The sun is out and the days are long, which makes it the perfect time of year to take your bike out for a spin. In Canada, we’re fortunate to have stunning bike routes from coast-to-coast, like Ontario’s Waterfront Trail, Quebec’s Route Verte, and Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail (to name a few). But before hitting the trails, it’s important to read up on some safety tips to avoid injury.
Who better to offer advice than the Unleash Your Potential cyclists – a team of four chiropractic students cycling across the country this summer to promote healthy living to young Canadians. If you missed their story, you can catch up on our previous blog post. Today, the students are halfway through their 8,300-km journey, and they have some cycling tips to share.
Wear a helmet
Most provinces in Canada require cyclists under the age of 18 to wear an approved helmet. Even if you are over the age of 18, it is strongly recommended that you wear the right helmet to reduce the risk of permanent injury if you fall. But how do you know you’ve got the right helmet? Ask yourself these questions: 1
- Does the helmet fit firmly on your head, without wobbling from side to side or backwards and forwards?
- Does it stay in place when you shake your head?
- Does the helmet sit comfortably on your forehead, above your eyebrows?
- Do the straps feel tight and is the chin strap snug when you open and close your mouth?
By asking yourself these questions, you can ensure that your head is protected from potential impact.
Look over your shoulders
Riding a bike is similar to driving a car in the sense that both involve sharing the road. Before making any turns, make sure you look over your shoulder for any oncoming traffic or pedestrians. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times to avoid any unwanted collisions.
Use lights and reflectors
If you’re planning on cycling in the evenings or early mornings, make sure you are up-to-date on the rules and regulations in your province. For example, the law in Ontario requires that cyclists have a white front light and a red back light on their bikes between half an hour before sunset to half an hour after sunrise.2 Don’t forget that you are sharing the road with other motorists and you need to be seen at all times.
Avoid major highways
According to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, bicycles are not allowed on highways such as the 400 series, the QEW, the Ottawa Queensway, the KW Expressway, and on any road where there is a “No Bicycle” sign. Familiarize yourself with the laws in your province, to keep you safe!
Bike with confidence
The more confident you are, the more deliberate you will be in your actions on the road. But how do you become more confident? Practice, practice, practice. Try cycling on trails or quiet streets before venturing through busy intersections. That way you’ll build muscle memory and feel more self-assured. Mindset is everything!
Make sure your seat is aligned
A properly-aligned seat can make a world of difference, especially if you’re struggling with discomfort or knee pain. The perfect seat height is achieved when your knees are at a 25-degree angle. This prevents injuries and increases efficiency as you pedal.3
Practice proper hand signals
Riding a bike means sharing the road with other cyclists and motorists. Most vehicles have signals that alert other drivers when turning, changing lanes, or coming to a full stop. Cyclists, however, rely on their hands to make these signals. Take the time to practice essential hand signals so that drivers and fellow cyclists are aware of your intentions.
Plan ahead of time
By planning your ride in advance, you can avoid potentially dangerous routes, trouble spots, or bike thefts. Fortunately, there are services available, like this interactive map from BikeMaps.org, to help you plan ahead. The more prepared you are, the more enjoyable your bike ride will be.
Cycling is a great way to get outside, enjoy the fresh air, and stay physically active. With these tips, you can feel confident that you have the know-how to cycle safely this summer.
The Canadian Chiropractic Association is a proud sponsor of the Unleash Your Potential campaign.
1 “How to Choose and Fit a Cycling Helmet: MEC.” Mountain Equipment Co-Op, www.mec.ca/en/explore/how-to-choose-a-cycling-helmet.
2 Ministry of Transportation. “Bicycle Safety.” Ministry of Transportation, 25 Oct. 2013, www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/safety/bicycle-safety.shtml.
3 Allyn, Matt. “How to Adjust Your Saddle.” Bicycling, Bicycling, 10 June 2019, www.bicycling.com/repair/a20019430/cycling-training-tips-5/.