Be Safe

Every once in awhile, I read something in the news that hits home and reminds me how important safety is. It’s easy to go about the day without giving it much thought. Over the last few months there have been a few incidents on the Springwater Trail here in Portland. The most recent was that a woman was pushed off her bike by a strange man:

“My wife was pushed off of her bike on spring water east of Powell Butte. Around 8:30 PM 8/6/12. Thought the community should know. She was not robbed. She got back on her bike and rode off. Two white males in t-shirts and jeans.”

I’m glad she was okay and not assaulted or robbed. It’s scary because I bike the Springwater all the time. I told myself I shouldn’t be worried because she was biking at night–something I never do–but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be more cautious when I’m out by myself.

Safety Tips

A lot of the safety tips are common sense things. For example, if you get a flat tire out on your bike, pull over somewhere that looks safe with people around and not a dark alley.  Biking at night is not for me. It’s not safe and I avoid it. Sometimes people can’t avoid riding at night because it’s their only form of transportation. Have a good, bright light on your bike and be safe!

The following are some more tips that I’ve been told or discovered along the way.

BIKE PUMP

Something that sticks with me in regards to cycling safety is a tip that Michael shared with me. He told me that we should have the lightest bike we can afford and the heaviest bike pump we can find. Why? Because a bike pump can be used as a weapon if need be. Every once in awhile, Michael reminds me to “always take your bike pump” on rides. Not just for flat tires, but self-defense. It’s a good trick and there have been a few times where I rode by some sketchy people on the Springwater and I was glad I had my bike pump just in case. Another reason: dogs. Luckily this hasn’t happened to me, but some cyclist friends have told me stories of dogs chasing them and trying to bite them. Bike pump.

SHOES

A few years ago I finally made the transition to clip-in cycling shoes. When I was shopping for them I knew I wanted mountain biking shoes. Sure they were heavier and bigger, but they were also shoes I could walk in. At the time, it was because I wanted to be able to walk in my cycling shoes in case I got a flat tire.

 

But shoes like these are also something I can RUN in if I need to. The other kind of cycling shoes are smooth and flat on the bottom and so slick I can barely walk, let alone run.

PEPPER SPRAY

I bought some runner’s pepper spray awhile ago and I have no idea why it didn’t occur to me to also carry it on my bike. Just in case.

Updated to add: If you work somewhere it might be an issue, be sure to talk to your boss about carrying pepper spray on you.

BE ALERT

The line of work I’m in makes me cynical, hyper aware at all times and suspicious of strangers on the street. Sad, but true. Because of this, I am always aware of what’s going on around me. I look around, I pay attention to people around me, I try not to listen to my headphones too loudly when I’m out walking or running.

SHARE

Tell people where you are biking and how long you expect to be gone. Same goes for all activities you do alone–hiking, running, etc. It’s just a good idea.

AVOID SKETCHY PEOPLE

Don’t ride near sketchy people. Easier said than done sometimes. There are parts of the Springwater Trail that are the places the Portland homeless camp. I’ve never had an issue with someone on the trail but you just never know.  I do my best to bike through these areas as fast as my legs will take me.

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It’s funny, I’ll bike on the Springwater trail alone, but I would never ever run there by myself. A lot of my friends feel the same way.

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My goal for this post was not to scare people or be super paranoid, but it’s something to think about. Practicing safe biking and running habits is always a good idea, even if the area you are in is safe.

QUESTION: What are your safety tips?

Day Zero-Bike Purchases

Day Zero Bike Purchases

Guest Post by Michael

 

You’ve done your homework, just purchased a new bike and are ready to hit the road. Not so fast. There are a few other things that you should purchase at the same time you purchase your bike.


First, purchasing a bike helmet is the most important thing you cannot leave a store without. Beyond it just being smart, it’s actually illegal in some states to ride a bike without a helmet. But come on, let’s just be smart on this one. Get over what it looks like and wear a helmet.


Remember to wear it low enough to protect the front of your head though. This is where you need to be protected. Do not wear it floating toward the back of your head. It won’t do you a bit of good if you crash.


As for makes and models, you pretty much just go for whatever you think feels best. Don’t worry if it’s a brand that you’re not familiar with. Also, just because companies like Bell and Pearl Izumi dominate the cycling industries in the United States doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re the best companies out there. Cycling is much more popular outside of the United States and there are many great cycling companies located in Europe. Don’t assume that you’re getting inferior quality just because you’re not familiar with the company you’re buying from.

Nothing else is essential on day 1 unless you’re buying a high-end performance bicycle that doesn’t come with pedals, but if you’re doing this, you probably don’t need my input to begin with.

Optional things to buy on Day Zero:

  1. A water bottle cage. These range from about $10 for a metal one all the way up to around $100 for a carbon fiber model. All you really need to know is that whatever you decide to buy should be made out of the same material that your bike is. If you have a metal frame, get a metal cage. If you have a carbon fiber frame, get a carbon cage. You’ll look weird if you don’t do this.
  2. Most water bottles are about $10-20. I don’t recommend spending a lot of money on any particular water bottle other than the Clean bottles because they’ll likely become dirty and be impossible to clean at some point. Then you just throw them out and buy another one. The Clean bottles are different because the bottom and the spout are removable for better cleaning. It’s not necessary that you buy one of these bottles though, it’s just an available option.
  3. Lights. If you think that you’ll ever ride at dusk/dark then you really need to get lights prior to doing so. Lights are a relatively straight forward purchase where all you need to be aware of is how bright they are, if they have blinking patterns, how they are powered, and if they’ll attach to your bike. Keep in mind that larger does not always mean brighter. Make sure that you know what kind of batteries power it prior to purchasing lights because you’ll want to know how easy they are to find and replace. Smaller lights tend to mean that they are powered by more obscure batteries which may be more difficult to shop for when they finally die. You usually get what you pay for with lights and a good front/back pair (often sold together) will run you about $50-75. For that price, you should get something that doesn’t weigh much, is bright, and has some blinking options.
  4. A seat post bag with all the necessary things needed to resolve a flat. No one ever thinks about preparing for a flat tire until they actually have one. Don’t be this person. Get a small seat post bag with the following items in it: a spare tube, tire levers, and a basic small bike multi-tool. Optional bag items are a flat tire repair kit and some hand sanitizer. Again, those are things you may find yourself wanting as soon as you don’t have them. Better to be safe than sorry. A bag is about $30, the tube should be under $10, tire levers should be under $10 and the multi-tool should be about $20, depending on the options that it has.

Bike Pumps

Obviously, you’ll need either a frame pump or a CO2 cartridge kit to inflate your tire too. Frame pumps are lightweight pumps that attach to your frame. They aren’t great to work with but if you’re in the middle of nowhere and have a flat, you’ll be glad you have something. I have a frame pump but I’ve been thinking about going the CO2 route lately because it takes FOREVER to inflate a totally flat tube with a frame pump and it can be a tiring process (pun intended).


CO2 tire inflators use disposable cartridges of compressed oxygen that rapidly inflate your tire. The downside of these is that you don’t get a second shot with them. Once they’re out of air, they’re done so you better know how to change a tire prior to investing in this method of inflation or you could have some problems.

You’ll need a regular bike pump, too. And if you aren’t making it a habit to pump your tires before EVERY ride, you need to change that. It will save you a lot of grief later…instead of being stuck in the middle of nowhere with a low tire.

You don’t need special clothing to ride a bike but it helps. We’ll discuss clothing options in a future post.

Lisa’s Note: You should also consider buying a Road ID.  I got one for Michael for Valentine’s Day last year and he wears it every time he rides. I also got one for me, and I also wear it when I ride or run alone in the neighborhood. It’s a smart idea. You can put any information on it that you want. For Michael’s I put my phone number, his mom and dad’s phone number and in huge block letters “NO PENICILLIN!” He’s deathly allergic and just in case something happens, I wanted that info on his ID. My ID just has contact phone numbers.

QUESTION: Do you wear a helmet every time you ride? Do you know how to change a flat tire?