Before your next big bike adventure make sure you’re well prepared. To help you, here’s an essential checklist to make your trip safer and more enjoyable.
Be visible and get noticed
According to the Canadian Automobile Association, approximately 7,500 serious bike accidents happen in the country each year. Most of these accidents occur in the late afternoon, usually around the evening rush hour. Therefore, before taking a bicycle trip during this time, check your bike’s lights.
- Remove dirt and grime from the surface of the lights and make sure the batteries are strong enough to produce a bright light beam. All too often, cyclists set out with weak lights that continue to dim over the course of a journey.
Know (and use!) your hand signals
Many motorists are confused when cyclists don’t signal properly.
- When you turn left, indicate the manoeuvre by holding your left arm out straight.
- You can hold your right arm in a similar way when you turn right, but this can cause a problem, especially if you happen to be braking at the same time. Instead, bend your left arm at the elbow and hold your hand in an upright “L” position to signal a right turn.
- If you hold your left hand down, this indicates that you will stop.
Important, too, is that you follow the rules of the road. As a cyclist, they apply to you as much as they do to motorists.
Check that your brakes are in top shape
Brakes are some of the most important safety features, so be sure to check them before you go on a ride.
- The brake pads should come into contact with the rim of the bike’s wheel, not the tire, when you pull the lever.
- Make sure there are a few millimetres of wear left on each brake pad, at a minimum.
- When the brake lever is pulled, the pads should pinch the corresponding rim as a pair, not just come into contact on one side or the other.
- If the pads are worn, or look dried out and cracked, replace them before you ride.
Inspect the condition of your tires
Keep an eye on the way your bicycle’s tires grip the road.
- Mountain bikes have wider wheels than road bikes and are better suited to handle rugged, off-road conditions. They’re better at dealing with poor weather conditions, too, particularly snow and slush. However, these tires don’t work well if the tread is worn down.
You’ll cycle with much more confidence and have more fun on bicycle trips if you know your tires can provide sufficient traction. Any bald spots or cracking on the sidewalls indicates the tires should be changed immediately, or you could risk getting a flat mid-ride.
Make sure your tires are properly inflated
Simply put, properly inflated innertubes allow you to go faster because you waste less energy when pedalling.
- Properly pumped up tires create less rolling resistance, which means your top speed when descending is increased.
- If you’re going on a cross-country trip or cycling on an uneven surface, let a little air out of your tires to minimize the risk of punctures and maximize their gripping surface. It also makes for a slightly softer (and more comfy) ride.