Cycling is one of the most popular ways to stay in shape and is enjoyed by exercise enthusiasts of all ages and experience levels. But to ensure that you ride safely, it's important to observe the same rules that motorists are required to follow---and a few more.
Before you start cycling, be sure that your bike is properly fitted for your body type and size. Have a professionally trained bicycle mechanic tune and lubricate all of the moving parts of your bike and make sure that your tires are in good condition. Always carry a few basic tools with you, like hand pumps, spare tubes and tire levers to change a flat tire. Finally, wear bright, reflective clothing and use either a headlamp or a bicycle light if you plan to be out after dark.
In addition to all of your equipment needs, pay attention to the following suggestions from veteran riders to enjoy riding and avoiding injury.
Wear the Right Gear
Wear padded shorts that conform to your body and won't get caught on the nose of your bicycle seat when standing up off of the saddle. Professional cycling jerseys usually have plenty of pockets to carry spare tools, food, water and extra batteries for your headlamp. One of the most important pieces of equipment you can buy is a bicycle helmet. Get fitted for a good-quality helmet that not only protects your head but provides good peripheral vision.
Clipless pedals will make your ride more comfortable and efficient, but they do require some getting used to. If you've never ridden with clipless pedals, try riding local trails and parks that are free from automobile traffic and other distractions before you venture out.
Observe All Signs and Regulations
Respect everyone that shares the road by observing all of the same laws that govern the operation of motor vehicles. This includes sharing the lanes, gesturing for turns using hand signals, stopping at all stop signs and riding with the flow of traffic. When you encounter crosswalks or railroad tracks, it may be necessary to walk your bike.
Like automobiles, slow-moving cyclists should move to the right side of the road, but stay clear of cars parked along the side of the road, in case their drivers open doors unexpectedly or move into traffic without signaling.
Ride Carefully at Night and in Bad Weather
Cyclists need to slow down when riding after dark. Dark streets make it difficult for both the cyclist and the motorist and require extra reaction time to avoid obstacles. When riding at night, it's a good idea to equip your bicycle with turn signals in addition to headlights. Adding hand signals improves your chances of being seen before turning or changing lanes.
Bad weather requires longer reaction times for cyclists and motorists. Wet streets often result in slick road conditions, translating to longer stopping times and wet brakes. Slow your speed down during inclement weather.
Other Miscellaneous Safety Rules of the Road
Similar to operating a motor vehicle, it's never a good idea to listen to music wearing headphones or earbuds while riding a bicycle. Wear quality eyewear to keep your eyes safe and free from flying debris.
In general, be considerate of those with whom you share the road. If in doubt, give the right of way to other motorists or cyclists.