Ready to Saddle Up?

By Janice Antoniette Förster | Last Updated June 2, 2012

Each year, hundreds of bike accidents happen and a number of people are killed or injured as a result. You can greatly reduce the chance of injury by following and knowing a few simple things.

A photo of a rider driving bicycle on an asphalt road. Background is motion blurred.

Cycling has been given a significant amount of attention in recent years because of its potential to increase mobility, reduce negative environmental impacts brought about by other means of transportation and alleviate traffic congestion in other possible areas. Not only that, it is also one of the best forms of exercise anyone can do. It gives your heart and your circulatory system a good workout, reduces your stress levels, improves your coordination, builds your stamina, helps you burn 300 – 700 calories an hour 1, helps develop your muscles and, if you have your own bike, it is free and can be done just about anywhere.

Many are now hitting the road and have decided to be more health-conscious and earth-friendly by cycling to work. However, there may be loads of things you might not be sure of or might need to be reminded about. Do you know that in the states, 2% of their road accidents are caused by cyclists 2? In my many months of cycling and many instances of meeting other cyclists, here are some of the things I have learned. It all boils down to safety, comfort and enjoyment to improve your performance on the road:

Don’t try to fit into a bike that is not tailored for you. Each one of us has different arm, leg and torso lengths. Visit your bike shop and have your bike effectively tailored to the size of your body. Except for the frame that has to fit you from the start, adjustments can be made on your handlebars, wheels, gears, saddle, and brakes in order to match your size and your riding ability.

Tip: To find the right frame size, all you have to do is straddle the bike and stand flatfooted. On a mountain bike, there should be three inches or more between your groin and the top tube. if on a road bike, one to two inches is recommended.

Handlebars must be positioned correctly – it must be an inch lower than the top of your seat. Drop handlebars should be as wide as your shoulders or maybe slightly narrower. If you suffer from neck or back discomfort, upright handlebars are for you.

Protect your knees. Position your saddle correctly such that at the bottom of the stroke, your knee must only be slightly bent. If your knee is bent too much, the seat is too low (or the bike is too small). This will decrease your stroke power and also strain your knees. You’ll know if the seat is too high when you have to reach for the pedal or your knee locks when you extend, which eventually causes stress.

Always wear a bike helmet. Head injuries account for a huge percentage of most deaths related to cycling 3. An estimated 85% of head injury risks may be reduced by helmet use. Most of the modern cycling helmets are well ventilated and lightweight. Choose one that has a light reflector and brightly colored. Above all, make sure that the the helmet fits you properly. It should sit horizontally on your head and should not move about 4 5. Invest in a good quality helmet as your life may depend on it in case of an accident. If you value your head, you should make this your top priority.

Don’t carry the load. Invest in a seat-pack, some panniers or a handlebar. There are now a lot of excellent bike-specific carrying systems that will make your exercise, tour, shopping trip or commute much easier. Do not load and punish your back!

Don’t use headphones 6. A research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirms that there are a lot of accidents that cyclists can avoid if they only listen properly 7. When your sense of hearing is not obstructed, you get to listen to your surroundings better. You can tell what is happening behind you such as the type of vehicle that is approaching, its size, it’s proximity, and its speed. You will also be aware of the dogs that might chase you, among other obstacles.

Always be a defensive biker. Use hand signals. When you are about to change course, point to the direction you want to go. This will avoid accidents between you and the other cars, motorists and other bikers.

Attract Attention. Use your bell or your bicycle horn when necessary and watch out for people who don’t look or listen. Just because you know the road rules does not mean everyone else does.

Read the signs. You are lucky if you have signs, signals and lanes intended for cyclists. Not all countries have that. If you do, respect and follow what it says.

Think of yourself. Just because you are a foreigner in a place does not give you the excuse to use the adage ‘when in Rome, follow what the Romans do.” Some people do not use lights, do want to wear helmets, continue chatting on mobile phones and zip past other bikers without warning. Do not follow them.

Know where to walk. Walk with your bike on the sidewalk or on pedestrian areas only.

Check the map. There are mobile phone applications and maps that provide help and support with your best route. It is more efficient and a lot less dangerous than ‘guestimating’ your location.

Get a rear light and wear a reflective vest. This high quality reflective gear will help you become more visible not only at night but also during the day. When you hear a motorist approaching, straighten up into a vertical position to make your gear more noticeable.

The road is not all yours. Don’t ride side by side with another cyclist.

Make sure they have seen you. If you can make eye contact with drivers as you pull into an intersection or make a turn, do it so they know your intentions and you know that they’ve seen you.

Security For Your Bike. Always lock your bike when you leave it. Bike theft is very rampant in many parts of the world. When locking it up, use a heavy chain or U-lock around a permanent structure such as a bike rack, a bridge or a pole.

Remember that for every turn of the wheel, you are burning your calories, building your strength and achieving wellness.




Reactions

  1. great blog, the tips are good. I agree that biking is a form of exercise and is the best way to save money and help the mother nature. I recommend this article and hopefully soon I can buy my own bike!:)

  2. This is a very good article. It could serve as a guide to bicycle beginners or novices. I cannot help but comment, especially seeing bikers who ignore safety measures — no helmets, no lights or blinkers or reflectors riding at night, too dangerous for them. They would also adjust their saddle heights more comfortable to them to easily reach the ground with their feet without dismounting from the saddle. Too awkward to see their knees too bent. And yes, I see a lot bikers who ignore the bike-fitting requirements. As long as they can reach the pedals with their feet and already sitting on the saddle — its a GO for them! Little did they know that they are compromising safety.

    • Thanks Kevin! You are right. I have seen too many bikers in this city who are unaware of a lot of things. In fact, they drive in the middle of the road without blinkers and helmets along with the other motorized vehicles! They ignore a lot of safety guidelines about driving because perhaps they think “bicycles travel slow” and are ignorant about the hazard they are posing to themselves and the general public. We should push for information drive about this, too.

  3. biking actually is great since it is a form of exercise. this article a great help to those who are interested when it comes to biking. live long and enjoy life.

  4. this article is a great help to those who are saving money and to those who wants to have exercise. its exciting and fun hahahahah

  5. this article is a great help to those who are planning to have healthier lifestyle, because biking is actually exciting and fun.

  6. This is a great article. Since I am also a cycling enthusiast , i was informed about the things we should do and what to prepare to be safe while biking. Even though some gears are to awkward to use but this article teaches us a valuable lesson on how important life is…

  7. i really like this article, tips are so good, i already have my own mountain bike, and its very good to use it, cause first of all it is not a waste of money like motorcycle etc., second it is good for our health, and third is it cannot affect to our modern earth. 😀

  8. Living in a city with a quite dense biking population has certainly made me want to get a bike of my own. Ever since I moved here, I have been asking my parents to allow me to get one but they have always been skeptic about it because of the hazards that come with biking, especially because cyclists are more vulnerable to greater damage whenever there’s an accident with a bigger vehicle. These “guidlines” are certainly helpful to those who, like me, have been wanting to “saddle up” in the near future. I especially like the emphasis on defensive driving, not using headphones and the vital gear needed. Hopefully, now that I’m equipped with these biking gen coming from a cyclist herself, my parents will “finally” consider allowing me to get my own bike. I’ll share this article with them and – fingers-crossed – I’ll get the desired results! 🙂

  9. I like seeing people bike around the city. And generally speaking, people who ride bicycles have a lot more road manners than those who ride motorcycles. That’s just based on my observations though.

    I agree when you mentioned the great savings and exercise one can get from biking. I’ve actually been longing to get a bike of my own. Hopefully, i can invest on one soon. Thanks for the tips! 🙂

  10. i really want to have a bike, but my parents wont buy me one haha.
    anyways our house is only a few blocks away from school. sometimes i just walk going to school and coming back home. but it would be of great use and convenience if i have one.,, its good for you too 🙂

  11. I like this article, because i like to bike. This article makes us realize that we have to be careful and use safety gears before we ride our bikes. Biking is a great way to exercise and have fun with friends and family.

  12. Biking is indeed a good form of exercise. It keeps our stamina strong minus the smoke emitted from motorized vehicles, To avoid accidents, I think it is about time that bicycle lanes and bicycle parking areas should be built around the city so that people will realize that the use of motorcycles be minimized. It’s a lot cheaper to maintan a bike because you don’t have to spend for fuel and you get the exercise you need to be healthy and keep your body in shape.

  13. This article really speaks something.It doesn’t only give information but it drives the eagerness to bike and seek safety as a priority. Moreover, this article inspire me and other bikers for sure who don’t only want to saddle for relaxation but to saddle for losing weight. In a way or another, biking or cycling can also be one of the hobbies of people especially of a group of friends who are very busy and can’t find time to meet up. An answer is made for you. Grab a bike, saddle, relax and enjoy each other’s company but more than that, follow rules and observe the tips on how to do cycling properly and most importantly, carefully.

  14. I agree that biking is really a good way of exercising. 🙂 Besides that, you can also save from your fare when you’re riding a pedicab. It can also help you to save from the gasoline that you will be spending when you use your motorcycle. But of course, before you decide to use your bike you should remember the safety measures that were mentioned above. These safety measures should be put in mind to avoid accidents. 🙂

  15. Awesome article about the do’s and don’t while biking. I am also a fan of biking, way back in my hometown I used to go biking every early in the morning. It’s really fun to “saddle-up” specially under the great morning sun. And yes, I’ve been in an accident before, i think twice? First was, I almost fell in the creek. Second was when I was driving along national highway 😀 Though, biking is more fun when you’re with your friends. The more the merrier.

  16. I like biking. I ride my bike around our neighborhood when I have time and when i just want to relax. It is somehow a stress reliever for me. It’s also good because through biking you get to gain more friends especially if a lot in your place also do biking. I like this article because it doesn’t only show to us why it is one of the best forms of exercise but it also includes the safety measures when biking. 🙂

  17. All bikers in Dumaguete needs this kind of article maam 🙂
    Biking is really good for our body esp in this kind of environment, when global warming is number one environment issue. It reduces polution and also its an effective work-out!
    Well we all have a knowledge that its really important to prioritize safety first. The thing that the bikers should know and put on mind, to know where they are and put some respects on others. They should know where to bike and just like in ur article, the road is not all yours! 😀

  18. After reading this article i got into a realization to not treat things so lightly. i mean the fact that biking is so simple even a school age could do. This article is so informative in the sense that it discussed biking with much details. for me, i honestly don’t know at first that there are particular sizes and the like specified for individualized bikers. but now i know. and what strikes me the most, since i am an advocate for mother earth, is that this article did not fail to remind us to help save our nature in our own simple ways such as biking! and not only we give contribution to the environment yet we also benefit from it, it’s like hitting two birds with one stone. 🙂 several weeks ago, i was really planning to get a new mountain bike and thank you for these information, it will surely help me decide. 🙂

  19. I always use bike here in Dumaguete because i can freely go wherever i want to go. It’s my main transportation from sibulan to dumaguete. I even go to Valencia alone because i don’t have a group. This guide helps me alot because i’ve experienced many accidents in this city especially Pedicabs. I don’t wear helmet when i ride but im scared that it’s illegal and the Police might catch me. Hehe. Do mountain bikes need a plate number or need to be registered here in dumaguete? because i’ve seen some bikes that do have one…

  20. I agree that cycling is one of the easiest and most effective form of exercise. The safety Tips will also help a lot of cyclist. And by using bike instead of motorcycle u can save a lot of money.

  21. Very good guide. People nowadays are always in a hurry that they tend to favor faster types of transportation which made them overlook the benefits of riding a bike. Bikes makes your more healthy, they are more cheaper to maintain, and they are environmental friendly.

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