About 75 percent of all bicyclist deaths each year result from head injuries. More cyclists are permanently impaired by riding their heads into curbs, poles and the pavement. Scrapes and broken bones heal, but scrambled brains may not.
Much of this tragedy is preventable. The premier intervention is to learn safe bicycling technique, understand motorist behavior and bicycling defensively. There is no substitute for good bicycling! The simple precaution of wearing a bicycle helmet may prevent severe injury or save a life–yours.
A properly working bike is the foundation of safety. The wheels needs to be spinning properly, centered and correctly positioned on the rim. Be sure the wheels are not wobbly and there are no bald spots. Air pressure is very important for proper performance of a bike. Make sure there are no broken spokes Another important piece of the bike is the brakes. Be sure they are working properly by stopping quickly and smoothly when needed. Be sure the cables are strapped down to the bike and they are secure. The chain needs to be properly lubricated, clean and in excellent condition. It should be fastened tight. The pedals should not be broken, and they should be able to rotate without any friction. Reflectors are an important safety feature, especially when riding at night. Your bike should have rear and front reflectors as well as on each tire. Your seat should be properly fitted on the bike, as well as adjusted for your height, so you do not have to reach for the pedals. The handlebars need to be straight and aligned with the front tire. For overall safety from the bike, all bolts and nuts should be tight and kept clean from rust.
A good bicycle helmet must be able to absorb impact. The absorption helps to prevent brain damage. There are three main components to consider when choosing a helmet; shell, liner and strap. The shell is the hard outside part of the helmet. Most of the newer helmets have vents at the top to allow air flow to the head. This does not take away from the protection. Be sure your helmet does not have any sharp points that could cause it to get caught on anything. The best helmets are made from fiberglass or ABS plastic. The liner is what absorbs the shock and does not bounce back. A good liner is made of Styrofoam. The most important factor in choosing a liner is density and thickness. This will help determine the amount of energy the helmet can absorb. The strap keeps the helmet on your head. It allows for a secure fit without falling off when hit and bumped.
Elbow and Knee Pads
There are laws in some cities and states requiring bicyclist to wear helmets. There are no such laws requiring them to wear pads. Elbow and knee pads are the second most important clothing safety feature when riding a bike. Good pads follow the same guidelines as the helmet does. They should have a good shell, liner and straps. Your pads should fit securely and properly without moving around untouched. When hit hard, they should be able to absorb shock and allow for maximum protection.
About this Author
Timothy Townsend is a health and fitness writer whose work has appeared in various online publications. He recently received his bachelor’s degree with a double major in education and kinesiology.