Seasonal Safety Tips for Cyclists
No matter what time of year, wear a helmet. (See Common Cycling Injuries on this website), and always do an ABCD Quick Check of your bicycle before you ride, advises the El Paso Bicycle Club. Check the air pressure, tire condition, brakes, chain and quick releases. It’s also a good idea to learn how to fix a flat bicycle tire.
SUMMER BICYCLING SAFETY TIPS:
- Stay hydrated. Cyclists, like other outdoor athletes, lose fluid during the summer months. Make sure you drink enough to avoid thirst, and take water with you even if you don’t think you will need it. You will become thirsty faster on a hot day. On average, a person who exercises may need an extra 1.5-2.5 cups of water a day to make up for fluid loss, according to the Mayo Clinic. Training expert and writer for Competitor magazine, Matt Fitzgerald, recommends sports drinks as the most effective hydration during hot days in a recent article. He says, “…because a sports drink contains dissolved minerals and carbohydrates, it’s absorbed into the bloodstream more quickly than water, which has fewer or no dissolved particle. If your stomach is sensitive to sugar, try an electrolyte tablet that dissolves in water, such as Nuun. If you can’t carry enough fluid in your water bottles, wear a back- or hip-mounted insulated hydration system, suggests Amy Rice, a personal trainer and triathlete, in an article published by The Providence Journal.
- Keep water cool: Rice also suggests filling your hydration pack halfway and then placing it in the freezer the night before a hot summer bike ride. In the morning, fill the rest. This will keep your water colder, longer. Water bottles can be filled completely and placed in the freezer at night.
- Listen to your body: Pay attention to these warning signs of heat illness (from WebMD):
- Cramps that suddenly begin in the hands, calves or feet
- Hard, tense muscles
- Fatigue and/or weakness
- Excessive thirst
- Muscle aches and cramps
- Confusion or anxiety
- Drenching sweats, often combined with cold, clammy skin
- Slow or weak heartbeat
- Dizziness and or fainting
- Apply sunscreen: Did you know you can get a second degree burn from the sun? Prevent blisters, burns and skin cancer by applying sunscreen before a ride. Use a sweat-proof sunscreen and apply it generously 30 minutes before you go outdoors, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
FALL CYCLING TIPS:
- Time change: Don’t forget that it will get darker earlier. Take along or wear extra bike lights and reflective cycling gear.
- Extra clothing: cycling shoe covers, a helmet cover, gloves, ear warmers, arm warmers, and leg warmers are all good investments for fall cycling. Get versatile items made with breathable materials that can be worn in different combinations, and layer them so you can add or remove as the weather changes or as your body temperature rises.
- Protect your extremities: An article in Bicycling magazine offers this rule of thumb: “If it’s cold enough to make you wonder if you’ll need a cap, put one in your pocket.” Cover hands and feet with a thin moisture-wicking base layer, and then add a waterproof layer. Bicycling magazine suggests adding a weather-resistant cycling overshoe or cycling bootie when the temperature begins to drop.
- Hydrate right: Just because it’s getting cooler, doesn’t mean you don’t need to hydrate with water or electrolyte-replacement drinks. Remember: Drink before you’re thirsty. Also, keep in mind that the colder, dryer weather means you’ll need more water.
WINTER CYCLING SAFETY TIPS:
- Road conditions: Bicycle Colorado offers the following winter cycling tips on road conditions: brake early to allow for increased stopping distance on slick sandy or icy roads, and try using additional protection against flats or riding in the lane of traffic when there is debris in the bike lane.
- Stay hydrated: Sometimes it’s easy to forget to drink in the cold weather months, but your body is still losing sweat. Remember to drink plenty of fluids.
- Dress right: Wear layers. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer next to your skin, add an insulation layer (if it’s really cold) between the base and an outer layer than can protect you from the elements. Don’t overdress. “If you’re comfortable the first 15 minutes of the ride, you’re overdressed,” says The Oklahoma Bicycle Society, who also suggests keeping extra clothing in your car just in case.
- Don’t wear cotton, especially not next to the skin because it absorbs and retains moisture.
- Stick to materials made of polypro, polyester and acrylic.
- Stay visible: Wear blinking lights, and bright and reflective clothing during dark, winter days.
SPRING CYCLING SAFETY TIPS:
- Lower elevations: Pick a route that’s dry by staying in the lower elevations during early spring, suggest Bicycle Colorado.
- Layers: Bring extra layers of clothing in case temperatures drop. Or plan to remove layers as the day warms up.
- Follow traffic laws for cyclists: After the winter months, you may be ready to head out on your bike again. Check your state’s Department of Transportation website for the rules of the road. Here are a few general cycling safety tips for riding in traffic (from the New York City Department of Transportation):
- Ride with traffic, not against it.
- Obey all traffic signals, signs and pavement markings.
- Use marked bike lanes when available.
- Wear safety and visibility equipment:
- White headlight and red taillight from dusk to dawn
- A bell or horn
- Working brakes
- Reflective tires or reflectors
- Wear a helmet