Bicycling is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while also getting fit. But before you peddle off down the open road, it is important to be aware of precautions that can protect your health.
The following 10 tips can help keep you and your family safe during this biking season. Select a bike that fits
. A bicycle that fits properly increases a rider’s comfort and helps reduce the risk of pain and injury. A good bicycle shop can help you find the bike that fits to a “T.” The bike should have a level seat, and the saddle should be positioned properly – the wrong position can strain your back, neck and arms. Make sure the bike’s handlebars allow you to place your hands slightly wider than the shoulders.
For children, a well-fitting bike means that the child can sit on the seat with feet touching the floor and shoulders even with the handlebars. Bikes with adjustable parts can help accommodate your child’s rapid growth changes. Choose the right helmet
. In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet. In most states, children are required by law to wear a helmet, but adults should wear them as well – for safety and to set a good example.
When selecting a helmet, look for a sticker from an organization such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) stating that the product meets or exceeds government safety standards. The helmet should sit flat on your head and cover the top of your forehead. If the helmet moves more than 1 inch in any direction, it’s too loose or too big. If a bike helmet has ever been worn during an accident or was struck by a hard blow, then it needs to be replaced. Obey the rules of the road
. On a bike, you have only half the wheels of a car, but you must obey 100 percent of the laws that apply to all moving transport. Always ride with the traffic flow and obey stop signs, traffic lights and street signs. When possible, ride on designated bike paths. If you must share the road with cars, pedal predictably, use proper hand signals and do not dart in and out of traffic. This increases safety and helps drivers to anticipate your movements. Hand signals include putting your left arm up in an "L" when turning right, straight out when turning left and down when stopping. Stay visible
. Wear bright clothing whenever possible to increase your visibility. Other tips for increasing visibility include fastening reflectors and headlamps to the front and back of your bike and attaching reflective materials to your clothing. Always watch for parked cars that may not see you before suddenly pulling out into the street. Maintain good form and stay in shape
. If you hold a proper posture while riding, you are less likely to experience discomfort. Keep a relaxed grip on the handlebars while also changing your hand position frequently. Physical fitness is important to overall comfort while biking. Stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps and gluteal muscles to increase flexibility. Exercises that strengthen your back will help increase your ability to ride longer. Stay cool
. Bring one or two water bottles with you and drink from it regularly to keep from becoming dehydrated. Do not wait until you feel thirsty. Wearing lightweight clothes and a hat during warm weather can help keep you keep cool. Wear the proper shoes
. Wearing shoes with rigid soles can reduce the risk of foot pain and increase pedaling efficiency. Avoid pedaling in flip-flops, shoes with heels or cleats. Do not ride barefoot. Keep your bike well-maintained
. Routine maintenance is essential to keeping your bicycle in safe condition. Regularly check to make sure the tires are properly inflated, and clean and oil the chain regularly. Check the brakes for fraying cables and worn brake pads. Teach your childrenwell
. Children are more vulnerable to biking injuries than any other age group. Kids lack biking experience and are unlikely to have the maturity of judgment more characteristic of adults. It is crucial that you sit with your child and explain all the other rules of safe biking. When your child is first learning to ride, practice in a safe area such as a park or your driveway. Do not let children bike alone until they are old enough to do so safely. Avoid biking in bad weather
. Whenever possible, avoid biking during rainy, foggy or icy conditions.