Riding a bike is an environmentally conscious and healthy form of transportation, but it’s not without its dangers. In fact, each year about 2% of all motor vehicle crash deaths are bicyclists, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
And while bicycle accident occurrences have declined in recent years (decreasing about 16% since 1975), as recently as 2019, there were 846 bicyclists killed in crashes with motor vehicles in the United States, according to the Pedestrian & Bicycle Information Center.
If you are an active cyclist, how can you make sure you avoid falling into this statistical group? The best step you can take is to educate and protect yourself with maximum safety precautions. Read on to get a complete bicycle safety checklist and make sure you’re ready to safely hit the road.
Having a bicycle inspection checklist that you go through regularly is a great way to keep your bike in tip-top shape and keep you safe on the road. Below, we’ll go through a checklist of eight key areas you should inspect on your bike, with recommendations for specific actions to take for each one.
The wheels and rim of your bike bear the brunt of the weight when it comes to propelling your bike forward, so you can prevent a lot of accidents by ensuring they are functioning well.
First, start with the wheels: make sure that both wheels are properly secured and centered on the frame. Ensure they spin correctly, and there’s no side to side wobbliness, which can be a sign of misalignment. Wheels should spin freely and symmetrically.
Next, inspect the spokes and rim of the wheel and make sure there are no broken, loose or damaged spokes on the wheel. If you notice any broken, bent, or loose spokes, be sure to repair them before taking your bike out on the road.
Before every ride, you should check your tires to make sure they are properly and optimally inflated. Check for bulges, holes, cuts, or any embedded foreign objects you may have picked up on recent rides (nails, rocks, etc). If you do see any holes, take necessary action to replace or patch before riding again.
In addition, you should regularly check your tires for excessive wear (at least once a month). If tires are showing worn out treads, replace them to maximize traction and brake responsiveness.
When it comes to preventing accidents, brakes can be the difference between a miss and a collision, so it’s crucial to inspect them regularly.
Do a manual inspection of brake function by suspending the wheel and testing that the brakes are stopping the spinning wheel without any slipping or delay. You can also check your brakes and brake pads with a visual inspection by looking down the top of the caliper and inspecting the brake pads. Be sure to check both sides as brake pads may not wear evenly. According to experts, brake pads should have 3/16 of an inch of rubber.
Some bicycles can have complicated disc brake systems that require special attention. If you do not feel confident in checking or repairing your bike’s disc brake pad system on your own, check out this article for an in-depth guide on how to change out the disc brake pads on your bike. Or, consult with your local bike shop.
Next, do a physical and manual inspection of your bike pedals. Pedals should feel secure and not wobbly. Also keep an eye out for any cracks or larger indications of broken pedals, and replace as needed.
It’s also important to regularly inspect your bike’s chain. Make sure your chain is in good condition (no rust or abnormalities) and is well-lubricated. The chain should fit snugly and exhibit proper tension.
You should also do regular visual inspections of the bike frame itself. Accumulation from the elements like rain, mud, and mud can build up over time, so make sure to keep the frame clean, and check for any loose nuts or bolts in the process. Ensure there is no major damage to the frame as well.
Before riding, check to make sure the bike seat is properly secured. In addition, ensure the seat is properly adjusted for your height, as this will support optimal riding conditions.
Inspect all lights and reflectors and make sure they are functioning. Especially if you are regularly riding in the early morning or evenings when light is dim, you need to have proper bike lights and reflectors in place.
Another important element of bike safety is the apparel of the rider. The right apparel can offer physical protection, as well as improve your visibility on the road. Use our bicycle safety gear guide below to make sure you are properly outfitted and protected.
If you are riding a bike, you must be wearing a helmet. It can provide crucial protection in the case of a minor fall, or worse case scenario: in an accident.
When selecting a helmet, be sure to choose one that is an ideal fit for your head circumference. Bike helmets usually come in a variety of sizes, and choosing a helmet that fits properly will ensure maximum protection. A general rule of thumb is that a smaller size (tighter fit) is better than a looser fit, so if you’re in between sizes, opt down. Check out this guide to choosing and fitting a bike helmet for more in-depth information.
Wearing clothes that are specifically made for biking can also help maximize safety. A lot of bike apparel is made in bright colors, oftentimes with built in reflective material that can improve your visibility while on the road, which is especially helpful if you’re often on your bike during low-light times of day.
If legitimate biking gear isn’t available to you, at the very least be sure to wear tight fitting clothing – don’t wear anything loose or baggy that could possibly get caught in your chain or wheel.
If you’re an adult rider, wearing the right clothing and always wearing a helmet while biking should cover your bases, but you can always opt for additional padding if desired (knee pads, elbow pads, bike apparel with built-in padding). For child riders, however, wearing knee and elbow pads is always a good idea, especially if they are still learning how to ride.
In addition to conducting regular bike inspections and making sure you are wearing the proper bicycle safety gear, you should further level up your bike safety practices by making sure you know the rules of the road. Laws regarding riding bicycles can vary from location to location, so take it upon yourself to familiarize yourself with local bike laws in your area. Check out an overview of bicycle traffic safety laws in Nevada here.
Unfortunately, even with a regular bicycle inspection checklist practice and the best bike safety gear, it’s never assured that you won’t get into an accident. Be sure you are prepared in case of a bicycle accident and visit our bike accident practice page for some helpful tips.
*The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.
Ruiz Law Firm