What Color Is Your Jersey?
Making yourself visible to motorists is a critical component of safe riding. Generally speaking, a bright-colored jersey is best, light is good, and darkwell, dark just plain stinks, even in broad daylight. Go for yellow or hi-viz lime green. Surprisingly, red can be hard to see on the road, so try to avoid it. On your next group ride, note how much more visible riders are who wear bright-colored jerseys. Don’t think that bright jerseys are fashionable? I’m sorry, but there is no such thing as fashion when it comes to cycling garb. A trip to your local bike shop or a flip through your favorite bike catalog proves that. Descente has a Sponge Bob jersey. Canari has Arrogant Bastard Ale and Campbell’s Full of Beans Soup jerseys. Pearl Izumi has a Twinkies jersey. And just for the ladies, Primal Wear has a Puppy Love jersey. Case closed. So, pony up and add some brightness to your cycling wardrobe, and save the black for the aprés-ride social events.
What else should you wear or bring along? Cycling gloves reduce fatigue and help protect your hands in case of a fall. Padded bike shorts will spare you saddle soreness. Unless you’re queasy about it, skip the undiesthe shorts will work better without them. If you’re still riding in sneakers, upgrading to bike shoes will greatly improve pedaling efficiency and help prevent numbness. If you can, opt for recessed cleats on your bike shoes. There’s way less chance of slipping when you’re walking around. Consider packing a rain jacket and an extra warm layer. You can’t always count on the weather forecast (a very chilly lesson learned by many at our Spring Century). Try to avoid cotton (even in summer), in favor of synthetic materials. That means no cotton shirts, shorts, socks, undies (if you insist), or brassieres. If you get wet in cotton, you will be coldperhaps dangerously so.
Of course, wear a helmet, low on the forehead, with straps adjusted for a good fit. Replace your helmet at least every five years, or whenever it develops cracks or other signs of wear. Store your helmet in a cool place, out of direct sunlight (i.e., not in your car). The Styrofoam in helmets hardens with age and sun/heat exposure, and ceases to provide the cushioning that your tender brain will need in a crash. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (http://www.bhsi.org/) has lots more helmet information. Don’t forget the CRW helmet rebate. See http://www.crw.org/HelmetRebate.htm for details.
Eyewear designed for cycling is critical to protect your eyes from dirt, bugs, wind, and sun. Many find a mirror very helpful. Choose from helmet-, handlebar-, or eyeglass-mounted versions. Pack an ID card, your health insurance card, emergency contact information, some cash, and maybe a credit card (for unplanned bike repairs). Bring water and food. Bring a map of the area in which you’ll be riding, in addition to the cue sheet/map that the ride leader may provide. Pack tools (tire irons, spare tube, patch kit, allen wrenches, and small screwdriver) and a tire pump. Flats are more likely in rainy weather ‘cause the sharp, pokey stuff tends to stick to wet tires. Also, patch kits are useless on wet tubes, so if rain is a possibility, you may want to opt for two spare tubes. If there’s any chance of being out after dusk, be sure to have lights front and back.
Coat yourself well with a good sunscreen before the ride, and carry a very small tube for touchups. Don’t forget lip balm with SPF. Consider a mini first-aid kit containing a few Band-Aids, Vaseline or ointment (for abrasions), aspirin or ibuprofen, and of course any special medications if you need them. I carry a pair of latex gloves, which pack nicely into a film canister. They’ll come in handy if I ever have to administer first aid, but I use them regularly to keep my hands clean when changing flats.
This may sound like a lot of stuff, but CRW rides (unless advertised otherwise) are unsupported. This means that no one is keeping track of you to see that you get home safely. So, you should be prepared to fend for yourself.
Stepping back for a moment, alert reader (and long-time CRW ride leader) Charles Hansen took issue with a couple of points from last month’s group riding article. Point 1: The article said to use the word “car” to describe any motor vehicle (such as when calling out “car back”). Charles says we should make an exception for trucks (those bigger than pickups) because trucks need more road and require an even higher level of alertness from cyclists. Point 2: The article emphasized calling out road hazards over pointing them out. Charles says that calling out hazards alone can cause confusion because other riders don’t know where the hazard is. He votes for pointing out hazards.
To Charles I say, “You’re right”. In defense of the article, the idea of “car back” is to keep the vocabulary simple so there is less chance of a misunderstanding, considering how difficult it is to hear with wind and other noises. Regarding road hazards, the key message is that you should only point out hazards when it is safe to take a hand off your handlebars. But if you can call and safely point them out, this is more helpful to your fellow riders than simply calling them out. Thanks, Charles!
Remembersafety is about choices. What choices will you make?