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Category Archives: Bicycle Safety

Safety tips for cycling in snow, ice, rain, mud and at night

Nathan 3M Reflective Tape

Nathan 3M Reflective Tape

Nathan 3M Reflective Tape

I love riding my bikes at night and have purchased several headlights and taillights so I can ride safely. Powerful battery operated headlights allow you to see where you are going, and flashing taillights make your presence known to cars up to a mile away. However, since batteries die, lamps burn out and mounting brackets break, I always have a bit of reflective gear with me as well. Most jerseys have a bit of reflective piping—I guess that is better than nothing, but if you are looking for an easy and inexpensive way to be seen at night without the need of batteries I would suggest you check out Nathan 3M Reflective Tape.

Nathan 3M Reflective Tape is one inch wide and comes in a 27-inch strip—it can be applied to your bike, helmet, saddlebags or any other hard surface. This tape has a very strong self-adhesive backing, so it should be considered permanent—and it is very easy to cut to any length you need. This reflective tape comes in three colors: Yellow, Pink, and Orange. I prefer the yellow tape since I think it stands out more than the other color choices. Nathan Sports claims that this tape is “100–200 times more visible than non-reflective clothing in low-light conditions.”

When I travel out of town with one of my bikes I usually carry it on a Yakima bike rack that mounts in the 2″ hitch receiver on my Jeep. Unfortunately, this bike rack sticks out a couple of feet past the rear bumper on the Jeep and I’m always afraid someone is going to run into it—so I applied Nathan 3M Reflective Tape on three sides of it and now it is visible from a long way off!

Nathan 3M Reflective Tape retails for $10 and is available at many sporting good stores, like R.E.I., The Sports Authority, and Dick’s Sporting Goods. I was also able to find it on Amazon.com for $7. While there are hundreds of safety products available for your bike, this one has to be one of the most cost-effective products you can find for cycling at night. By the way, this product is made in USA.

 

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SixSixOne Rage Elbow Soft Shell Pad

Three times in the past four years I’ve had a “parting of the ways” with one of my bikes. Unfortunately, I was always in the process of riding the bike when we parted ways—and when we went different directions it was always when I was riding on solid ice. Fortunately, the only thing I’ve hurt so far has been my pride, but to make sure I wouldn’t break an elbow this winter I started wearing SixSixOne Rage Elbow Soft Shell Pads when heading out on the ice.

SixSixOne Rage Elbow Soft Shell Pad

SixSixOne Rage Elbow Soft Shell Pad

SixSixOne Rage Elbow Soft Shell Pads easily slip over your arm and are held in place with a Velcro closure. Since most people wear this product in the summer for BMX or mountain biking it has several features to improve breathability, such as vented side padding and perforated neoprene construction. The area around your elbow has an internal hard cap protector and side-impact protection thanks to EVA foam padding. I was able to fit these pads under my winter cycling jacket without any trouble or loss of flexibility.

Side View Of The SixSixOne Rage Elbow Soft Shell Pad

Side View Of The SixSixOne Rage Elbow Soft Shell Pad

I didn’t use these pads on every ride this winter—they were reserved for days when we had sleet and ice falling from the sky or when I knew I was going to be riding over a frozen pond. Riding over frozen ponds is easy since my steel studded tires grip the ice well—the problem comes when you make the transition from the ice to the bank. While on the ice there is almost nothing to slow your forward momentum, but when you hit the shore your front tire slows down immediately while your rear tire is still at full speed—and that’s the best way to FDGB (Fall Down Go Boom).

SixSixOne Rage Elbow Soft Shell Pads come in four sizes (S, M, L, XL) and retail for $50. They are available at larger bicycle shops, as well as online retailers like Amazon.com and CompetitiveCyclist.com. SixSixOne also sells knee guards and they retail for $60 a pair.

 

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Giro Encore 2 Multi-Sport Helmet

The days are getting longer and the average daily temperature is gradually beginning to rise—so this week I’m going to review a couple more winter cycling products, and then next week we’ll move on to warmer weather cycling gear. I always wear a helmet when I’m on my bike, but those lightweight summer helmets with the large air vents just won’t cut it in the dead of winter. When the temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit I wear a helmet that is normally intended for snow skiing. This past winter I bought a Giro Encore 2 Multi-Sport Helmet and was very happy with the way it performed.

Giro Encore 2 Multi-Sport Helmet

Giro Encore 2 Multi-Sport Helmet

The Giro Encore 2 is certified as a multi-sport helmet, which means it is suitable for use by skaters, bicyclists, and snow skiers (certification: ASTM 2040 / CE EN1077 / CPSC). If you experience an unplanned dismount (crash is such an ugly word) while riding in deep snow you probably aren’t going to get hurt. However, snow can also hide some nasty rocks, broken fence posts and sharp objects—not to mentioned a layer of slippery ice.

Goggle Strap on the Giro Encore 2 helmet

Goggle Strap on the Giro Encore 2 helmet

Unlike regular bicycle helmets, snow helmets usually allow for a bit of customization. The Giro Encore 2 has removable ear flaps (black padding). These covers will definitely help keep your ears warm, but they do inhibit your ability to hear ambient noises. If you are riding off-road where you are not worried about getting hit by a car, you can install a set of Skullcandy headphones into these ear flaps (like the Skullcandy Home Brew Kit). All of my winter cycling jackets have headphone ports—a small opening inside a vest pocket so you can run a headphone jack into your iPhone or MP3 player. And let’s face it, riding in a blinding snowstorm is a lot easier when you are listening to Air Supply (does that officially make me old?)

This helmet has thirteen small cooling vents with mesh covers (the mesh helps keep the snow out). When the temperature drops to below -5F I wear a Smith Optics Variant Brim Snow Helmet that has air vents I can close. Also, because this is a snow helmet, you can wear snow goggles and when you don’t need them they will rest comfortably on the front of the helmet without falling off (there is a small clip at the back to keep the goggles from moving around).

Giro Encore 2

I Love The Red Accents

The Giro Encore 2 Multi-Sport Helmet retails for $60. I bought mine at a brick-and-mortar Dick’s Sporting Goods store and paid full-retail for it, but it is also available from several online retailers, including Amazon.com. This helmet is available in three sizes: Small (52–55.5cm), Medium (55.5–59cm), and Large (59–62.5cm). This helmet comes in several colors, but since the names they use won’t mean much to you, I’ll say the color selection is red, black, white, hi-viz yellow, and ivory (not all colors are available in all sizes). I chose the red helmet because, in my opinion, red objects are the easiest to see in the snow. Sometimes I have to ride on the same off-road trails used by snowmobiles—and getting hit by one of those things could make for a really bad day.

 

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Looking At My Road ID In The Back Of An Ambulance

Like everyone says, “I never thought it would happen to me!” Two weeks ago I left home for a quick 50 mile bike ride and an hour later I was sitting in the back of an ambulance. I had ridden through the back roads of southeast Wisconsin and cut through a small, quiet neighborhood to avoid riding on a major highway. Less than a block into the neighborhood and guy in a large Ford work truck cut a corner too wide and we nearly had a head-on collision—I headed off into the gravel to avoid the grill of his truck. I yelled at the guy (hereafter known as The Jerk) and he slammed on his brakes, got out of his truck and started yelling at me. The Jerk told me that cyclists have no right to be on the road and that he was sick of them “ruining his neighborhood.” The Jerk was a lot bigger than me and had a face that resembled an armpit. As he was yelling I stood straddling my bike and out of nowhere The Jerk hit me in the chest with both fists—I was knocked off my bike with great force and hit the pavement hard, then rolled back into a side ditch. Even though I was a bit dazed I remember The Jerk yelling, “If I ever see you back in this neighborhood I am going to kill you!”

Road ID Dog Tags

Road ID Stainless Steel Dog Tags

Fortunately, a woman in the neighborhood saw what happened and called the police and an ambulance—the double punch to the chest knocked the air out of my lungs and I has having trouble breathing. A few minutes later an ambulance showed up along with a couple of great paramedics. While I really didn’t think I needed an ambulance, the paramedics insisted that I get “checked out” anyway. As they were checking my breathing the ambulance driver opened the door and told them to lock it because The Jerk was back. The punches to my chest and the impact of the fall triggered my first asthma attack in over ten years and as the paramedics were asking questions about my health I had trouble answering. It was at that point I was so happy I was wearing my Road ID dog tags. If needed, these tags could give all the needed medical information to the paramedics.

Road ID makes high quality stainless steel identification cards—depending on the style you choose, they can be worn on your wrist, ankle, shoe or around your neck. The information on the cards is laser engraved and this provides a very crisp and easy to read tag. I’ve worn Road ID products for a long time and would never go out for a bike ride without them. At first I used the ID that attaches to your cycling shoes, but about five years ago I switched to the dog tag version. Regardless of which tag your choose, it can be engraved with your basic emergency contact information.

Road ID tags start at around $20, and for only $10 a year you can add emergency response support, i.e., your tag will give paramedics and emergency room personnel a secure Website so they can get access to detailed medical information and emergency contact information for you (for when you cannot give the info yourself). The secure Website gives them as much information as you allow, but I have my health insurance information, allergies, name and address of my family doctor and a list of the medications I take on file.

In case you were wondering about what happened to The Jerk, I will finish the story. When I exited the ambulance I saw two police cars and The Jerk was sitting in the backseat of one of them (in handcuffs). Apparently, he admitted to the police that he hit me and when the cops ran his name they found out he was wanted on an outstanding warrant, so they cuffed him and were going to take him to jail—he could not get bailed out until he appeared before the judge who had issued the warrant.

The cops asked if I wanted to press charges. I would have said yes, but as I was talking to one of the cops The Jerk’s wife arrived (the police called her to take custody of his truck). Believe it or not, I had spoken to this woman back in March when she was teaching her little boy how to ride a bike! Even though she was crying because her husband was being taken away to jail for the outstanding warrant she came over to apologize for his actions.

I told the cops that I did not want to press charges against The Jerk. My reasoning was this: If the idiot had no problem hitting me then I’m sure he wouldn’t have any trouble hitting his wife as well. Since I didn’t want to make her life any more miserable than it probably already was, I decided not to press charges because I thought he would take his anger out on her when he got home. The woman thanked me and then said they had a fight just before he left the house that morning—which explained why he was in such a bad mood to begin with!

One more note: I have not told my wife about this incident yet and I am trying to think of the best time to do it. At the moment it seems like the day after she drops me off at the nursing home would be a good time.

 
149 Comments

Posted by on November 26, 2012 in Bicycle Safety, Product Reviews

 

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Bontrager Solstice Cycling Helmet

This past spring one of my sons decided to take up cycling and in the process of getting him ready for hitting the road I gave him my favorite cycling helmet (a beautiful Giro road helmet). He liked the Giro helmet because it was so lightweight (certainly lighter than the Kevlar helmet he wore in Iraq). Since I have several other helmets for special uses (night, rain, MTB) I decided to replace the Giro with an inexpensive Bontrager Solstice Cycling Helmet.

Bontrager Solstice Cycling Helmet

Bontrager Solstice Cycling Helmet

The Bontrager Solsctice is a durable, lightweight helmet that provides excellent airflow due to the large air vents. This helmet is a “one size fits most” and unless you are either very petite or have a large head it should fit you well. Bontrager’s propriety “Micro-Manager Fit System” make this helmet very easy to adjust.

Since I planned on using this helmet for riding on the road I took off the “removable snap-on visor” that comes pre-installed on the helmet. Unfortunately, the plastic pins that hold the visor on place broke while I was taking it off the first time—which means I will never be able to put it back on the helmet. Several “wicking pads” on the inside of the helmet not only make the helmet comfortable, but dry as well. These wicking pads are held in place with Velcro and are both removable and washable.

The Bontrager Solstice cycling helmet comes in four different color combinations and retails for $45. You should be available to find this helmet at any bike shop that carries Trek or Bontrager products. If you can’t find a dealer in your area, you can always buy it online from the Trek Store. If you are looking for a helmet that will make it easier for motorists to see you, please see the review I wrote for the Hardnutz Hi-Vis Yellow Bicycle Helmet.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on October 24, 2012 in Bicycle Safety, Product Reviews

 

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Glo Glov Reflective Sport Glove

Some us of ride our bikes at night because it is fun, others do it because they have no other choice. Regardless of why you are cycling at night you want to get back home safely—and that means proper lighting and reflectors. One of the greatest pieces of safety equipment I’ve ever bought was a pair of Glo Glov Reflective Sport Gloves and I never ride at night without them.

Glo Glov Reflective Sport Glove for cyclists

Glo Glov Reflective Sport Glove

Glo Glov Reflective Sport Gloves are lightweight gloves that have several pieces of yellow retro-reflective vinyl sewn onto the back (and a red piece on the wrist). These gloves are specially designed for outdoor sports and are great for cyclists, runners, walkers or anyone who has to exercise near road traffic—the reflective strips can easily be seen from 1/4 of a mile away. While a reflective vest and taillight will allow motorists to see you, these gloves will allow them to see you signal for turns (or for a stop if you point the red reflective strip towards the back). These gloves work so well that I’ve had several motorists pull up beside me at a stoplight and ask about them.

These gloves have a padded grip palm and you can wear them alone or over your regular cycling gloves. These lightweight (only 1.5 ounces per pair) gloves are highly breathable and made of a non-fraying fabric (80% nylon, 20% spandex). As for sizing, these gloves are advertised as “one size fits all.” Incredibly, this is one of the few times that a claim like this is actually true—the gloves should fit any size hand from Medium to XXL. I wear XL cycling gloves and the Glo Glov fits of them without any trouble (and they come off just as easy).

Glo Glovs are made in the USA and sell for $20 on the Glo Glov Website (price includes shipping). I would highly recommend this product to anyone who cycles or runs at night.

 

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Cateye TL-LD610 Rear Bicycle Light

The long days of summer have passed and a lot of us now find ourselves still out on the road when the sun has gone down. Without a good taillight it is hard for motorists to see cyclists on the road (and it doesn’t help that some cyclists ride in black gear at night). Fortunately, there are many good bicycle taillights on the market and Cateye, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of cycling products, has several great taillights and they are available at almost any bike shop in America. The Cateye LD610 Taillight is an affordable taillight that should suit the needs of most cyclists.

Cateye TL-LD610 Rear Bicycle Light

Cateye TL-LD610 Rear Bicycle Light

The Cateye LD610 Taillight has five bright LED lights and is powered by two AAA batteries. This taillight has four different operating modes (constant on, flashing, random, and side-to-side). Cateye claims the batteries will last up to 30 hours in constant mode or 60 hours in flashing mode—I have found this to be accurate in warm weather, but battery life in cold weather always suffers.

There are three things that make the Cateye LD610 worthy of your consideration. First, it has a tool-free universal bracket that should fit on just about any bike. Second, the mounting bracket allows for either horizontal or vertical mounting. Third, the side-to-side light pattern is one of the most effective light patterns I’ve seen on a taillight.

The Cateye LD610 is well-built and the batteries are easy to change (some taillights make changing batteries a real pain). I need to point out that when I ride at night I always use two taillights. Batteries die, mounting brackets break and anything attached to your bike can fall off.

The Cateye LD610 Taillight retails for $25, but it appears as though the LD610 has now been replaced by the LD650 so you might have to look for it on Amazon.com. Since I have not used the LD650 myself I can’t recommend it (yet), but after looking at the tech specs I have to believe it is even better than the LD610.

 

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Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

I enjoy riding my bike at night and as a result I have a lot of cool lights, reflectors and assorted gizmos to keep me from getting hit (I don’t use them all at the same time). This past winter I bought a pair of Trek Beacon Bar End Lights for the road bike I usually use at night and while the product looked great at the bike shop it failed to live up to its potential.

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

As the name suggests, Trek Beacon Bar End Lights are lights that slip into the ends of your handlebar, and Trek offers models for both dropbars and flatbars. The flatbar model for mountain bikes has two rear facing LEDs, while the dropbar model for road bikes only has one LED. These lights operate in either a steady or a flashing mode. These lights run on a single AAA battery (per light) and Trek claims you should be able to get 30 hours of run time per battery (I only got about 25 hours, but cold weather hurts battery life). To install these bar end lights you just have to remove the caps on both ends of your handlebars and slide the Beacon Bar End Lights into the ends of the handlebar.

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

In my opinion, there are three main problems with these lights. First, they are not very bright—they might be good for 1,000 feet or so, but not much more. Second, on most road bikes the rider is going to be in the way and make it impossible for cars coming up behind them to see the lights (unless you are a really skinny cyclist). And third, these lights self-destruct the first time you take them out of your bar ends.

When I get new products that include batteries I usually toss the batteries out and never use them because more often than not they are old, off-brand batteries. I am not sure why, but I decided the install the batteries that Trek included with the Beacon Bar End Lights—and as expected they only lasted about ten hours. When I tried to remove the lights from my bar ends to replace the batteries the rubber seal around the lights simply shredded. The folks at the local bike shop kindly replaced the lights, but the second pair also ripped the first time I tried to replace the batteries. While these lights were a great idea, they are poorly designed. Therefore, I can’t recommend these lights unless you buy them with the understanding that they are disposable after the first use.

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights retail for $20 a pair and should be available at your local bike shop. However, you would be a lot better off buying a good taillight like the Plant Bike Superflash Turbo or the Portland Design Works RADBOT 1000. Another great option is the Fire Eye 2.0 Helmet Light from Illuminated Cycling.

 

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BikeWrappers Removable Reflective System

If you ride your bike at night you already know how important it is to have a good headlight so you can see where you are going and a taillight be keep cars from running over you. However, many cycling accidents happen when a car runs into a cyclist from the side—usually because they couldn’t see the bike even though it was directly in front of them. BikeWrappers are the best way I’ve found to protect yourself from a side-impact collision while on a bike (in fact, they work from all directions).

BikeWrappers Removable Reflective System

BikeWrappers Reflective System For Bicycles

BikeWrappers are a set of highly reflective bands of spandex and Lycra that wrap around the top tube, down tube and seat tube of your bike and they make your bike nearly impossible to miss at night. When the headlights from a car hit the reflective BikeWrappers your bike will be visible at least 1/4 of a mile away. In addition, these reflective bands are reversible and you can choose from over 30 different styles for the non-reflective side. You can choose from many bright colors or interesting patterns, such as leopard print, camouflage, plaid, stripes, etc. I chose a bright yellow color for the reverse side of my BikeWrappers and use it for rides in daylight when it is raining. By the way, riding in the rain will make you BikeWrappers look pretty bad after a few hours—fortunately, they are machine washable.

BikeWrappers attach to your bike in under a minute using the Velcro fasteners that are sewn into the material. They will easily fit on just about any size adult bike. Since these wrappers are so easy to put on or take off you really one need one set of BikeWrappers regardless of how many bikes you own. However, since they are so inexpensive you might want to buy several sets just to dress up your bike.

BikeWrappers Removable Reflective System

BikeWrappers Are Reversible

When I ordered my set of BikeWrappers last year I assumed I was going to have to cut a hole in the down tube wrapper since the bike I wanted to use it on has three water bottle cages. However, when my order arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see that BikeWrapers were designed to accommodate the extra bottle cage (see photo above).

The only downside to using BikeWrappers is that if you ride through a busy neighborhood at night you are probably going to have people ask you to stop so they can see what you have on your bike (yep, it happens nearly every time I use them). People always want to know “what type of battery does it use?” They are amazed when I tell them it doesn’t use any batteries—it is just highly reflective.

BikeWrappers retail for $45 for a three-piece set and they are available directly from the BikeWrappers Website. There are very few cycling products that I recommend as highly as I do BikeWrappers. The photos above do not do justice to how bright the reflective material is. If you ride your bike at night you need to get a set of these wrappers before your next ride! This product comes with a “100% Money Back Satisfaction Guarantee!” (see company Website for details).

 

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Performance Radial II Multi-Lens Eyewear

Protective eyewear is an absolute necessity for any bike ride—they protect your eyes from rocks and road debris that often gets kicked by passing cars and trucks (and sometimes from junk thrown by mischievous teenagers). Performance Bicycle often puts their Radial II Multi-Lens Eyewear on sale at unbelievably low prices, and last fall I was able to pick up a pair for around $20 at a local Performance bike shop.

Performance Bicycle Radial II Multi-Lens Sunglasses

Performance Radial II Multi-Lens Eyewear

The Performance Radial II Multi-Lens Eyewear will give you 100% UVA/UVB protection and they are not the worst looking pair of cycling sunglasses you can buy (how’s that for a compliment?). The polycarbonate lenses on these glasses provide excellent optical clarity and are fairly scratch resistant. The lenses also have upper vents that do an excellent job of keeping fog from building up. The frame is made of forged nylon and appears to be very rugged.

Like most of the eyewear sold by Performance Bicycle, these glasses come with a carrying case, cleaning cloth, and three interchangeable lenses (Clear, Grey and Orange). The grey lenses work best in sunlight, while the orange lenses work best on overcast days. Obviously the clear lenses are for riding at night or in the rain.

The only problem I had with these glasses is the hard plastic nose piece—if you change you lenses often you are probably going to break the nose piece. It appears like Performance decided to supply three lenses but hoped that you would not have to change them very often.

The Performance Radial II Multi-Lens Eyewear retails for around $50, but as I mentioned earlier, they are often on sale for as little as $20 both online and at Performance Bicycle brick-and-motor stores. These glasses also have an optional Rx insert that turns your Radial II Eyewear into prescription cycling sunglasses.

While I still occasionally wear these glasses, they are not my favorite pair. If you are looking for great cycling sunglasses I have two suggestions. First, the Ryders Eyewear Hex Polar/Photochromic Sunglasses are the best I’ve ever seen for cycling. However, if you sometimes reading glasses (but don’t want people to know you need reading glasses), then I would strongly suggest the Dual Power Eyewear Dual SL2 Sunglasses.

 
 

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