Selecting the Right Bike

Selecting the right bicycle is the first step to having fun and preventing accidents.

  1. A bike that is the right size for you should have about 3 cm (1.2 inches) space between the crossbar of the frame and yourself, when you are standing with both feet on the ground – a bit more for BMX (off road) or mountain bikes.
    • Ask the salespeople in the store to help you select the right size and style of bike.
  2. Handlebars should not be loose and they should have grips that cover the ends properly.
  3. You should be able to sit on the seat and reach the ground with your feet without leaning the bike over.
    • The seat should be flat, not move about and shouldn’t have any broken springs or tears in the material – that can really hurt!
  4. Wheels should have all their spokes, spin easily, and tires that are pumped up enough so that they feel hard.
  5. Every bike should have a bell or a horn to warn others that you are coming.
  6. If you are going to ride at night, there should be lights on the front and back, and reflectors on the front and backs of the pedals and wheels.
  7. The bike chain and gears should be clean, oiled and move easily.
  8. Brakes must work properly so that when they are on, the wheels won’t turn.

Accessorizing For Safety

  1. Equip your bicycle with lights and reflectors.
    • Every bike should have, at a minimum, a white front reflector, a red rear reflector, two side-wheel reflectors and a headlight. Consider adding a rearview mirror to see what’s behind you, too.
    • Keep reflectors clean and replace any that are broken.
  2. Add a bright, fluorescent flag (as tall as possible) to the back of a child’s bike.
    • This allows the child to be seen easily by other drivers.
  3. Have a horn or a bell on your bike.
    • You can use it to alert pedestrians and other riders of your approach.

Choosing A Helmet

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute has a very helpful page on buying helmets. Click here to read it.

Here are some basics tips:

  1. Helmet Laws
    • Some local and state laws may require you to wear a helmet while cycling.
    • To find out the laws in your state, visit the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute’s State Helmet Laws
  2. Fit
    • A good fit means level on your head, touching all around, comfortably snug but not tight. The helmet should not move more than about an inch in any direction, and must not pull off no matter how hard you try. The chinstrap should be securely fastened.
    • Helmet sizing pads (foam pads) can help improve the fit. If you still have trouble, ask a knowledgeable salesperson to help you.
    • If your helmet does not fit properly, it will not protect your head if you have a fall or collision.
  3. Comfort
    • Look for good ventilation, fit and comfort when choosing a helmet.
    • You can always wear a brow pad or sweatband to help control sweat.
    • Don’t leave your helmet in a warm place like a hot garage or car trunk. The heat can warp the plastic.
  4. Color
    • Choose white or a bright color for visibility to be sure that motorists and other cyclists can see you.
    • You can also add reflective tape to the front, back and sides of the helmet.
  5. Cost
    • The typical discount store price is about $15, but there are still models available for under $10 at major retailers.
  6. When To Replace Your Helmet
    • You’ll need to replace your helmet after a crash – the foam layer will have lost most of its original shape and form.
    • If there is any damage to the buckle, strap or foam, consider replacing your helmet.
    • Kids might grow out of their helmets. Be sure to check the fit before the start of each year’s bike season.
    • If it’s been several years since you bought a new helmet, you may want to replace your helmet to keep up with current safety regulations.

In Case Of Emergency (ICE)

In the event of an emergency or after an accident, emergency personnel will use your cell phone to look for ‘ICE’: who to contact In Case of an Emergency. This can save a lot of time in the attempt to retrieve lifesaving information (allergies, medication info, condition information, etc).

In your cell phone contact list, simply type the word ‘ICE’ followed by the name (ICE – Jerry) and phone number of the person to call in case of an emergency. You can enter multiple entries if you want, (ICE 1, 2, 3). Do this for all members of your family and tell your friends about the importance of ICE.

Practice Good Bike Maintenance

Have your bike regularly checked out. Tune-ups should be every six months or so, depending on how often you ride. After many rides, the bike’s cables and chains tend to stretch out, lose their effectiveness, and cause shifting problems. You should have your chain replaced every 1,000-1,500 miles.

Read our 7 Fast Bicycle Maintenance Tips article for additional monthly and annual tips.

WHN TIP – Keeping Track: Start tracking your mileage in a notebook – write down the date and number of miles you bike each day.


Remember …

The information provided here is not meant to be a substitute for professional legal or medical advice. These tips are from first responders, lawyers, insurance agents and people who have shared real-life experiences; always check with a doctor or appropriate professional you trust before making any legal or health-related decisions.

Thank You …

A special thank you to the industry professionals, lawyers, insurance agents, first responders and people who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.