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.
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!”)
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