9 Tips to a Safer Ride with Trey Steele

Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Stolen from our friends at Jack & Adams and written by Trey Steele. Trey is the co-founder of the Grease Monkey Wipes sponsored Austin Cycle Camp. Some great information...

The roads of Central Texas are bustling with the sounds of cars, trucks, SUV’s, and the lovely hum of hubs, cogs, chains, and cranks that signal cycling hibernation is over and it’s time to start thinking about the 2010 season. Whether you’re a total road rookie or seasoned veteran, the simple fact is that as the number of vehicles and bicycles on the roads increase, so do your chances of being involved in an accident. Here are nine tips to help make this season a safe one.

Tip 1 – If you wouldn’t do it in you car, don’t do it on your bike

We can talk forever about rules of the road, riding defensively, and the like. But the bottom line is that if you’re about to do something on your bike you would never think of doing in your car, don’t. I see cyclists blow through red lights and tempt their fate at four way stops. If you’re trying to see how fast you can go, sign up for a race. Otherwise, set an example for everyone and follow the traffic laws. That’s cooler than ending up in ICU.

Tip 2 – Carry Identification


In the event something happens, it’s important for emergency personnel to know who you are and any existing medical conditions they may need to be aware of. That can be as easy as carrying a cell phone and programming an I.C.E. number (in case of emergency). There are also other options available including Road I.D., an identification band that provides first responders a number to call for your pertinent medical history. In fact, J&A will soon be carrying Road I.D., so drop by and pick one up!

Tip 3 – Ride away from the sun

As winter slowly fades, it leaves the sun at some seriously blinding angles this time of the year. There’s no reason to be riding East early in the morning right now. It’s very easy for a driver not to see you (or even another car for that matter). Get in the habit of riding away from the sun. Not only will your eyes thank you for not having to squint through your glasses, you’ll give motorists a better chance of seeing you.

Tip 4 – Find roads where the traffic speed is slower

A good rule of thumb is if the posted speed limit is 35 mph or slower, you have a lower risk of being in an accident with a car. Simply put, slower moving vehicles give drivers more time to react. If you need to do some training on a road with a faster speed limit, look for shoulders that are at least a car width wide. The usual suspects of 360 and Bee Cave road are good options. INSIDE TIP – watch for right turns. Once the speed of the road gets up, your biggest risk is cars turning right. Find roads with a limited number of right turns.

Tip 5 – Lights are cool

If you’re riding in the morning or evening (like most of us), get some lights. And no, high visibility clothing does not replace a light. Go ahead and get one for the front of your bike as well. I would recommend a rear light that uses LED bulbs and flashes at varying intervals and intensity. INSIDE TIP - try before you buy. If you have a saddlebag that sits at an angle, take your bike in and work with someone in the shop to find a light that works. Bottom line – if it’s flashing at the moon, the big black SUV behind you may not see it.

Tip 6 – The Rear Wheel Rules

When riding in a pace line, if you’re not looking at the rear wheel right in front of you, you’re looking at a crash. In fact, over 85% of all bicycle crashes occur with another bicycle, not a motorist. And if you want to end up eating a pavement sandwich, the fastest way to do that is overlap your front wheel with the rear wheel of the rider in front of you. The rear wheel is only part of the “cockpit” you should be checking including left and right of the cyclist in front of you and an occasional glance to the front of the train. If you want to enjoy a respite from the wind by drafting, that begins as far as two feet behind the rider in front of you. The closer you get should be dependent on your handling skills but most importantly, how well you know that rider and what their tendencies are.

Tip 7 – Communicate

If I’m riding behind you, I’m not easily able to see road debris, obstructions, or any obstacle that could cause me to touch pavement. It’s your responsibility in a group ride to communicate these to the riders behind you. If you’re new to cycling, you’ve probably seen riders using hand signals to communicate these obstacles to one another. Just like the opening scene from A Few Good Men, theses gestures should be passed along quickly. And if someone points out something on the road, that’s a good time to move slightly in the opposite direction of the point. Don’t be a rubbernecker! Just pass the gesture along and move aside. Likewise for any verbal command passed forward. “Car back” means just that. Slide over, position yourself single file, and allow the vehicle to pass safely. If in doubt, Point or Yell it out.

Tip 8 – Get off the road

At some point in your cycling career, you will encounter a mechanical issue with your bike. It could be something as simple as a flat or more complex like a broken chain. In any case, it’s important to assess the situation and perform your repair OFF THE ROAD. And this goes for anyone else on the group ride who has stopped to wait for the repair. I’ve seen more than one rider stick their “tail” out in traffic during a mechanical stop completely oblivious to the fact. If you’re on a group ride and everyone stops for a mechanical issue, get yourself completely off the road.

Tip 9 – Be Vigilant, Not a Vigilante

If you do end up in a collision with a vehicle, try to remain as calm as possible. It’s easy to find yourself in a state of shock and the next thing you know, you’re trying to take matters into your own hands. This is usually more the case if you’re part of a group ride and someone else in your group is struck. If the vehicle involved in the accident stops, call 911 and provide detailed information about your location. If they don’t stop, do your best to get a vehicle description, license plate number, and provide that to authorities when you make your call to 911. Then turn your attention to keeping everyone calm until help arrives.

Being safe is a responsibility we all share. If you work on it the same way you do any other part of your training, 2010 should be one of your safest ever.

Great stuff Trey...

Trey Steele is a USA Cycling Certified Coach and Co Founder of Austin Cycle Camp, providing fitness camps and skills clinics to cyclists of all ability levels.