Risk Mitigation and the Paranoid Biker

I’ve been biking a lot this summer, the most since I got my first car.

I bike for the health of it. When I ride today, I weigh in at 168 pounds instead of the 175 I did back in April. I’ve shed the winter blubber.

I bike for the joy of it. I love the way scenery zips past like I’m driving an Indy car, even though I’m only pedaling. Narrow paths lined by tall grasses create the illusion of speed. As I brush by, everything seems to rush by.

I bike despite my fear of it. Colorado is a bicyclist haven, but a hard fall can turn it quickly into a bicyclist hell. Any gathering here involves stories of major spills—some with ER visits.

Before disaster strikes, I’ve inventoried the steps I’ve taken to steer clear of accidents. So here’s my self-study crash course in bicycle risk mitigation.


1. Rear View Mirror.
This looks geeky, but when I’m in a bike lane, I can see trailing traffic long before I hear it. This delivers added comfort, but then again the comfort might be illusory. Often the car that hits you is the car you never see.

2. Wider Tires.
Instead of a road bike, I ride a 1993 Trek 930 Single Track. On the 26″ rims, I’ve mounted 1.5″ wide tires. I figure—actually I pray—that the extra width will give me an extra millisecond to react in any instant of peril. Will this prevent a bad moment from turning into a bad break? Maybe, maybe not.

3. Daytime Visible Backlight.
I bought a Cygolite Hotshot SL, which is visible in daylight. I’ve seen similar bike lights while driving my car and they’ve attracted my attention. Few riders use them during the day, but I do.

4. Neon Yellow Shirts.
I bought three of these at the beginning of the season. If I can’t be particularly bright, at least I can look particularly bright.

5. Helmet.

6. Gloves.
These have already saved my hands this year. My bike tipped over at an intersection. I was looking up at the red light and not down at the pothole that swallowed my front tire. (Cosell with the call: “Down goes Noonan! Down goes Noonan! Down goes Noonan!”)

Best Practices

7. Limit Road Miles.
Trails are safer than roads because: (1) traffic moves slower; and (2) colliding into bikes hurts less than colliding into cars.

8. Favor Wide Shoulders.
When forced onto roads, I ride those with wider shoulders or dedicated bike lanes—even if it means I have to travel longer distances.

9. Forgo iPods.
I still hear well—or at least I think so. I know I ride safer without music. (Whenever I see others riding with ear buds, I just shake my head. This is good because whenever I do this, the loose wax falls out.)

10. Avoid Daydreams.
My mind wanders. If I keep focused on each passing moment—if I stay in the flow—I enjoy the ride more. I can also pick up details quicker as they enter the threat matrix.

11. Follow Rules of the Road.
At least whenever traffic is around. At stop signs, I’ve learned to value my inertia and not give it up so easily. (Good rule for biking, good rule for dating.)

12. Avoid Dusk and Nighttime.
That’s when drivers find it hard to see bikes. I know this because I drive.

13. Embrace Paranoia.
My constant vigilance may cause my enjoyment of this sport to take a 5-10% hit, but if that saves my clavicles from taking the hit instead, it’s a fair tradeoff.

*   *   *

If you ride through enough ups and downs, crashes are inevitable. The same holds true for investing. At this late date, the bull market is extremely long in the tooth (it started in March, 2009). Many of the gains have been driven by monetary policies rather than equity fundamentals. People have had no place to make money other than by investing in the stock market. This forced demand has propelled share prices to all-time highs.

Does any of the foregoing make you paranoid?

Are you doing anything to mitigate your downside risk?

Do you want to hear one last piece of biking advice?

I’m no good at predicting the results of future rides, but here’s one thing I think I know . . .

14.  Cushion the Blow.
The more you stuff your pants with cash, the less you’ll suffer from a crash.

Parked Bikes by Jorge Sanz

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9 Responses to Risk Mitigation and the Paranoid Biker

  1. Free To Pursue August 6, 2014 at 6:34 AM #

    You sneaky guy…I think I’m reading about bike safety and here you go ending with investment advice. Then again, should I expect anything else.

    As a fellow cyclist who used her bike as a commute vehicle for her last 3 years of corporate work (in traffic nonetheless), I salute you. (Yes, it is possible to ride in 2ft of snow and yes, you can buy snow tires, both of which I’m sure you’re aware, given where you live. 😉

    Good advice all round.

    I would add two more safety tips (for biking, not investing):

    1. We need rain gear and when we do, we should buy the rain gear with the built in reflectors that are obnoxiously visible both during the day and at night.

    2. No matter how geeky, always have some means of keeping your pant leg away from the chain. That’s what I’ve learned over the years, courtesy of two nice face plants…and a much larger number of wrecked pants.

    • A Noonan Moose August 6, 2014 at 7:27 AM #

      Good points F2P!

  2. Will @firstqfinance August 6, 2014 at 8:37 AM #

    “I bike for the health of it.” LOL. My biggest problem is not getting lazy. Often, I want to cut blind corners and not stop at stop signs. But those two practices can land a person in the hospital pretty easily.

    I do feel very safe while cycling though. I rode 100 miles of highway a few months ago.

    You read MMM, as well I assume?
    Will @firstqfinance recently posted…How I Spend $75 Per Month on (Healthy!) GroceriesMy Profile

    • A Noonan Moose August 6, 2014 at 8:48 AM #

      Great job on logging in the 100 highway miles! I had to do about 100 yards of it this spring while getting from one trail to another (on Highway 36) and I was majorly FREAKED OUT! (And yes, I visit the MMM blog often. Much more often than I bike on highways!)

  3. Tony C August 7, 2014 at 6:29 AM #

    I’m with you on the bull market. If you look at a 5 year chart, stock prices (as shown by the S&P 500) have literally gone straight up since the beginning of 2013. Crazy valuations.

  4. No More Waffles August 9, 2014 at 3:10 AM #

    Haha, I do the exact opposite of what you do, Noonan! 🙂 Maybe because Belgium is quite bike friendly or because I feel very safe and confident on a bike? The only thing I consistently do is follow the rules of the road and be a courteous driver.

    When I’m riding my city bike I generally drive more slowly (20km/h), but when I’m on my mountain bike for fun I go all out (30km/h at least). Especially on small countryside roads and in the forest I don’t pay any attention to my well-being. If I crash, I crash… Wouldn’t be the first time!

    Have a great weekend,
    No More Waffles recently posted…Savings Rate for July 2014My Profile

    • A Noonan Moose August 11, 2014 at 7:37 AM #

      You should be doing the exact opposite of me. In bike crashes, 20-somethings tend to bounce while 50-somethings tend to break. The same thing holds true in market crashes. As a young one, you have plenty of time to bounce back from the next massive correction while it might break the bank for someone at or nearing retirement (such oldsters have less time than you to make a recovery).

      Don’t worry, though, your time for a well-reasoned paranoia of biking and stock markets will arrive soon enough—it’s just a few Belgium hills in front of you. 😉

  5. debs@debtdebs August 25, 2014 at 9:15 AM #

    I’m disappointed by my lesser amount of bike riding this year compared to last year. Last year I rode my bike to work a number of days. This year I’m working from home all the time. Last year I went on a couple of long(er) bike rides. This year barely 1. Last year I fell off my bike and hurt myself and almost got hit by a car. This year I haven’t been riding enough for this even to happen. Last year we had no flat tires. This year my husband has had two! In fact just one yesterday, but I think it’s because he only replaced the tube and didn’t check the tire carefully from the first blowout. I just reminded him today to get it fixed so we can go on a bike ride tonight. Why am I not riding my bike as much as last year? I started blogging! The not so good benefits of blogging. Incidentally, that’s why I work from home more too. So I can check on my blog during the day from my tablet, just to free comments. I don’t dare work on it while I am working. I value my paycheque too much.
    debs@debtdebs recently posted…Cutting Cable – Will it Payoff?My Profile

    • A Noonan Moose August 25, 2014 at 10:18 AM #

      Very sorry to hear about your bike accident DD! From talking to other bikers, there’s a lot of car collisions—very scary!

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