Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bells & Whistles

Some people are very “gear oriented” and have to have the latest bells and whistles for whatever they do. Cyclists are no exception, though one does not have to get all the latest gear to cycle safely. The most important thing is to have a well maintained bike of good quality. Next to that a helmet, which is required by law. (I will devote another article to this crucial though sometimes controversial piece of equipment)
Also required is a bell or some other sort of signalling device such as a horn. Great for letting pedestrians know that you are sneaking up behind them so they don't get startled as you pass them!
For night riding a front white light and rear red light visible for at least 150 meters and red reflector are required.
Though not required by law, I find one of the best pieces of safety equipment is a mirror. This really helps to keep an eye on traffic approaching from the rear and give better situational awareness. Even if you have a mirror, it is crucial to still do a shoulder check before changing lanes or turning!
The other gear that is a good idea is bright or reflective clothing. As mentioned in previous articles, visibility is a key factor in safe cycling. Wear clothing that is comfortable and that will help regulate body temperature as well as keep you dry in wet weather. Modern synthetics can do an amazing job of this. Don't forget to tuck in or strap up loose pant legs on the chain side of the bike so you don't' get it caught in the chain or covered in grease.
Make sure you do regular maintenance yourself or bring the bike into your local shop for a check and tune-up. A trained bike mechanic can catch potential problems before they develop.  I have seen a kid's bike brought into the local bike shop that had a loose wheel nut, and if weren't for the kind offer of a quick safety check from the bike mechanic, it would have gone un-noticed until the wheel fell off with possibly very serious results.
Before getting on your bike, do a quick ABC check. A= Air (tires at an appropriate pressure) B= Brakes (Functioning properly to be able to stop the bike fully loaded. You should be able to skid the tires if you hit the brakes hard enough) C=Chain (lubricated and running smoothly with gear changes)
I would also add a D (ABCD) D= DoNut ( Do make sure da Nuts are tight!That is the wheel nuts on the front and rear wheels)

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