Category Archives: bike helmets

Roger (Finally) Answers Your Other Questions, Eddie

Answering Eddie, lest he slap me down:

You’ve done some writing about biking, including a really good post a while back with tips and such. As someone very new to biking, I had some additional queries I wanted to bounce off you. I started riding again last year, and currently ride just about every day, usually to work and back, if nothing else. I’ve started doing lots of my errands and running around on the bike as well. Anyway, I’ve had some questions related to things that come up when I ride. So, here goes:

1. Distance-wise, how much do you ride on an average day? What is the most you’ve ever ridden in one day? (Either all in one stretch or in smaller increments with stops in between?) When you ride a lot in one day, how tired are you the next day?

First, less since the child. Used to just go around town. Occasionally, a trek to the neighboring towns (Troy, Delmar, Colonie). I’d start in March or April and get really exhausted, but as I rode more and more, not so much a greater amount, but just the repetitions, it was easier in October/November. Of course, this has been bollocked by the accident. Doubt I ever went more than 20 miles in a day. Well, maybe in rural Jamestown when I was on country roads.

6. Does Carol ride too? Keith and I have a lot of fun riding together.

She did a few times. But she had this big, heavy bike that she hated. When my last bike died (or was stolen; I’ve had enough in each category, I don’t remember), I purloined hers, with her blessing. She keeps threatening to get another bike. Maybe when Lydia starts to ride.

2. Speed-wise, how fast do you go, on average? Do you feel pressured to try and go faster than you are able to or than you feel is safe when you are riding in traffic?

Again, much slower on her old bike than my previous vehicles. I used to go on Albany’s bike path and pass about four times the number of bikers that passed me; now the numbers are reversed. No, I don’t feel pressured. That’s the kind of thinking that would just lead me to road rage. And you know what Bruce Banner says about anger.

3. How do you deal with nerves when you’re riding in traffic? Do you ride on streets that are typically very busy? Do you try to plan routes around heavy traffic areas?

I avoid crossing highway entrances (Everett Road in Albany), though I have walked through there with the bike occasionally. I don’t feel nervous unless I don’t have a helmet for some reason. Generally, I look for roads with shoulders. From experience, drivers are more aggressive on four-lane roads than two, so, unless they have shoulders, I tend to avoid the latter when possible. (Heading to my house, Western Avenue is generally safer than Washington, for that very reason.) I’ve been know to zigzag through residential neighborhoods, which tend to be saner.

4. Do you look at weenies like me, who will ride on some streets but not the ones that are really busy, with contempt?

Well, I never could think ill of you, Eddie, but no. The southern end of Lark Street in Albany is narrow, yet has parking on both sides; I work hard to avoid it.

5. I have a hard time keeping a steady course when I have to look over my shoulder to check traffic and sometimes when I signal turns. It’s gotten better the more I ride, but do you have any advice? I’m afraid of drifting into a parked car or into the other lane on narrow streets due to this.

Unless you buy a mirror, which I have never used, you may have to stop pedaling when you look. I seem to have pretty good peripheral vision, so I’m usually only looking at about 20 degrees off center. Someone told me you can “train” your peripheral vision, but I’ve never done it. You may need to practice this, but I lean ever so slightly to the right when I put out my left hand.

7. Why is it on windy days, that no matter which way I turn, I’m always riding directly into the wind?

God has a sense of humor. At least I think She does.


How To Ride a Bicycle in the City

I ride my bicycle in the city of Albany, New York at least seven months out of the year. I tend to ride when the ground is free of ice and snow. I’ve developed some rules for riding, based on my experiences.

1. Wear a helmet.
If you’re over 14, you may (edit: WILL) be mocked – “What, do you think you’re riding a motorcycle or something?” My advice: wear a helmet anyway.

2. Signal.
I get amazing amount of yielding by cars because they actually know my intentions. Or maybe it’s just the shock of seeing a bicyclist actually following the motor vehicle rules. Do this in spite of the fact that:
* Other bikes don’t signal.
* Cars often don’t signal, especially when they are turning right.

3. Keep right. Go WITH the traffic.
I’ve actually had debates about this from drivers and bicyclists, who think I should go against traffic like a pedestrian on a country road. Read the manual.
What I’ve learned from trial and error, though, is that when you’re riding to the right when there are no parked cars, and parked cars are coming up ahead, you need to be out from the curb at a suitable distance as though a parked car WERE there, moving out at least a car length before reaching the parked car. Otherwise, you may appear to be lurching into traffic.
One of my favorite moments is when I’m riding, and a bike, obviously NOT keeping right, is heading toward me. My solution: keep right. But be prepared to stop. (Not so incidentally, this is also the rule when two people are walking towards each other – keep right – unless you are in England.)

4. Use lights, front and back, not only when it’s dark, but at dusk, dawn and when it’s foggy. Reflective clothes and other items are a good idea as well.
If a large percentage of cars have their lights on, that’s usually a good signal to do likewise.
Since most lights are only useful to be seen, rather than for seeing, I’ve opted that if I only have one light available, to put it on the back if possible.
I also suggest that you get a removable front light. Not only does that keep it from “disappearing”, but you can use it as a flashlight if you’re walking from a dark garage to a building.

5. Follow the rules of the road, but not at your peril.
I stay on the road, as opposed to the sidewalk, except in those places where the road is too narrow to feel safe. If I do ride on the sidewalk, I yield to the pedestrian.

6. Focus.
I don’t recommend headphones, because I think you need to hear what’s going around you. Suffice to say, I don’t suggest cellphone use, either.

7. Maintain your bike.
Put air in the tires. I’m not mechanically inclined, so I take it to the bike shop at least once a year to be checked out, especially my brakes.
My personal experience is that I like the bikes with the wider tires. They’re not as fast, but they are less likely to blow out from broken glass and other debris than the bikes with thin tires.

8. People are unpredictable.
I now expect people to walk in front of my bike at an intersection where I have the right of way, and for cars coming out of driveways to pull right in front of me, where I also have the right of way. I still need to be vigilant about:
* people coming from between parked cars
* drivers opening car doors
* people chatting on the driver’s side of the car
* people and cars turning around in the middle of the street and coming back from whence they came

9. You probably can’t outrace a dog.
Even back in high school, I’d ride down some dead-end street, seeing no canines, and yet, seconds later, they’d be about a half dozen, barking at my tires. I’ve found stopping, then walking the bike to be a useful response.
Some people recommend squirting dogs with water or pepper spray. I have used neither, so I cannot speak to this point. I HAVE heard stories, though, about people using pepper spray and have the wind shift, so that they become the victim of the spray.

10. Some people are just hostile to bicyclists.
At least twice a year, some yahoo in a car, usually in the passenger seat, will make some untoward comment. You have two options: ignore it, or be prepared with some pithy retort; they’re driving away, so make it short.
On at least two occasions, I’ve received the insult, and they’ve driven off, only to catch the traffic light, allowing me to pull along side of the truant. “Ha, ha, only kidding!”, they always reply, nervously.
Still my favorite insult was from someone sitting on his front porch, who yelled out as I was riding by, apparently without irony, “Get a car!”

(Graphic from here.)
“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling.
I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.
It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.
I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
— Susan B. Anthony