Safe Bicycling Tips From Your Orthopedic Surgeon

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No matter why you ride a bike: fun, fitness, transportation – there’s always some risk involved. With about one-third of Americans mobile on bicycles it should come as no surprise that many of us suffer injuries requiring medical attention – 1.4 million in 2012 according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Bruises and cuts are the most common bicycle related injuries, followed by fractures, lacerations, strains and sprains. While traumatic accidents causing horrific injuries and possibly death are foremost in our thoughts when we think of bicycle safety, we should also be mindful of passive or low-impact health issues. A poorly adjusted riding position, over-exertion, or failing to manage distractions can cause health problems.

In the interests of safety and many more years on the road, we’re happy to share the latest bicycling tips from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons:

1. Adjust bicycle to fit. Make certain the bicycle is the proper size for the rider.  Appropriately sized frames, handlebar and seat heights, as well as understanding gear systems, helps reduce the risk of overuse injuries and improves your control of the bike.   If you ride regularly, consider a professional fit.

2. Pace yourself:  Cycling can be vigorous exercise. Make sure you are fit enough to participate before you start pedaling. See your doctor before you begin any exercise program.

3. Change riding positions. Slight variations in your position can reduce stress on pressure points on your body and avoid overstressed muscles.

4. Always wear a helmet approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

  • Make sure it fits snugly but comfortably and does not obstruct vision.
  • It should have a chin strap and buckles that stay securely fastened.
  • Studies have shown that wearing a bicycle helmet can reduce head injuries.

5. Service your bicycle. Check your bicycle’s mechanical components on a regular basis (brakes, tires, gears, etc.), just like you would for a car. If your bike is not in good condition, do not ride it.

6. Follow rules of the road. Familiarize yourself with all of the bicycle rules of the road in your city or state. Follow traffic signs and lights.  Signal your turns or your intentions so that drivers can anticipate your actions.

7. Ride defensively. Ride in the direction of traffic and be aware of all surroundings. Be careful when riding next to parked cars to avoid being hit by an opening door.

8. Avoid distracted cycling: Do not listen to music with head phones, talk on your phone, text or do anything else that can obstruct your hearing and/or vision while riding.

9. Never underestimate road conditions. Be cautious of uneven or slippery surfaces.

10. Watch your fuel level:  Be sure to carry water and food on longer rides.  Drink a full water bottle each hour on the bike.

11. Use proper gear. Avoid loose clothing and wear appropriate footwear.  Never wear flip-flops.  Wear padded gloves.  Use appropriately padded cycling shorts for longer rides. If you commute on your bike, carry your belongings in a proper bag with close-fitting straps.   Wear sunscreen, when appropriate.

12. Take extra precautions while bicycling at night. Wear bright fluorescent colors; make sure to have rear reflectors. Both a working tail light and headlight should be visible from 500 feet away.

13. Supervise younger riders at all times.  It is recommended that younger children ride only in enclosed areas.

14. Never ride a bicycle while under the influence.

Please do all you can to ride safely, and we’ll see you in the bike lane.

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