Hello again Andy,
You know, bicycle travelers are afraid of a lot of things, but the overwhelming number of people I talk to are afraid of being hit by a car. Today, I'll share with you one simple thing you can do to make sure this never happens... and I've give you four other tips you can use to keep yourself safe on your bicycle touring adventures.
I get a lot of emails from people planning their first bicycle tour and they often times bring up the issue of being hit by a car.
The thing that scares people most is the fact that behind hit by an automobile can happen at almost anytime.
Some have even compared the event to that of a shark attack. You can't see the killer approaching, it seems to come out of nowhere, strikes, and by the time you figure out what happened, it's often times too late.
I've ridden with cyclists who have been hit by a car and it's something you want to avoid at all cost. But, the fact of the matter is, if you are smart and pay attention to your surroundings, a car vs. bicycle accident can be avoided in almost all cases.
If you are one of those people who is afraid of being hit by a passing vehicle and you are looking for a way to significantly improve your chances of staying safe while out touring on your bicycle, I have a $20 solution that just might save your life one day.
I'm talking about a MIRROR!
Many long-distance cyclists never consider buying a mirror for their travels... but I think this is a huge mistake. A mirror has many advantages when traveling by bike, but the two biggest advantages are that:
1) With a mirror you don't have to constantly bend your head, neck and back to see what's coming up behind you.
These types of motions on a daily basis can cause serious stress or injury to your body - something to be avoided when traveling by bike.
2) Secondly, by using a mirror, you don't sacrifice your position on the road.
When you are forced to twist your entire upper body around to see what's behind you, some riders (especially those riding with front panniers... and even those with trailers) can swerve into traffic, causing an accident or putting themselves and those around them in serious danger.
But if you are using a mirror, you simply give a quick glance into the mirror and then continue on your way.
Have you ever tried driving a car with no mirrors? It's a whole lot harder to see what's behind you... isn't it?
The same is true on a bicycle. Without a mirror, it's that much more different to see what's coming up from behind. But with a mirror it's a piece of cake to see both in front of and behind your bicycle.
If you don't already have a mirror for your bicycle tour (or for simply riding around town on your bike), I suggest you look into getting one right away.
Of course, not all cyclists like riding with a mirror. It really is a personal choice, and it takes a little getting used to, but it is something I consider you at least try.
Besides using a mirror, there are a few other things to keep in mind when doing your best to stay safe while out on your bike.
1). First of all, be aware of your surroundings. Watch the road in front of you, behind you, and to the sides. Keep your eyes on the look out for nails, glass, and other objects than can obstruct your path or push you off the road.
2). Secondly, I recommend that do not listen to music while you are riding. If you do want to listen to music, be sure to do it on roads that are nearly deserted. I would not recommend listening to music on crowded city streets or in conditions that require a great amount of concentration.
If you do decide to listen to music while you are on your bike, make sure that the music is low enough that you can still hear sounds outside of your headphones. You'll want to be able to hear that car coming up behind you or the animal making its way through the brush to your side.
3). Finally, just be smart. Most of the bicycle accidents I've seen could have been prevented if the cyclist had been paying a bit more attention, had not been fooling around, or had simply taken matters a bit more seriously. Be smart... and stay safe!
Note: Several BicycleTouringPro.com readers have emailed me to say that it is against the law to ride with headphones or earphones in their home state/country. This is true! Several places in the world do have laws against riding your bike and listening to music of any kind, so you need to be aware of what the laws are in your part of the world.
Finally, if you'd like some tips for defending yourself when traveling by bike, be sure to read the following article, which I've titled, "Three Weapons You Can Use To Defend Yourself While Traveling"
This article contains three easy things you can do to thwart potential threats when traveling on or off your bike.
PS - If you are still concerned about safety, you might want to look into getting yourself a Road ID.
Road ID is kind of like a military dog tag for cyclists. Your Road ID is a little metal badge that you wear on your body that contains your name, medical history, family contact information and any other information you want to include.
Then, if you are ever involved in an accident, medical personnel will find the Road ID that you are wearing and be able to contact your family and quickly treat you according to any medical issues that you might have.
I got my first Road ID as a gift from my mother before going off on one of my first bike tours... and I've been wearing it every day since that time. Luckily, I've never had to use it, but it is one of those things that, like a helmet, you are glad you have when tragedy strikes!
For more information on Road ID, just visit the link below:
BicycleTouringPro.com, PO Box 982216, Park City, UT 84098, USA