By Lynn F.
I’m frequently asked, what is the most important piece of safety gear, for road cycling? Let’s have a look…
Road ID- This little item is a must have, in my cycling bag. This bracelet has your name and unique pin number for your profile on the back. First responders can access the website use your specific PIN number and access your profile complete with information you have loaded. My profile includes my picture, medical history, allergies, phone contacts and insurance info. I had a cycling club friend that crashed, descending a canyon from the Peak to Peak highway, outside Boulder. She was ahead of the group and when they came upon her, unconscious on the road they quickly realized that no one knew her husband’s phone number or any vital information for first responders. She was wearing a road ID and they were able to contact her husband and he was at the hospital when she arrived in the ambulance. I find this more important than my phone because I may not be able to make a call but anyone can access my info via the website. They also have bands that you can use with your sportswatch or fitbit style watch. The annual fee of about $9 for the service, great piece of mind! WWW.RoadID.com
Helmets- Why are some $45 and others $150, are the expensive ones safer? Short answer is NO, All helmets MUST meet the same federal ANSI safety criteria, so why the disparity? Basically, you are paying for more vents and less weight and for the average recreational rider this may not be a big concern. Take it from someone who has spent many 6+hour days on a bike, it becomes a big deal, holding a few extra grams up all day becomes a neck breaker. The latest advancement in helmet technology is MIPS. So what is MIPS? Multi Directional Impact Protection System or MIPS allow the helmet to absorb impact during a rotational impact. What does that mean? Research has shown, 90% of all head impacts are at an angle creating a rotational force to your head and neck. The MIPS layer inside absorbs more of that impact by allowing the internal low friction layer to slide relative to your head during impact, thereby reducing trauma to your head and neck. You can expect to pay about $20 more for the identical helmet with the MIPS system, worth the extra bucks for sure. Keep in mind that bike helmets are designed for ONE impact only, that doesn’t mean if you drop as you’re heading out to ride its done, It means an impact with force. They do degrade over time from sun and sweat, so 2-3 years is the maximum recommendation for wearing your helmet.
Clothing- I won’t spend too much time on specifics because this is such a subjective and personal choice. Cycle clothing comes in a variety of colors and fabrics. Most manufacturers have the option of a dayglow yellow color choice and come with reflective tabs or strips and many use fabrics have reflective properties woven into the fabric. Talk to a salesperson for more information about an items specific characteristics and their perspective on the clothing. Most salespeople are not afraid to share their experience and knowledge on this subject and we all have our favorites.
Lights are important when riding at night, here in Colorado it’s actually a state law that you must display illuminated lights, front and rear, from dusk to dawn. Reflectors just don’t cut it at night. In general a light so you will be seen is sufficient, lights with 400+ lumens I reserve for more serious night riding and overnight races. Once again, you should seek the knowledge of a salesperson or friend who has knowledge and/or experience with these higher end lights.
Mirrors and bells can be added if that is your preference, I prefer using what I was born with, my voice, my head and neck. I find the mirrors to be very bouncy and frankly pretty hard to see, a quick glance over the shoulder is all you need to see what is coming up from behind. The bell can be difficult to mount on a road bike with aerodynamic bars so I opt for my 150+ decibel voice instead. I’m not here to be the fashion police or tell you what you should do; you can make your choice based on your skill and confidence level.
We have only scratched the surface here, there are so many gadgets available now to “aid” in safe riding. Fact is, the single most important piece of gear is still your brain. Having said that, I am opposed to wearing ear buds or headphones to answer calls or listen to music. Situational awareness is the key component for safe bicycle riding on the road, and I don’t believe that is possible if you are “plugged in”. I prefer a minimalist approach, I ride with a Garmin computer to track my training data and that’s it. If I carry my phone it’s in my back pocket for an emergency. The most important piece of advice I can give is BE PREDICTABLE, Ride like you are driving a car. Keep in mind that every vehicle is a potential threat to your safety, that doesn’t mean ride in fear it means be attentive and aware while enjoying a safe day on the bike.