How to be a safer cyclist in traffic

To be a safer cyclist in traffic it is necessary to stay aware of your surroundings, use common sense, and avoid some situations.

As, a new rider who cycled across America in 1996 with a group called PUSH America, and then got into racing bikes for nearly 10 years, many years I have put more miles on my bike than my car. Most of of those miles were on the road, in the metro Atlanta area, which doesn’t exactly rate very high on the driver ‘friendly’ cities.

In order to be a cyclist in this area, I have adopted some things that I feel have helped keep me safer. And I want to share them with you in hopes that it will keep you safer as well!

1) I nearly always look over my left shoulder as soon as I hear a car approaching. This takes away the ‘I’m going to scare this cyclist’.
A) I can do this without swerving! B) even if I don’t ‘look at’ the driver – they don’t realize the difference, only that you looked in their direction. So, if ‘A’ is a problem, just try looking slightly to your left and not ‘over your shoulder’. Just being able to touch your chin to your collarbone w/o swerving is usually sufficient – again, do NOT swerve into the lane.

This is very important – as I wrote here – today’s motorists have more distractions than ever.

2) I tend to ride on the left hand side of the white line. In other words, I ride ‘in the lane, but not blocking the lane.’ This causes you to be more noticeable, and the driver has to pass you as they would any other vehicle. This causes the driver anticipate having to ‘go around’ you, rather than just ‘pass’ you.

I really liked how Atlanta’s ‘Clark Howard‘ pointed out that after starting to drive a scooter, he then realized how oblivious auto drivers are! Something I’m sure all 2 wheeled brother-en realize.

“I will say this: Riding a scooter certainly has made me much more alert as a driver in a car. Because on a scooter, you really find out how clueless people are when they’re driving in a car or SUV.”

I did a ride recently and trying to find a friend out on the route, so I turned around and was re-tracing the route. While I was going the opposite direction of the route, I was shocked how many people were riding 2 abreast AND taking up the whole lane AND had cars behind them waiting to pass?!! Sure, the law says you can ride 2 abreast, but common sense would say ‘don’t take up the whole lane’ doing it. You maybe enforcing your rights over this motorist, but A) that doesn’t make it ok. B) what if this motorist gets starts stewing about what you have done and decides to hit you, or the next cyclist they see?! Remember we all have to share the road & some common sense will help everyone, even those you are not riding with.

3) I realize the difference b/w judicial law & the law of physics. The car is going to Win the war. I don’t try to take up the whole lane. I realize that this game is not equal. If I am not in a group and I am riding two abreast, as soon as I realize there is a car behind, I will then ride single file.

If you are new to cycling and can’t ride to close together, that is fine, we have all started somewhere – but at least yield and go single file when a car approaches. Don’t hold up another car or cyclists by 1 person riding on the far right & 1 riding on the yellow line.

I truly hope that this will Help both motorists and cyclists be more considerate and responsible in all of our actions, and keep up ALL safer on the roadways!

If you would like more tips on being a Stronger Cyclist, then check out my ebook:
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How guys pee while cycling

When you hydrate, at some point, you have to take a nature break. And if you are a racing cyclist, sometimes you can’t stop to take a nature break.

I have found the ability to pee while riding has come in handy in a couple of races. I remember 1 race in Augusta that is on a Army Base, I didn’t realize that our vehicles were going to be inspected before we were allowed past the gates. I was topping off the hydration on the way there & basically had to go when I pulled up to the base – once my vehicle was allowed onto base – I REALLY had to go….. but, now I was cramped on time and had to go straight to race parking.

pee pee statue

I quickly dressed & hopped on the bike thinking I could find a porta-potty – what I found was the whole Pro1,2 field lined up and the referee giving pre-race announcements. I got inline with the other riders and a moment later we started the race.

So, there I was feeling like my bladder was about to burst before we even started the race….I basically had the choice to stop and have to chase back and probably be out of the race or pee while cycling. I choose to pee while cycling.

– This is best done on a slight downhill grade. Stability can be tricky while doing this, so a consistent and long, gradual down-hill grade is ideal. Make sure that the road ahead is clear of obstacles, potholes, etc. this maybe the worst moment to have a crash.

Also, it is best done at the BACK of the pack, with no one behind you.

There are 2 common options for this
1) Stand, put most of your weight on your right leg, rotate the hips to the right side, ideally you will be holding the saddle with your legs as extra stability, use the left hand to hold the H-bars straight, pull down bibs/shorts pull out hose, and ‘make water’.

bikepee

2) roll up right leg of shorts using right hand, shift the hips slightly to the right, stick out right knee, pull out hose, try to relax, make water allowing the flow to go between the knee and the bike frame. This allows the wind to take away the stream.

Here is a PG description from 1 of my favorite interviewed cyclists, Dave Zabriski:

It is best done on a long gradual downhill, however, if a downhill isn’t available or not long enough, maybe you can enlist the help of friends or a team-mate to assist you. NOW this can be tricky!
The key is to maintain a consistent push, because otherwise there is no telling who will get sprayed, or potentially fall and get road rash.

aPeefriend

It isn’t very difficult, but it will take a little practice. Just make sure that you are not somewhere it maybe illegal.

And if you are a woman – I have heard that standing and peeing has been done successfully, but I can not confirm that fact.

Three main things for any cycling situation

It happens at some point, you loose momentum and just fall over. Or maybe your front wheel hits an obstacle that is bigger than you expected. Ever go through a puddle that you are unsure of how deep it is?
I was training with a client who asked me how to improve his overall cycling skills, this was the first thing that came to mind: 3 main things for any cycling situation you may encounter!

You can minimize the chance of something like this happening with 3 main moves that you can practice most anywhere – and they are great for all levels of riders.

1) Wheelie
Wheelies are made up of three main parts.

Technique
The launch, getting the front wheel off the ground. The balancing portion, riding the wheelie as long as you safely can. This is the most difficult part of wheelie to master. And lastly, set down phase, placing the front wheel back on the ground as safely as possible, trying to place as little wear and tear as possible on your bike.
Most everyone keeps a finger on the rear brake incase they feel like they are going to fall backwards.

The wheelie is great for going through mud puddles & getting less mud from the front wheel on you. You just do a wheelie over the puddle & only the rear wheel goes through the puddle. There are times where you will loose much less momentum just by getting the front wheel over, like roots, and step-ups. Do just enough of a wheelie to get the front tire over and then shift your weight forward and the rear wheel will follow.

~Learning the wheelie is a must before you can learn the Bunny-hop.

2) Bunny-Hop
the bunny hop is one of the first and most basic tricks a bicycle rider typically learns. Once the bunny-hop has been learned you have greater chance of avoiding potholes and other hazards, hopping onto curbs, hopping over other various obstacles.

Technique
As the front wheel of the bike is approaching the obstacle, the rider crouches down (and/or compresses the front suspension) then pulls up on the handlebars, lifting the front wheel of the bike up into the air at the height required to clear the obstacle. Next, the rider vigorously pushes down on the pedals, then lifts up the feet while bending the knees and pushing the handle-bars forward.

Just like in the wheelie make sure to keep the front wheel straight when landing.

3) Track-Stand
The term track stand comes from well, the track or Velodrome. This is a short oval and usually banked surface bicycle racing.
The track stand can be very useful in different situations where you may need to A) balance B) briefly stop or pause momentum.

Technique
A basic track stand holds the bicycle’s cranks in a horizontal position. Track stands employ a small uphill section of ground. Slow as you roll up to the uphill section, then stop while rotate the handle-bars to about a 45 degree angle. Now use the pedals, handlebars, bike, and uphill to maintain balance on the bike.

Having the handle-bars at a 45 degree angle, allows the person’s forward and back motion to be the bike’s side-to-side motion beneath the rider’s body. This allows the rider to keep the bike directly below his or her center of gravity.

These three things will normally get you out of most cycling situations. As with anything, you will improve with practice.