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Bicycle Safety

The safety-equipped bike

In addition to helmets and night-time illumination, these are what the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute calls the most important pieces of safety equipment on a bicycle:

Gloves: Gloves protect the skin on the palms of your hands when you fall on pavement. Some are padded to protect the hands from compression stress from the handlebars on long rides. They keep your hands warm in winter. When you ride through a patch of glass they let you stop and wipe the glass bits from your tires before the glass penetrates the tread fully. There are washable ones for summer and down-filled ones for winter (but they also get wet).

Mouthguards: There is evidence that blows to the chin do a lot more than mess up your teeth. Energy transmitted by the jaw joint can be channeled straight to the brain, producing the same effects seen in fighters when they are hit too hard. A good mouthguard or jaw-joint protector stabilizes the jaw by engaging both the upper and lower teeth.

Body and leg armor: Shin/knee armor provides impact protection for high-speed collisions. Additionally, body armor can save someone from broken ribs or vertebrae. For most children this sort of gear is totally unnecessary, but for those who take interest in extreme riding, parents need an established source to consult for safety advice.

Flags: Low-profile recumbents and others who are concerned about being out of sight in traffic often use a bike flag. Long-distance tourists favor them for increased visibility on highways. They are readily available at big-box retail stores as well as bike stores, usually in orange or white for high visibility.

Tires: Bike tires are not all equal in adhesion to the road, particularly when conditions are rainy or icy. You can identify the softer, preferable tread compounds by feel, or by asking a knowledgeable bike shop employee. You want a tread that feels like pencil eraser rubber when the eraser is fresh.

Finally (seriously!), your brain: The most important safety equipment on any bike is the brain of the rider. You can avoid more injuries by riding safely than equipment can possibly protect you against. Give it some thought, and make a conscious choice on the level of safety you want to pursue in your everyday riding. Thinking about it in advance can give you behavioral guidelines for those occasions when some wild emotion or being late for something makes you want to throw caution to the winds!

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