On the Road: Tips for Safe Biking

Before Each Ride

WHN TIP – The Right Tools: Assemble the tools to do basic bike maintenance and take a bike maintenance class so you know how to use them. Here’s a good list from REI of what tools to bring on your road – just in case!

  1. Get an empty water bottle and a plastic bag. Inside the plastic bag, put the following:
    • Cell phone or change for a phone call
    • Emergency Information Card (name, address, allergies/conditions)
    • Emergency medicines (for example, an auto-injector for the treatment of anaphylaxis)
    • Photo ID
  2. Seal the bag, place it inside the empty water bottle and bring it with you on your ride. (Install an extra water bottle holder for this or attach it to your bike with a bungee cord.)
  3. Inspect tires for correct pressure, cuts, and wear
    • Use a pressure gauge to ensure proper pressure, inflating to the rate pressure as listed on the sidewall of the tire. If the pressure is too low, the tire could cause a flat; if the pressure is too high, it could blow the tire rim.
    • Replace the tire if it is damaged.
    • Carry extra tire sealant or buy tires that have sealant in them – if the tire is punctured the sealant will fill and close the hole.
  4. Check your brake pads for wear and make sure they are working properly.
    • Most new bikes have ridged brake pads; replace the pads if the ridges are entirely worn down.
    • Check your brake pad adjustments, they should hit the rim, not rub against the tire or dive into the spokes.
    • Check your hand brakes, they should travel at least 1” between the bar and lever when applied.
  5. Check your cranks and chain.
    • Your crank bolts should be tight.
    • Check your chain for signs of wear.
    • Grease your chain–first with your bike upside down, take hold of your chain with a cloth. Pedal and run the cloth lightly over the chain to remove dirt. Then keep pedaling and apply a thin layer of chain grease. Excess grease will attract more dirt. If your chain skips, you might need an adjustment.
  6. Check your quick releases.
    • Your hubs should be tight in the frame and the quick release should engage at 90 degrees. Your hub quick release should point back to ensure that nothing catches on it.
    • Inspect your brake quick releases to ensure that they have been re-engaged if you have removed your wheel.
  7. Inspect handlebar for looseness or damage.
  8. Make sure headlights and bells work.
  9. Take it out for a ride:
    • Check to make sure the brakes and gears are working properly.
    • If your bike won’t stay in gear or can’t shift, get it checked out. Inspect your bike for any loose or broken parts, replace or fix them. You might even try picking your bike up and shaking it to see if anything sounds loose.
  10. Pack a bike lock in case you make an unscheduled stop. Styles include U-locks, cable locks, chain locks, locking wheel/seat skewers, and bike lock keys and combinations.
  11. Review the tips in our bike maintenance article.

On the Road

  1. Ride with someone else, if you can.
  2. Wear bright or fluorescent clothing during the day and reflective clothing at night. Make it easy for drivers to see you.
    • Avoid long skirts and flare pants. Clasp pants to leg with safety clips or leg bands so they don’t get caught on chains or spokes.

WHN TIP – Keep Your Ears Open: If you listen to music while biking, be sure to have at least one ear free to listen to the sounds of the road. Use an earpiece for your cell phone.

  1. Wear bike helmets at all times when bicycling. See 4 Points to Consider When Choosing a Bicycle Helmet for more information.
  2. Ride on the right side of the road with traffic, not against traffic.
  3. Use appropriate hand signals. These are signaled with your left arm:
    • Right Turn: Upper arm straight out parallel to the road, forearm and hand straight up and perpendicular to the road. NOTE: Some states allow a right turn with your right arm straight out and parallel to the road.
    • Left Turn: Arm straight out and parallel to the road.
    • Braking: Upper arm straight out parallel to the road, forearm and hand straight down and perpendicular to the road

WHN TIP – Eyes Wide Open: Be careful when making turns. Don’t ever assume that people can see you. Practice making eye contact with drivers.

  1. Follow traffic signals.
  2. Stop at all intersections, marked and unmarked.
  3. Stop and look left, right and left again before entering or crossing the street.
  4. Children who ride bikes to school should be taught to follow the rules of the road that apply to all vehicles.