Ten biking tips for a safer, smoother ride

Put some mettle to the pedal with these helpful pointers

Michele Vincent, an avid cyclist and former Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen volunteer, rides with her daughter Harper (left) and son Holden.

Michele Vincent, an avid cyclist and former Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen volunteer, rides with her daughter Harper (left) and son Holden.


Bicycling isn't just a fun and healthy activity, it gives riders more flexibility and dexterity getting around town. Still, there are many issues to consider: safety, routes, education, maintenance and, of course, avoiding getting that ride ripped off. Following are 10 tips to help you hit the road, informed and prepared.

1. Pick a route with care

Primary streets don't always make for the best path. Traveling via Broadway or J Street will get you there, but it's probably worth going a few blocks out of the way for a more chill ride. Once you've found a route, get to know the spots that need more focus, like a hospital where distracted drivers are looking for parking, or those parts where you're apt to zone out. If possible, try to travel at less busy times; 8:50 a.m. traffic is so much more stressful than 9:05 a.m. traffic.

2. Lock it up

There's a huge market for stolen bikes. We can stop this—at least, in part. First, stop buying bikes from bike thieves. Also, stop buying bikes from people who buy them from bike thieves. It also helps, of course, to lock up your ride. Ryan Sharpe, president of the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, recommends hardcore measures. Use a U-lock and lock the frame to something bolted to the ground,” he says. A word of caution: Locking up just the wheel is pointless—unless you just want to keep the wheel, for some reason. And let's not even get started on those lame bike racks that only allow wheel hookups.

3. Safety, the law

California state law decrees that bikes follow the same rules as cars. If it's in the DMV handbook, it's the law for bikes—even if doesn't really make sense for cyclists. Here's a recommendation: Sacramento should implement the so-called Idaho stop, which can increase a rider's safety. Not familiar with it? In Idaho, cyclists are allowed to treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs. Look around and proceed when it's safe to do so.

4. Safety, the lane

Hey, bike salmon, see those arrows in the bike lane? They indicate the flow of traffic. One of the things that can most improve a cyclist's safety is being predictable—so maybe go the right way, please? Also, sidewalks. Granted, it's hard to even know the laws for riding on them—it varies between locations but, in a nutshell, if the sidewalk isn't specifically designated as a bike lane, then it's illegal to ride in a commercial area. And if you insist on riding on the sidewalk, know that you are pretty much going to be considered rude, so ride slow and yield to pedestrians.

5. Safety, the ride

Anther big impact on bicycle safety is getting more people to ride. There aren't many studies on how, exactly, to make bicycling safer, but a 2014 one conducted by the University of Colorado at Denver shows that more bikes on the road means fewer collisions. Researchers called it the “safety in numbers effect.” Makes sense—we just become a normal part of traffic. Sacramento does well when it comes to demonstrating this. Good job #sacbikesquad!

6. Safety, the bike

Your bike should fit you. This makes it easier to mount and dismount as well start and stop. This means less of a chance that you'll blow out a knee or wrist via strain. Have yours fitted by a professional or make adjustments yourself. Typically, the best fit is one that allows you to fully extend your leg on a down-stroke.

7. Safety, the equipment

Listen, there's going to be some body policing that goes with bicycling. If anything untoward happens to a cyclist, people ask about helmets. Some have been known to stop a helmetless rider to ask—often rudely—why he or she isn't wearing one. This is annoying because while helmets are great for protecting heads when they hit the hard objects, I actually prefer avoiding the whole pavement-head interaction. Pay attention to your environment, keep your brakes in good shape and invest in some lights—all of these things can help prevent dangerous situations. That said, however, you've got to protect your brain bucket; so wear a helmet.

Not surprisingly, Addison Quarles, of Addison’s Bicycle Repairium, advocates fixing that broken ride instead of ditching it.


8.Fix it, don't toss it

Keep those tires inflated and lube the chains as needed. Full tires are less prone to flats; also, it pays to invest in quality tires. And if something does break or blow out? Addison Quarles from Addison's Bicycle Repairium has this bit of advice: “If it's broken, don't replace it, fix it,” he says. Too often, Quarles says, a bike is unceremoniously cast aside after something breaks down because there's an assumption the repair bill would be higher than a new ride.

“Only in extreme cases is this true,” Quarles says.

And, he cautions, if your bike “starts making a noise, don't ignore it.” Instead, take it to a mechanic or fix it yourself. Places like the Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen can help with hands-on lessons and guidance.

9. Biking, with kids

Michele Vincent, a Sacramento mother of two voracious cyclists and a one-time volunteer with the Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen, advises putting all the same precautions in place for young ones. “Make sure you get the right setup for your family,” she says. A good place to start, she says, is by participating in an event such as Sacramento Kidical Mass, which teaches basic safety and etiquette. Learn more about the next outing, scheduled for June 25-26, by visiting http://sackidicalmass.org. Another good resource is the Tiny Helmets, Big Bikes blog (www.tinyhelmetsbigbikes.com), which features safety and setup advice and education. Speaking of which …

10. Education

Yup, bicyclists don't always follow the law, but it doesn't help that there aren't really any official guidelines. Rather, there is one page on bicycle law in the DMV handbook. Meanwhile, each day new cyclists hit the road without a rule book or clue. Task yourself with knowing the laws as well as the safest options—and actually follow them.