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Dusting off for Spring

Safety Corner logofrom the March 2006 issue of WheelPeople

After the long winter, are you just now pulling your bike out in celebration of spring? If so, you may want to check out the bike, think about what to bring on a ride, and bone up on the basics of group riding. Unless advertised otherwise, CRW rides are unsupported, so you’ll want to be self-sufficient.
Check your Bike: Giving your bike this quick check over before each ride will help keep you safe and happy. You don’t have to be mechanically inclined—anyone can learn these simple steps:


Bike Pre-Ride Check List

• Spin the wheels. The gap between the brake pad and rim should be uniform, with no wobble (side to side or up and down). Wheels should spin freely, but with no side-to-side play.
• Check for bent or broken spokes.
• Check tires for cuts, bulges, proper seating on the rim, excessive wear, embedded debris, and proper inflation.
• Face the bike from the front. Hold the front wheel between your knees and gently try to turn the handlebars. There should be no play (although there may be some flexing).
• Push down on the handlebars to be sure that they are tight.
• Squeeze the front brake and rock the bike forward and backward. There should be no knocking or looseness.
• Lift the front end of the bike and gently turn the handlebars side to side. They should turn freely.
• Squeeze both brake levers hard. They should not reach the handlebars and there should be no creep when the brakes are tight. The levers should snap out as soon as they are released.
• While applying the front brake, rock the bike forward to check that the brake holds.
• While applying the rear brake, rock the bike backward to check that the brake holds.
• While applying the brakes, check that the brake pads contact the rim squarely (not above or below the rim). Check front and rear.
• Check brake pads for excessive wear.
• Inspect cables for fraying or cracked housings.
• Place the bike on a stand or ask a friend to hold the back end up. Pedal by hand and shift into all gear combinations. Check for over shifting (chain jumps off the cogs or skips over a cog), chatter, or clicking. Check that the chain does not go slack when you stop spinning the crank.
• Grab a pedal and try to push it from side to side. There should be no play.
• Drop the chain off the inside of the small chainring, and rotate the crank to be sure it rotates freely.
• Inspect the cogs and chainrings for worn or cracked teeth.
• Inspect the chain. It should be clean, well lubricated, and free of tight links.
• If you have clipless pedals, check that the cleats on your shoes are tight and not excessively worn. Remove any debris from the pedals.
• Check the tightness of the saddle, racks, fenders, water bottle cages, etc. by gently pushing and pulling.
• Check that saddle bags and panniers are securely fastened and snug.
• If there’s any chance that you’ll be riding after dusk, check your lights.

What to Bring: This list is by no means exhaustive, but the basics are:

What to Bring on a CRW Ride

Helmet, gloves, sunglasses or other eye protection
High-visibility jersey
Tire pump, spare tube, patch kit
Tire levers and multi-tool
Water bottle(s), Camelbak™, or equivalent
Identification, health insurance card, emergency contact information, money1
Ride cue sheet, a good map2
Light windbreaker, spare warm layer3
Rain jacket and second spare tube4
Lip balm with SPF, small tube of spare sunscreen5
Band-Aids, aspirin/ibuprofen, Vaseline/ointment, any special medications, latex gloves, pen
1) Photocopy your driver’s license and health insurance card, and place in a plastic bag (along with emergency contact information) that you carry on your person—not in a bike bag. If you carry a cell phone, enter an emergency contact number under “ICE” (which stands for In Case of Emergency). Emergency responders know to check cell phones.
2) Maps distributed at CRW rides may not be adequate.
3) Depending on weather.
4) If there’s a chance of rain.
5) Coat yourself with a good sunscreen before the ride.

Group Riding Tips: Warm, sunny weather can attract large crowds, especially on weekend rides. Group rides can be lots of fun, but they present some challenges that call for a special set of skills. Here are a few basics.

Ride in a predictable manner. Maintain a straight line of travel. Brake and change lane position gradually and smoothly, and only when necessary.
Pay attention. There are lots of things to distract a rider on a group ride, so you’ll need to focus more than usual. Keep your eyes moving, and scan as far ahead as you can see. Anticipate.

Keep right, unless you are avoiding roadside hazards, preparing to turn, or otherwise deliberately occupying your lane. Ride single file whenever motorists are present, and encourage others to single up promptly when a motorist approaches. Look left and yield to faster traffic before moving left.

Communicate. Calling out “car back”, “car up”, “car left”, or “car right” alerts others to approaching motorists. It’s not necessary to announce every approaching motorist, but it can facilitate getting single file or draw attention to a motorist that might pull out unexpectedly. Point out or call out significant road hazards (pot holes, broken pavement, sand, glass, etc.) that are in the line of travel. Pointing out hazards tends to be more informative and more pleasant for your fellow riders, but calling out hazards is safer for you (because your hands stay on the handlebars). When in doubt, keep your hands on the handlebars. Signal your intentions (left turn, right turn, slowing or stopping) in advance. If you must slow unexpectedly, call out “slowing” or “stopping” so you can keep both hands on the handlebars when applying the brakes. Pass only on the left, after checking for traffic from behind, and politely announce your presence to the rider you are overtaking. Use communications judiciously—it’s easy to overdo it.

Yield at intersections when others have the right of way. Judge the situation for yourself, rather than simply following those ahead of you. After clearing an intersection, allow others in your group to catch up.

Many ride leaders will stagger ride starts when there are 30 to 40 riders or more, typically releasing riders in three groups (based on riding speed), separated by at least 90 seconds. Listen carefully to pre-ride instructions to facilitate the process. When underway, try to break up into groups of no more than eight riders—six is better. Riding in smaller groups is safer, more relaxing, and more courteous to motorists who may find it difficult to pass large groups safely.

Coaching on Designated Saturday Rides: This season, on designated Saturday rides, you will have the opportunity to ride as part of an instructional group (space permitting). Volunteer coaches will lead small groups and provide instruction along the way. More details on this (and other skills development opportunities) to follow.

Remember—safety is about choices. What choices will you make?

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