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Safety & General Tips

With all the cycling we do it is easy to get complacent about safety and think we are always safe. Wrong!! on a bike you are incredibly vulnerable and an easy target for bad, lazy, irresponsible drivers. Following are a few tips that may seem obvious but are worth reminding yourself of:
  • ALWAYS wear a helmet, no exceptions!!
  • Wear cycling gloves. If you are going to come off, the first thing you do is try and break your fall with your hands. Having no skin on the palms of the hands is no joke. I know it's hard to convince yourself to put them on, but you definitely should.
  • Wear glasses. Being hit in the eye by a fly at 30kph is unpleasant. Sunshades ease the eyestrain on bright summer days. You can change to clear lenses in winter.
  • Don't ride your aero bars through town except in near zero traffic conditions. Your time delay in getting onto the brakes from the aero position may be the critical difference in avoiding an accident.
  • Don't ride a bike wearing headphones/walkman. Being able to hear cars approaching from behind is vital.
  • If riding at night wear plenty of reflective clothing, don't wear dark colours. Have plenty of lighting especially red tail lights. Flashing lights certainly stand out.
  • The most dangerous areas of town riding are intersections and roundabouts. Initially always assume the car at a give way, stop sign or roundabout has not seen you. Always look for confirming signs that they have seen you, has the driver looked in your direction, is another car coming towards or behind you that the car is more likely to see and hence stop for, is the sun low in the sky and blinding the driver, has the driver spotted a car some way off and is trying to get across the intersection before it arrives and hasn't seen you??..be defensive. Slow to a speed that you can stop and avoid the car if they haven't seen you, watch the driver, always try and anticipate what the driver of the car is going to do.
  • When approaching cars parked on your side of the road be wary of an opening door. Look and see if someone is in the car (look in the car mirrors), has it just stopped, watch the doors, glance over your shoulder to see if you have room to swerve if a door suddenly opens.
  • Be careful on wet or icy wintry mornings. Fortunately there are not too many mornings when ice is a problem. Watch the road surface for ice signs, don't lean too much on the corners, don't apply too much front brake. Also avoid the road markings when wet, they can be very slippery.
  • If a car is approaching you when riding on the open road check behind for cars. Be very careful if two cars are going to cross right beside you, you may get squeezed into the rough stuff.
  • If you are being passed by a large wide vehicle be aware that the car behind may not have seen you. Don't pull out and regain your cycling line until you know you are clear behind.
  • If you are going bike racing or riding in any of the many Fun Bike Rides, get used to riding on someone else's wheel, yes I mean drafting, you won't be able to avoid it in the bigger events.
  • If you are heading into the country for a long ride tell your partner/family/friend where you are going and when you expect to be home, take some water (and food?), be prepared for possible cold wet weather, take some cash, cell phone, take at least one spare tyre/tube.
  • Cyclists always seem to be a challenge to the under exercised dog. If one approaches me I usually growl deeply and loudly to it, have my leg ready to administer a sharp kick if required, don't swerve towards the centre line unless you are sure there are no cars behind.
  • Be careful on down hills where drivers often underestimate your speed, ie. they may pull out from an intersection thinking you are travelling slow.
  • If you puncture try and remember to shift down to a low gear before stopping. It is very difficult to move off from stationary in a 53/12 gear (i.e. Big cog in the front and smallest cog at the back)
  • If you blow your tyres up real hard for racing eg 120psi+ then don't forget to let some air out after the event. Especially if you are putting your bike in the back of a hot car - the tyre expands more and can explode!.
  • If you drop off the edge of the tar seal - STAY OFF - until it is safe to return. A natural response is to try to get back on the seal as it happens - Dont! Stay off and find a safe even place to return (It's softer to fall on the grass verge rather than the very hard chipseal.
Matamata Peddlers Cycling Club, Matamata, New Zealand