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Road Cycling and the One Tip Every New Cyclist needs to Ride as Safely as is Possible on the Open Road


First things first. I’m not going to tell you how to dress whilst pedaling a bike, especially not in this post. I choose bright and visible, but I shy away from the overused “hi-viz” offerings. I’m not going to tell you to use a rear blinkie in this post, even if I use one because I find that the local traffic treats me a little better if I do. I’m definitely not going to tell anyone to use a headlight during daylight hours because I don’t myself – if you feel a headlight makes you safer, please be my guest. I’m also not going to tell you to wear a helmet, even if I’d never throw a leg over a top tube without one on my melon.

None of those are the top tip, anyway.

A top triathlete in a town just an hour from my house was training for an upcoming triathlon. I’d guess she was deep in the pain cave because she didn’t see the car in the opposing lane dart into her lane to pass the car in front. The driver hit her head on. She didn’t make it.

If I had a dollar for every accident I’ve avoided, I’d have a nice set of carbon fiber wheels for both my wife and I.  With the added bonus of not being stuck in a hospital bed, or worse.

The key to keeping the rubber side down on a bike at all times is paying attention. At all times.

This isn’t, of course, to say that we catch everything if we pay attention.  I don’t.  I can’t.  But I come pretty close, and the important thing is that I’m paying attention for the big stuff.  As was the case with the triathlete above, one little lapse – running in the red just a little too hard with your head down at the wrong second can be the difference between coming home and not.

Head on a swivel is how I ride.  That’s my number one safety tip.

Number two would probably be “safety in numbers”, but I only mentioned the number one tip in the Title.




  1. Sheree says:

    Wise words Jim. You really do need to be aware at all times, even in bike-friendly places.

  2. theandyclark says:

    Totally agree.

    That said, I’m going to try to sell you on a headlight. My biggest selling point to you is that they extend the time you can be biking, particularly if you ever are alone on the road or at the head of the group. I’d have been done for the year about a month ago without a headlight. My headlight probably increases my commuting season by 25%. I use mine not only when its dark, but also in light fog and twilight on well traveled streets. Anything to help cars see me. I don’t know much about your friend’s accident, but it sounds like a headlight might have made a difference.

    Lastly – almost all of them are easy to take on and off, so on rides where you don’t want the weight and the drag, no problem. Just finish the ride before sunset.

    • bgddyjim says:

      You don’t have to sell me – I’ve got a TruVative 305 that I use when I’m going to ride either in the early morning or at dusk and once a year on our night ride. It probably would have been better of me to clarify that a little bit. The truth is, 98% of my cycling is done during daylight hours where a headlight is useless. That last 2%, though, you’re absolutely correct.

  3. elisariva says:

    Wow. That is terrible to hear. Being alert is so essential. I have been riding far more inside this year. First due to injury. Now, I could ride outside, but I’d rather do it only in the weekend when the sun is high. One reason to consider a front white light – to be seen by oncoming traffic. Drivers in cars aren’t looking at the curb, they look in the middle of the road for oncoming traffic. My light is crazy bright and flashes. When the sun is rising or setting, cyclist are even less visible, no matter how bright your clothing is.

    Be safe out there my friend.

  4. joliesattic says:

    Good advice. My son in law (about your age) was incapacitated for several months last year when a motorist turned into him trying to beat the red light. It made the local news, but he was unable to work for some time due to a severe concussion. His bike was a mangled mess. He’s okay now, but even so, he’s had a hard time getting back on the saddle as I did. You are so right about being a swivel head, always on the lookout. Also, FYI, some cars have horrible blind spots that something like a cyclist would fit into nicely, so it’s not always the motorists fault either. My car in point of fact and it really upsets me when I miss something, since I’m so much more aware than the average driver of cyclists.

  5. sarahdudek80 says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. My husband and I have been meaning to do a post on running safety because we witness so many people “breaking” the safety rules. He recently did his first triathlon and just signed up for the Traverse City Half Ironman. I worry when he cycles. Not because of him, but because of the others out there. It is so scary.

  6. Always got to keep your wits about you! And for those on time trial bikes never ride head down, no matter how much more aero if makes you (hitting a parked car is not very aero).

    I got reminded of the need to stay sharp on my motorbike yesterday. I was cruising down the highway when my mind wandered for about five seconds. A car in the lane next to me changed into my lane and right into me like I wasn’t there. Luckily a quick kick of his car door and an evasive manoeuvre and I was safe, but it could have ended real bad. If I’d been more alert I could have avoided it all together.

    Stay safe out there folks!

  7. Archetype says:

    I speak and write about THIS all the time. HEAD UP- EYES UP. ALWAYS! The lack of awareness or more importantly, Situational Awareness is paramount. It is the number ONE aspect of safe and efficient riding. For the past two years I have done an informal survey as I ride. 7 out of every ten cyclists I ride past or see on a ride have their heads down! I cannot F**king believe this. It’s like rolling the dice and hoping you don’t crash or get hit. It’s just plain stupid. I think too many so-called experts in the industry, from shop owners, mechanics and sales persons, to websites, magazines and video channels, do not grasp the absolute fundamentals of riding. This means having good riding skills.

    Awareness, proper vision techniques and handling skills. Instead of one-legged pedaling frills that are mostly useless to the majority of riders. Instead of working on cadence…instead of doing hill repeats… blah blah blah. Great stuff if you’re heading to a Cat 1,2,3 career. Otherwise a waste of time. Most riders should be working on the aforementioned skills. Braking, Steering, Turning. Avoidance maneuvers. Threshold braking. Learning not to panic. Understanding what Target Fixation is and how to avoid it. It drives me mad Jim! 😀 So keep spreading the good words of advice brother!

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