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Avoid Danger

This is a far cry from normal bicycle safety guides, which usually tell you little more than to wear your helmet and to follow the law. But consider this for a moment: Wearing a helmet will do absolutely nothing to prevent you from getting hit by a car. Sure, helmets might help you if you get hit, but your #1 goal should be to avoid getting hit in the first place. Plenty of cyclists are killed by cars even though they were wearing helmets. Ironically, if they had ridden without helmets, yet followed the guidelines listed below, they might still be alive today. Don't fall for the myth that wearing a helmet is the first and last word in biking safety. In truth, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It's better to not get hit. That's what real bicycle safety is about.

The next most common bike safety advice after "wear a helmet" is "follow the law," but most people are already aware that it's stupid to race through a red light when there's cross traffic. So the "follow the law" advice isn't that helpful because it's too obvious. What you'll find here are several scenarios that maybe aren't that obvious.

"Be Safe, and Have Fun" - Lisa The Head Director

General Tips

Practice Makes Perfect

Just like you practice other skills, you should practice braking, too. For example, you might pretend a car has suddenly pulled out in front of you and execute a panic stop, throwing your weight rearward as you forcefully apply the brakes. If you can train your body to react like this it's more likely to do so in a real emergency.

Brake Tuning

As you ride and use your brakes, the brake pads wear slightly. You feel this as more travel in the levers and you need to adjust the additional travel out before it gets to the point of jeopardizing your braking.Fortunately, there's an easy way to do this on almost all modern bicycles. Look for knurled adjusting barrels on the levers (on most off-road bikes; illustration) or on the brake calipers (most road bikes). By turning these barrels (usually counterclockwise), it's possible to make up for the worn pads and improve braking.

Check Pad Wear

Don't forget to check the pad wear from time to time though. Because, if you just keep tightening brake adjustment with the barrels, you'll eventually find that the pads have worn out. To check, look at the pad surfaces. When new, most pads have grooves in them. When these grooves start to disappear, it's a sign to replace the pads. Depending on the design some are easily replaced, others require tools and know-how. We're happy to advise if you have questions.

Brake Safely

Remember that different weather conditions and riding surfaces affect braking performance. When it's raining, it's important to anticipate stops and brake early, pumping the levers to allow the pads to wipe water off the rims so they can grab and slow the bike. And, when you're riding on slippery surfaces such as sand and mud, reckless braking can cause the wheels to lock, which may throw the bike into a dangerous slide.

Always leave yourself an out

Scan the situation and make sure you've got a safe exit route in the event something crazy happens. If you can swerve into a driveway or you've left plenty of room to brake, you'll drastically reduce the chances of an accident.

Be non confrontational

Drivers are under a lot of stress and they can lose it at times. You might be tempted to reciprocate. But don't because it serves no purpose and may exacerbate the situation. Instead, take a deep breath and let it go. Don't let someone else's stress rub off on you.

Remember to signal early

If you intend to turn at an intersection, especially if you're moving into the left-turn lane, signal early. And, don't move left until it's safe to do so. If you get trapped on the right curb due to heavy traffic, wait until it's safe to get in the left-turn lane. Sometimes, it possible to turn right (if that road is less busy), execute a legal U-turn and use the light to proceed through the intersection the way you want to go.

Be careful not to stop on an oil slick

Motor vehicles leak oil, and the deposits are usually in the middle of the lane at an intersection. Riding through this stuff is bad for your tires and can lead to loss of traction and a crash when you start pedaling again.

Don't get doored!

If you're approaching an intersection and parked cars are on your right, remain alert for drivers exiting their cars. Should they swing open their door, you'll have to react quickly to avoid a serious crash.

Eye contact is key

For safety in traffic, always try to establish eye contact before moving in front of cars. When you're behind a slow-moving vehicle, try to meet the driver's eyes by looking in his mirrors and don't pass until he lets you know it's safe to.

Always expect the worst and ride accordingly

If you can adopt this attitude at all times, you'll be safest in traffic and elsewhere.

Speak Up

If no one seems in charge, you should speak up and ask, because sometimes there is no formal leader and the assumption is made that everyone knows what's going on simply because they've come out for the ride. This is sure to cause problems. If you don't know, ask, and keep asking until you find someone who can tell you what's going on. There are always a few people who know and are willing to help and it can make a big difference in how much you enjoy the ride and how safe it is.

Pay Attention

Once the ride is underway, you can learn a lot about a group by watching the other riders. Try to find and avoid those who wobble and speed up and slow down. These are signs of poor handling skills and possible fatigue that can cause a wreck. Instead, try to ride with the people who hold a steady pace and a straight line because they're less likely to do unpredictable things that can cause mishaps.

Don't Overlap Wheels

When cycling in a group, always pay attention to where your front wheel is in relation to the person in front's rear wheel. Keep your front wheel behind his rear wheel, not overlapping it. Why? Because, if he suddenly veers to avoid a hole or rock, his rear wheel will knock your front, which will send you flying.

Use Care When Looking Back

Another extremely dangerous maneuver is turning around to look back like you might do if a friend was on the ride and you were trying to figure out where she was. There's only one safe way to look back and it requires a willing helper. To do it, ask the person next to you if you can rest your hand on their shoulder while you look back. They'll say yes and you can then hold on and look back. Having your hand on a shoulder prevents you from swerving as you look back and it keeps your bike going at the same speed as the other bikes preventing slowing that could cause problems. Practice this tactic with a single riding partner before trying it in a group.

Proper Etiquette

Finally, there's the challenge of expectorating in the peloton (a bike racing term for what the group is called). Everyone has to do it, so don't hold off. But, do it carefully so you don't soak your ride partners and get banned from the next ride. Always spit with the wind and away from riders. If this means steering to one side of the road first, go for it (but only when you're sure it's safe to move over).

General Visual Tips

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