Spring is here with the promise of many bike rides. To kick off the season, here are a few helpful tips from writer Jess Walter. 

Keep Yourself Trim, Safe, and Hydrated When Cycling

Cycling in the US has increased dramatically in the last years with the number of trips on a bicycle up by more than 50% from 1.7 billion (2001) to 4 billion (2009) according to the National Household Travel Survey.  States in the west have the highest cycling rates and the lowest are in the southern states (Pucher, et al, 2011). The reasons for buying a bicycle vary among consumers based on income levels with low-income groups who are cycling for practical purposes (getting to work, running errands) and high income-groups for exercise and recreation (Pucher et al, 2011).  

Preparing for a Safe Riding Experience

It is vital to carry out safety checks to your bike on a regular basis before you set out on a journey. In addition to ensuring that your brakes work and handle bar steers in the right direction, check if the tires are properly inflated. Tire inflation has many nuances and is based on the size and width of tires, weight of the rider, and grip & rolling resistance affecting the quality of rides.  

Rider Must-Haves

A major point to consider before heading out on or off the road is to ensure that you and your bike is visible to fellow cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.  Wearing a helmet is highly recommended and injuries or even deaths are avoided during crashes when wearing one. Stats show that 2% of car crash deaths are cyclists (US Department of Transportation FARS) and the most serious injuries are delivered to the head, making a bicycle helmet very important. It is also useful to wear reflectorized or high visibility clothing that are bright enough to be seen day or night. Jersey, shorts and cycling shoes are also vital.

Bicycle Essentials

Lights and reflectors are important so that bikes are visible to road users. In the US, the bike law requires that all bicycles must be fitted with reflectors (Consumer Products Safety Commission). The laws regarding the use of front and rear lights vary across US states, with some requiring them while others only allow them to be installed at the back. There are no existing statistics if poor lighting or visibility causes crashes in the US, but the most common source of injuries according to the 2012 National Survey on Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behaviors was getting struck by a car which accounted for 29% of all injuries.  On top of lighting equipment, you must also have a repair kit including spare tube, mini-pump, lock and a chain lubricant.

Hydration and Energy

Cycling is a great way to burn calories and get fit.  However, sweating also causes you to lose a lot of fluids. Hydration is an important concern especially if you are cycling at high altitudes with warm weather where you will exert large amounts of energy. Get a hydration bottle that you can refill in water stations to ensure that you stay hydrated.  In addition, you also need to replenish lost vitamins and minerals. You can only cycle 3 miles on 100 calories (CDC Fun Facts).  As such, it is important to carry rehydration with energy or recovery formulas to replace lost electrolytes and boost vitality.

Best water bottles for spring cycling