Surviving the Hazards Cycling is a unique sport because its arena is the open road. That’s the same place frequented by traffic, potholes, snarling dogs and absentminded pedestrians. But sometimes we’re our own worst enemy. Inattention and poor technique can put us on the pavement as fast as any hazard. Use these tips and you’ll be less likely to take a tumble.
Always ride with your head up. While cruising along, it’s tempting to stare at the whirling pattern of the front spokes or fixate on your cyclocomputer’s numbers. A momentary downward glance that lasts just a second too long can mean riding into a problem that could easily have been avoided.
Focus. The smooth and rhythmic motion of pedaling can have a hypnotic effect. Daydreaming cyclists have crashed into the back of parked cars, wandered far into the traffic lane or blithely ridden off the road. Don’t let yourself be separated from the outside world by the vivid canvases created by your imagination. Keep your head in the game.
Keep your bike in top mechanical condition. Repair or replace faulty parts sooner rather than later. It’s a loser’s game to milk “just one more ride” out of worn brake pads, a frayed cable, or tires with a threadbare tread or bulging sidewall. Your first line of defense against the challenges of the real world is a bike with all parts in good working order.
Punctures -It’s every rider’s fate to have a flat. But it’s relatively easy to limit the frequency.
Choose your line with care. The best way to avoid punctures is also the easiest: Steer around broken glass, road rubble and potholes.
Use tires with a Kevlar belt under the tread. Kevlar does a good job of stopping nasty things from penetrating. Inspect the tread after every ride for embedded debris. Remember, most punctures are caused by something sticking to the tread and working through during numerous wheel revolutions. Replace tires before they become so thin that they’re virtually defenseless against pointy things.
Check inflation pressure every couple of days. Tubes are slightly porous and may lose several pounds of pressure each day. Tires that are too soft (under 75 to 80 psig) can slow you down, corner poorly, wear faster, and don’t protect your rims against metal-bending impacts.
Potholes - Hitting potholes can bend your rims beyond repair. If the chasm is deep enough, it will send you hurtling over the handlebar when you bury the front wheel and the bike suddenly stops. Here’s a primer on pothole evasion.
Note where potholes lurk on your normal training routes. Plan your line well in advance to avoid them. Don’t expect the road to be in the same condition every day. Potholes have a habit of sprouting up out of nowhere, especially in the winter and early spring due to the daily freeze/thaw cycle.
Treat potholes like glass. Ride around them, first checking behind for traffic. Be mindful of riding partners when you change your line. Newly minted potholes present a double hazard—the chasm itself, and the chunks of shattered pavement around it. If the pothole doesn’t bend your wheel, the sharp bits of rubble might puncture your tire. Give these highway craters a wide berth.
Jump your bike over a pothole, if you have the skill and are unable to ride around it because of traffic or adjacent riders. Learn this move on a grassy field. Level your pedals, crouch off the saddle, then spring up and lift with your feet and hands. Start by jumping over a line on the ground, then graduate to higher but forgiving objects such as a rolled-up towel or a shoebox.
--Ride Safe and Tail Winds, Capt. Billy and a little help from his buddies, Fred Matheny and Ed Pavelka of www.RoadBikeRider.com
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