Don’t let the flashing lights and loud noises deter you from making your destination via bike. Most bicyclists invariably need to ride close to vehicles on the road. Keep it in mind when riding in traffic: two tons of metal versus about 200 pounds of bike, bone and muscle—who’s going to win? Bike pro Alex Stieda’s tips and techniques will help you thrive on any road:
1) Look and listen. First, pay 100-percent attention, just as you would while driving. Use your senses—often you can hear an engine in advance of the car, and see or hear a dog before it chases. Problem sounds include tires squealing, hard engine acceleration and loud music from an open window. If you hear those noises, pull over to let the vehicle pass.
2) Pick smart routes. The best roads have few cars, low speed limits and no blind corners. Often, a slightly longer route with fewer cars will be faster than a shorter, busier one. Also, try to find roads with a shoulder you can ride on. Bicyclists are vehicles with the right to be on the roadway, but with two tons versus 200 pounds it may be safer to stay clear when you can do so.
3) Don’t keep secrets. When you drive, you use turn signals, and your car has brake lights. As you ride, try to think of what drivers will see as they drive up behind you. Use hand signals to indicate where you intend to go. At intersections, make eye contact with drivers to ensure that they see you. Also, for future goodwill, wave a thank-you when you’re given the right of way.
4) Stay steady. Looking behind you without swerving is an essential skill. For new riders, simply glancing back with your hands on the brake hoods may work, but this method often causes the bar to turn in the direction you’re looking. This way is better:
To look left, move your right hand toward the center of the handlebar near the stem, then drop your left hand off the bar as you turn your head to look back. Track racers use this technique when doing a Madison relay change. Watch the Madison at the Olympics this year—magic bike handling. Keep your upper body relaxed the entire time and practice, ideally in an empty parking lot with lines you can follow.
5) Hook your thumbs. Always wrap your thumbs around the handlebar, instead of laying them across the top. Bikers that have them across the top have a higher risk of wrecking or going down after their hands are jarred off the bar when hitting a bump. Also, refrain from aero riding on busy streets. Save it for when you’re on a smooth road with few cars.
Information by Alex Stieda from Bicycling.com