Bicycle Safety – 35 Tips to Stay Safe on the Road

Cyclist Safety Tips

Updated: July 2018

There is no doubt that cycling has gained popularity in the past 5 years as more and more people are getting on the bike.

We've all heard about its benefits; from improving our overall health and fitness, to being greener and the opportunity expanding our social circles.

Some says that cycling is the new golf. I think that's not too far off.

However, today I'm not talking about the benefits (will keep that for another day), but more importantly as cycling gains popularity, so does another topic...

Cycling Safety.

We all start our cycling journey as different stages in our lives.

Even though I've been cycling since I was a small boy, there are still lots to learn for myself.

There are many unwritten do's and don't that many of us (unfortunately) learned the hard way or through hundreds of hours of cycling.

So, let's dive right in...

Side note: Feel free to share these tips with your friends, family, club members and other cyclists if you find them useful.

Roadworthy Bike

1. Ride the Right Bike Size

Anatomy of a Road Bike

Anatomy of A Bike

You should be riding a bike that is of the right size for your height.

Riding a bike which is either too big or too small will hamper your bike handling and control.

Most (if not all) bike manufacturers publish a sizing chart consisting of a lot numbers to indicate the various measurements of the bike.

Road Bike Geometry Chart

That can be complicated for most people. 

As a general rule of thumb, you should be able to stand flat footed over your bike’s top tube and there should still be around 3 to 5cm of space left between your groin and the top tube.

A better option is to consult an experienced bike salesperson to ensure you have the right bike frame size.

2. Check for Loose Nuts and Bolts

Most of us aren't professional cyclists who have a dedicated full-time mechanic working on our bikes. Unless there's a huge or complicated mechanical task ahead, most will stick to Do It Yourself instead.

Further Reading : The 10 Best Bike Tools to Have at Home

Check all the nuts and bolts of your handlebar, stem, seatpost, pedals and wheels' quick release before heading out.

Press your front brake and push the bike back and forth to check if the headset is loose.

Tighten anything that comes loose and ensure there is no rattling.

3. Check and Pump Up Tires

Recommended Bike Tires Air Pressure

Your road bike tires should be correctly inflated to within the recommended air pressure range which is usually printed on the tires’ sidewalls. Most cyclists have a floor pump at home.

Never exceed the tire pressure as indicated on the sidewall.

Also, remember to check if your tires are worn, or if there are any deep cuts or debris sticking on it.

Clean or change them if needed.

4. Check for Loose or Bent Spokes

Check if any of your wheel’s spokes are loose or bent.

Spin the wheels and observe if they're spinning true and not wobbling around.

5. Ensure the Brakes are Working

Check if your brake pads are rubbing against your wheels or the disc rotor. Adjust them if needed.

Spin the wheels, then press the brakes to check that the cables are working as expected.

Repeat 2-3 times.

6. Use A Headlight, Day and Night

The front lights serve 2 purposes; for you to see when it’s dark and for you to be seen during the day.

Take into consideration the brightness, weight, mounting type and battery run times before buying the front lights.

I recommend setting your headlights to flash/strobe mode during the day as it attracts more attention from other drivers.

Further Reading : The 14 Best Bike Headlights Reviewed

7. Use A Tail Light

Rear lights are important both during the day and night to help you be seen.

Set your lights on flashing mode to attract the attention of drivers behind you.

Always, make sure your batteries are fully charged. You don't want to run out of batteries mid-ride especially in the dark.

If you're looking for the brightest bike tail light that ensures you're visible, look for one that has at least 70 lumens and above. 

The Knog Blinder Road R70 is one of them to consider.

8. Use A Bike Bell

In some countries, bike bells are required by law.

If it’s not, I would also recommend having a bell as bikes are usually very quiet vehicles. The last thing you want to be doing every time you pass someone is to scream.

So a bike bell will be handy and a polite way of saying, I'm coming.

If you're looking for a sleek and low profile bell, have a look at the Knog Oi.

Cycling Gears

9. Wear High Visibility Clothing

Wear bright cycling clothing both during the day and night to increase your visibility.

Alternatively, you can wear a high-vis vest over your dark clothing.

A cyclist without lights or bright clothing are almost invisible to a driver until the very last moment.

To further increase your visibility, you can use reflective Velcro straps on your ankles. The up/down movement tends to attract more attention.

10. Wear A Bike Helmet

How to Wear A Bike Helmet Correctly

The Correct Way to Wear A Bike Helmet

There are differing opinions and laws around the world when it comes to wearing road bike helmets. 

In the U.S., bike helmet laws varies by state, locality and the age of the cyclist. The first bike helmet law was introduced in California in 1987 for children below 5 years old, followed by 1989 in New York.

Bike Helmet Laws in U.S.

Bike Helmet Laws in US. Source: FloridaCyclingLaw.com

In Canada, each province and territory has different bike helmet laws.

A bike helmet is mandatory for cyclist of all ages in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

It's not required by law for cyclists to wear a helmet in the U.K. Bike helmet is a contentious issue and there are polarizing opinions about its effectiveness.

Proponents believe that helmet helps prevent serious head injuries while opponents argue that wearing helmet discourages people from taking up cycling.

In Australia, all states introduced laws that require all cyclists to wear helmets between 1990 to 1992. 

A recent bike helmet safety statistics showed that the usage of helmet is estimated to reduce probability of serious head injuries by 50%.

If you're wearing a helmet, you shouldn’t just wear any helmet but a helmet that fits the circumference of your head. Tighten and straps and the helmet should feel snug.

Always make sure you wear the helmet correctly. Otherwise you might risk looking like a complete hubbard.

Also, ensure that they meet the international bike helmet safety standards like Snell, CSA, ASTM, BSI and SAA. You'll usually find a sticker inside the helmet.

Further Reading : The 10 Best Looking Road Bike Helmets that Meets all Safety Standards

DO NOT use the same helmet after it’s damaged in a crash. Helmets are designed to crack upon impact to protect your head.

11. Use Appropriate Amount of Sunscreen

Sunscreen Blocks UV-A and UV-B Rays

Image by: Block Island Organics

Use sunscreen if you’re riding under the sun especially during the summer to prevent sunburn and skin cancer in the long term.

Read More : 5 Easy Ways to Prevent Sunburns while Cycling

A recommended amount is a roughly tablespoon for each limb. Be generous and don't be stingy.

Aerosol sunscreen are not recommended as most people tend to apply them wrongly or insufficiently. And they also cost more. Use those that offers UV-A and UV-B protection.

Wear a pair of cycling sunglasses if it's a sunny day so that it's less strenuous to the eyes.

Route Selection

12. Map Out the Route Before Leaving Home

Do your research before you head out to ride, especially on unfamiliar roads.

You can use free tools like Google Maps, MapMyRide or RideWithGPS to plan out your ideal route.

Toggle Bicycle Paths on Google Maps

Turn On Bike Path Option on the Left Sidebar

When you're using these tools, toggle the Bike Paths button at the top right corner and you'll be presented with all roads that have bike paths.

Alternatively, you can also toggle Google Streetview to see how the road actually looks like.

13. Avoid Busy Intersections

Try to avoid these as much as possible.

You don’t want to be caught in the middle of traffic with cars zooming past you from every direction. Alternatively, make use of the pedestrian crossings or make a hook turn.

This might take up more time but it’s definitely much safer.

14. Choose Wider Roads

Try to avoid narrow roads (single lane), especially those busy ones without a road shoulder.

These roads are often a danger zone for cyclists as the vehicles have little space to squeeze themselves between the cyclists and oncoming cars.

15. Choose Your Route Wisely

The period between 7 to 10am and 4 to 7pm are the time most people are rushing to and from work.

Hence patience and tolerance levels are low. 

Instead, try finding quieter roads or better still, bike paths. They might be slightly further, but it's much safer.

You don’t want to be mixing it up with impatient drivers!

16. Don't Ride on the Sidewalks

In some countries like the U.S, anyone above 13 are not allowed to ride their bikes on the sidewalks. 

Riding on sidewalks poses a danger to not only the pedestrians but also yourself especially if vehicles are turning in or out from the sidewalks.

Good Cycling Habits

17. Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Always stay alert and be aware of everything happening around you.

Keep an ear for oncoming vehicles from the back, especially trucks.

18. No Headphones

Never use headphones or listen to music while you’re riding. 

You can’t hear for any vehicles coming up behind you until the very last moment.

19. Don't Fiddle with the Phone

Don’t fiddle with your mobile phones while you’re riding as you might lose your balance should you hit anything on the road.

If you need to navigate, stop at a safe place at the roadside and do it. Alternatively, consider using a bike phone mount to secure the smartphone on the handlebars.

In Australia, it's against the traffic law to use a mobile phone while cycling.

20. Ride in A Predictable Manner

Ride in a straight line and don’t move unexpectedly. This is even more important especially if you’re riding in group with many cyclists behind you. 

Don’t swerve in and out for no apparent reasons and abruptly. 

Look and scan further ahead to avoid having to make last minute movements.

21. Both Hands on the Handlebar

Always have both your hands on the handlebar. If you're taking a drink, scan the road ahead, take your bottle and have a quick sip.

You don't want to run into a pothole with 1 hand on the handlebar while the other holding your water bottle.

Ideally, wear a pair of cycling gloves to improve your grip.

22. Don't Ride at Speeds You're Uncomfortable With

Slow down if you need to especially during twisty descends or over rough roads. 

Riding above speeds that you're accustomed to puts not only yourself in danger but also other people around you.

You risk losing control of your bike and the vehicle behind might run into you.

23. Don't Drink and Ride

Cycling drunk is as dangerous as driving drunk.

A 2015 US Department of Transport statistics showed that 27% of cyclist killed had been drinking.

Staying safe on the road while cycling requires a high level of alertness and being drunk puts not only yourself but other motorists in danger. 

24. Act like A Vehicle

When you ride on roads, you're considered a vehicle. So behave like one. 

In most countries, all traffic rules that apply to vehicles also apply to bikes. 

Obey all traffic rules especially red lights.

25. Always Stop at Red Lights

Red Bicycle Lights

We all have been taught that red means stop.

But over the year, I’ve seen many cyclists jumping red lights and nasty things happen.

Red.Means.Stop.

26. Don't Ride Near the Curbs

Don’t ride near the curbs.

Give yourself 2-3 feet of space to bail out in case a vehicle come too close.

Ride with the traffic flow. Simple as that. This research showed that riding against the traffic is 3 times more dangerous and 7 times for children.

27. Stay Out of the Vehicle's Blind Spot

A Truck's Blind Spots

Image by: RideOn Magazine

Never position yourself at the vehicle's blind spot, especially buses and trucks who have a much larger blind spots compared to cars.

If you can' see their side mirrors, chances are they can't see you either.

The driver can't see you especially when they're turning and you risk running into them.

28. Always Use Hand Signals

Cyclists' Hand Signals

Always use your hands to indicate where you plan to go; whether it's changing lanes, merging lanes or to turn.

Never assume that the driver knows what you're planning to do.

Do it early and do it often.

29. Slow Down at Intersections

Based on the 2015 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, 28% of cyclist fatalities occurred at intersections. 

Always slow down when you're approaching the intersections and stop if needed. 

30. Watch Out for Parked Cars

A Car's Door Zone

Be Aware of A Vehicle's Door Zone

This is where dooring often happens. If you're riding beside parked cars, slow down and look through their rear windows to see if anyone is in the car or planning to open the door.

Try to ride 2-3 feet away from the parked cars if the road width allows to give yourself some extra space.

31. Look and Look Again Before Entering Roundabouts

Roundabouts are another tricky situations for cyclists. Always slow down and prepare to stop when approaching roundabouts.

Don’t assume that you can beat the vehicles already inside the roundabout.

Always look to your right (if you’re from right-hand drive country) and left (if you’re from a left-hand drive country) before entering.

Important Things to Bring

32. Bring Spare Cash

You don't want to out of cash especially if you're hungry or have to do a quick detour to the bike shop for a quick fix to get home.

33. Bring Your Mobile Phone

It's a good practice to have your emergency contact details on your phone's lock screen.

If you're knocked down unconscious at the side of the road, at least someone will know how to contact without having to unlock your phone.

34. Wear A Road ID

Road ID

Alternatively, wear your RoadID on your wrists.

You can customise important details like your emergency contact person, age, blood type, allergies and medications which are important to the paramedics and doctors treating you.

35. Bring A Bike Saddle Bag

Contents of A Bike Saddle Bag

At the minimum, you should have a spare tube and 2 tyre levers in your saddle bag. To have a peace of mind, carry a multitool, 2 spare tubes and a patch kit if you ride often on rough roads.

Read more here if you want to know what I carry in my saddle bag.

Don't forget your hand pump too.

Check out my list of the best saddle bags.

Have suggestions to make this content better? Get in touch!