Categorized as: Tips

Ride Right: Safety Tip #6

by Mark Wyatt, Iowa Bicycle Coalition

Each year I have a few friends that want to ride RAGBRAI for the first time.  They seek advice on training and logistics.  It is really hard to prepare them for the amount of bicyclists that they will encounter.  It is even more difficult to explain how the right frame of mind can make your ride better.

Get ready for a lot of people on bicycles this year.  This is the really cool part of bicycling is several people can ride next to each other and hold a wonderful conversation.  But you have to pay attention or crashes could occur.

The best advice is to join a local bicycle club for a few rides before you go on the big one. Most welcome new riders and non-members to their rides.  This gives you some extra training miles, but you also experience riding with others.  It is a new skill to be able to look around, see where others are, judge pace and distance, communicate and operate your bike safely.  Practice, practice, practice.

I try to do several group rides before

the big event.  For an experienced cyclist, it teaches patience and allows me to help others learn to navigate group bicycling.  Be in the right frame of mind for safe group bicycling.

If you are going to ride in a group, leave your selfie stick at home. Bike selfies are dangerous.  Pull over before you say cheese.

iPods or such devices are a bad idea on RAGBRAI.  Communication is key when so many people are riding together.  Be in the right frame of mind to look and listen to know where others are.

Last year, I watched in horror as a young cyclist rode at a leisurely pace in front of an ambulance responding to a rider down.  The rider had their iPod cranked to speed metal and could not hear the approaching emergency.

And just because you are riding with other people doesn’t mean you have to go their speed.  Ride at your own pace.  There is nothing worse than being exhausted just trying to keep up with your buddy who won’t slow down.  The Surly Blog said it really well, “Really fast people are frustrating, but they make you faster. When you get faster, you might frustrate someone else.”  Use the right frame of mind to ride a safe pace that is good for you.

Make sure you stop and take adequate breaks along the way.  There are plenty of people to visit with, places to take pictures, things to see, etc.  Enjoy the opportunities to visit the best Iowa has to offer.  Stopping can be as much fun as riding.

In conclusion, use your training time wisely and learn to ride with others.  Don’t use an iPod.  Ride at your own pace and stop and smell the… well… roses.  Figure out your gears because you are going to need every one of them on this ride.

If you are going to ride RAGBRAI safely, you are going to keep in mind the following safety tips:

  1. The RIGHT stuff.
  2. The RIGHT gear.
  3. The RIGHT communications.
  4. The RIGHT riding.
  5. The legal RIGHT.
  6. The RIGHT frame of mind.
  7. The RIGHT abilities
  8. The RIGHT attitude
  9. The RIGHT attention.
  10. The RIGHT condition

Mark Wyatt is the statewide RIDE RIGHT chair and the executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, a statewide advocacy organization for bicycling.  Mark is also a League Cycling Instructor (LCI), board member for the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking.  More information about the Iowa Bicycle Coalition can be found at www.iowabicyclecoalition.org.

via ragbrai.com

Ride Right: Safety Tip #5

by Mark Wyatt, Iowa Bicycle Coalition

Veteran RAGBRAI riders understand the roads used by RAGBRAI are not closed to other vehicles.  You will occasionally see bikes, cars, and even large trucks on the route in either direction of travel.  New riders think they have both sides of the road for their use and that simply is untrue.  You have to follow the rules of the road on RAGBRAI for your own safety.

The Code of Iowa states bicyclists have the same rights and duties of the operators of vehicles. This means you can use the roadways, but you must follow the traffic rules. Just because you are on RAGBRAI doesn’t mean the rules are suspended. These are public roads that are open to trucks and cars. Attention to the traffic laws could save your life.

The Iowa State Patrol and local law enforcement are present at many intersections along the RAGBRAI route. If a law enforcement officer is at an intersection they may direct traffic and supercede the traffic sign or signal. If an intersection is being directed by a law enforcement officer, you should follow the signals of the officer.

It is not unusual to have uncontrolled intersections along the route, especially on the right turns and lower traffic roads.  If no officer is present, follow the traffic control sign or signal as you would in your car or on your bike during any other week of the year.

Some of the main rules to follow are:

  • stopping completely at stop signs
  • obeying yield signs
  • not crossing yellow lines in your lane
  • riding to the right
  • signaling for turns
  • not cutting corners
  • riding in a respectable manner

One of the biggest problems is when the RAGBRAI route enters a town. The bicycle traffic becomes congested and people are trying to go every direction. Be careful, slow down, and follow the traffic rules to be safe.

This is especially true in the overnight towns. Remember that many of the riders are not from Iowa. They are trying to navigate a new town and locate their campgrounds or other services. Combine the bicycle traffic with support vehicles and spectators and things can quickly become chaotic. Simply follow the traffic rules and everybody will reach their destinations safely.

If you are going to ride RAGBRAI safely, you are going to keep in mind the following safety tips:

  1. The RIGHT stuff.
  2. The RIGHT gear.
  3. The RIGHT communications.
  4. The RIGHT riding.
  5. The legal RIGHT.
  6. The RIGHT frame of mind.
  7. The RIGHT abilities
  8. The RIGHT attitude
  9. The RIGHT attention.
  10. The RIGHT condition

Mark Wyatt is the statewide RIDE RIGHT chair and the executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, a statewide advocacy organization for bicycling.  Mark is also a League Cycling Instructor (LCI), board member for the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking.  More information about the Iowa Bicycle Coalition can be found at www.iowabicyclecoalition.org.

via ragbrai.com

Ride Right: Safety Tip #4

by Mark Wyatt, Executive Director – Iowa Bicycle Coalition

The most fun on RAGBRAI comes from the people.  You can ride across Iowa whenever you want, but only during one week, can you ride with 10,000 friends.  Keep in mind that 30% of the riders are new and have never ridden in a crowd this large before.  There are a few key tips to avoid crashes, like do the RIGHT riding.

When stopping along the RAGBRAI routes, let those behind know of your plans. Make sure no bicycles or motor vehicles are immediately behind you when you stop. Stop at the right edge of the roadway and immediately move to the shoulder. Stay clear of the roadway, and park completely off of the roadway to make repairs, rest, visit, etc. Stopping is especially dangerous at the crest of a hill or on a curve, so be careful.

With this many people, there is no room to bob and weave your way down the road.  Keep in a straight line.  Be predictable to others riding nearby.

Pacelines and drafting is very dangerous.  Drafting is riding close enough to another rider that you receive an advantage in efficiency from the turbulence of the front rider.  When you ride that close to another rider, you lose the ability to see road defects and other riders.  Worse, if you cross wheels, you will likely crash and so with others around you.  The RAGBRAI ambulance crew describes pacelines similar to handgrenades.  When one rider crashes, it causes injuries for multiple riders.

Likewise, drafting vehicles is also dangerous and will not be tolerated on RAGBRAI.

Ride to the right and leave room for others to pass on your left.  I know that everybody thinks they are in the fast lane, but you usually are not.  Ride towards the right side as soon as you can.

When turning, turn left from the center of the roadway.  This will prevent someone from trying to pass on your left as you are turning left.  This may require you to signal turning left several times.  If you are turning right, turn right from the right side of the roadway.

Have fun and avoid crashes with the RIGHT Riding.  If you are not riding, get completely off from the roadway.  Avoid pacelines and drafting – it’s just too dangerous.  Left turns from center lines, right turns from right side.  Finally, keep to the right side of the road to help everybody out.

If you are going to ride RAGBRAI safely, you are going to keep in mind the following safety tips:

  1. The RIGHT stuff.
  2. The RIGHT gear.
  3. The RIGHT communications.
  4. The RIGHT riding.
  5. The legal RIGHT.
  6. The RIGHT frame of mind.
  7. The RIGHT abilities
  8. The RIGHT attitude
  9. The RIGHT attention.
  10. The RIGHT condition

Mark Wyatt is the executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition and the statewide RIDE RIGHT chair.  Mark is also a League Cycling Instructor (LCI), board member for the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking.  More information about the Iowa Bicycle Coalition can be found at www.iowabicyclecoalition.org

via ragbrai.com

Ride Right: Safety Tip #3

by Mark Wyatt, Executive Director – Iowa Bicycle Coalition

People who ride RAGBRAI do so at their own pace.  No matter who you are, you are going to pass another rider or you will be passed by another rider.  Communication is essential, especially when starting, stopping or passing.  Most crashes on RAGBRAI involve two or more bicycles and most are the result of riders not letting others know of their intentions.

“Bike On” is commonly heard on RAGBRAI.  It means a riders is entering the roadway.  The rider has checked for oncoming traffic, but people can change lane positions in an instant.  Verbally calling out “Bike On” is the best way to let people know you are entering the roadway.

“Bike Off” is called out when leaving the roadway.  People know you will be slowing and pulling off to the right of the road or onto the shoulder.

“Stopping”  Law enforcement will often stop riders in order to let traffic through an intersection.  If you need to stop, let others around you know by saying “Stopping”.

“Slowing”  Once in a while, the route will become so congested that riders will slow their pace.  If you are going to slow to less than the speed of traffic around you, call out “Slowing”.

“Right Turn”, “Left Turn”, “Turning Right”, “Turning Left” is said when making turns at intersections.  The verbal cue is often accompanied by an arm pointing in the direction of turning.  On the open road, everybody is turning at the same intersection.  In towns, it is a much different story.  You may be looking for a kybo on the left side of the road and others are going straight.  Verbalize your direction of travel.

Do not be afraid to use hand signals in addition to calling out your turn.  The more predictable you can be to other riders, the safer it is for everyone.  Extend your left arm for a left turn.  Bend your elbow 90 degrees with your hand pointed downward for stopping.  Bend your elbow 90 degrees with your hand pointed upward for a right turn.  Legally, turns are signaled with the left arm in Iowa, but most people understand the right arm extended means turning right.  Just be careful because your right arm controls your rear brake.

“On Your Left”.  You will hear “On Your Left” a few thousand times during the week.  This means you are passing or being passed.  The overtaking rider is on the left of the rider being overtaken.  More often the not, slower traffic will be on the right of the road and passing will occur on the left.

Occasionally, you will pass on the right.  Imagine a rider is starting to turn left to Mr. Pork Chop on the left side of the road.  The hungry rider has moved towards the centerline to turn left.  You are going straight.  Call out “On Your Right” as you pass the rider on the right side.

Maybe there are two riders traveling at the same speed, but far enough apart that you can go through the middle of the two riders.  This doesn’t happen very often and can be startling.  Avoid surprising the riders by announcing “Passing Through The Middle”

In conclusion, remember that  you are not alone on RAGBRAI.  You need to communicate with others for safety.  If you have the opportunity, practice by riding with a bicycle club.  It really is the best way to learn how to ride with other people.  Most clubs will spend time teaching new riders about the rules of the road.

If you are going to ride RAGBRAI safely, you are going to keep in mind the following safety tips:

  1. The RIGHT stuff.
  2. The RIGHT gear.
  3. The RIGHT communications.
  4. The RIGHT riding.
  5. The legal RIGHT.
  6. The RIGHT frame of mind.
  7. The RIGHT abilities
  8. The RIGHT attitude
  9. The RIGHT attention.
  10. The RIGHT condition

Mark Wyatt is the statewide RIDE RIGHT chair and executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, a statewide advocacy organization for bicycling.  Mark is also a League Cycling Instructor (LCI), board member for the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking, and board member on the Bike Tour Network.  More information about the Iowa Bicycle Coalition can be found atwww.iowabicyclecoalition.org.  

via Ragbrai.com

Ride Right: Safety Tip #2

Almost all RAGBRAI riders will agree that a helmet is an essential piece of equipment that every rider needs.  A helmet will protect your brain if you are involved in a crash.  Lights are required if you ride after sundown or before sunrise and could prevent you from being involved in a crash.

If you have ridden RAGBRAI before, you already know that it is pretty rare to see someone without a helmet.  If you are one of the new riders, get a nice helmet and remember to pack it.

There is more to it than having a helmet.  You need the RIGHT gear.  Pick a helmet that is comfortable and well fitted.   All new helmets meet the same safety standard set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission regardless of cost.  Look for a CPSC sticker on the inside of the helmet.

The helmet should be adjusted properly to fit your head.  Make sure the helmet is level and covers your forehead.  There should only be two fingers width between the bottom of the helmet and your eyebrows.

If your helmet has a retention ring (the dial that tightens around the circumference of your head), make sure it is snug.  Test by shaking your head “no”.  Your helmet should move with your head and not wiggle independently.

Finally, adjust the straps.  The straps should meet in a “V” shape just below your ears.  The chin strap should be tight enough that you can only fit two fingers between your chin and the strap.

Nothing screams “Newbie” like an ill-fitting helmet.

Lights are another essential piece of the RIGHT Gear.  I have to be honest – I no longer pack a headlight or taillight for RAGBRAI.  I’ve used it once in my 10 years of RAGBRAI.  I plan my ride to be complete before dark.

There is plenty of daylight to ride each RAGBRAI day.  The RAGBRAI route and services times are set to encourage riders to be in before dark.  For safety’s sake, plan to be in before dark on RAGBRAI.

If you do ride before sunrise or after sunset, remember lights are required by the Iowa Code.  Bicyclists must have a white headlight and red taillight or reflector.  They must be visible for 300 feet.  There are plenty of good lights available with a variety of options.  Check with your local bicycle shop for details and prices.

You can do more to be visible at night.  Reflective vests or clothing, additional lights, and blinking lights could prevent you from being involved in a crash.

As you begin your training for RAGBRAI, be sure you have a helmet that fits and meets the CPSC standards.  The helmet and straps should be adjusted for maximum protection.  .  If you are going to ride at night, the law requires you have a headlight and taillight or reflector.

If you are going to ride RAGBRAI safely, you are going to keep in mind the following safety tips:

  1. The RIGHT stuff.
  2. The RIGHT gear.
  3. The RIGHT communications.
  4. The RIGHT riding.
  5. The legal RIGHT.
  6. The RIGHT frame of mind.
  7. The RIGHT abilities
  8. The RIGHT attitude
  9. The RIGHT attention.
  10. The RIGHT condition

Mark Wyatt is the statewide RIDE RIGHT chair and executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, a statewide advocacy organization for bicycling.  Mark is also a League Cycling Instructor (LCI), board member for the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking, and board member on the Bike Tour Network.  More information about the Iowa Bicycle Coalition can be found atwww.iowabicyclecoalition.org.  

via ragbrai.com