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Bike Safety

Bike Injuries Are Common

Take this dream for a spin: The sun is shining, there's not a cloud in the sky, and your crush just called to ask if you want to go on a bike ride. You dust off your brother's old bike and picture yourself on a hillside adrenaline rush, riding into the sunset with your sweetie.

OK, hit "pause" for a second and get practical. Want to enjoy the ride without ending up in a humiliating pretzel-shaped pile on the side of the trail? (Or making your crush call 911 because of some heavy bloodshed?)

Bike injuries are common. So follow these tips to really enjoy your ride.

Pick the Right Bike

Can you make your brother's sleek racer pass for a mountain mule? Nope. If you're headed on a hillside trek and don't want to pull out a patch kit after 5 minutes, you'll need to choose a mountain bike for its rugged, chunky tires, and trail-grabbing capabilities. The reverse is true, too — when you're going for speed on a paved surface, all those high-tech shocks and other mountain-climbing gadgets will do nothing to help you catch up with the distant speck on the horizon that's your cycling partner.

So what do you do? If you're not into buying a new bike, check out bike shops in your area for rentals. Not all stores rent bikes, but some do — like renting snowboards or skis, they think it gives their customers a chance to try before they buy.

There's more to the bike than just what kind of trails you'll be riding. Fit is just as important. Here are some ways to tell you if yours is right:

Helmet Head, Anyone?

OK, there's helmet head (temporary) and then there's nonhelmet head (definitely ugly and quite often permanent — as in "dead"). Wearing a bike helmet is a must if you value your life. That's why in many states, wearing a helmet is the law. Many bike accidents involve an injury to the head, and a crash could mean permanent brain damage or death for a person who doesn't wear one while riding.

Today's helmets are very lightweight and comfortable. Look for a helmet that is well ventilated and fits snugly on your head without moving around (see the fit tips below).

Prices for helmets range from about $20 to $150. When buying a helmet, turn it over, and look inside for either a CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) or Snell sticker. Only buy helmets that are approved by either of these two safety organizations.

Even the best, most expensive helmet won't protect you if it doesn't fit. Any bike store can help you adjust your helmet so it fits.

A helmet should:

After taking a serious hit, helmets lose their capacity to absorb shock. If you ever have a fall and hit any surface hard with the helmet, immediately replace the helmet.

What to Wear

You don't have to wear special clothing to enjoy the sport of biking. But the right clothing can increase your comfort and fun (not to mention your cool factor). It can also improve your performance if you really get into spending time with road or off-road biking.

More important, clothing can also protect you. Here's how:

Riding Safely: The Rules of the Road

Riding on the road? Time to review all the stuff you learned in elementary school — especially if you'll be riding in traffic:

Bike Maintenance

If you can, keep your bike indoors, especially on rainy days. This will help to keep your chain rust free. You'll also want to check your tire air pressure (the correct pressure is on the sidewall of the tire), the brakes, and the chain (for grease and tightness) on a regular basis.

Biking is a fun way to get exercise and a great way to get around. Observing these simple precautions will keep your ride smooth and your trails happy.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: February 2014

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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