When was the last time you stopped to think about whether you’re ready or not for your next bike ride? You have your helmet, bike shoes, gloves, eye protection, proper (comfortable) clothing, and a bag of goodies and tools in case something breaks or you pop a tire. Nine times out of ten we forget what’s as important as strapping your helmet to your head: our bike safety. Too often riders are putting themselves in a position they have not prepared for or did not prepare mentally about and how they would handle that situation, until it’s too late.
When we swing our leg over that bike and clip in, it’s not just about whether or not we have all the necessary tools for the journey. Equally important is stepping back to think about what types of things could happen before you swing on and clip that other foot in. Some of those things are:
- Is where you’re going to ride safe for your level of comfort?
- If you get cut off by a car or think you’re about to get cut off, do you have an “escape route” in mind?
- Is everything on your bike in working order (does everything function as it’s supposed to)?
- Are your tires pumped up to proper PSI for the conditions you’re about to ride in?
- If you’re riding in a group, you need to decide where in the group you should ride depending on your skill level. (This is a big one and I’ll elaborate more below.)
- Do you have enough nutrition for your ride?
- Let someone know if you need to stop.
- Always carry your I.D. and cell phone (these fit well in a Bento Box on your top tube.
- Know your signals for turning, stopping, slowing down, and, used most, “Caution, object ahead.”
- Who’s the leader of the group? This person is in charge of informing and debriefing everyone about the journey while making sure everyone has taken care of all the above.
Furthermore, I said I would talk about #5, so here it is… The reason you must figure out where in the group you’re going to ride is because it sets you up for your ride experience. Stronger riders ride up front and in back because they are more versatile, knowledgeable, know the course, and are comfortable with their road signals. In the middle of the group you have your protected riders. Very important to know though as a middle of the pack rider is to keep some distance back from the bike in front of you so if the person in front of you needed to stop or slow down, you could comfortably and safely warn others behind you and be able to slow yourself down at the same time.
Staying a safe distance back trumps catching someone’s draft. Drafting is far too overrated in training rides (it’s a training ride, suck it up). It’s your responsibility to let the rider in front of you know that you would like them to either slow down and wait up or let them know that you’re gonna drop back. It’s more important that you make it to the start line strong and healthy rather than scuffed up and broken from the road.