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Members Helping Members

Safety Corner logoby John Allen and Bob Zogg

Sharing information and providing feedback can help fellow CRW members in many ways. For example, you can remind another member about safety and courtesy on the road or help another member learn new riding skills. Read on for some tips on how to share information and provide feedback.

Safety/Courtesy Reminders: Suppose you observe a cyclist doing something unsafe or discourteous. You may think “Gee, someone really should talk to that person”. But, who? CRW has no designated safety police. If something is to be said, it’s going to be up to you. But, how? Assuming that you can catch up to the cyclist in question, what would you say?

To start, be honest about your motives. Do you merely want to vent your frustration, or do you want to have a positive influence? If the latter, you’ll want to approach the discussion thoughtfully. Maybe something like this:
• Introduce yourself.
• Follow your introduction with a compliment. If you think hard enough, there’s probably something right about how the person is riding—if not, you could at least say that you really like their bike.
• Rather than attacking the negative (“Don’t block motorists trying to pass”), encourage the positive (“It really helps if we single up to let motorists pass”).
• Maintain a friendly tone. Suggest a change, rather than demanding one.
Even if it doesn’t come out quite the way you had hoped and the recipient gets defensive, don’t sweat it. After they settle down, they may realize that you were right to comment. And, the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.

Coaching Beginners: On the other hand, you may notice cyclists who appear uncomfortable with club riding. While you can sometimes give useful tips to beginners at the ride start, your best opportunity is during the ride. If you start after the main group has left, you will catch up with any riders having serious difficulty with technique. Your help will get a beginner off on the right foot—both on the bicycle and with the club. Plus, it puts the beginner in a positive frame of mind.

Introduce yourself, and ask something like “Are you new to club riding? Would you like a bit of coaching?” Usually, the answer will be yes—friendly attention is flattering. The following points are often helpful:
• “Are your bike’s gears working well? Can you use some tips on how they work?” Simple pointers are that moving the chain farther from the centerline of the bicycle puts it into a higher gear, and to avoid the “crossover” gears that place the chain at a large angle—especially the small chainwheel/small sprocket combination.
• “Pedaling at a higher cadence makes for less strain, and you go just as fast.”
• You might carry a small container of chain lube to help out the few riders (not necessarily beginners!) who show up with squeaky chains.
• Beginners often ride with the saddle too low so that they can put both feet on the ground when stopping. Show them how to shift down and step forward off the saddle, backpedal to the forward-and-high starting position, and then push down on the pedal to restart. Without toe clips or clip-in pedals, the foot goes under the pedal to backpedal. You may raise the saddle a little to encourage correct technique, but be sure your trainee is comfortable with this change.
• A beginner may suffer discomfort from a long reach to the handlebars, or from a saddle that is tilted, too narrow, too soft, or too hard. Sometimes you can correct these problems on the spot with adjustments, but often you can only give the advice to replace a component.
• After asking permission, you might check for safety/mechanical problems—a loose quick release, brake shoe rubbing, soft tire, etc. Carry a toolkit so you can deal with mechanical problems (including your own—it happens!).

Let’s face it— none of us is perfect. An occasional reminder can help any of us recognize where we can improve. Sometimes the third-party perspective is just what we need. So, when it’s your turn to be the recipient of a safety or courtesy reminder, try to take it gracefully—you might even thank the person for the reminder.

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

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