Things more important than cycling

ANYONE WHO KNOWS ME knows that cycling is a big part of my life. When friends think of me, they think of bikes. In fact, I take full responsibility for hurting the Nielson Ratings on many TV shows, because I’ve motivated numerous couch potatoes to turn off the tube and spend time riding a bicycle.


But I must admit, there are times when I don’t ride

In the interest of self-preservation, I try not to ride in severe weather. Living in Florida means that cycling is a year-round activity, however, we are the lightning capital of the world. Also, we do have the occasional hurricane, and we do have torrential rain storms that I’ve seen dump 9-inches in 45 minutes. During those times I let my bike rest, although I have been caught several times in rain so heavy that I’ve had to get off the road.

I also rest from the ride when I have certain physical issues. For example, over the years I’ve had a few back surgeries and several surgeries on my eyes. During these recovery periods I stay off the bike until I’m properly healed--although cycling, done right, often speeds the healing process.

One other thing that keeps me from riding, and even writing about cycling, is a family emergency. When my son was injured in Iraq, a few years ago, I was so preoccupied with getting him home that nearly all routine activities halted.

Likewise, for the past month, my 91-year old mother, who has lived with me and my wife for 11-years, took ill. We’ve all been consumed by emergency care, a hospital stay, a long stay in a rehab facility, and battling with health care professionals over something I’ve never experienced before, namely: Age-Based Health Care Rationing. (Something we will likely all come to know.)

My greatest cycling supporter

The good news is, my Mom is back home and is getting stronger day by day. She is getting in-home nursing help and is, amazingly, doing physical therapy on her own. (She says she’s not ready to leave this earth yet, because she’s not done harassing me!) In truth, she is my greatest supporter when it comes to cycling, and wants to know the details of my ride nearly every day. She’s a big fan of the Tour de France, watches it every year, and was supremely disappointed when Lance Armstrong failed us. It has bothered her too, that I haven’t been riding my bike this past month--she feels responsible. All this, from a woman who has never experienced the joy of riding a bike herself.


So, there are certain things that will keep me off the bike. I’m never unmotivated, but I am sometimes preoccupied with life’s challenges. Today, I’m officially back to writing and back to riding. I’m looking forward to finishing up the final month of the National Bike Challenge with some decent mileage. And I’m looking forward to cycling during the cooler days of winter which are right around the corner.

And, of course, I’ll report my mileage to Mom every day!

(The above photo is me and my Mom at a century ride in 2006. Yes, I was a little heavier then.)

Crash avoidance: 9 poor choices when cycling

EVERYONE MAKES POOR CHOICES IN LIFE from time-to-time. If we’re smart, when we see the err of our ways, we make corrections. For most things, the world is forgiving. We try not to worry too much about the past, and we move forward with little regret.

Cycling, or bike riding in any form is often less forgiving of poor choices. You can’t make poor choices on a bike for long before something life-changing happens, and you may never be able to recover from it or live-on without regret.

Here are just a few poor choices (that I’ve witnessed repeatedly) that you don’t want to make on a bike.

Stupid rider 1

Salmoning. Salmoning is when a cyclist rides against the flow of traffic. That’s dangerous, because motorists, semi-truck drivers, speeding ambulances and six-ton construction vehicles with large trailers loaded with a bunch of loose equipment… are not looking or expecting you to magically appear from the wrong direction.

Riding at night with no lights or reflective equipment. Visibility is your most important asset on a bike. If motorists can’t see you, you probably don’t exist.

Multi-tasking while riding. Riding with no hands or attempting to eat or drink on the bike while challenging rush hour traffic is just plain stupid. Put both hands on the handlebars and pay attention to your surroundings. Focus!


Trying to navigate urban traffic using aero bars. If you’re on a busy road, you’re not racing, and you’re not testing your endurance capability. Sit up straight, master your maneuverability, ride tall and be seen.

Riding in the gutter. There’s no U.S. law that says you have to ride in the gutter. There’s trash, and glass, and rocks, and curbs, and grates, and uneven pavement in there. Ride in the bike lane, or if there is no bike lane, ride on the right-hand third of the traffic lane. You are traffic.

Riding on sidewalks. Sidewalks are made for walking and walking speeds. The only time sidewalk riding is acceptable is if you are accompanying a small child on a bike or a trike.

Riding too close to parked cars. Imagine cruising along at 16-mph, when the door on that Suburban parked just ahead flings open right into your path. You’ve just been doored! It hurts, or worse. It could push you into adjacent traffic. Don’t get doored.

Texting or yapping on the phone while you’re riding. Leave the smartphone in your pocket. Trying to fiddle with a phone while riding is just as dangerous as it is in a car.

Ignoring red lights and other rules of the road. As a cyclist on U.S. roadways you must “drive” your bicycle in much the same way as you drive your car--legally. Use signaling. Use courtesy. Drive defensively. If you drive your bicycle according to the rules of the road, motorists will be better able to anticipate your next move.

These are certainly not all of the poor choices that cyclists make, but they're common ones. Avoiding these nine will make it safer for everyone on the road. 

Bike Touring in Washington State

Book Review:
Cycling Sojourner
A Guide to the Best Multi-Day Tours in Washington

IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR ADVENTURE. If you’d like to plan a fantastic get-away. Or if you want to get back to basics and experience the countryside and a renewed sense of freedom, I can think of no better way than on a bicycle. And one of the best, most pristine locations in the US to do just that is Washington State.


I’ve ridden my bike in 13 states, and have 37 to go to reach item #1 on my Bucket List. I’ve not ridden in Washington yet, but I know many cyclists who have, and who have shared their stories and photography with me. So, how serendipitous is it that bike tour leader and guidebook author Ellee Thalheimer has created Cycling Sojourner, the perfect guide book for me, and for anyone who wants to explore Washington from a whole new vantage point.

Get ready to hop on your bike and experience Washington state more intimately than anyone can in a motor vehicle. Never toured before? Don’t worry. If you can handle a bicycle, you can tour--no matter your age or level of experience.


Thalheimer offers a variety of tours to fit nearly everyone’s budget, and all levels of cycle touring experience. She lays out the basics of getting ready, and does the legwork and research to make a Washington bike tour an experience of a lifetime. This book will guide you through untouched landscapes, snow capped mountains and river valleys laced with vineyards, and it provides advice on road conditions and terrain along the way. Thalheimer also shows you opportunities for lodging and campsites, eateries, wineries, brew houses, museums, parks, resorts, festivals, hiking and fishing venues, enjoyable side trips and much more.

Cycling Sojourner is a travel and guidebook written in a friendly “let me show you” style. It’s full of insider knowledge from cyclists who’ve done it, and the kind of nuts and bolts, how-to information that is so useful to newbies and experienced cyclists alike.

Jim Sayer, executive director of Adventure Cycling Association, says this about Thalheimer: ...she acts as a convivial, detail oriented bike concierge who gives you insight into the best multi-day loop tours in the state, local culture, and the most delicious places to eat, drink, and see the sights. A “bike concierge”, that’s an appropriate description.

It’s a given among the cycling community at-large that Washington has some of the best cycling culture and infrastructure in the country. So if you’ve considered parking the car, locking up the house, and taking on a new adventure, a bicycle tour in Washington is a world-class way to do it. I recommend Cycling Sojourner for the valuable guidance it offers any cyclist planning a tour in Washington.

For more information on Thalheimer, Cycling Sojourner, or her other publications click here:

SPECIAL NOTE: Please check out the important comment below from Washington Bikes.

Berlin girl

SOMETIMES A RIDE IS NOT JUST A RIDE, IT’S BETTER. I started to ride into the One Spark festival this past Sunday morning, but it was so dense with pedestrians that I decided not to enter the zone. (It consumed 20 square blocks right behind that tallest building in the photo, and had 260,000 visitors by its end. More on One Spark.


So, my ride turned random. I rode around town, from the South Bank to the North Bank, trying to avoid all the construction zones in this city, which is no easy task. As I was going through one rather ominous and shabby neighborhood, I came across a pretty, young, blonde woman who stood on the side of the street amid heavy construction vehicles. She looked entirely out-of-place--like a fashion model standing in a war zone. She was well dressed, and had a pink beach cruiser leaning against her hip. She was focused on a sheet of paper in her hands. I stopped and asked if I couild help her in any way. She looked up at me, smiled, and blurted out, in a strong foreign accent, Oh, yes! Thank you, for stopping. I can’t figure out where I am. She handed me the paper, which was one of those cartoonish maps the Chamber of Commerce often hands out. It had markings on it that I couldn’t make out.

She told me she was looking for a certain record store to buy some American rock albums for her boyfriend back in Germany. The person who gave her the map told her the store was in Five Points. The trouble was she had gotten off course and was about two miles away from Five Points--bewildered and a little nervous about her surroundings.  

Me: You’re from Germany?

She: Yes, Berlin.

Me: That’s interesting. I just came from a festival downtown called One Spark. They’re going to have their next festival in Berlin in September.

She: Yes I know! That’s why I’m here. I’m doing research for my company back home, so that we can get the most from One Spark before it comes to Berlin. I’ve been at the festival for three days, but today I was doing a little exploring. I’ve been to the Riverside Arts Market and San Marco, but this map is confusing. Right now I need breakfast, I’m starved! And I’d like to find the record store.   


I pointed down the road, and tried to explain how she could get to Five Points, but the look on her face wasn’t too reassuring. I didn’t want to leave her alone in that neighborhood, so I rode with her to Five Points. She seemed relieved. We chatted as we rode.

She: This is so wonderful! I feel like I’m getting a bicycle escort. Thank you so much!

Me: Oh, you're welcome! I’m happy to do it. I was just out doing a little exploring myself.

We talked about the festival and her travel adventure. She remarked how wide open and big Jacksonville was--how it seemed everyone had a car and there were few bikes. She told me that in her neighborhood the streets were cramped and few people owned cars. I told her to be very careful riding in the city, because Jacksonville wasn’t exactly bike-friendly. We stopped for a few red lights--me all sweaty in my standard cycling gear, riding my road bike, and she in her very feminine pink and yellow tourist clothing, riding a pink beach cruiser.

Yes, we got a few looks.

We talked some more, exchanged pleasantries, and I introduced her to Five Points. I pointed out some restaurants, places she could ask the whereabouts of the record store, she thanked me again, and then we said goodbye.

It was truly the most enjoyable part of my two hour ride. It always make me feel good when helping out another bike rider. Berlin girl made a great ride even better.

My ride: Join me on Garmin

A little remedy for the expensive bike trip

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU THOUGHT about that big road trip? I've been wanting to ride the Southern Tier for some time now, but I've been denied either for health reasons or finances. Big trips are expensive, and there's a lot of leg work (no pun intended) to be done before the rubber ever meets the road. And considering it's a 30-day tour--well, that's a big deal in more ways than one.

The solution for many is the over-nighter ride. They're cheaper, less planning is required, and by staying reasonably close to home, you can't get into too much trouble. 


As soon as the weather gets a little more predictable, I'm planning an over-nighter from Jax to Clearwater Beach, FL--about 260 miles one way. I'll spend one night in Mt. Dora, and complete the ride the following day. I'll spend a day or two with friends, and if I'm feeling up to it, I'll ride home using a different route. If I'm not feeling up to the ride home, I'll throw my bike on Amtrak, it's a cheap and relaxing way home. My choice will be to ride home, but it's nice to know I have that option, without a lot of painstaking planning and budgeting. 


So, even if that dreamed about long tour is out of the question right now, because of finances, job demands or family obligations, consider riding an over-nighter to a small town, or a park in your region. It's fun! You can meet some great people on the road and in towns along the way, and you'll still get in some serious cycling and adventure. 

What to listen for on your next bike ride

WHEN YOU RIDE A BIKE THERE ARE MANY interesting sounds that seep into your ears if you’re paying attention. Sounds that you normally never hear while motoring in a car or even taking a short walk. Take a nice long ride on your bike and pay attention to the symphony of life that is all around you.

Here are a few things I hear while riding my bike

Nature. I ride on several rural or tree lined roads in NE Florida that are teeming with wildlife. I get to experience squirrels chattering, birds singing, the screech of a hawk flying high above, the sound of horse hooves running in the corral next to me, rabbits running through the brush, and other animals including deer and the occasional alligator, and they all make noises that add to nature’s choir.


Children playing. When my ride is nearing its end, I make a final turn near my house where there’s a school yard. There’s nearly always children playing outside on the playground. There’s really nothing that can compare to a yard full of kids running, swinging, sliding, laughing and having fun together. To me it sounds like pure joy.

Commerce. I often hear jets and small aircraft flying overhead, boat horns signaling to open the drawbridge, and the ferry blowing its air horn as it departs the dock. I also hear trains clicking down the tracks, and train signals at crossings.


Voices. When I ride through the historic part of San Marco, I often stop at a red light near a restaurant with umbrellas and sidewalk dining. For a moment or two I can eavesdrop on conversations and hear the laughter of people enjoying one another’s company while sharing a meal.

Wind. I love the white noise of the wind rushing past my ears. Headphones or earbuds have become a fashion accessory these days, forcing media into your ears nonstop. I enjoy a break from the noise, a break from music, a break from the screams of advertising. Listening to the wind is a welcome relief.

My bike. When I get farther out of town I hear things closest to me. I hear bike tires rolling on pavement, chain movement when I shift gears, and the clicking of a coasting rear hub.

Me. I hear my breath. I enjoy listening to my breathing. When it’s deep and clear, I feel like I’ve done something good for my body. When its raspy or strained, like after having a cold, I know I am working to make myself well again.

Take a nice long ride or your bicycle, leave the earbuds at home, and pay close attention to the myriad sounds you’ll hear. You will gain a renewed sense of community, and it may even bring back some memories of when you rode your bike as a kid. The sounds of life are happening all around you. The symphony is free of advertising and the sounds just may renew your spirit.

A cycling trip to Moab, UT (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1.

MOAB, UTAH IS VISITED EVERYDAY BY PEOPLE FROM around the world. The Moab Century Tour is no different. There were riders from lots of interesting places, making it a great experience. We met several of them the night before the ride at Moab Brewery. We talked it up, got ourselves psyched for the event, then turned-in early -- sort of.

We didn’t really sleep well, and were awake and getting prepared for the ride before dawn.


As I said earlier (in Part 1) I’m “Mr. Prepared”, most of the time. For this ride I had my bike clean, adjusted, new tires, and with the necessary tools, clothing, food and hydration. But there were a few things I overlooked.

  • I should have considered appropriate gearing for the ride. Either a change to a triple crank or a bigger cog on the cassette, or both.
  • I should have trained more, and better.
  • I should have rewrapped my handlebars with some cushion under the tape.
  • I should have had a better, earlier breakfast.


At day break we were ready to ride. My son, Barry (a 34 year old Recon Marine) and I rode down to the starting line about a mile north of where we were staying. My other son, Sean, a commercial pilot, had the important job of managing our gear and taking some photos of our adventure. The morning air was cool, somewhere in the mid-40s.

At the start location we were pointed in the right direction by the officials, and we were off for a day of riding in Canyon Lands National Park. For years I’ve know that it takes me about 10-miles to get my body warmed up, my lungs functioning easily, and feeling comfortable and confident.

On this day, I didn’t get my 10-mile warmup
Right out of the gate we began climbing. A long upward trudge, at times gradual and at times steep. For nearly 10-miles we climbed on a trail that ran parallel to the highway. Within 15-minutes I was breathing deep, my heart racing at 170 bpm, and within 30-minutes my lungs were on fire.


I’ve ridden my bike in numerous states, including Arizona, and I’ve never had my lungs burn as they did on this ride. My throat soon felt raw also. The throat pain was exacerbated by a canker sore located far back in my mouth. That pain made sense, but the burning lungs concerned me. My only explanation was the huge differential in humidity. Florida summers were often in the 90% range, and on this ride, we started out at less than 20%. Additionally, this ride started out at around 3000 feet of elevation and climbed from there. And did I mention it was windy?

Surprisingly, we found the first rest stop as close as 10-miles out, and what a relief it was! I got off the bike and spent about five minutes getting my breathing and heart rate back to normal, and stretching the tightness out of my quads.


The next leg was painful
Back on the bike we started the next section of the ride, a 22-mile stretch up to Dead Horse Point State Park. I could see the incline ahead of us. It looked manageable. Then about a mile in, there was a road sign that read: Steep Climbs Ahead. I thought, really? We need a road sign to tell us about a climb? I had never seen a warning like that before. Well, around the next turn I began to understand. We were about to climb several leg-busting grades.

Once again my legs were feeling the strain. Barry was struggling too, but his drivetrain had a better setup, so he could have dropped me, but didn’t. He sort of hovered around me on the slower climbs, which in itself makes for a more strenuous ride.

At this point I was really upset with myself for not changing out a chain ring or cassette. I was riding alongside some folks older than me who were spinning right along with a smile on their faces, while I was struggling with every rotation of my slow turning cranks. I called out, “wish I had another gear or two!” They laughed. I couldn’t manage a chuckle.

The climbing ranged from mild slopes to steep inclines around turn after turn after turn. The entire climb took over three and a half hours before we had any significant relief. For the entire time I kept saying: Shut up legs! Shut up legs! But my legs weren’t the worst of it. My lungs were in significant pain, and every few minutes I would cough with a raspy, dry throat.

My strategy was to keep my head down, and keep cranking without letting the view in front of me destroy my will. After nearly four hours of riding we reached the summit at Dead Horse Point which overlooked the Canyonlands.


Spectacular views made the struggle worth it! And that, for me, is mostly what cycling is all about, a way to be outdoors, pushing my body, testing my will, feeling alive and experiencing the planet in a way that is unavailable by car or plane or reading books. To be close to the earth and see, and hear, and smell, and touch nature so intimately that you know you are fully alive, yet you’re aware of how small you really are. That, for me, is as close to a religious experience as I have ever had.

I’m a climber, not a downhill rider

After visiting at the top with Sean, who drove up, and other riders, we refueled, rehydrated and started our descent. And what a ride it was! It was mostly downhill for about 20-miles. There were steep downs and sloping downs and hairpin turns. There was also a crosswind that gusted to 40 mph at times. We flew, white knuckled, reaching downhill speeds of 48 mph on pavement that had occasional cracks and patches of loose gravel. I feathered my brakes in an effort to keep my speed down. On a couple of long descents I passed Barry without even trying. Later he would say, “I tried, but I just couldn’t catch you!” I told him the secret: You can never out-race a fat guy on a downhill.


It was an intense ride coming back into Moab. There was only once, on a steep, tight, hairpin turn that I almost lost it. We were focused on possible oncoming traffic coming up and around the bend. I was trying to ride with a flexible posture, and in an instant, felt my back wheel slip on the pavement. I think my heart stopped for a second! I felt a tightness in the back of my neck. It took my brain a few more seconds to realize that I was still upright. But I recovered and kept following Barry’s lead. What took over three hours to climb, took about 45 minutes to descend. Once again at the first rest stop, we saw three emergency vehicles racing up the mountain. Someone wasn’t as lucky as me.

At this point we had only ridden about 55-miles. We were now tracking back across the first 10-miles that we had started on--only this time it was downhill. We reached Potash Road which was a turn-off into a huge canyon that would be the final leg of the ride and about 40-miles to the finish.

The final leg
As we turned into this enormous canyon the headwinds were fierce. The afternoon temps had also increased significantly; the burning in my lungs and throat had never let up; and the unrelenting sun, radiating off 200 foot walls of red rock, made for a canyon that was hot, dry and windy.


I was in the lead cranking for all I was worth. The best I could do was 11 mph, while my heart rate was at 177 bpm. I was quickly becoming exhausted. We stopped once and discussed calling it a day, but we both had our minds set on completing 100-miles.  We continued for another six miles and stopped again to rest for a few minutes. Again, we played with the idea of stopping and short-cutting to the end. We were both tired, wind-burnt and sore. I said, “ya know, I think we’ve done some good work here, let’s call it a day, and go get a cold one.” Barry agreed. We turned around, and still had nearly 10-miles to ride to reach the finish.

Getting back was bitter-sweet. We had failed the century, but we won the day and I considered it a victory. I got to spend some quality time with my two sons: 3-days in Moab, UT, and there was beer and conversation involved. I was able to ride my bike in one of the most ruggedly beautiful areas on the planet. And we participated in a benefit ride for cancer patients and survivors with a share of event proceeds going to the Moab Regional Hospital’s Cancer Treatment and Resource Center. I can’t find fault in any of that.


I also reaffirmed some universal lessons

  • Be better prepared next time.
  • Keep your head down and don’t stop crankin’ till you reach your destination.
  • Know when to quit, but never give up.
  • Enjoy every ride your body allows you to do.
  • Crosswinds and downhills can be a dangerous combination.
  • You don’t have to be a hero. Live to ride another day.
  • Have a crew you can depend on.


Sean was our crew
He handled the logistics of getting me to Moab. He handled our gear, while Barry and I were out riding. He took photos of the ride and surrounding landscape. He met us at Dead Horse Point with beverages, and he had cold beer waiting at the end, when we were parched and exhausted. You couldn't ask for a better crew chief! Thanks, Sean, for your humble service.

The Moab Century Tour, I recommend it.

Click here to see the stats.

A cycling trip to Moab, UT (Part 1)

(I had hoped to get this story out sooner, but the Universe conspired against me. The trip was during the last week of September.)

I’D BEEN PLANNING A TRIP TO MOAB for several months. It was complicated by the fact that I was meeting one son from San Clemente, and another son from Denver. There were grandkid visits involved, and brief pauses of family renewal. Also, Moab is not the easiest place to reach without spending my entire budget on airfare. Then, to complicate the plan even more, heavy rains that poured in the region for weeks put the red rock area in southern Utah under an almost continuous flash flood watch.


Long story short. We made it in time for the Moab Century Tour, a road ride through the red rocks of Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah, and the flash floods were deemed non-threatening to the riders.   

I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that, I, aka “Mr. Prepared” was less than prepared for this ride. That is so unlike me. But here are the mistakes I made:

I didn’t train right
Here I am, a Florida resident (our humidity is typically above 80%), riding in very dry conditions, with long, steep climbs, and altitudes as high as 6000 feet. Maybe not high by Rocky Mountain standards, but still quite high for a guy who normally rides at, or below, sea level, save for a few bridges.

I didn’t adapt my bike for the terrain
I could have installed a triple chainring. But I didn’t. Or, at the very least, I could have changed out the cassette to provide some pedaling relief. But I didn’t do that either. Why? I have no excuse other than… maybe I was consumed by logistical details?

So, my route took me to Denver for a brief stay, then on to Moab by car. FYI: TSA has made some changes at US airports. You can no longer store baggage for a few hours. Thus, I had to drag my bike box and duffle around DIA for several hours until my ride arrived. I must admit, that wasn’t much fun.

DenMewaiting (1)

The drive to Moab, was beautiful--even better than I remembered it from my 2005 trip. We took our time and enjoyed the mountainous terrain past Vail, skirting Leadville and Aspen, through Grand Junction and into southern Utah.


Sean and I arrived in Moab in mid-afternoon, and Barry, who was driving in from San Clemente, arrived within 20-minutes. (How’s that for logistical planning?) We checked-in at ride headquarters (to receive our bag o’stuff, and then made a joint decision to find the nearest watering hole, where we would enjoy a frothy beverage, and discuss ride strategy among ourselves and other friendly patrons who we met at the bar. I didn’t want to over-do the IPAs and make my ride the next day uncomfortable, so I used restraint and kept my pre-ride hydration to a minimum -- although I wasn’t in much danger of over-indulgence, because the Utah liquor laws won’t allow for anything more that 3.2 beer to be drawn from their taps.


We sat at Moab Brewery for a few hours sharing war stories with other riders and decided we needed to get a good night’s sleep to be in top form for the next day. (That wasn’t exactly a mutual decision, but the old guy prevailed.)

Back at the room we sat around talking about old times and other fun stuff, until it was getting late. That didn’t matter much, because we didn’t sleep well anyway. That’s a common problem among some cyclists. I’m sure it has something to do with pre-ride anticipation. Lying in bed, I pondered the tough ride ahead of us, but was completely surprised by the pain and suffering I was about to endure.

MeBarryMoabhotel be continued.

Click here for Part 2.

When you ride your bicycle, ride it big!

STUDIES HAVE SHOWN THAT THE MAJORITY OF ACCIDENTS between motorists and cyclists are caused because the motorist “didn’t see the cyclist”. As preoccupied as motorists are these days, with all the non-driving activites that take place behind the wheel -- texting, talking on the phone, eating, reading the newspaper, flossing the teeth, removing rollers from the hair, brushing the hair, drinking a beer and reprimanding the children -- it’s no wonder that cyclists get knocked down, banged up or killed everyday.

Yes, I’ve seen every one of the activities mentioned above being done while the driver is, by law, supposed to be in control of his or her motor vehicle. Yes, I know that cyclist are not always innocent. I’ve seen many cyclists who refuse to follow the rules of the road, and many more that have adopted some very careless riding practices.


So, how do we stop “accidents”?

I don’t know.

It’s basically impossible to get all parties together and agree to do the right thing. But if you’re a cyclist and you want to remain as safe as you possibly can, RIDE BIG. And by that I mean to make yourself as visible as possible to motorists who are in your immediate area. Here are a few ways you can achieve this.

  • Never ride in the gutter of a lane. You’re out of view, in the shadows, and probably rolling through all kinds of dangerous debris, grating and broken pavement. Additionally, it’s a position that leaves you little room for emergency maneuvers. If you’re riding in a bike lane, try to ride as close to the motor vehicle lane as practical.


  • When on a narrow road, don’t be afraid to take the lane. Riding in the car lane,where a car’s right tire would go, is one of the best ways to be seen. You become the traffic and have lane control. It forces cars and trucks to pass you when it’s safe, and with a wide margin instead of trying to squeeze by in the same lane. You might get some negative comments from drivers, but at least they will know you’re there. (In the right lane in the U.S., or in the left lane in many European countries.)
  • Take advantage of Sharrows by riding in the area designated by the Sharrows. I like Sharrows because they are immediately visible to both motor vehicle drivers and cyclists. There should be no confusion regarding the cyclist’s right to the road space. (Presumably they been placed correctly.)
  • Wear bright or fluorescent or day-glo clothing. Bright yellows, oranges, reds and greens can be seen easier that most other colors. When I’m commuting in the early morning hours I often where a yellow jersey that is impregnated with reflective strands that shine brightly when headlights hit it.
  • Be predictable. Behave like a car--one with a responsible driver behind the wheel! Ride with the traffic, not against it. Motor vehicle drivers don’t expect you to be coming from the wrong direction, or flying out of side streets or driveways without stopping. Ride in a straight line. No weaving or erratic riding.
  • Reflectors on your bike, front and rear are very visible when lights are shown on them. Reflectors are often more easily visible, and can be seen from farther away than many electric lights. At night I also wear reflective ankle straps and reflective tape on the back of my helmet.
  • A white headlight on the front and a red tail light on the rear of your bike are a must for night riding and even make you more visible in daylight. I use a bright red flashing tail light on every ride, day or night.
  • Riding in a group makes you more visible to motor vehicle drivers. But get with a group that follows the rules of the road.
  • When you’re in heavy traffic sit up tall in the saddle--RIDE BIG! You’ll be much more visible than if you’re in the drops or using aero bars.

Don’t be afraid of traffic or cower in the presence of motor vehicles. Ride big and ride proud, because you have every right to be using the roadway. These simple techniques will help to keep you visible to motorists when riding your bike. Obey the standard rules of the road, as any vehicle should, and you’ll have your best chance for finishing your ride without an accident.

Life lessons of cycling

Maintain your machine

It’s always important to keep your bike in clean, working order. Lubrication, good tires and routine adjustments will keep it rolling along for years. But the real machine is you. Cycling goes a long way toward maintaining your body, the real engine that puts power to the pedals. It will help you eat better, sleep well, and stay fit. Riding a bike will help you keep your blood pressure in range, and stay youthful and energized.

MargaretSR13 700

Build endurance

We all need endurance to keep going everyday. Most of us have numerous activities and chores that must be completed on schedule. Couch potatoes are typically fatigued and lethargic. They have no energy. Cyclists, on the other hand, are full of vim and vigor. Why? Because they regularly hit the road or trail to get their heart pumping, make their lungs work and keep their muscles toned. Build your endurance one day at a time. If you’re a healthy person, try pushing your limits a little everyday. Your endurance will increase and so will your energy.

Clear your mind

Riding a bike does something interesting to your head. It makes you forget about your troubles. It has a marvelous way of erasing worry and tension. Time slips by effortlessly. Cycling can turn a garbled, dark, bad mood into clear, creative thinking in just a few minutes of pedaling. Go ahead! Just try keeping the day’s frustrations in mind while you crank out ten miles.


Of course you’ll breathe. But try mindful breathing. While you’re pedaling through the neighborhood, take in purposeful, deep, lung-filling breaths. Then, blow the air out slowly. Repeat this 2 or 3 times every 15-minutes or so. You’ll be amazed at how refreshed it makes you feel.

Slow down often

The life-lessons derived from a great bike ride most often occur at a slower place. Slow down and “smell the roses” as the saying goes. If you’re not actually smelling roses maybe you’re enjoying the breeze and salt air off the ocean, or admiring that historic home in a neighboring community, or enjoying the shade and smooth pavement under a long tunnel of trees.


Learn to enjoy every minute on your bike. Take care of your head, and your heart, and your body. Look for life’s unexpected joys. Keep the faith. Hold onto hope, and open yourself up to all the lessons that riding a bike can teach you.

What interesting lessons have you learned while riding your bike?