Tips for Fun and Safe Cycling

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Here are some steps you can take to improve cycling performance, safety, comfort, and enjoyment:

1. Always wear a helmet. This is necessary in ensuring safe cycling. A properly-fitting helmet will sit horizontally on your head and not move around.

2. Brake right. To exert optimal pressure, brake with your hands at the ends of the levers.

3. On a long downhill, don’t stay on your brakes. That may overheat the tire’s rim and could cause a blowout. It’s safest to “feather brake”—that is, tap the brakes, applying intermittent pressure. This is wise in wet weather, too.

4. Don’t pedal in high gear for long periods. This can increase the pressure on your knees and lead to overuse injuries. Shift to lower gears and faster revolutions to get more exercise with less stress on your knees. The best cadence for most cyclists is 60 to 80 revolutions per minute (rpm), though racers pedal in the range of 80 to 100 rpm.

5. Going uphill, shift gears to maintain normal cadence. On a long hill, conserve energy by staying in your seat.

6. When visibility is poor or it’s dark outside, wear brightly colored, reflective clothing, use a headlight, and consider a blinking LED-type light (attached to the bike or your belt) in addition to reflectors.

7. Make sure your bike fits. Handlebars, saddle, wheels, gears, and brakes can all be adjusted to match your size and riding ability, but the frame has to fit from the start. To find the right frame size, straddle the bike and stand flatfooted: on a road bike, there should be one to two inches of clearance between your groin and the tube; on a mountain bike, the clearance should be two to three inches (or more).

8. Change your hand and body position frequently. That will change the angle of your back, neck, and arms, so that different muscles are stressed and pressure is put on different nerves.

9. After a long uphill, don’t coast downhill without pedaling. As you climb up the hill, lactic acid builds up in your muscles and can contribute to muscle soreness. By pedaling lightly but constantly while coasting downhill (even if there’s little resistance) you can help remove the lactic acid.

10. Keep your arms relaxed and don’t lock your elbows. This technique helps you better absorb bumps from the road.

11. Don’t wear headphones. They can block out the street sounds you need to hear in order to ride defensively. Cycling with headphones is a misdemeanor in some areas.

12. Ride with traffic, obey all signs and signals. Bicyclists fare best when they act and are treated like drivers of vehicles.

13. Use hand signals to alert drivers to your intentions.

14. If you are blocking traffic, don’t ride side by side with another cyclist.

15. When cycling in heavy traffic, on a narrow road, or on winding downhill roads, ride in the lane with the cars, not to the side, where you’re not as visible and may get pushed off to the side. Of course, if a car wants to pass, move out of the way.

— Courtesy of Foundations of Wellness, with Minnesota law updates by the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.

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