Bike safety check: 4 bicycle safety tips while on a bike tour
It’s the season for bike touring. If you are one of the lucky souls heading out on a bicycle tour, you’ll soon be pedaling through French wine country, the Italian Alps, or alongside the Danube River to name but a few popular European cycling adventures. And of course, you’ve read all of the literature for your trip, including the sections covering bike safety…right? No? If you are to believe the bicycle safety checklists touring companies send along or make part of pre-trip talks, the entire point of a daily bike safety check is to help you identify potential mechanical problems that could cause discomfort, inconvenience, or even serious injury when on the bike ride.
And the tour leaders do have a point. Take for an example a poor soul who began cycling, but noticed his seat was far more uncomfortable than usual. Thinking perhaps he was feeling normal butt pain from being unaccustomed to long days on a bike, and not wanting others to think he was a whimp, he kept pedaling, trying to ignore the searing pain radiating from his posterior.
At lunch, unable to sit down or walk normally, he asked one of the tour leaders to help him adjust his seat; at which point the tour leader said, “Ummm, what seat?”
Now, had this man performed the recommended safety check before he started his morning bike tour, there’s a good chance he might have noticed the problem earlier.
Being firm believers in bike safety, allow us to summarize the key points of a proper bike safety check, which you will perform every morning before you pedal away for the day.
Step 1 – finding your bike
Look first to be sure that the bike you are holding is, indeed, your bike. I once spent 30 minutes after breakfast readjusting everything on my bike, cursing at whoever tried to play a fit trick with me, only to realize that my bicycle was still leaning against the van. Talk about embarrassing.
Step 2 – verifying tire pressure
Check your tire pressure. Of course, by doing this, you not only verify that your tires are properly inflated, but you also are now sure your bike is correctly outfitted with two wheels and two tires. If you are missing a wheel, now would be a good time to tell the tour leader.
Since bike tires typically lose a bit of air pressure overnight, you will likely need to add air. To do this, remove the tire pump from the bike frame, or retrieve the foot pump from the back of the tour van. While you try to wrestle the hose attachment into place amid a forest of spokes, feel free to curse as whatever air you once had in the tire now hisses out. Firmly secure the pump hose to the valve ignoring the blood now tricking from your knuckles. Pump air furiously back into the tire. You will have achieved the correct tire pressure when your heart rate reaches 180, at which point you can stop pumping and pass out. The good news here is you are now adequately warmed up for your ride. Be sure to over-inflate your tires by 200 to 300 psi as this will compensate for all the air that will subsequently rush out as you attempt to disconnect the valve from the tire.
Step 3 – visual overview of your bike
Look for missing spokes, missing seat, missing handlebars, missing frame…. If any parts are missing, simply distract someone else on the tour and borrow theirs. Or, if you’re not up for stealth and trickery, take your bike to your tour leader for a fix.
Step 4 – check the drivetrain
Before you head off, you will want to give the pedals, chain, gears, derailleur (French for “Only shifts smoothly in the bike shop”) and the brake system a quick look and test. There should be some greasy stuff, a chain, various wires, cogs and cranks, and the rear wheel should spin when the pedals are rotated in a forward manner. Squeeze the brake levers to ensure the wheels stop spinning when the brakes are applied – realizing brakes only work when they want to, which is typically not when you are wide-eyed and screaming while you plummet toward an intersection on a steep hill.
That’s it! As you secure that fashionable helmet onto your head and prepare to pedal off with the others in your group, you can rest easy knowing that having completed your bike safety check:
- Everyone in the group is dressed in bike outfits with color combinations that look just as ridiculous as yours,
- You won’t be the only one with embarrasing helmet hair at lunch,
- And today will not be the day you will earn a starring role in a viral YouTube video, “Funny bike fails.”
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