In the last month, we have had an alarmingly large number of people come in to get their bikes fixed because "I was hit by a car."
We are rather concerned about what is happening in our city. Drivers and riders alike are not paying enough attention. Mostly, it's the drivers, we think. Staying out of blind spots (if you can see the driver in their mirrors, they can see you), following signs and lights, and signaling properly will help keep us safe.
There are many things as cyclists that we must do and mistakes we all make while riding. This month, we are going to do a dive into road riding. (And some of these tips will work well when sharing the TVP.)
Let's start with the top ways we crash.
1. The road surface is bad.
This is something we are all too familiar with in our lovely Forest City. Potholes, bumps and cracks have taken out many a wheel and rider. Preventing this seems obvious: get the city to fix their roads.
But since that's easier said than done... The biggest thing we can do is watch where we're going. Seems ridiculously simple, and it is, but so many people watch the road just in front of or beneath their wheel instead of the road ahead and end up hitting obstacles. Keep your head up and be sure to point these hazards out to any riders behind you. (We'll get into how - gestures and such - in another newsletter.)
2. Hitting a pedal
Many a rider has gone down while cornering because their pedal has hit the pavement when they've leaned over. Or they've started pedaling again too soon.
The solution is also simple but takes practice and forethought. When beginning a turn, or a sweeping curve, make sure your inside pedal is at 12 o'clock and your outside one is at 6 o'clock (in other words, your inside one is up and the other is down). Then wait until you're all the way through the turn and upright again before beginning to pedal.
Watching riders in front of you will give you some indications about when you need to be making these movements.
3. Descending and cornering
Personally, I love speeding down a hill. Letting loose and just flying is one of my favourite things to do. (I hit more than 45km/h coming down Sarnia at the end of the MS Ride. Thrilling!) It's an inherently risky thing to do but so much fun.
It is also when a lot of crashes happen.
Often, that is because we're going too fast, not paying attention, and we miss our braking point. This means we have to brake hard and we run the risk of unintentionally popping into a busy intersection or crashing into stopped riders in front of us.
Keep your hands covering the brakes and use the riders in front of you to judge when you should be starting to slow or how best to take the curve at the bottom. Then brake smoothly and complete the downhill.
4. Using the phone while riding.
First, why would you? You're on your bike for a reason. It happens, we've seen it on the pathways: people riding one-handed with their eyes on their phone. It's just like driving a car: texts and messages can wait. If you know that you struggle to keep your eyes off your phone, tuck it into a pocket or bag.
If you need your phone for GPS and have an urge to answer every message that comes in, try turning off your notifications for the duration of your ride. Don't try doing too much while riding.
5. Touching wheels
Finally, let's talk about following a rider in front of you.
Group rides are fun. They keep us motivated, give us a chance to socialize, allow us to practice skills we can't or don't use riding solo and can keep training more interesting.
There is definitely etiquette while riding with others and we'll get into that in the next newsletter. Right now, though, we're going to talk about following too closely.
There you are, happily riding behind someone, drafting, when they suddenly swerve around a pothole. Your front tire touches their rear one and the next thing you know, you're fighting for control or lying on the ground wondering what happened.
Leaving yourself some space and keeping your eyes up will help you avoid this.
Safety isn't just about lights and reflective surfaces (although, that's a vital part of it, and are, indeed, law).
Safety is, largely, about paying attention to your surroundings.
Keep your eyes up.
So many people ride their road bikes with their heads down and eyes on the road directly in front of them.
Just like driving a car, you need to keep your eyes up and on what is coming. That way, you can avoid obstacles from people to potholes to parked cars. Going ass over tea kettle because you didn't see something in your way is kind of embarrassing.
Part of keeping your eyes up is learning to shoulder check without veering to the side. Practice on the TVP or road when it's quiet and no one is around. Ride beside the line (to use as an I'm-going-straight reference point) and glance over your right shoulder.
Do this until you can see behind you and you're comfortable doing it.
Ride within your ability.
This seems somewhat self-explanatory and maybe a little obvious but I know I'm guilty of trying to go a lot further or faster than I'm capable of and I usually end up hurting myself one way or another.
Extending ourselves to increase our endurance and fitness is one thing. We do that a little at a time. Attempting a black or red diamond path at Whistler when you're a white or green diamond rider is pushing it too far and gives us a greater risk of crashing, especially when we get exhausted.
When riding on the road, make sure your signals are clear, large and can be seen. Honestly, most drivers do not remember the hand signals we're taught in grade school and again in driver's ed. Point in the direction you're going. Look. Point again. Look. Go.
How we behave on the road dictates how pedestrians, motorists, and other cyclists see us.
We hear a lot that people are annoyed with cyclists on the TVP. This is because cyclists are cutting through pedestrians - whether it's riding the line between people going opposite ways or barging through groups of people talking. It's also because cyclists are not saying anything or ringing their bells (which are required by law... and I am reminded that my MTB needs a bell) and surprising/startling them.
We need to call out or ring a bell, or both, because pedestrians and joggers don't pay attention. Walkers and runners step out around other walkers; small children escape their parents' grasps; dogs dart out chasing a smell. All of these things can have catastrophic results.
Especially if you're speeding. The speed limit on the TVP is 20km/h. Don't do more than that. You'll piss everyone off and there's a greater potential for an accident. There are roadways for speed and London is developing an extensive network of bike lanes.
If you're riding in a group, make sure you're calling out hazards. "Walker up" means there's someone in the path. "Rider up" means someone is coming toward you on a bike. Wave your hand at potholes and other things on the ground.
There is also a list of hand signals to use, but I think I've rambled on quite enough for this month. We have other things to talk about! Basically, it boils down to keeping your head up, using manners, and being courteous.
We have new neighbours!
And they are awesome. Dave and Tracy are moving in next door (where London Yarns used
to be). They are lots of funny, very sweet people. Dave is an artist who makes plant stands and pots and Tracy is a plant guru. They'll be selling the stands, pots and plants, along with some art.
They're going to have the most beautiful, welcoming shop. They've already got awesome light fixtures hanging from the ceiling. The shop has a loft! (I am jealous. lol)
I will let you know when the grand opening is and invite you all to come and visit them.
Check out their Instagram here and click on the button for their website.