Categories
Cycling Safety

How to Perform a Bicycle Safety Check: Assessing if Your Bike is Safe to Ride

A bicycle safety check is a quick once over of the bike, looking for anything that might make the bike unsafe to ride, or that might be in need of maintenance. It prevents not only accidents but also mechanical failures that can ruin your ride and be costly to repair. Here are the parts of your bike to look at, and what to look for:

Wheels

To check a wheel, grab the wheel and shake it side to side. Does the wheel move, or does it stay in place? If it moves, it means that your wheel hub is loose and needs to be adjusted.

Now pick up the bike and give the wheel a good spin. Look at where the wheel passes between the brake pads. Does it appear to sway from side to side? Can you hear it audibly rubbing against one of the brake pads? If you answered yes to either of these questions, your wheel is out of true, meaning it does not spin straight or is out-of-round.

An out of true wheel prevents brakes from working properly by creating a non-uniform braking surface, and if out of true severely enough can also compromise the integrity of the wheel, leading to wheel failure.

Next, pinch a couple of spokes between your fingers. This checks that the spokes are properly tensioned and that there are no loose or broken spokes. If the wheel is severely out of true, this can be a good indication that there may be loose or broken spokes. Loose or broken spokes compromise the integrity of the wheel and should be tightened or replaced before being ridden.

If the hubs are tight and do not need adjustment, the wheel spins straight and true and does not have any loose or broken spokes, it is safe to ride. Check the second wheel in the same way you checked the first.

Tires

Before riding, it is important to make sure your tires are fully inflated. This is important not only for the safety and handling performance of the bike, but is also one of the best ways to help prevent flats, which can be inconvenient, but also potentially dangerous and could lead to a crash. While inflating your tires, look them over. If the sidewalls are cracked or frayed in any way, or if you notice any gashes or holes in the tire, it is time to consider replacing it. Cracks in the sidewall, gashes or other weaknesses or openings in the tire can let in street hazards like glass, rocks, and even sand, puncturing inner tubes and causing flats.

Brakes

To check your brakes, look at the pads and be sure there is plenty of meat left on them. Grab the brake levers and give them a pull. Do they grip tight? How tight do you have to pull the lever until the brakes grab? If there is little pad left on the brakes, replace them. If it takes a lot of force on the levers for the brakes to even begin to grab, but there is plenty of pad left, the brakes need adjusting. Being able to stop your bicycle is as important as being able to make your bike move, and should not be undervalued.

Everything Else

After checking wheels, tires, and brakes, give the bike one last quick once over before riding. If anything on your bicycle is loose or appears damaged, repair or replace it before riding.

Making Repairs

When it comes to making repairs and adjustments, you can either make the repairs yourself or take it to your favorite local bike shop. If you are inexperienced, or if it has been a while since your bike has had any kind of service, it might be in your best interest to bring your bike to a shop for a full tune-up. A tune-up by a professional mechanic goes over the whole bike checking to be sure that everything is in working order and properly adjusted.

Categories
Cycling Safety

Why Wear a Cycling Helmet? Do Bicycle Helmets Offer Increased Cycling Safety?

According to a 2015 study, only 30% of adults wear bicycle helmets on major roads in the UK and, perhaps surprisingly, only 11% of male children, probably one of the highest risk groups. An earlier study in 2012 found that more than 100,000 head injuries from cycling accidents in the US could have been prevented in 1997 if all riders had been wearing helmets.

Cycling Safety Laws

Wearing a helmet is not compulsory in the UK although it is law in many other parts of the world including Australia, New Zealand and many states in the US and Canada. There is a strong body of opinion backed by medical evidence that helmet usage significantly reduces the risk of head injury when a cyclist has an accident.

There is also a large lobby of people who oppose wearing one at all, refuting the validity of case studies and arguing that compulsory legislation just encourages rather than fights obesity.

What Does a Cycling Helmet Do?

A bicycle helmet is intended to reduce serious head injuries by preventing the skull from making direct contact with another object. The crushable polystyrene that forms the mainliner is naturally light and absorbs energy on impact thereby protecting the head.

Cycle helmets are not designed nor indeed tested to provide full protection if coming into contact with a moving vehicle, but they can still reduce the risk of a fractured skull plus protect the head from cuts and bruises.

Good Reasons for Wearing a Cycling Helmet

  • Evidence from multiple medical studies and accident and emergency hospital admissions shows that head injuries can be reduced and prevented by wearing protective headwear.
  • Sudden sharp braking can result in a rider falling headfirst over the handlebars with inevitable consequences.
  • Overhanging objects such as trees are easily hit when not paying attention.
  • Inexperienced riders, especially young children, often have less control over their bikes, resulting in more frequent falls.
  • Mountain biking, by nature, is prone to more frequent falls and impact with tree roots, rocks, and other natural features so a mountain bike helmet is a must.
  • A properly fitted helmet will feel like a second skin and a rider should feel naked without it.

Anti-Helmet Campaign Arguments

  • Compulsion laws reduce the number of cyclists and discourage an active healthy lifestyle.
  • Drivers take less care when approaching cyclists wearing helmets.
  • Average cyclists are not presented with the same risks as road racers or downhill mountain bike riders so do not need to take the same precautions.
  • Good quality helmets are too expensive, especially for low-income groups.
  • Wearing a helmet is uncomfortable on hot days and sweat can hamper vision, causing an accident.
  • Females hate “helmet-hair” and prefer to look their best on arrival at their destination.
  • For young people, it just isn’t cool to wear one.

To Wear or Not to Wear a Cycle Helmet

Cycling helmets can prevent serious brain damage when worn and fitted correctly. Whilst wearing one is entirely up to the individual, anyone who has ever fallen headfirst off their bike will vouch for their effectiveness. For them, it is, quite literally, a no brainer.