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Intelligent Cycling Training—Safety

Tips for Training Safety

Most accidents are preventable if you ride defensively!

by John Hughes
© John Hughes 2014, All Rights Reserved

John Hughes is the author of Distance Cycling and many articles on training, nutrition, psychology and medical issues for He is a veteran of Paris-Brest-Paris ’79, ’87, ’91, ’95, ’99, Boston-Montreal-Boston ’92 (course record), Rocky Mountain 1200 ’04, Furnace Creek 508 ’89 (course record) and ’93 (first place) and the Race Across America ’96.

Several years ago a cyclist was descending a steep hill in Boulder with a friend. At the bottom a pedestrian hit the button to flash warning lights that the pedestrian was about to use the crosswalk. Vehicles—including bicycles—are required to stop. The friend did, rider didn’t. He hit the pedestrian who suffered minor injuries, but the he crashed, skidded, his helmet was knocked askew and he died of brain injuries. He:

  • wasn’t paying attention
  • violated traffic laws
  • didn’t wear his helmet correctly

In my 40+ years of riding (yes, I’m an old fart), I’ve learned most accidents are preventable if we ride defensively. The League of American Bicyclists has on-line videos called Smart Cycling. John Allen has an on-line tutorial called Street Smarts.

Most accidents are preventable if you ride defensively!

Here’s a list of some of the key points in traffic:

  1. Obey all laws—especially stop at stop signs. Running them makes all cyclists look bad.
  2. Wear visible clothing. A flashing taillight even during the day helps.
  3. Always wear a helmet adjusted correctly. Your helmet should be snug, level and stable. Here’s how to fit your helmet.
  4. Be predictable, for example, don’t move right between parked cars and then back into the traffic lane.
  5. Always signal turns.
  6. Behave like a car, for example, if going straight ahead at an intersection, don’t get in the right turn lane!
  7. Assume you are invisible—don’t assume that the car exiting the parking lot sees you.
  8. Be aware and anticipate.
  9. Scan continuously—fighter pilots are taught to scan the sky rather than looking ahead; they’re more likely to spot changes, which could be significant.

Here are some of the key points in a group:

  1. Keep looking around for potential problems—even when talking to another.
  2. Don’t look at the rider ahead of you—look over the rider’s shoulder for problems.
  3. Always protect your front wheel—don’t overlap wheels.
  4. Always signal changes of direction, slowing, etc.
  5. Never use aerobars except at the front of a group.
  6. Learn to ride a straight line while getting a bottle or food from a pocket—or go to the back to drink or eat.
  7. At an intersection watch a car’s front wheel—it gives the first indication if a car is turning.
  8. Learn to ride over gravel and somewhat rough pavement so you don’t have to swerve and risk a crash.