The Basics of Safe Bicycling
by Rett Talbot
Spring is the perfect time to get on your bike and make cycling a regular part of your fitness routine. May is also National Bike Month, a time to focus on the benefits of cycling as a sport, a recreation, and a form of transportation. Here’s a quick review of the elements of bicycle safety to help you get the most out of your ride:
- Choose the right bike for what you’re going to do. Are you only going to be going for occasional rides in the park, or will you be using your bike as a daily mode of transportation? Do you want to train for a cycling race? Will you be riding on mostly pavement, or do you want to take your bike into rockier terrain? There are many different styles of bikes, depending on what you want to use them for: cruiser, road, off-road full suspension, off-road hard tail, hybrid, cyclo-cross, and fixed gear just to name a few. Talk to your local bike shop about what you need from the bike, and they can match you up with the style that’s best for you.
- Make sure you have all your safety gear. Every rider in every setting should wear an approved helmet. Dawn, dusk and evening rides require proper lighting on the front and rear of your bike. The rider needs to be visible to automobile drivers as well as other cyclists and pedestrians. Many states require white headlights and red taillights.
- Take the time to have a safety check and tune-up done on your machine once a year. Your bike will ride better and you will have fewer mechanical issues that might interrupt your cycling routine. Let National Bike Month be your annual reminder to take your bike in.
- Be especially mindful while cycling in traffic. Ride with the flow of traffic and make eye contact with drivers before you turn or change lanes to make sure they’re aware of your presence. You also need to follow all the same traffic signals, signs and street markings that drivers do, including stopping at red lights and stop signs.
- Avoid overuse injuries by making sure you are fitted to your bike in the most efficient way. For example, the saddle height should allow your knee to bend 25-35 degrees when the pedal is at its bottom most point in the stroke. There are other adjustments for comfort and power production that can be assessed, as I discussed in an earlier post: http://hss.edu/onthemove/fitness-friday-is-your-bike-fitted-correctly-for-you/
Bicycling is a fantastic way to enjoy the outdoors while getting cardiovascular exercise that doesn’t stress your lower joints. Make sure you’ve got the safety basics covered, then get out there and have a great ride.
Rett Talbot is a Physical Therapist at HSS Spine & Sport in Jupiter, Florida. An avid cyclist and coach of a local JDRF’s Ride to Cure team, Rett has specialized training in bike fitting learned from the leading specialist in the arena, Paul Swift of BikeFit.com. A Level 1 BikeFit Pro, Rett, has been doing bike fitting for more than 8 years. He uses his 20+ years of experience as a Physical Therapist with clinical specialization in Sports Physical Therapy to complement the process of getting you properly fitted for your bike’s power plant, cockpit, and foot pedal interface.