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Safety Tips

Authored outside the EBC

Group Riding Tips

Resources from the City of Chicago Department of Transportation Bicycle Program

Online Videos on Smart Cycling from the League of American Bicyclists

Online bike safety quizzes from Ride Illinois

Dealing with Road Hazards from Bicycling Times

Authored by the EBC

Larry Gitchell
Riding Safely with Lights

George Pastorino
Dressing for Winter Riding

Bill Schwartz
Riding Safely in Large Groups

Ted Sward
Safety And Such
Animals - Dogs Bear Facts
Animals - Horses Chains
(Watch your) Backside Climbing
Group Riding Dressing for Cold Weather
Hydration (Trivia:) First Aid Kit
Maintenance Gear Management
Mental Alertness (Riding) Gloves
Pre-Ride Checklist History
Road Conditions Loose Ends from Riders
Seasons - Autumn Pedaling
Seasons - Spring (Trivia:) Rubber Bands
Seasons - Winter Touring
Share the Road (Reinstalling) Wheels
Solo Riding
Turning Traffic Conflicts

Riding Safely with Lightsby Larry Gitchell

When going out on a night ride, be sure you have a headlight. It's not just a good idea - it's the law!

Small LED headlights satisfy the legal requirements, but the bigger the better. 6 to 10 watts is a good starting point. Your friendly local bike shop will be happy to help you select a suitable light.

Tailights are not a legal requirement, I strongly believe in them. It's best to have the taillight bolted or clamped to the frame to avoid the dreaded "Dropping Taillight Syndrome". If your light is just clipped on you may have to resort to tying or taping it in place.

When mounting a taillight position it pointing straight back so cars behind you can see it. A taillight blinking at the ground doesn't do much good, and having it tilted 45° so it shines up at the rider behind you is just plain annoying.

Blatant but non-commerical plug: If you need help mounting a light, give me a call or email. I have a machine shop and lots of experience fabricating brackets and light mounts. I work cheap (cost of materials, if I don't have something on hand). I also make adapters for rear racks that work better than the "one size fits none, bend to fit" parts you get with the rack.

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Dressing for Winter Ridingby George Pastorino

Here is a winter dress guide for cyclists that has been battle tested by Pussanee and I...we both hate to be cold and unlike me...she has a scant amount of body fat to insulate her.

Pussanee and I ride all winter long and are never cold (both of us hate to be cold). First I will address the tops and bottoms. Most people over dress for cold weather rides, down to about 25 we will wear a smart wool top and bottom under a breathable windproof jacket and wind resistant tights. Below 25, we will add a thin synthetic long underwear under the smart wool layer and go to wind proof tights.....this set up takes us all the way below zero, don't forget you are cycling not ice fishing....dressing too warm is a killer. It takes a little tinkering to find the best combination for each person and weather condition. Most of the winter I just wear the thin synthetic long underwear under my windproof tights.

The hands and feet are a big problem for most people, but it can be overcome. Regular 5 finger finger gloves are useless below 30 degrees. From about 20 to 35 degrees we use good quality heavy Lobsters (gloves with 2 fingers and a thumb). See Example here:,86995_Pearl-Izumi-Lobster-Gloves-AmFIB-For-Men-and-Women.html Below 20 degrees the only way to keep your hands warm is Good Quality mittens with a handwarmer inside, you can spend $200.00 on gloves and your hands will freeze. Mittens are your ticket to happy winter cycling and yes you can shift fine...road STI or mountain.

There are few good solutions for the feet without investing some money. Shoe covers with Chemical hand warmers may work down to about 20 degrees, but it is not ideal. If you want to give up your clipless pedals, you can wear warm hiking boots. The Lake Winter boot will make you enjoy winter cycling: info here:'2976-07' we have done rides below zero with these boots, thin wool socks, along a hand warmer in them and have been very warm. Use hand warmers in the boots, toe warmers put out about half the heat. Also buy one size larger than your summer shoe, if your boots are tight, your feet will freeze. Most folks are fine without the handwarmer, but Pussanee and I both get cold feet easily.

Also in cold weather (below 20) we wear downhill ski helmets and goggles, the helmets are very light and warm and completely cover your ears, same for the ski goggles..... very warm and your eyes don't freeze. Plus a balaclava to keep your face warm. The ski helmets and goggles work better MTB riding in the woods, rather than road riding with cars due to peripheral vision issues.

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Riding Safely in Large Groupsby Bill Schwartz

Many cyclists have never experienced riding in large packs of riders and are unsure of how to maneuver when they become part of a group of 1000+ cyclists. As most accidents occur between cyclists and not vehicles, it is important to know how to ride safely in such large groups. Many cyclists encounter groups of this size when they take bicycle tours in the summer months.

The first, and most important rule is to ALWAYS call out your intentions before you take action. If the rider in front of you is riding more slowly than you are, let them know that you will passing them on their left. (NEVER PASS ON THE RIGHT.) You may do this by saying,” Passing on your left.” If there is a large group of slower cyclists you may then repeat. “Passing.” However, before you pass look in your mirror to make sure that there aren’t vehicles or other cyclists ready to pass. If there are, then you should slow down and wait behind the slower cyclist until it is safe to pass. If you don’t inform the cyclist being passed that you are coming, they could unexpectedly move into your path as you go by!

Also, riding in pace lines should only occur if you know the other riders. Joining a passing pace line may seem to be a golden opportunity, but if you don’t know the other riders you are really putting yourself at risk. They may not call out obstacles or may be prone to sudden stops without warning. It will mean that if you do ride in strange pace lines, you must ride as if the other riders may do the unexpected at any moment because they probably will!

Be a polite cyclist in a group situation. Ask if you may ride with others before just starting to do so. Inform others of hazards in the road like glass or potholes. Acts of kindness like this will be appreciated. Saying a cheery hello or a short “How are you doing?” is a great way to make friends.

Beware of the other cyclists who may need to be given a wide berth because of lack of experience or extreme tiredness. The “wobbles” are a usual sign that the cyclist in front of you might not be the best one to get too close to when you are passing. This is especially true if the cyclist is a child who is just learning or is an adult going up the hill and weaving back and forth across the hill. In this case, it would be better to wait before approaching and passing that cyclist.

When you are going to stop, be sure to call out, “Stopping!” then pull all the way off of the road. Never stand on the road when stopped as there are other cyclists who will be coming through that you will impede. Call out all intentions when approaching stop signs or traffic lights. Always signal your intentions with hand signals as well as calling them out when approaching an intersection.

If there are many cyclists in a group, split the group into a smaller group as motorists will become frustrated when confronted with groups of 20+ cyclists.

When doing fast downhills (40+ mph) be very wary of doing so with a group in front of you. Passing on the left even when shouting out your intentions may not be heard by the rider in front of you. Waiting for a gap before descending is the wisest move. Leave a space between riders! Never brake while in the middle of a curve. Brake before the curve by feathering your brakes. Jamming on your brakes suddenly can lead to disastrous results. If the pavement is wet, consider slowing your descent as it could be easy to take a nasty spill if you would brake too quickly. Also, if you are braking a lot, consider stopping and letting your rims cool. If they are too hot to touch, then you need to let them cool or a blown out tire could be the result if you don’t let them cool.

Finally, be extra cautious when in urban traffic in an unfamiliar town. They may not be expecting you to be there and you should ride defensively.

Group riding can be a fun-filled experience.. So if you haven’t been part of a large group of cyclists, try a large bicycle tour sometime. It’s a great way to make new friends!

(This article also appeared in the newsletter of the Naperville Bicycle Club.)

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Animals - Dogsby Ted Sward

(Dogs are a special breed of cats)
In high density areas dogs generally do not pose a threat as they are leashed. In rural areas dogs can cause anxiety (real or imagined). The only thing predictable about rural dogs is that they are UNPREDICTABLE. There is no one procedure which will serve all encounters with dogs. So there is no easy answer. However, here are some things you might want to consider:

  1. Very few dogs actually bite you!!
  2. Dogs know when you are frightened and this may raise the level of prey vs. predator instinct.
  3. Generally dogs are protecting their territory or just enjoying the chase.
  4. The great danger is their running around you, in front of you, snarling, etc., causing you to make contact with them resulting in a fall. (I have heard of one case where the dog bit the front wheel causing a crash.)


Some things you might do to reduce the threat:

  1. Remain calm. Do not panic.
  2. Ignore the dog and continue at your normal pace. Don’t speed up unless you are well past the threat. Speeding up as you approach often results in exciting the dog and encouraging a chase.
  3. Speak to them in a CALM firm voice using terms that most dogs have been trained to recognize such as: SIT, STAY, GO HOME, HEEL, etc.
  4. IF moving at a good rate of speed—coast, as sometimes the up and down movement of your feet entices even a friendly dog to nip them.
  5. If you feel you must stop, keep your bike between you and the dog. Try to keep up a friendly conversation.
  6. If you are riding in a group, bunch up and let a brave soul run interference for you.


Some actions that I don’t personally recommend (you may disagree):

  1. Don’t attempt to hit the dog with your frame pump. This may cause the dog to feel threatened in his own territory and elevate the situation to a very ugly stage.
  2. The same holds true for the use of pepper spray. If you wish to spray something, use your water bottle.


IN SUMMARY: Dogs usually DO NOT BITE. It’s the collateral damage that ensues that is the problem. You must handle the situation as best you can, realizing that every situation is unique.

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Animals - Horsesby Ted Sward

Those of you who ride in the Palos area and on the beautiful Des Plaines River Trail often encounter equestrians (especially on weekends). There are procedures which should be observed anytime you are around animals. They do not like quick movements or surprises. When approaching a horse from the rear slow down (less than 5MPH) and call out to the rider well in advance—”There is a biker behind you.” Continue talking as you approach so the horse knows you are coming and which side you are on. An appropriate comment might be “How would you like me to pass?” The riders always seem to appreciate this consideration.

When approaching from the front again slow down—better yet, STOP—so the horse doesn’t feel it is being challenged. Always be friendly to equestrians as they have an equal right to the trail and they are required to pay for this privilege by having to purchase a trail license. SHARE THE TRAIL.

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(Watch your) Backsideby Ted Sward

When motorists approach you from the rear, they generally pass allowing you a comfortable space—but not always. You should constantly be aware of what is happening behind you. The use of rear view mirrors (either bar or helmet mounted) are suggested.

When riding on narrow roads, particularly in rural areas where you may encounter fast moving traffic, there are things you can do to improve your safety.

  1. Ride 3-4 feet away from the edge of the road into the lane. This will require the overtaking vehicle to move farther to the left, straddling the center line, as they pass you. Once you observe that the vehicle has moved over to the left, you should move as far to the right as practical. You have in effect to encourage the driver to provide more space. If you note that the driver is not moving well over to the left, you still have created some space to maneuver. Don’t encourage drivers to squeeze you.
  2. When trucks or large vehicles are approaching from the front, immediately check behind you for approaching vehicles. If another truck is behind you and all three of you arrive at the same spot at the same time there might not be room for everyone. BE PREPARED TO “BAIL OUT” (Leave the road).
  3. Many large vehicles, including RV’s have extended side rearview mirrors which can hit you with disastrous head or shoulder injuries. So again— don’t allow yourself to be squeezed—encourage them to move to the left and once they commit to that motion create more room by moving to the right.



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Group Ridingby Ted Sward

When the new riding season rolls around many experience the feeling that their riding skills and comfort on the roads have deteriorated slightly. This is the time to pay particular attention to your riding habits both physical and mental.

Again you will be riding in groups.Group riding is different!!Here are some tips to help you make the transition safely:

  • Ride single file.
  • Leave space between you and the rider in front.
  • Be predictable-don't make abrupt changes in speed or direction.
  • Pass on hand and arm signals-for turning, stopping, and hazards.
  • Pass on verbal signals-stopping, slowing, hazards.
  • When announcing conflicting traffic-indicate the direction and where the conflict is expected, i.e. "Up-Right (or Left)", "Back-Right (or Left)", "Car-Right (or Left)", etc. It is more important to indicatewherethe conflict is thanwhatit is.
  • Be paranoid - Don't do anything that makes you uncomfortable. You are responsible for your own safety. While there may be safety in numbers, the exception could be you. If you cause a slight delay, don't worry - your ride leader will make the needed adjustments.

Here are some additional tips which will help make group riding safer and more enjoyable. Rides without "crashes" are always more enjoyable.

  1. Ride single file - as our local roads become increasingly congested we should strive to make single file riding thenormrather than the exception.

  2. Do not ride ahead of the Ride Leader - the Ride Leader is responsible for both the route and the pace. Getting ahead disrupts both functions.

  3. When stopping, pullcompletelyover to the curb (touching). On trails movecompletelyoff of the trail.

  4. "Car Back" - if you are riding two abreast and you hear the call "Car Back", this is not advisory, it is a mandatory signal toimmediatelypull into single file. If there are two people side by side in front of you, drop back and leave space in front of you so that the outside rider canimmediatelyreturn to the correct single file.

  5. Do not pass people on the right - If you need to pass someone on the right, say "On Your Right" clearly since this is an unusual maneuver when riding in a group. Riders do not anticipate passing on their right.

  6. Do not call "Clear" - when passing through intersections or crossing roads some riders say "Clear" if there is no cross traffic. This is a dangerous practice that should be abandoned. It encourages riders to follow the leader, letting others do their thinking for them. Each rider is responsible for verifying that the way is indeed clear.

Remember the 4 "Be's"

Be- Visible: make sure people see you.

Be- Predictable: don't make abrupt changes in speed or direction.

Be- Courteous: to motorists (follow the Rules of the Road).

Be- Paranoid: you are responsible for your own safety-do not take chances.

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Hydrationby Ted Sward

You need to take in adequate fluids. As you perspire you are losing fluids. This causes your blood to thicken. In turn your heart must work harder to circulate your blood. All your organs do not work at full capacity (liver, kidneys, lungs, etc. Also, the red corpuscles have difficulty transferring oxygen to the muscles. This can reduce your physical performance by as much as 25%. You will feel extremely fatigued which may lead to what we call heat exhaustion -So keep your fluid intake high in warm weather!

Drink frequently (every 15 minutes or more often during hot weather). If you only drink every hour or more and then consume a full water bottle all at once most of that liquid will pass through your body and will not be absorbed into your system. Many people use two bottles-one with a sports drink and one with water. They alternate drinking from each bottle.

Drink frequently and keep your body hydrated.

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Maintenanceby Ted Sward

Winter is a good time to work on maintaining your bike. If you do not do your own work, take your bike to your favorite bike shop.

How much can you expect to spend for a tune-up or overhaul? My experience has been with REI but the costs are probably comparable at other shops.

  1. Basic Tune-up: Clean and adjust brakes, derailleurs, true wheel (laterally), repack headset and bottom bracket. A complete inspection of the bike—$55.
  2. Midrange Tune-up: Most components removed, disassembled, and cleaned—$95.
  3. Complete overhaul: Everything removed clear down to the frame, everything disassembled, cleaned, lubed, adjusted, repacked, etc.—this is major stuff—$150


These prices do not include parts if required. If you are a relatively low mileage recreational rider perhaps a basic tune-up is all you need. If you are an REI member you can deduct about 20% from the above prices.
(Editor's note: Prices were quoted in 2003.)

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Mental Alertnessby Ted Sward

COMPLACENT (“Contented to a fault”)—The bike is clean, all the components check out and you are ready for a nice, relaxing ride. However, there is one more factor in the equation for a safe ride—MENTAL ALERTNESS! Being a safe rider is almost an art form. This is learned from experience and constant awareness of all that is going on around you. Have you noticed that most experienced riders seem to recognize hazards almost automatically? (Road conditions, traffic flow, conflicts, etc.) Their minds are constantly alert. This is a skill that can and needs to be developed and used. You cannot be a safe rider if you become complacent. You wear a helmet to protect that great “search engine” that sorts out all the hazards that might terminate a pleasant, relaxing ride. Don’t forget to make mental awareness part of your riding check list.

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Pre-Ride Checklistby Ted Sward


Wheels - Make Sure wheels are properly installed, running free and true. The brake pads should be centered on the rims. Check tire pressure using a gauge. Are the cones properly adjusted? (push wheels from side to side, They should not be loose.) Are the quick release levers tight? If the wheel wobbles badly check for broken spokes. (or have the wheel trued by your bike shop.)

Headset - Apply pressure to your left brake lever and push the bike forward and backward-there should be little or no looseness in the headset.

Crankset - Check to see that the crank set and pedals are attached properly and the bearing adjustments are correct. (No looseness.)

Do you have your helmet and gloves?

Hydration - Make sure you have plenty of water or your favorite sports drink (or both).

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Road Conditionsby Ted Sward

Your front wheel is the only really important component of your bicycle. This wheel, its ability to turn, and its continuous contact with the ground allows you to balance on two wheels. The back wheel provides motive power but otherwise just goes along for the ride. Not so with the front wheel which is constantly in motion allowing you to maintain your balance. Anything that impairs this motion will place you in harms way and produce a fall. Therefore you should always be aware of what you're exposing your front wheel to.Protect it at all costs.

Roads and trails generally provide good riding surfaces in our area, so much that we are lulled into a sense of false security. Here are some hazards that can sneak up on you:

Paved Roads:

  1. Unlevel surfaces where concrete gutters are sometimes at different levels than the roadway.
  2. Sewer covers with grate openings parallel with you direction of travel.
  3. Potholes whose major axis is parallel with your direction of travel or just big potholes.
  4. Objects in the roadway-sticks, a large stone, a piece of debris from a vehicle, an oily slick spot, or in fall and winter a small frozen puddle of water.
  5. The roadway becoming slick after a recent rain due to products of combustion that have not yet washed from the road surface.
  6. Irregular shoulders which suddenly appear I.e. broken pieces of asphalt, concrete, etc.
  7. Elevated tar lines, especially when wet.
  8. Railroad crossings-rails can be extremely slippery especially when wet.Always cross at right angles.
  9. Unexpected loose gravel.

Unpaved Roads and Trails:

Again - to maintain your balance your front wheel must make constant andfirmcontact with the ground. On un-paved roads and trails the riding surface is not firm and can change with little or no warning. Bikes with narrow high-pressure tires are much more difficult to control under 'off-road' conditions.

If you have more than one bike - use the one with the widest tires and inflate them toward the lower range indicated on the sidewalls. This gives you the maximum tire contact with the ground and allows the greatest control. This will increase the rolling friction but will also increase your safety and comfort. Anytime you ride off road you must beveryattentive to changing conditions.

The crux - know where you are placing your front wheel and anticipate the results.

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Seasons - Autumnby Ted Sward

”The falling leaves drift by my window—these falling leaves of gold and brown”
So go the opening lines of my favorite “fall” song. However—These same falling leaves of gold and brown can cause a nostalgic bike rider to also fall down. Many trails become completely filled with leaves several inches deep. This makes staying in the center of the trail difficult. It also obscures the edges of the trail and fills pot holes so they appear level with the riding surface. If you feel uncomfortable— SLOW DOWN!
Leaves on the street should be respected similarly. YOU ALWAYS GO DOWN QUICKLY.


The days will be rapidly shortening as fall approaches. This means that many of you will be riding under conditions of diminished visibility. The worst time is just before it is totally dark (or light for you early risers). At this time some automobile drivers have not turned on their headlights which makes it difficult for them to recognize bicyclists. It is therefore imperative for you to wear reflective or light colored clothing and make sure you have the mandatory reflectors front, rear, on wheels, and pedals.
One of the most effective devices are the flashing LED lights which are strikingly visible for long distances. The highly visible warning triangles used on farm equipment are also recommended for both day and night use.

If you ride extensively at night a high quality headlight should be used. Make sure you turn it on early if you are riding on roads so motorists can see you in time to avoid a conflict.

When leaves begin to fall their accumulation on the riding surface can create a real hazard especially when they are wet.

The fall is a good time to check your bike over very carefully after a full summer riding season. It is easier to perform this work before the days become very short and temperatures begin to fall. Remember fall and early winter are great times to ride -Be ready for them as you continue riding at the speed of fun.

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Seasons - Springby Ted Sward

As the riding season opens there are some things we should be aware of.

  1. Riding skills need to be sharpened.
  2. Special attention should be given to auto traffic—be alert.
  3. Potholes can be almost anywhere.
  4. Debris from snowplows is usually pushed into your normal riding area.
  5. Patches of ice may remain in shaded areas and bike trails that have been hiked on.
  6. Be aware that motorists have not seen many bicyclists during the winter months. Their driving awareness needs to make the same transition as bikers. Be alert and patient as we enter the new riding season.


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Seasons - Winterby Ted Sward

When winter is fast arriving it requires us to pay attention to some seasonal hazards. Wet (or dry) leaves obscure potholes, trail edges, and slippery surfaces. You may encounter freezing conditions which creates ice, particularly "black" ice, which is difficult to see until it's too late to prevent a fall. When you get very cold it is not uncommon to develop "tunnel vision" because you are feeling miserable and are more worried about yourself than your surroundings. These factors, along with the usual "mileage mania" where people intent upon reaching their mileage goals and awards, find them out in all kinds of weather and poor visibility. There is some great riding available during the winter months, but special precautions and alertness are needed.

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Share the Roadby Ted Sward

These and other slogans are worthy advocacy statements. However when you use the word “SHARE” a certain reciprocity is inferred. We seem to often-times enjoy criticizing motorists for discourteous behavior but we rarely examine our own actions. Perhaps we should occasionally reflect on our own conduct. Do we always act in a safe, courteous manner? Do we ride single file on the roads? Do we use courteous discretion at stop signs? Do we impede traffic at stop lights? Do we sneak 15-20 riders through stop signs en masse while motorists patiently wait? There are many areas where we can enhance our safety and elevate our standing within the motoring community by upholding our part of the SHARING.

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Solo Ridingby Ted Sward

Now that we have covered group riding, it's time to take a look at solo riding. You no longer enjoy the safety of numbers as when group riding. You are now completely responsible for your own safety. This means you must be totally aware of everything around you. It is important to develop a mental discipline which becomes second nature to help you to ride safely. In motorcycle training courses they use the teach this.

S -SCANConstantly keep your eyes moving to see what is occurring ALL around you (sides, front, and rear) - road conditions, traffic, etc.

I -InterpretDon't just look - Actually SEE what is going on around you and interpret what you see.

P -PredictDetermine what could cause an unsafe condition to develop (traffic conflicts, potholes, gravel, obstacles, etc.)

D -DecideIf an unsafe condition is predicted, immediately decide how you are going to handle the situation (slow down, make space, change position on the roadway, etc.)

E -ExecuteTake the action you have decided upon. Make sure this action can be taken safely.

When you are out riding alone, periodically review this acronym. As time goes by this should become an automatic mental process. Remember 'SIPDE' and ride safely.

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Turning Traffic Conflictsby Ted Sward

When riding on sidewalks be very cautious passing driveways. Traffic is supposed to stop before crossing sidewalks - but it rarely does. Particularly dangerous are drivers making a right turn into traffic. Most of the time they are looking for traffic from the left and perceive no conflict from their right. If no traffic is seen from the left they turn right and never see a biker or pedestrian. If you are entering that area - bingo! You are either hit by the car or you hit the side of the car.

Be alert for cars coming from behind you which intend to turn right in front of you. Don't assume they are going to go straight because their turn signals are not flashing. They also misjudge your speed and feel they are giving you plenty of room.

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The Bear Factsby Ted Sward

After hibernation, bears spend a lot of time stretching. They’ve got the right idea. Stretching, particularly of the large muscle groups in the legs and back, is the best way to prevent muscle soreness. Stretching several times a week will tune up the muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments. If you don’t have a stretching routine of your own just do those stretches you learned in high school. Bears don’t wander far those first few days after leaving their caves. They venture out for a few minutes or hours, then crawl back in for a nap. The lesson here is not to get overzealous. Give yourself several weeks to shape up. Start small and build up. A good rule of thumb is to extend your exercise no more than 10% per week. Bear with this routine; it works! (excerpted from RTC magazine)

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Chainsby Ted Sward

Now that the riding season is more than half over it might be wise to check out your CHAIN. Two things require your attention:

  1. Lubrication—If you ride often it is probably wise to lube your chain every two weeks (more often if wet or dirty conditions have been encountered). If you ride less than once every two weeks perhaps once a month should suffice. Always shift your chain onto the small rear cog so that the chain can flex the maximum insuring lube works well into the links. After the lube has been applied, take a short ride around the block making sure you shift so that all sprockets are lightly coated. NOW—with a rag remove all the lube you can. Any lube you can remove is not doing anything but collecting dust and dirt which helps wear out your chain. I personally prefer to use a lube that dries leaving a wax coating such as “White Lightning”, Finish Line “Krytech” or similar. This leaves a nice clean drive train.

  2. Replacing your chain—It is important that your chain is replaced as soon as it is worn or stretched out of limits. To check your chain, te nsion the chain by pressing lightly on the pedal while you hold a 12 inch ruler on the top half of the chain. On a new chain, 12 full links will measure exactly 12 inches long. When the same number of links measures 12-1/8 inches, replace the chain. (Park Tool makes a “chain checker” about $23.00). If you do not replace the chain when needed, excessive wear will occur to the rear cog set requiring its replacement also ($25.00 to $50.00). Normally you can replace your chain several times ($10.00 to $25.00) before you wear out a cog set. Make sure the replacement chain you purchase is compatible with your drive train or have your favorite bike shop replace your chain for you.


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Climbingby Ted Sward

Now that the riding season is well along you should be in excellent physical condition - so let's take advantage of this fact as we confront the bane of all riders -'the hills'.

Climbing is mainly a fight with gravity so anything that can reduce weight from the equation is a plus - lighter bike, lighter rider, less baggage, etc. A reduction in rolling friction is a plus - narrower tires ridden at maximum allowable pressure. But - we are normally locked into our present bikes and accessories and our body types.

So lets examine our techniques. First assess the hill and form a plan to negotiate it - what gears will you use and where on the hill will you use them. Begin the climb in a lower gear than you need and spin lightly. Your muscles will be spared for the harder work ahead. Always maintain a good cadence.

As the effort increases and your first gear change point is reached - shift into the next higher gear, not lower. Immediately rise from your saddle and stand, back straight, directly over your pedals. If you cadence is too fast this is quickly tiring - the same if the cadence is too slow. In between is a "sweet" spot that is actually relaxing.

When you tire of this position sit down and immediately shift to one or two lower gears. With practice you can ride 1/4 mile or more in the standing position.

Note for those with STI shifters - you can downshift two gears with one motion of your right brake lever by moving all the way to the left - 4 cogs with just 2 motions!

When you have finally used all the gears and are exhausted - revert to "DWIT" mode.DoWhateverItTakes - This may include walking.

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Dressing for Cold Weatherby Ted Sward

We have all become familiar with the term ”layering”. For the benefit of those new riders who are new to cold weather activities the term layering does not mean adding more and more garments. Each layer serves a specific purpose of which there are three.

  1. Next to the skin layer.
  2. Insulating layer.
  3. Wind and/or waterproof shell.


Volumes could be written (pros and cons) about materials. I will try to summarize very briefly.

  1. NEXT TO SKIN: This garment should fit snuggly against the skin—not loose—so that moisture can be wicked away. Most of the materials are stretchy so you may want to wear a size smaller than usual. Many materials are available. Some of the most popular are polypropylene and many blends of polyester. There are myriad trade names.

  2. INSULATION: The most popular are Fleece (Polartech, etc.) in 100-200-300 weight. (There are many variations available.) Goose down is extremely warm versus weight. Fleece and down vests allow greater freedom of movement.

  3. WIND AND/OR WATERPROOF SHELL: Gore-tex and similar breathable waterproof materials seem to be most in favor. However, they are expensive. New microfiber (tight weave) synthetics are flooding the market and have a durable water repellent (DWR) finish which works very well except in severe conditions. These are less expensive.


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First Aid Kitby Ted Sward

You can make a compact first aid kit from an inexpensive hinged soap dish. There is room enough for all the basic essentials, a few of which are:

  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Adhesive Bandages
  • 2 x 2 compresses
  • Folding scissors
  • Polysporin (antibiotic ointment)
  • Moleskin (for hikers. blisters)
  • Personal medications, etc.

Place this soap container in a Ziploc® bag to keep it from getting wet. If you would like to see a sample of one of these stop me on a ride sometime, as I always carry one.

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Gear Managementby Ted Sward

Modern shifting devices make riding much easier for us, but many riders don't take full advantage due to their inability to shift correctly. When changing gears there must be no tension on the chain but the pedals must be turning and at a fairly good RPM or cadence. Make your shift in advance of your needs. Look ahead at the road and determine how much shifting you anticipate. If there is a steep hill, shift into your small chainring while you have 3 to 4 larger cogs (rear gears) available. The small cogs change much quicker than the larger chain rings (in front). Some riders don't use their small chainring except in panic situations. They slow down until they are barely turning the pedals - they have great tension on the chain (pressure on the pedals) - then try to shift both front and rear derailleurs at the same time. This is when you hear the noise like a Model A getting its transmission torn out. Also - nothing shifts and you stop dead on the hill.

Use your small chainring as a working gear, not a last resort bail out.Anticipate your gearing needs - plan ahead!

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Riding Glovesby Ted Sward

Riding gloves are more than a fashion statement—they:

  1. Provide a non-slip grip.
  2. Enable you to brush debris from spinning tires.
  3. Allow you to wipe stinging sweat from your eyes.
  4. Cushion your hands from road shock.
  5. Protect your palms when you reach out during a fall.
  6. Some gloves have soft terry-cloth backings to wipe your nose.


Padded gloves and thick handlebar tape go a long way to prevent numbness in the hands caused by the compression and hyperextension of the nerves passing through the wrist into the palms creating pressure points. Change your hand position frequently (3-5 minutes). You may also find shaking your hands periodically also helps.

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Historyby Ted Sward

1896—A young West Point graduate—Lt. James A. Moss (also an avid bicyclist) who was stationed at Fort Missoula, Montana, gained the approval of General Nelson A. Miles and the 25th US Infantry Bicycle Corps was formed. Bicycles had many advantages over horses. They were cheaper, did not eat, required little care. They made almost no noise, raised little dust and the tire tracks did not betray its direction. They needed no caretakers thus freeing men for battle.

Two shakedown treks of 126 miles (Lake McDonald) and 791 miles (Yellowstone Park) were successful. The troops carried 80 pound packs on their bikes and could roll the bikes when they could not ride. On June 14, 1897 they set out on a 2800 mile round trip to St Louis, Missouri. During the trip they encountered awful conditions. RAIN—HAIL—Roads turned into gumbo, snow, ice, cold, ankle deep sand, lack of water in Nebraska (even bumpy railroad ties looked attractive for 170 miles)—100° heat, sickness and blisters. They arrived in St. Louis on July 24 to cheers from large groups of wheelmen and citizens. However, no officers from the Army were present. The troops had accomplished the greatest military bicycle feat ever proposed on this continent. The corps returned to Fort Missoula by rail despite high praise from Gen. Miles. The corps disbanded April 10, 1898. (condensed from Invention and Technology Magazine)

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Loose Ends from the Ridersby Ted Sward


  • When crossing intersections with traffic lights DO NOT “clip in” until you have completely crossed the intersection. To clip in or fiddle with toe clips causes the group to “stall” right in the middle of the crossing.
  • Anytime you encounter road construction or heavy equipment working on trails, make sure the workers and equipment operators are aware of your presence. DO NOT try to just sneak by.


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Pedalingby Ted Sward

Most important is to make sure your foot is properly positioned on the pedal. The ball of your foot should be directly over the pedal spindle. As your foot moves over the top of your pedal stroke, lower your heelslightly. As your foot moves downward on the power stroke point your toe slightly and raise your heel slightly. At the bottom of the arc pull back with your foot like you are scraping mud from your sole. This will extend your power stroke about 20° and increase your pedaling efficiency from 10-20%.

To the old-timers this is called 'the ankling technique'. Note: this can be done even if you are using pedals without toe clips or clipless devices. Think circles (spinning), don't just push down flat footed (pumping). If you use clipless pedals or toe clips you can extend this power stroke 360° by pulling up with your foot until you feel pressure on thetopof your instep.

It is important that you use your legsandyour feet for an efficient power stroke. Note: you will discover new muscles in your shins and calves when you first use this technique - but stay with it and you will enjoy greater efficiency in your pedalling.

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Rubber Bandsby Ted Sward

When you get ready to discard an old inner tube, cut about a 2-foot section out of it and toss it into your 'junk' drawer. By cutting off narrow pieces you create excellent heavy duty rubber bands. By varying the width you can also vary their strength. If you can save tubes from Road, Hybrid, and Mountain Bikes you will have three different diameters to choose from. These are eminently useful for many tasks around the house.

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Touringby Ted Sward

Thoreau had it right—almost. “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential parts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Replace “went to the woods” with “am going on a bike tour”, and what argument is going to work against that?—from Adventure Cycling Magazine.

DREAM TIME: When winter really sets in and you are unable to ride, this is the time to dream. Sets some goals for next riding season. Perhaps you could win your mileage patch (25-50-62-100 miles) or ride your first century. After the same routes for several years it might be fun to participate in some of the clubs multi-day events. These are great events that anyone can do. For those who have never done any bicycle touring—perhaps this is the year to expand your experiences. A good book to read is “THE ESSENTIAL TOURING CYCLIST ” (©2001) by Richard A. Lovett. This takes you through every step of the way from a simple two day excursion staying in a motel to multi-week self contained adventures. Our ranks of tourers has expanded in the last few years thanks to Dick and Freda Diebold who have been just great mentors to anyone even slightly interested in touring—talk to them! So—during the next year expand your horizons beyond the village streets. DREAM ON

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Reinstalling Wheelsby Ted Sward

If you must remove wheels when transporting your bike-make sure you properly reinstall them. The dropouts should be fully seated on the axle. Make sure the quick-release is properly secured. It should be tight enough that the lever leaves an indentation in your hand when you close it (but no more.)

Front wheel: Align the lever parallel to the fork blade.

Rear wheel: position the lever between the chainstay and the seatstay.

If you position the levers as above they cannot be accidentally released and a quick glance will assure you that the wheels are properly secured. Spin the wheels to make sure they do not rub on the frame and are centered properly. Make sure the brake pads do not touch the tire and are centered on the rims. Make sure you have reattached the brake cables if you have released them when removing the wheel.

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