. So carry one! They easily mount on bike frames.
Safety is all about common sense, good route planning and good gear. Do the basics and enjoy accident free riding forever!
*Featured image courtesy: Sumit Patil