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Group cycling is all the rage these days! Finding a biking group or large cycling event in your city is easy. Here in our hometown of Houston, for example, we have a monthly Critical Mass ride that brings thousands of cyclists to Market Square Park, an annual Houston to Austin ride called the MS150 that raises money for the MS Society, and a monthly “brews cruise” sponsored by Karbach Brewery that ventures to various bars around town, with a stop at the brewery in between. These rides are a great way to break into the sport of bicycling and can make your ride exponentially more enjoyable; however, these rides can also be overwhelming for inexperienced bicyclists that do not understand group cycling etiquette and the basics of bike safety. Cyclists that do not adhere to both the rules of the road for bikes, as well as motor vehicles put themselves and those around them in danger. Before taking off on your first group bike ride, be sure to familiarize yourself with the cycling etiquette and safety tips below.
Perform a Bike Maintenance Check
First things first, make sure your bike is in good working order before taking off on your ride! This means making sure that your tires are inflated to the correct PSI stated on the side of the wheel, the tire tubes are replaced if they are not in good condition and your brakes are in good working order. Many bike shops provide free or low cost bike inspections. Check with shops in your local area to see if they offer this service! Also, be sure to bring a patch kit and spare tubes in case of a blowout!
Gather your Safety Gear
It should go without saying that you should wear a helmet when you ride your bike. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Make sure you that you have a helmet that is not cracked and that properly fits your head. Check out the Bike Helmet Safety Institute for guidelines on how to ensure your helmet is fitted correctly to keep your noggin intact in case of an accident!
In addition to a helmet, make sure that you wear bright, reflective clothing. This is especially important at night, but it is a good idea to follow these guidelines during the day as well. Motorists are extremely distracted and you want to be sure that you are easy to spot.
Make sure that you have both a taillight and headlight attached to your bike. You want to be easy to spot for both other cyclists and cars on the road!
Know your Cycling Signals and Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!
If you have ever been on a group bike ride, you know that it is easy to spot those that are unfamiliar with proper etiquette in a group cycling situation and how dangerous those riders can be to those around them. In a car, you use your turn signals and brake lights to help other drivers anticipate your moves. On your bike, you have to use your voice and your arms to communicate what you plan to do. Here are the warning signals you should know and use in a group cycling situation.
Vocal Signals (say these loud and proud!)
- “On your left!” – This warns other riders that you are passing so they know not to pull out in front of you. Just like in your car, you should always pass on the left and leave the right lane for those traveling at a steady pace.
- “Car back!” – This warns other riders around you that a car is nearby so they can be cautious about moving out of their current riding position.
- “Slowing” – This warns riders behind you that you are slowing down at an intersection, to make a turn, to pull over, to avoid any obstructions or obstacles or due to a change in the pace of the riders in front of you.
- “Stopping” – This warns that you will be coming to a complete stop for a light, stop sign or any other reason you may need to fully stop the wheels on your bike.
- “Rolling” – This tells a group of stopped riders that you are free to move out and begin riding again.
- When turning or changing lanes, extend your arm and point in the direction you intend to go.
- Point to hazards on the road such as potholes, rocks, or other items that may cause an issue if hit with the bike.
Following these basic bike safety tips will ensure that you are ready to ride safely in a crowd!
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