Few people get excited about the topic of safety but it is something we all know we need to take seriously. During a pandemic we are told to be safe by washing our hands, disinfecting surfaces and wearing a mask. At the workplace we take steps to understand hazards and wear protective equipment. At home we lock our doors and windows, shovel our walks of snow and if we have small children, cover electrical outlets and hide cords. In the car we wear a seat belt and follow traffic laws. On the bike, there are also safety protocols, like wearing a helmet and being predictable. But there is one safety practice that is widely recommended even before beginning to ride.
A well-maintained bike is a beautiful thing. You will be able to ride further and with less effort, and the bike will last longer between mechanical issues. Regular maintenance will reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic failure that might leave you stranded, or worse yet, injured. But according to Christopher Wallace, bike mechanic, educator and speaker at the Feb. 10 virtual meeting of the Chicago Cycling Club, even if you are handy with tools and have the basic knowledge to perform preventive maintenance on your bike, there are instances when collaborating with the professionals at a bike shop is the best thing you can do to keep rolling.
Even if you take precautions while outside on your bike, are alert to your surroundings, and predictable in your actions, there may be a time when you’ll need an emergency maneuver. According to Larry Mysz, League Cycling Instructor and speaker at the Oct. 13 meeting of the Chicago Cycling Club, sometimes you can’t avoid an obstacle and you need to stop or turn quickly. If you know how to do this and have practiced the move it will be second nature when you need it and you will be able to “save your bacon”, that is, come out of the situation unharmed.
In the National Public Radio (NPR) podcast “How I Built This” the host, Guy Raz, always asks the entrepreneur at the end of the interview whether they attribute their success to luck or hard work, intelligence and skill. It always surprises me when a guest says they were just lucky, i.e. they were in the right place at the right time, it happened by chance, or they were mysteriously born under a lucky star.
In a 1962 episode of the television series Rawhide, "The Devil and the Deep", trail boss Gil Favor and trail hand Rowdy Yates talk about looking forward to arriving in Abilene where they will sell the cattle they have been driving across the country and collect their wages. Rowdy says Abilene is the biggest little town in Kansas and he has no problem selecting company to spend his money with because, after all, "Only half the population is women, half of that is young, and half of that is pretty." That narrows it down significantly. It is the same process with bicycle lights.
One Monday morning TIffany, a fellow office worker, came into our work area with her face scratched up. When I asked what happened she said she took a tumble off her bike while riding over the weekend. “Were you wearing a helmet?” I asked. Then there was a long pause before she said, “I was, but it flew off.”
It goes without saying there is no reason to put a helmet on your head if not secured properly. This also goes to carrying a helmet dangling from your handlebars—you might as well just leave it at home for all the good it is doing. It does not matter if you purchased a $40 or a $400 helmet, you are not protecting your head if the helmet does not fit. Here are some considerations on helmet fit:
Sharon Kaminecki and others comment on adventures in bicycling and other stories