A quick refresher course on proper bike safety
Believe it or not, warmer weather is right around the corner, which means soon we’ll be able to venture outside and enjoy the natural beauty of the Mitten State. And one of the most popular ways to take in the springtime sights is by pedaling along one of the state’s gorgeous bike trails (there are more than 1,300 miles of them throughout Michigan!). But whether you enjoy scenic rides around Mackinac or blazing a path through Grand Rapids, there are a few precautions and safety reminders to keep in mind.
1. Get the right helmet. You probably know wearing a helmet is bike safety rule number one, but do you know how to pick one out? When it comes to choosing the proper lid, here are a few things you should know:
- Ideal helmets should sit about one inch above your eyebrows.
- Opt for a light foam helmet, which protects against forward falls from bike accidents. The fashionable plastic helmets many riders wear are actually more suited to protect against backward falls, like if you were to fall off a skateboard.
- Most helmets are only meant to withstand one crash and should be replaced immediately if impacted in a fall.
2. Test your brakes early. A long winter in the garage can damage your bike’s brakes, and the beginning of a steep decline in Traverse City is no time to find out that you need new ones. That’s why it’s essential you make sure everything is in working order before you head out. When evaluating your brakes, look at the rubber pads that clamp down on the tire’s rim to make sure they aren’t worn down. Also be sure to test out the brake levers on the handle bars to make sure the pads clamp down at the same time. If they don’t, you’ll need to adjust the tension of the brake cables.
3. Watch out for slippery spring conditions. If record snowfall and low temperatures have taught us one thing, it’s that we shouldn’t always expect perfect weather. So if you head out after a spring storm, you’ll need to be mindful of slick spots. Look especially for those rainbow tinted patches in the road. These are created when rain forces oil in the pavement to the surface and can quickly send you sliding.
4. Ride in a single-file line. If you’re hitting the trails with family or friends, make sure to follow behind each other in a single-file line. Many of Michigan’s off-road trails wind through lush woods, and as the spring bloom sets in, paths will start to narrow. Even on the wider trails, you’ll want to stick to this practice in order to leave room for others travelling in the opposite direction.
5. Know the rules of the road. When biking on streets, you’ll need to be aware of an additional safety hazard: traffic. The best way to avoid accidents is to know the rules. On two-way roads, always ride with traffic, about an arm’s length from the boundary line. And while it sounds like a given, you need to stop at red lights and stop signs, and signal all turns with your arm.
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