Cycling Safety Attire

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by Carol Hausner

 

Cycling can be great exercise, a wonderful source of camaraderie, and a neat way to get around. To get around safely, however, one needs to attend to one's attire. No matter how short or long the trip, there are (at least) six pieces of cycling attire that can each have a big impact on safety.

Helmet - You probably expected this to be on the list so it's listed first. In addition to offering personal protection in a crash, helmet use can impact motorists' perceptions ("well, he didn't seem to know what he was doing - he wasn't even wearing a helmet"), which can be important when one is doing something, such as claiming a lane, where it helps to have motorists think there's some competency involved.
Two quick reminders for helmet effectiveness: (1) position the helmet on the head such that it covers the top of the forehead, and (2) adjust the fit such that it stays securely on the head when bending over with the straps unbuckled.

Cycling glasses/goggles - These play an essential role in protecting eyes from dirt, bugs and wind, and can play a vital role in protecting one's eyes should they come in contact with a hard surface, such as pavement. Thus, they need to fully cover the eyes and also to block air and debris from coming in from around the edges, a property standard corrective lenses don't provide.
For folks bothered by dry eye or cold when riding - there are cycling glasses available that have a cushion surrounding the lenses to keep in moisture; also to keep out cold.

Gloves - Gloves not only help cushion hands on rides, but also play a critical role in protecting hands in falls and when checking tires for glass. If riding at night, having gloves with reflective patches on the back can help make signaling more visible to motorists, particularly if one turns one's wrist back and forth.

Top - Always wear a light/bright-colored top. Wearing neon yellow tends to have the biggest effect. While perhaps not the most attractive look, it makes one much more visible to motorists backing out of driveways, at intersections, making turns. There are a growing number of jerseys available that also offer UV protection. In the case of low-light/night riding, it can be beneficial to wear a reflective jacket/vest, but this should be used in addition to, and not instead of, having appropriate lights.

Mirror - This is included in attire because many folks wear their mirror on their helmet or glasses. These provide one with useful information, such as, there's a car approaching from behind with its right turn signal on, there's a car approaching from behind on a blind curve, or there's a cyclist approaching from behind who isn't calling out "on your left" (grrr). Mirrors, however, aren't a substitute for learning to look back while maintaining a straight trajectory.

Shoes - It's important to wear shoes that not only provide appropriate foot protection, but also work with the bicycle's pedals. This isn't an issue when one is wearing cycling shoes purchased to work with the clipless pedals or toe clips. When riding a bike with flat pedals, however, some shoe/pedal combinations are slippery and best avoided. There is a good article about this by the late Sheldon Brown at http://sheldonbrown.com/shoe-pedal.html.

The right attire plays an important role in cycling safety, as well as in its enjoyment.

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