JSTS Safety Tips in blog form, by Jeff Mines

Presented chronologically; check this space for additions as Jeff generates tips.

With the cycling season well underway, we are spending more time clipped into our pedals. JSTS wants to help keep you safe while you are pursuing your favorite pastime.

A brief safety tip will be sent periodocally that may help you be a better and safer rider. Since many of you have your own thoughts on safety that you might like to share with our club's membership, please send your tips to Jeff so that he can share them with the distribution list.

Tip # 11 - Dealing with controlled Intersections
To continue the topic of proper group riding, this tip focuses on approaching intersections that are controlled by stop signs and traffic signals.

It is New Jersey state law and club policy that every cyclist will observe and abide by traffic signals and stop signs while participating in JSTS club rides. Besides the obvious fact that we must comply with the NJ law, it is also unsafe to roll through a stop sign or red light just because traffic conditions are favorable.

This past weekend, I learned that some members of a group proceeded into an intersection that displayed a red light, only to be caught at the divided center of a highway. Others in the group followed suit, which caused confusion and a potential mishap.

When approaching a stop sign or red light, please make sure to announce your intention to stop by first calling out "SLOWING," followed by "STOPPING."  If permissible, put your hand out for a visual cue as well.

Tip #10 – Sharing the bike trail may not be what we assume
This may sound simple and obvious, but please read on. If you ride casually where there is a triangle sign stating who gets preference (equestrians-hikers-bikers, in that order), there is a bit more to it. Earlier this season a JSTS member went exploring at the Paulinskill Valley Rail Trail and learned that Paulinskill Valley Trail is used by horses to an extent that they have not experienced before. In the course of the ride they had a couple of encounters with horses that were eye-opening.
Approaching an oncoming equestrian rider at one point, the thinking was that we had a 10-12 foot wide rail trail, so no problem passing each other in opposing directions. It turned out that the cyclist was politely asked to stop. The rider related that the horse tended to be spooked by bicycles. So an assumption about simply having room was not the thing; being around horses requires care and forethought. Basically it can require stopping and communicating with the rider(s).
A little later in the same trek the cyclist approached a threesome of equestrians from the back and just then the bike crossed a small branch on the trail that crackled as it broke. This made one of the horses ahead start to bolt (can’t make this up). The rider, who was taking a lesson, quickly got things under control. But it seems like horses represent a sizable variable that must be carefully considered when encountered on a shared trail.

In general, animals should be considered unpredictable and approached with caution. How many times have we ridden on roads where a dog came charging across the lawn at us? Thankfully, electronic fences are becoming more prominent and they seem to work but there are still many instances where there's no fence...electronic or otherwise. In cases where a dog is charging at you, the best thing you can do is to continue your momentum without making quick, evasive maneuvers that could cause a crash within the group. If conditions permit, accelerate at a smooth rate. In most cases, the dog will give up the chase.

The are many techniques for dealing with attacking dogs and if you Google "dogs and cyclists", you will find numerous articles to explore and learn from. Here are two that I found helpful.



I'm certain that Googling "horses and cyclists" will yield a healthy list of articles as well.

Tip #9 – Bike Speed Wobble
Recently, on an exhilarating Bike VA descent, one of our JSTS members experienced a frightening event. As our bike speeds increased on the downhill, his bike started to wobble. Within seconds, the front of his bike wobble increased dramatically Luckily, he got the bike under control. We pulled off the road so he could catch his breath and let his heart rate go down. This phenomenon goes by different names: high speed wobble; front end wobble; and even death wobble.

If this ever happens to you, your ability to get the bike back under control quickly could save your life. There are two simple actions that you can do if you keep a clear head:
  1. Get out of the saddle to redistribute the weight on the bike, or
  2. Squeeze your knees against the top tube of the frame
Either of these will dampen the vibration and restore stability. I urge you to visit the link below and read the entire article and WATCH THE VIDEO. It will give you a good idea of what high speed wobble looks like. It's scary.

Tip #8 – Downhill Cycling Safety
This safety tip is one that many of us have an immediate need to apply. Maybe you're not riding the great downhills on every ride, but sooner or later you will find yourself descending a road at a speed that's faster than you're used to. When that time comes, your skills may be put to the test.

A descent usually comes after a challenging climb and with it, the prize of a fast ride that rewards your hill climbing efforts.

In researching this safety tip, I came across numerous articles that I felt were too gory to share. The link below is a very helpful article that I learned a lot from. I trust that you too will pick up a few tips that will make you a safer downhill cyclist.


Tip #7 – Carry ID

As cyclists, we know (and hopefully accept) the fact that there is potential that, when we ride, something unforeseen could happen to us. Unfortunately, some members of this club have recently experienced misfortune on rides. Some were solo, and others were on a club ride. Either way, if we lose consciousness, rescuers and law enforcement need vital information about who you are, your medical profile, and who to contact (In Case of Emergency - ICE).  Also consider that the friends you ride with may not know much, if anything, about your allergies or medical history.


Recently, Debbie Asbjorn contacted me about a conversation that occurred during a ride that she was leading about this very fact. Debbie asked if I could check into the possibility that Road ID, the company that promotes athlete identification, might make a discount available to our club. I am pleased to report that now through June 27, 2011 (midnight), we can take 20% off the purchase of any Road ID product.


To take advantage of this discount, visit http://www.roadid.com and apply Discount Coupon Code PC5786263 to your order. Actually, there are four ways to order a Road ID product: 

1.  by going online:  www.RoadID.com  (you will enter the coupon number at the end of the ordering process…the check-out page)
2.  by calling their Customer Service Department @ 800-345-6336
3.  by mail:  Road ID, 516 Enterprise Drive, Erlanger, KY  41017
4.  by fax:   859-341-5965

I already use Road ID and wear my bracelet every time I ride, be it by myself or with the club. I will use this opportunity to pick up another bracelet.

Please see the attached ROAD ID Wear Factor write-up for your reference. This brief document goes into further detail behind the reasons why you should "never leave home without it".



Tip #6 – Riding in the Rain

Recently, 9 hearty club members took off from Holmdel Park to continue our hill climb training in preparation for this month's Bike Virginia adventure. Less than an hour earlier, our portion of Monmouth county was hit with a significant hail storm, but by 6 pm the sun returned and all looked good. But we got rained on twice nonetheless. Still, we had a wet but safe ride and returned to the park at dusk. Before our ride began, our ride leader, Don Levy, shared some important cautions that I'd like to pass on to you.

-When roads are wet, be exceptionally careful when cornering: sand becomes even more slick when it's wet.
-Allow for greater stopping distances. Rims are wet and brake calipers are less effective in these conditions. Increase your distance between you and the bike in front of you.
-Another reason for increased following distance: you'll miss a snoot-full of wheel spray (aka "rooster tail") from the front bike's rear wheel. Getting a face full of gritty water is annoying and can pose a vision hazard
-Down hill: reduce your speed. Many cyclists enjoy the exhilaration of a well-deserved descent after a challenging climb, but when the roads are wet, it's time to be conservative and cautious. Slow down.
-Use extreme caution when riding across the white tape on the roads. It becomes extremely slippery when wet. Many riders have gone down while trying to navigate across the wet tape.

-Increase your visibility. If you have a tail light, turn it on (when was the last time you changed the batteries?)

Whether you start a ride knowing that you may get some rain (as we did last night) or become part of an unexpected quick moving summer shower, your riding skills will be put to the test. Use extra caution. When warranted, find temporary shelter until the rain lightens or ends.


Tip #5 – Clear!

We all know how common it is to hear a rider in front of you declare that traffic is clear for you to proceed through your turn at an intersection or proceed straight. But how true is that declaration?

It may be clear for that rider at that moment in time as THEY are at the intersection but in fact, it might not be true for YOU.

NEVER assume that you can proceed through an intersection because you heard someone yell "clear". Consider this a courtesy and nothing more. It is your responsibility as a safe cyclist to check for clearance at every intersection and not rely on another rider's "clear call".


Tip #4 – Arrive Early

Do you remember the last time that you traveled by air? If you got to the gate early and looked out the window to the aircraft that would carry you to your destination, you may have noticed the air crew walking around the plane with flashlights, peering into wheel wells and inspection panels, looking for anything that could affect the safety of their passengers (and themselves). These pre-flight inspections happen thousands of times every day in every country. Why? Because parts wear out and it's better to find this out BEFORE the plane takes off.

The same should go for you, my fellow club members. As we get ready for a great weekend of cycling, make sure to get to the parking lot early so that you can complete YOUR "pre-flight inspection". You need time to properly inflate your tires, check your wheel quick release levers, cable tension, spoke condition, chain lubrication, etc. Too many times, cyclists arrive at the lot as the rest of the pack is ready to roll down the runway.

You need time to complete your inspection, get your gear in order and stretch a little. Don't be a "last minute Larry" (or Lucy). You'll have a safer ride and won't feel as stressed at the beginning of the day.

Tip #3 – Spoke Tension

Today's safety tip is the first in the category of Equipment Maintenance. While i'm no bike mechanic, I have come to appreciate the importance of a well maintained machine. Many of us travel at bike speeds in excess of 25 mph on flat road and 40+ on the down hills.

Regardless of the speeds that YOU cruise, it is imperative that your wheels are "true" and your spokes are properly tensioned. A broken spoke while riding could cause a mishap with very unfavorable results.

To learn how to do a simple spoke check, please visit the link below. If you are unsure or uncomfortable performing this or any maintenance on your bike, make sure to visit one of the bike shops that support our club or one where you feel most comfortable.



Tip #2 – Helmet Fit

As a member of JSTS, you already know that wearing a helmet is mandatory on club rides. Perhaps you didn't know that 25% of cyclists (even experienced pedalers) do not wear their head protection properly.

Your helmet should be level and not cocked to one side. The straps should be snug. No more than two fingers should fit between your chin and the strap.
No more than 2 fingers-width should be between your eyebrows and the bottom of the helmet.

Replace your helmet after a crash or when it shows signs of wear or distress.

For more information, visit the link below:



Tip #1 – Stay focused and attentive to your surroundings.

The first tip is about focus and concentration. Many crashes occur when the rider gets "in the zone" when everything seems right. The weather, wind direction, bike performance, etc. are all in line with a perfect ride. It is typically at that time that the mind starts to wander. This is when accidents (solo or involving others) occur.


Please remember to stay focused and attentive to your surroundings at all times.


See the Safe Riding Page
More Safety Info