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Staying Safe When Cycling During the Winter

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Cycling can be risky any season, but with fewer hours of light in the winter, and then mix in some bad weather, winter riding can be dangerous … or is it? You can lessen your risk of an accident or injury if you follow some basic winter riding safety rules.

Wear a helmet. One of the myths is wearing a helmet will keep you safe. Wrong? Wearing a helmet will help keep you from suffering head trauma, but only in the case if you are knocked off of your bike. It does nothing to prevent the accident from happening. However, the tips below will help prevent you from needing the cushioning of that helmet.

Make yourself visible during low light. There are several things you can do to let people know you are there. One, use a headlight on the front of your bike and a red blinking taillight on the back. The new lights use LED bulbs not only making the light brighter, but also making the batteries last longer. Two, wear reflective clothing. An orange vest with reflective strips sewn in increase your visibility when the light from car headlights shine on the vest.

Make yourself invisible during low light. This is counter-intuitive to the statement right above, but think about it. If you cross the street when there are no cars visible from either direction, you have a much less chance of getting hit.

Use extreme caution when crossing streets. With side windows fogged up, it is easy for a driver making a turn to not see you. Make eye contact with the driver by waving if you are unsure if you are seen or not. When in doubt, wait for the car to get past you and then cross.

Give yourself extra room. When riding in the winter, you can encounter ice on the roads that you can’t see – black ice. By giving yourself extra room between the cars on one side and sidewalk on the other, you have a larger margin for error space to work with thus reducing your chances of either hitting the sidewalk or getting hit by a car.

Depending on the part of the country you are riding in during the winter, the risks of falling off your bike or getting hit by a car can be greater. However, by following the winter riding safety tips in this article, you can lessen the chances of either happening.

How to Keep Warm When Cycling in Cold Weather

The key to comfortable riding in cold weather is to dress properly for it. Generally you want to start out being a little cold before you start riding. As your muscles warm up, so will the rest of your body. In the end, you’ll probably end up having to take clothes off, which leads us to our first tip – layering.

Layering

The whole idea of layering is to trap heat in between the different layers of clothing. As you start to get hot, you can remove the outside layer.

With layering, you want a good moisture-wicking layer next to your skin. There are many different types of clothes just made for cyclists out of lightweight, performance-based polyester-based fabrics. These fabrics transfer moisture from your skin through the fabric and up to the next layer. By keeping your skin dry, you prevent heat loss through evaporation.

For the next layer, you want to wear clothing that has thermal characteristics, usually made from a polyester also. Not only will it retain heat, but also allow the transfer of moisture through it and to your outer layer.

For the outer layer, you want something that not only holds the warmth in but also keep the cold air and wind out. Usually nylon is the best fabric for this purpose.

Protecting Your Head

Tip, number 2 – you can lose up to 30% of your body heat through your head. A good cycling cap with ear flaps will protect both your head and ears. In extreme cold weather, you will want to wear a balaclava which is a full hood that will keep your face and neck warm.

Riding in cold weather can make your eyes water, so wear a good pair of wrap-around cycling glasses. And finally, don’t forget about your extremities.

Protecting the Hands and Feet

Tip number 3 – wear a good pair of either full-fingered cycling gloves or even cycling mitts if the weather is really cold. Without protection, you run the risk of getting frostbite. As far as protecting your feet, start out with a good pair of thermal socks made from a moisture-wicking material. Then put on your cycling shoes and cover them with cycling booties.  If your feet get hot, take off the booties and replace them with toe covers. This will let some of the heat dissipate to keep your feet warm, but not hot.

Cycling in extreme temperatures, either hot or cold, can still be enjoyable. The trick is knowing how to dress properly for the weather conditions so you can stay warm, but not get overheated or wet with sweat. If so, then you will get really cold when you stop riding.

How to Treat Road Rash

Sooner or later and if you ride long enough, you will suffer a road rash incident. Of course, road rash is the scraping off of the outer layer of skin called the epidermis and may extend down into the next layer called the dermis. While a road rash may not bleed a great deal, it is still painful due to damage to the nerve endings in those skin layers that were cut.

Cleaning the Wound

First, cover the wound the best you can until you get home. Then, use a syringe to clean the wound by squirting it with a solution of mild soap and water or an approved antiseptic wash such as saline solution or a product called Shur-Clens. Make sure the wound is clean of any dirt or debris.

If not, gently use a gauze and try to move the dirt or debris out of the wound, then re-irrigate it and check again to make sure it is clean. If not, it could easily become infected. If you can’t get everything out of the wound using the above procedure, then go see your healthcare professional for treatment.

When You Need Stitches

Most minor road rash won’t bleed much. But if your wound has not stopped bleeding after 15 minutes of direct-applied pressure, or if your cuts extend deep into the skin, or the edges of the cut has pulled apart, then you most likely are going to need stitches.

Tetanus Risk

While tetanus is usually associated with stepping on a rusty nail, you can develop it in skin that has been torn or burned. As a precaution, if you have not had a tetanus shot within 10 years, it is a good idea to get another booster shot.

Dressing the Wound

Once the wound is clean, cover the entire wound with semipermeable dressing such as Tegaderm, Bioclusive or Second Skin. Secure the dressing with adhesive tape made to secure bandages to healthy skin. Remove the dressing every couple of days and check for infection or to see how the wound is healing. Keep the wound moist and covered until healed.

Preventing Rash Guard

Of course one way to prevent road rash, besides not falling off of your bike, is to wear clothing made to protect you in case of falls. Rash guard clothing not only covers exposed skin and protects you from sunburn, but it also lessens the severity of road rash should you fall off of your bike.

Being observant of what is going on around you and obeying all safety rules will minimize the chance of falling and suffering road rash. However in the event that it happens, clean and dress the wound according to the tips in this article.

8 Tips to Prevent Injury When You Crash Your Bike

Statistically on average you’ll crash your bike for every 4,500 miles ridden. In 2010 in the U.S. alone, 515,000 cyclists visited an emergency room due to cycle-related injuries. The point … crashes happen while riding regardless of how careful you are, and they most likely will happen to you at some point in time. But there are some things you can do to lessen your chances of making that trip to the emergency room:

1. Do a pre-ride bike check – Make sure your bike is functioning properly before riding it by checking tire pressure, chain tension, brakes, lights and for loose or missing hardware, such as bolts, screws or nuts.

2. Know the rules of the road – Know all the traffic laws and safety hand signals as they can vary from city to city and state to state. Make a left turn by extending your left arm out straight to your side; to turn right, bend your left elbow and hold your arm up in an “L” shape; to stop, hold your left arm in an upside-down “L” shape.

3. Ride on less traveled streets – With less traffic to share the road with, you reduce your chance of an accident with a resulting injury.

4. Ride near the curb – Good advice, but remember to stay at least a car door’s width away from parked cars, in case someone opens their car door right in front of you.

5. Ride defensively with traffic – Obey the two-second rule. When the car in front of you passes a fixed object, begin counting. If you get to that object before you count to two, you’re following too closely. Always keep both hands resting on the brakes so you can stop quick if need be and keep an eye out for potholes, rocks, and other obstacles in addition to traffic.

6. Don’t wear loose clothing – If not wearing cycling clothes, clip your pants to avoid getting them caught in the bike’s moving parts, such as gears, brakes and chain.

7. Wear a helmet – Wearing a helmet is the best protection you can have against suffering a head or traumatic brain injury (TBI). Be sure to buy one with the foam liner molded into the hard shell verses one that is glued in the shell. Also look for an adjustable chinstrap and head retention system.

8. Increase your visibility – In most cases, you’ll do this if you wear a helmet as many of them today come in bright colors. However you can take that one-step further by wearing fluorescent clothing during the day, if nothing more than a bright orange mesh vest, or reflective clothing during low-light conditions. Also make sure you have a white light on the front and a blinking red light on the rear of your bike.

Sharing the roadway with other traffic is inherently dangerous, but you can lessen your chance of injury by following the above 8 tips when riding.  Be safe, ride smart!

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