Even with winter’s icy grip still clinging to most of the country, cyclists can rest easy knowing spring is on the way and riding conditions will soon be breezy and fun.
As you head back out on the busy streets of your city, there are many things you should keep in mind. One of the biggest mistakes new riders make is taking the same routes they use when they’re driving their vehicles. While you have the same right to be on the road as drivers, for your safety it’s best to avoid busier streets and find alternate routes to your destination.
There are several schools of thought concerning riding in the center lane but what’s most important as a cyclist is that you are seen and you are safe. Some states require cyclists to ride as far to the right as possible.
There are always occasions when you are unable to ride on the far right. If you’re in a heavy traffic area with lots of side streets, parking lots or driveways ahead of you or to the right, you’ll need to ride closer to center. Cars turning left will have a harder time seeing you if you are riding to the far right because the drivers tend to look for traffic in the middle of the road, not the extreme edge of the road.
Taking up more room in the lane also prevents cars from passing you too closely, especially on narrow roadways. Staying more to center also takes you out of the range of people opening their doors when parked on the right side of the road. Also, drivers at intersections can see you better if you are squarely in the road rather than on the extreme right edge, where you can be easily overlooked.
Riding with headphones also creates risk. It’s necessary to hear what going on around you as you ride, and it’s important to keep distractions at a minimum when dealing with traffic.
Here are some other codes of conduct to remember on your ride:
- Never ride against traffic
- Stop at stop signs and red lights
- Honor other drivers’/riders’ right-of-way
- Use hand signals
- If riding with a group, ride single file
- Be predictable, don’t weave in and out of traffic
- Follow lane markings
- Don’t needlessly block a full lane
- Always use lights when riding in the evening, night or early morning
If you’ve kept your bike racked over the winter, here’s a quick reminder of a few maintenance tips to complete before you hit the road:
Frame: When cleaning (remember, a clean bike is faster) check for cracks, dents and paint nicks. Small chips can be fixed with touch-up paint or finger nail polish, but deeper chips and cracks should be checked by a professional mechanic.
Wheels and tires: Ensure wheel spokes are straight and tight, and that your wheel hubs are spinning smoothly. After inflating your tires, check for cuts and cracks.
Brakes: Inspect and clean the brake pads and ensure pads hit the rims and not the tires or spokes. Also check and lubricate the brake cables.
Drive train: Clean and lubricate the chain, front and rear derailleurs, gears and cables. Check the chain and gears for wear and damaged links or gear teeth. Run through all the gears, then adjust derailleurs and cable tension if needed.
Contact points: Inspect seat post and saddle, making sure nothing is loose. Check handlebars, stem, brake and shift levers, making sure everything is tight and the handlebar spins freely.
Pedals and shoes: Make sure the pedals spin freely, and if you are using clipless pedals with shoes, make sure the cleats are tight and not worn.
Nuts and bolts: Check entire bike to make sure nothing is loose – bottle cage, computer mounts, racks and lights.
Spare tire and tools: Make sure your spare tube is in good condition and your pump, tire levers and wrenches are ready to go.