Bike Safety

Use Your Head the Right Way
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Just the title makes the eyes glaze over, doesn't it? Well, snap out of it, because this topic can be fun, as well as good for you.

Unlike the usual boring list of do's and don'ts, we'll start with the accident and move to the lessons to be learned. After all, if we're honest with ourselves there's a secret enjoyment in reading about another rider's woes (as long as they aren't too terribly painful), especially when they result from some real bonehead stunt we know we're capable of ourselves but thus far have somehow avoided.

The Accident
My all-time favorite—and before you ask, yes, it is true: Some of you will remember the old fork-mounted front generator lights. You know, the ones that, when you pushed down on a lever, tripped the generator head (a small corrugated wheel) sideways to a point where it engaged the wall of the tire casing. And presto, there was light.

Well, one November afternoon a commuter heading home at dusk decided that for safety's sake he should turn on his light. Unfortunately, he did not pull over to do so, or wait till he was stopped at the next intersection. After all, he needed merely to stretch his left arm and hand down to the left side of his wheel, while avoiding the sewer gratings and curbs and passing cars. Piece of cake. But he couldn't reach it when he tried. So he stood in his pedals and leaned forward awkwardly. A little further . . . a wee bit more . . . ah, there, he could feel the generator wheel. He slid his finger down the smooth metal housing, found the lever with his thumb, and pushed. Success!

Yet just as his thumb met with this success, his bike hit a bump, or a pothole, or maybe his unstable riding position caused his wheel to swerve. Try as he might, when full consciousness returned, he couldn't really recall. All he knew was that suddenly his hand slipped, driving his left thumb into his spinning spokes and pulling his forward-angled body over his front wheel.

His friends forever after told others in his presence that he was the only biker they knew who had managed to be run over by his own bike. This isn't what had happened. Still attached to his wheel by his broken and somewhat longer thumb, his bike had simply collapsed upon him. But hey, it could have been a bus.

The Lesson: Ride with Care
The moral? Well, because it's almost impossible to find fork-mounted generators these days, we could say we're in the clear. But there are plenty of more general lessons to be retained. Here's a big one: No matter how well equipped for the road you and your bike may be (headlamp, taillight, pedal reflectors . . . ), riding with care is a requirement. Do something dumb enough to imperil your ability to control your bike while pedaling and you can't really gripe when you go down.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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