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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tour de Belleville safety tips

For the third straight year, I offer these tips for those of you who are planning to do the Tour de Belleville tomorrow night. These tips can be put to use on other big nighttime rides such as the L.A.T.E. Ride this weekend in Chicago or the Moonlight Ramble on Aug. 16-17 in St. Louis:

Tips for newbies:

  • If you're a slower rider, try to ride as far to the right as safely possible so faster riders can pass you. If you have to walk up a hill, walk your bike as far to the right as safely possible.
  • Groups of cyclists should not take up the entire lane, again so other people can pass.
  • If you plan to stop, be sure to give some type of warning. At a minimum, give a verbal warning such as "braking" or "stopping." It's also a good idea to give a hand signal by extending your left hand toward the ground. For a good illustration of that, download the Illinois Bicycle Rules of the Road (pdf file).
  • If you're stopping for an extended period of time, pull off the road so other cyclists can pass safely.
  • Use your gears. Most new cyclists tend to use a gear that's too big for them. Find a gear where you feel comfortable riding 60 to 90 pedal strokes a minute. When you approach a hill, you probably want to shift to a lower gear before you start climbing.
  • Above all, ride at a pace that's comfortable for you. The Tour de Belleville is not a race, so don't get tempted to ride at a faster speed than you're used to just because you want to keep up with other people.
Tips for experienced riders:
  • Be patient with the less experienced riders. Remember that you once were an inexperienced rider yourself.
  • Ride defensively. When approaching a family with young children, give yourself plenty of room to get around them because you never know when someone will suddenly veer to the left or right.
  • Use caution on hills. There's a good chance someone will try to climb a hill only to run out of gas and suddenly stop. Give yourself plenty of room to maneuver around them.
  • Slow down. This is not the time for a 20-25 mph training ride and long pacelines. Events like the Tour de Belleville are meant for fun, so slow down and smell the roses.
  • Be a good ambassador. The way you behave will influence whether a newcomer will stick with the sport.
Good luck, have fun and ride safe!

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