20+ Bicycle Safety Tips for the 21st Century – Stay Safe on Roads!

Bicycle safety tips: A steel road bike with a helmet during a sunset

In this article, you find useful bicycle safety tips, thanks to which you will no longer have to be worried whenever you hop on your bike.

Cycling’s popularity increased worldwide due to the covid pandemic and widespread lockdowns in 2020.

I am thrilled to see more people riding bicycles – but we should not forget about our safety and the safety of others.

So, what can you do to stay safe on the road?

Let’s find out!


1st Part: Check Your Bicycle

Before you start your bicycle trip, you have to make sure your bicycle is roadworthy. Here are a few tips to follow.

Do you Have the Right Bike Size?

One of the basic prerequisites for your safety on a bicycle is its correct size. A too big or small bicycle will be difficult to handle, uncomfortable, and you may injure yourself.

The size of the bike is usually determined based on your inseam length. The bike standover height should be shorter than your inseam length, so you get around 2 inches of clearance when standing astride.

An illutration of a the right bike size based on inseam length
Make sure to get a bike size that provides you with a few inches of clearance

To find out more, read my article on choosing a bike size that includes a bike size calculator and methods to find the right bike size.

Loose Bolts and Nuts? Tighten Them Up!

An unlocked quick-release on my front wheel
Unlocked quick release is a big no, no!
Properly locked quick-release on my front wheel
…this is much better

The screws on the bike do not tend to loosen too much, but check them from time to time (e.g., once every three months).

You don’t have to be a first-class mechanic to do it. Just get a tool kit or 4mm and 5mm hex wrench (a must-have for every cyclist).

Focus mainly on these parts of the bike:

  • Handlebar, stem, and the headset
  • Seatpost and the saddle
  • Quick releases of the wheels

Do the Brakes Work Properly?

Without functional brakes, you can run into a huge problem. Therefore, check them properly before each ride. You don’t want to find that you have no way to break when descending. It could end badly.

So, before you head towards your next bike trip, try them. Pay particular attention to the brakes after replacing the tires/tube. Personally, it has happened to me several times that I forgot to close the brake release lever on my rim brakes.

Check the condition of your brake pads at least once a year. If you have a bike with disc brakes, make sure to take it to the mechanic every 6 months or so for regular maintenance.

Under/Over Inflated Tires

An empty tire on my road bike front wheel
Make sure to avoid underinflated or even empty tires

If you ride with underinflated tires, you risk getting a puncture because it will puncture the tire if you hit a pothole or a rock. The impact can also damage your bike’s rim.

Overinflated tires are not very good for your ride comfort. If you inflate them over their limit, they may burst.

I inflated tires in my basement once. I wanted to test how much pressure they will last. Suddenly there was a huge boom. I was terrified.

The inner tube was of poor quality and blasted at around 100 PSI. So, here are two recommendations for you:

  1. Inflate your tires outside.
  2. Use high-quality tires and inner tubes.

What is the Correct Tire Pressure?

The recommended tire pressure varies based on your weight, preferred riding style, and the tires you use. Check the following table for more info.

TiresPSIBar
Road bike tires80 to 1305.5 to 9
Mountain bike tires25 to 351.7 to 2.4
Hybrid bike tires40 to 702.8 to 4.8
Indicative tire pressures in PSI and Bar for different types of tires | Source bicycling.com

Recommended tire pressure for different types of tires | Source bicycling.com

Check for a Bike Damage

If you have crashed or hit a pothole during your ride, you should check whether you find any cracks on the framer, fork, or other parts and if the spokes are not loose.

Ensure that every part of your bike is working properly to avoid further issues and ensure your ride’s safety.

If you crash a carbon bicycle, take it to a professional for an in-depth analysis.

Did you know that a professional can tell if the carbon frame is damaged based on its sound? Read more about How Damaged Carbon Frames are Assessed.


2nd Part: Get Proper Gear & Accessories

A few bike accessories can make a huge difference in your safety on your bike. These are the most important ones.

Wear a Helmet

Female mountain biker with proper helmet fit
A bike helmet is a must-have

This is one of the most important things you can do to increase your safety on a bike. According to the study, the number of injuries is reduced by an average of 60% on average when wearing a helmet.

However, many people do not wear a helmet on a bicycle. Based on a study from 2012, only 29% of adults and 42% of children wore a helmet when riding a bike.

I try to follow the ‘leading by example’ rule. So I wear a helmet whenever I sit on a bike. It doesn’t matter if I ride 60 miles (100 km) or to a local grocery store.

Did you know that 61% of bicyclists killed in the USA in 2018 were not wearing helmets? Helmet use was unknown for 24%. Source

A bike helmet can save your life. Don’t risk it just for the sake of a little discomfort and a few bucks. Trust me. I crashed once very badly and thanks to my bike helmet, I was only temporarily disoriented. I am pretty sure it would hurt a lot without it.

Wear Cycling Sunglasses

Cycling sunglasses don’t only look cool but also protect your eyes against:

  • Bugs and insects which get into your eye can irritate it and, in extreme cases, cause inattention or loss of control of your bike.
  • UV rays that penetrate the atmosphere, like the UV-A and UV-B rays, are harmful. They can cause severe eye conditions. (Source) Look for cycling sunglasses with a UV400 filter that blocks these rays and protects your eyes.
  • Elements like wind, water, sand, etc., may also irritate your eyes and cause issues.
    Read this entire article on why cyclists wear sunglasses to learn more.

Therefore, make sure always to wear cycling sunglasses. They don’t even have to be expensive. Feel free to check out these cheap cycling sunglasses.

Wear High-Vis Clothing

High-visible clothing is useful not only if you ride a bike at times when the visibility is reduced (early morning or in the evening) but also during the day.

According to the study, bicyclists who wore yellow bicycle jacket had 55% fewer multiparty accidents against motorized vehicles.

The worst in terms of visibility is black clothing. Another study showed that drivers were able to recognize more cyclists wearing the reflective vest plus reflectors (90%) than the reflective vest alone (50%) or black clothing (2%).

If you can, avoid wearing black clothing on your bike, or use bike lights at least.

Use Bike Lights

Bike lights are important if you ride in low-light conditions. Together with high-visibility clothing, you will be easier to spot by the drivers (even in daylight).

Remember to equip your bike not only with the front lights but also with the rear lights. And, if you are a tech geek, you can get a radar with a taillight – all in one package. Feel free to find out more in the Garmin Varia RTL515 review.

Thanks to bike lights, you will see what is up the road, and drivers will be notified about your presence.

Use Bike Bell

Me holding eight bike bells from multiple manufacturers
Use a bike bell

Bike bells are very useful, especially in urban areas, cities, and bike paths. They will allow you to notify others about your presence. So, they won’t be surprised that you are overtaking them.

Most people will hear you when you approach them, but sometimes they won’t. Use the bike bell to notify:

  • Dog owners
  • Families with children
  • People on roller skates
  • Seniors
  • And others who may not be aware of your presence

3rd Part: Plan Your Route

If you plan your bike trip well, you can significantly increase your safety. Here are some tips.

Plan Your Trip Wisely

The fact is that the road looks different from the car than when you ride a bike. If you are starting with cycling, it is good to plan each trip.

When I started cycling, I rode the roads I knew – the ones I drove with a car. I soon found out that it wasn’t exactly the best idea. There was a lot of traffic, too narrow or no curbs, bad surface, potholes, etc.

If you live in a city, the situation is even worse. So, here are some tips to help you plan your trip to stay safe.

  • Avoid busy roads and intersections.
  • Avoid peak hours when people ride to or from work.
  • Avoid too bumpy paved roads.
  • Avoid narrow roads or roads with no lane for cyclists.
  • Use bicycle paths where you can.

And last but not least, estimate your strengths well so that you can complete the planned route.

Share Your Location with Loved Ones

When I go for a long ride, I share my location with my loved ones. It is a great habit that will make them a little calmer because they will have an overview of where you are and whether something has happened to you.

Mobile apps like Strava can share your location during training (Strava calls this feature Beacon). You can also use other applications such as WhatsApp, Messenger, Find (iOS only), and more.


4th Part: Things to Take with You

This part includes things to take with you for a bike ride that will increase your safety.

Food & Water

Replenishing your energy during a long bike ride is important. The longer the ride, the more food, and water you will need. I always take more food with me than I need to prevent hunger-strike.

Trainright.com recommends eating 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour of aerobic exercise. This is the equivalent of 2 bananas or one slice of toast with jam.

The number of burned calories depends on your weight, ride intensity, and many other factors. To learn more about fuelling your ride, read this article by CyclingWeekly.

A cyclist drinking a soft drink
Drink a lot during a bike ride to avoid dehydration

The British Cycling organization recommends taking 500-750 ml of fluids per hour. If you underestimate the fluid intake during longer rides, you may run into problems (cramps, dehydration, etc.).

I drink a lot, especially in summer. I have a habit of drinking every 10 to 15 minutes on my bike. When I can, I take more water than I can drink to prevent dehydration. Feel free to drink even if you don’t feel thirsty. Up to 60% of your body consists of water. Stay hydrated!

TIP: Plan your trip so that you can replenish your water bottle, for example, from natural sources such as wells, from water refill stations, or in a restaurant.

Cash

Make sure you take enough money for lunch and snacks with you for each trip. Why? I’ll share a funny story with you.

During my beginning with cycling, I couldn’t estimate my abilities very well. When I rode over 60 miles (100 km) during a few training rides, I was completely out of fuel and still too far away from home.

Of course, I didn’t even have enough food to replenish my energy (yes, I underestimated the power of the tip above). That’s why I stopped at a restaurant to order a menu. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough money – not even for the cheapest food! The look of the waitress was priceless. And I was pretty embarrassed. Luckily, they did a special half portion just for me.

Anyway, you can use cash for a plan B. For example, if your bike is damaged and you won’t be able to repair it, you can pay for a bus ticket back or a ride to a driver passing by.

RoadID

RoadID bracelet worn by a cyclist (detail on his wrist)
RoadID bracelet with contacts | Source: roadid.com

RoadID is a bracelet containing contact information for your loved ones, your name, motto, or other info you decide to engrave.

This information is useful in emergencies, for example, when you crash and are unable to talk. First responders can contact your loved ones, who can provide additional health details.

This saves valuable time, which can be the difference between life and death.

Smartphone

Smartphones are handy and popular devices. You can take photos or videos with them, use them for navigation, or call help when needed. But how can they increase your safety?

Well, when you download apps like First Aid by Red Cross, you can quickly find out how to provide first aid to an injured cyclist or yourself.

First Aid App by Red Cross
First Aid App by Red Cross

Operating systems like iOS and Android also have in-build ‘health ID’ features where you fill out your health details, emergency contacts, etc. It is a digital alternative to RoadID.

TIP: Check other useful cycling apps that every cyclist should download.

Please, don’t use your smartphone when riding if you are not skillful. You may lose balance and crash. So, feel free to get a bike phone mount that will hold your phone on your handlebars.


5th Part: Respect Traffic Rules and Other Road Users

One of the most important bicycle safety tips is tips related to traffic rules and other road users. There are a lot of rules that could be summarized in an own article. But let’s look at the most important ones.

Follow Traffic Rules in Your Country

Can you imagine the confusion if there were different traffic rules in different countries? Fortunately, most traffic rules apply everywhere with just slight differences (e.g., speed limits).

The following video explains how to ride at road junctions to stay safe. Please, remember that the video was shot in the UK, where they drive on the left.

Basic traffic rules to follow

To learn more about bike laws and rules, visit BikeLeague.org (for the US) and Europa.eu (for Europe).

Use Hand Signals

All traffic participants have to respect certain traffic rules. And cyclists are no exception. Unfortunately, I often meet cyclists on the roads who seem to ignore it.

They probably don’t realize that if they signal their intentions to others, they significantly increase their safety and others’ safety.

When riding a bike, it is necessary to use hand signals whenever you change direction, when you are going to stop, slow down, etc. This also applies to group driving.

Watch the most commonly used signals in the following video from GCN.

Pass Cars with Enough Room

When driving around cars, I recommend that you go around them with sufficient reserve, especially if you do not know whether someone will get out of the vehicle or not. Try checking if there is somebody in the car by looking through the back window.

If the person getting out of the car does not notice that you are approaching and opens the door, you are getting into trouble.

These situations are also called dooring, and the consequences can hurt a lot. But, you can prevent it very simply. Keep a safe distance from cars. BikeCalgary recommends at least 5-6.5 feet (1.5-2 m).

The video was shot in the UK, so don’t be fooled by the opposite driving directions

6th Part: Bonus Tips from Pro Riders & Avid Cyclists

This section contains bicycle safety tips I got from pro riders & avid cyclists. These tips may not directly increase your safety, but they improve your riding comfort and overall riding experience.

Leave Yourself a Room for Maneuvers

Do not always try to ride right on the edge of the road. Always keep a reserve of at least 2 feet (0.6 m), so you can avoid potholes and other obstacles. I noticed that beginners and less experienced riders ride almost in the ditch.

If a car overtakes you on a narrow road while another car is going in the opposite direction, you want to have some room for maneuvers.

So, make sure you leave some space for yourself on the side of the road. If the distance between you and the car approaching from the opposite direction will be close, the driver behind you will rather wait for a more convenient moment to overtake you.

Sunscreen

Beginners and people with fair skin often forget to apply sunscreen before their first summer rides. However, on longer trips, they may get into trouble.

According to skincancer.org, you can reduce the risk of squamous cell carcinoma by about 40% and the risk of melanoma by 50% by using sunscreen.

You will also avoid the pain of burnt skin and maybe even funny-looking cycling tan lines.

There was also discussion about whether or not applying sunscreen affects your running or cycling performance. According to Runners Connect, it does not. They also recommend protecting your skin by using sunscreen.

Try Chamois Cream

Anyone who is not used to sitting on a bicycle for long hours has probably experienced this before. Your bottom hurts during and after your bike ride.

You can eliminate these consequences in several ways. The first thing is to have the right bike size and bike fit. Padded cycling shorts and a suitable saddle will also help. However, there is another tip I had no idea about for a long time.

There are so-called chamois creams. A chamois cream will protect your intimate parts against chafing and infections. This will increase your riding comfort so you can enjoy your ride.

Be Aware & Think for Others

When you ride among other road users, be aware. Watch how pedestrians and drivers behave and where they are looking, and try to predict what they will do. Here are a few examples.

  • When a driver arrives from a side road to an intersection, be prepared to react if he or she will overlook you (unfortunately, this happens to cyclists).
  • Don’t try to ride too close to cars, motorcycles, or other vehicles like pros to use so-called drafting. If the driver does not know about you and brakes, you can get into trouble.
  • Be careful of pedestrians crossing the road near public transport stations.

What are your favorite bicycle safety tips? Let me know in the comments.

4 thoughts on “20+ Bicycle Safety Tips for the 21st Century – Stay Safe on Roads!”

  1. I used to be a Transport Planner and analysed all the KSI data in Birmingham, UK (Killed Serious & Injured), or referred to as Slight, Serious and Fatal. This was 10 years ago now. The data was from the censored Stats 19 forms that the Police fill out. Local authorities need these forms for planning, and all the variables are geocoded so we can see the location of the data.

    Anyone who understands normal distribution curves and statistical distribution of the many Slight accidents would not be surprised that these accidents were everywhere in the City. There were about 300 Slight, 30 Serious and 1 or 2 Fatalities each year. 80% of incidents were male. There were lots of hit and runs, which was quite shocking. The amount of under reporting was not known, for Slight and maybe Serious incidents.

    The ratio for male female incidents is different now, in London there have been lots of deaths of (inexperienced?) cyclists from lorries turning left onto cyclists.

    A few years after I changed roles I saw a documentary about cognitive biases, and then I fully understood the cycle accident data, there is some complicated psychology that the Police seem unaware of on the Stats19 forms.

    In short drivers drive sub conciously, and the brain is looking for expected box shapes for cars and bigger. So no matter where you cycle on a road you are at risk of being hit by a driver who sub conciously disregarded your shape as not expected. I think that your shape may even be considered as a pedestrian on a pavement, even if you are on the road.

    If you have ever been hit by a driver, the response is often I did not see you – because their sub concious disregarded your shape, and their concious mind reacts to the crash.

    I realised this when the example was given in the documentary, of a policeman in New York who was convicted of lying as the court did not believe he did not see another policeman beating up someone, as he was chasing another suspect. Psychologists have since proved the tunnel vision for this case, there are many other certified cognitive biases see Wikipedia.

    Last time I was hit was about 25 years ago, way before being a transport Planner. I became very cautious. When a transport Planner this evolved into some rigid rules:

    Helmet, if not I walk.

    Hi Vis (statutory) like prof drivers have to wear when leaving a bus or lorry. On my road bike it is too hot in the summer. I only wear bright yellow Pinnacle cycle jerseys, and waterproof jacket if needed.

    Rear red flashing light during the daytime with the Hi Vis. Front white flashing light during the daytime as well. These are needed to get the driver’s concious mind to see you.

    30mph speed limit roads only for utility cycling (doesn’t apply to me when on training road bike, but I pick quiet country tracks and roads,) but there are 30mph unclassified residential roads I know that the Council have recorded 60mph via Spot Speed checks in every hour of the spot speed check day, particularly on straight roads. So you need to listen for approaching vehicles and do the motorcycle live saver look over your right shoulder, this is quite a skill, and many are not coordinated to hold bike position and look behind.

    You need to cycle like an advanced driver test holder, and anticipate all outcomes for the other road users, this is difficult to teach. But for example, you need to be prepared to stop if a car joining the road did not see you, but you need to be aware of what is behind you at all times. Junctions are very dangerous for cyclists. If you can’t see the whites of a driver’s eyes don’t move at the head of a queue, be cool. I can’t understand why cyclists record rubbish cycling, it’s going to happen, you have to avoid it, and understand that drivers are driving subconsciously.

    You need to have amazing brakes.

    Use cycle lanes wherever possible and 20mph zones. (I am half Dutch, so know how good facilities should be, there are more accidents in the Netherlands, but importantly less per km cycled.)

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