Outdoor cycling’s favorite season in Michigan has finally arrived–summer. And due to COVID-19, more families are heading outdoors to get active on foot or on wheels. While biking can be a fun family activity, it still requires basic knowledge of the road and the bike itself. Here are eight helpful tips on how you and your family members can stay safe during your rides.
Conduct a gear check.
As fun as biking can be, having a deflated tire can easily zap that fun away. These problems can be avoided with a simple bike checkup, making sure that all tires have air, brakes are properly functioning and handlebars don’t have any damage. A routine checkup at the start of each season ensures that your bike is safe to ride.
Find the right fit.
Going on a bike ride with your kids? You will want to make sure your child is riding a bike that’s the correct size for them. As kids grow, so do their bikes. Have them sit straddling on the bike so that their feet touch the ground. If there appears to be a one to three-inch gap between your child and the top bar of the bike, then the fit is right.
Helmets should be worn at all times regardless of the length of the ride. And remember: just because you’re an adult, doesn’t mean you don’t need a helmet. It’s important that your helmet fits properly. The helmet should not rock more than one inch side to side or front to back on your head. Wearing a properly-fitted helmet is one of the most effective ways to prevent any possible head injuries resulting from a crash.
Don’t forget your sunscreen.
If you’re going for a long bike ride, you’ll need sun protection of at least SPF 30 or higher. Since storage space is at a premium while on your bike, store sunscreen in a contact lens case—it holds the perfect amount. Make sure you cover what you can – wear long sleeves if possible, sunglasses and cycling gloves. Luckily, your helmet will serve as a hat and protect your head from a potential sunburn. Learn more ways to be safe in the sun here.
Which lever is which?
Learning how to operate bike gears is key if you want to enjoy your experience. If your bike is in too high of a gear, pedaling will be very difficult and slow-going. To fix your gear, downshift using the left hand lever. That lever moves the chains near your pedals, reducing the level of resistance you may have been feeling. The left lever is also responsible for big jumps in gearing.
On the other hand, if you can spin the pedals furiously and effortlessly, while still getting nowhere, you’re in too low a gear. The solution for this is to use the right lever, which moves the chain at the rear of your bike. That is called ‘shifting up,’ which provides a bit more resistance when pedaling. The right lever is also used for fine-tuning if you want to make small changes to your gears.
A simple way to remember which lever is which? Right lever = Rear gear, Left lever = Front gear
Use your hands.
When sharing the road with cars, use hand signals to alert drivers when you’ll be stopping or turning. To signify you are turning left, extend your left arm out sideways with all fingers extended. For right turns, raise your left arm out sideways and bent upward at the elbow at a 90-degree angle. Before stopping, you’ll want to let vehicles know by extending your left or right arm sideways and bent at a 90-degree angle at the elbow with hand pointing downward.
Ride to the right. Pass on the left.
This is a very important tip for when you’re riding with more than one person. You want to ride near the right side of the road as much as you can—and leave a gap for faster riders to pass you on the left so they don’t have to cross the center line. Don’t pass on the right unless you know there is room and the rider in front absolutely knows you’re coming.
During the first few miles of a big group ride such as the Gran Fondo, the group will usually take up the whole side of the road and be packed with little to no room between riders. Keep your hands on or near the brakes—it will help you react quickly should you need to slow down. Also, watch for the signs telling you where to turn. It’s important you never cross the center line. The road is not closed to traffic.
Priority Health is a proud sponsor of the 2020 Michigan State University Gran Fondo, which has unfortunately been canceled due to COVID-19. We look forward to MSU Gran Fondo 8, on June 26, 2021. The Gran Fondo is a long-distance, mass participation event geared toward cyclists of all abilities. The ride starts and ends in downtown Grand Rapids and offers multiple lengths through West Michigan. The fun, non-competitive event was created to support Michigan State University College of Human Medicine’s skin cancer awareness, prevention and research. Learn more about the ride and what it stands for here.
Safety should always come first. These bike safety tips will surely make for healthy, happy and smart pedaling for you and the whole family.