7 Safety Tips All Cyclists Should Follow

Bike safety tips

Verywell / Zackary Angeline

Cycling is known for its many benefits, such as improving fitness levels, mental health, and social well-being as well as connecting you with outdoor sensory experiences like fresh air on your face. But to reap these positives, cyclists should be aware of warding off unwanted injuries and potentially dangerous obstacles with a few easy-to-follow tips.

Regardless of whether you are commuting to work or planning a workout for your legs, there are a few safety measures to bear in mind. If you're geared up and ready to launch into a new cycling regimen, read on to learn how to stay safe and get the most out of your ride. We offer some simple pointers to make your outdoor and, in some cases, indoor cycling experience safer.

Wear a Helmet

Wearing a helmet when cycling outdoors may seem obvious. Yet, a 2019 study revealed that out of more than 76,000 bicyclists with head or neck injuries, only 22% were wearing a helmet at the time. What's more, of the nearly half a million bike-related injuries each year in the U.S., many could be avoided with the use of a helmet.

Not only do helmets protect your head but they also can reduce brain injuries, facial injuries, and even fatal injuries. In fact, according to the American College of Surgeons, helmets reduce the risk of head injury by at least 45%, brain injury by 33%, facial injury by 27%, and fatal injury by 29%.

Other studies have found that the proper use and fit of bicycle helmets has lowered the risk of injury and death compared to cyclists not wearing helmets. What's more, there is even new technology out that can protect your head further.

Known as MIPS (or multi-directional impact protection system) helmets. these helmets may do a better job at protecting your head in a crash than a standard bike helmet. They contain a slip plane or slip liner that allows the helmet to move around your head during a crash, which means less force is transferred to your brain.

But that doesn't mean you have to compromise on style. The market is brimming with practical and fashionable helmets to keep you both safe and sleek on the road. Consider talking with someone in a cycling shop who can not only help you get properly fitted for a helmet, but also help you determine if MIPS technology is right for you.

Check for Fit and Roadworthiness

Feeling uncomfortable in the saddle, experiencing aches in the lower back, and having knee pain are common issues that can occur when a bike is improperly fitted. Optimally fitting your bike to meet your neuromuscular needs can help with injury prevention and help keep you safe. This includes checking the saddle height and setback, as well as handlebar reach and drop.

Research suggests taking leg length and hamstring flexibility into account when fitting. As a guideline, this means setting your saddle height at a static knee flexion angle of 25 to 35 degrees, with the pedal and your foot at the bottom and center.

That said, you should have a professional assist you in fitting the bike. Most of the time, these services come with a fee. But the money can be worth it when you consider the investment will help ensure you have a safer—and more comfortable—ride.

Generally speaking, if you ride long distances or ride your bike frequently you may benefit from being correctly fitted. People who are new to riding, coming back from an injury, or are consistently uncomfortable while riding also should get fitted. There is nothing more miserable than being in the saddle for a long bike ride on an ill-fitting bike.

You also should inspect your bike each year (or more if you ride a lot of miles). A professional at a cycling shop also can perform a safety inspection and tuneup. They will ensure your tires are inflated and not showing any cuts or gashes as well as make sure your brakes and gears work properly.

Use Reflective Gear

The same as with walking at night, if you are cycling after sunset, make sure you are suitably dressed for others to easily spot you. This also applies to the early risers who prefer to work out ahead of sunrise, especially in the winter months.

Reflective gear includes vests, arm bands, and headlamps. You also should consider lights for your bike for better visibility and to warn others of your whereabouts.

Some studies even indicate that adding reflective tape to your bike may be beneficial as well. In fact, one study found that reflective tape can considerably increase bicyclist conspicuity by as much as 250 meters in some conditions.

Install Lights and Mirrors

As mentioned, reflective gear is essential to warn others of your presence on the road. But road safety also includes a few tweaks to your bike in the form of lights and mirrors. Bike lights provide extra visibility for you to see ahead and let others see you.

In fact, one study reports that the incidence rate of injuries is 19% lower for cyclists with permanent running lights mounted. The study also shows that using permanent running lights significantly reduces the occurrence of multiparty accidents involving cyclists.

Likewise, if you have found yourself more than once veering left or right without checking for traffic, rear-view mirrors will provide an extra layer of security for your ride. Although not required by law, mirrors are an affordable feature that help you navigate that blind spot on the road.

Keep to the Bike Lane or Path

Rather than dodge traffic, stick to bike lanes or bike paths when you can. Bike lanes are marked with their own signage, stripes, and markings for the exclusive use of cyclists. And more often than not flow in the same direction as traffic.

Not only do these keep you safe from potential collisions on the road, especially if you live in a built-up or urban area, they also will lessen disruption to traffic flow. Rather, keep to main routes and distinguished cycle lanes for your safety.

Follow Traffic Laws

The same as with running safety on the road, the U.S. has laws in place that cyclists must follow the same as drivers. These rules are in place for the safety of yourself and others.

Laws You Need to Know

  • Ride on the right-hand side of the road.
  • Yield to crossing traffic.
  • Maintain at least three feet from traffic, if the lane is wide enough to share.
  • Abide by all street signs road markings, and signals.

Avoid Extreme Weather Conditions

From heat stroke, muscle cramps, and dehydration in hot weather, to frostbite and hypothermia in extreme cold, the weather can impact your body in unpleasant ways. If temperatures are soaring, or have plummeted into the minus causing ice on the road, it might be best to skip the outdoor cycle if you are a beginner opting instead for an indoor bike.

Unlike professional cyclists who are prepared for whatever the weather throws at them, less experienced riders should not take the risk. When the roads are safe for cycling in winter, consider investing in some trendy bike gear to keep you toasty during the workout or commute.

In hotter weather, you also should make sure lather on the SPF and pop on the shades to protect your skin and your eyes from the sun. You may find that sunglasses are needed in the winter sun as well.

A Word From Verywell

Cycling, both indoor and outdoor, is a popular sport, in part for its cardiovascular and mental health benefits. Aside from taking care of your heart and mind, though, there are safety measures to consider help prevent accidents and potential injuries.

You also may want to speak with a healthcare provider first, especially if have underlying medical conditions or are prone to injuries or falls. They can evaluate your medical history and fitness level to make the best recommendations on where and how to begin.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can cyclists avoid accidents?

    Avoiding accidents can be as easy as sticking to cycle paths or trails where a cell signal is available, and skipping the night cycle if you don't have suitable reflective gear to warn others of your presence. Check the weather forecast ahead of time to avoid soaring heats or icy conditions, and always take a moment to give your bike a once over to make sure it's road ready before heading out. And, of course, don't forget to buckle on a helmet.

  • What is the most common bicycle injury?

    One of the most common cycling injuries is to the head. In fact around a third of non-fatal bicyclist injuries are to the head—more specifically, brain injuries. The number one piece of safety equipment is wearing a properly fitted helmet.

  • How do you ride safely on the road?

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wearing a helmet is one of the most important safety precautions you can take. You also should use a properly fitted and working bike, ride with the flow of traffic, and ditch the distractions like listening to music and checking your phone. You may even want to consider tucking and tying shoe laces to avoid them getting caught in the bike mechanisms.

14 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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