Before jumping on the old bicycle, remember these tips

Robert Pore

Higher fuel costs and the need for better physical fitness are driving a growing number of people to the streets.

But instead of driving their cars, they are riding their bicycles.

"We are selling a lot more bikes than we ever have in the past," said John Wayne, owner of Wayne Cyclery of Grand Island, Neb. "We are repairing a lot more bikes than we have in the past. A lot more people are riding."

Wayne said the upside is that, while people are buying bikes because of high gas prices, they're also finding out they really like riding bikes, and it's good for their health, too.

"While they are saving a dollar or two on gas, they are also doing something fun with the family, helping their body, and it's an all-around plus thing for everybody," he said.

And with gas prices more than $4 per gallon, a new bike costs about what it takes to fill your gas tank over a month's time.

But with more people buying new bikes or repairing old ones, Wayne said having your bike in good riding condition and being safe on the roads are important.

Tires, chains, brakes

Before riding, Wayne suggests that the tires are up to full pressure.

"Every tire will say on the side of the tire what the tire pressure needs to be," he said. "When you air your tires to the right pressure, your bike will ride better, you won't pick up thorns as easily, and it will make the enjoyment better."

Wayne also recommends that the bicycle chains are well greased "and the bike is clean and safe to ride."

Also, make sure the brakes work, Wayne said.


"We also definitely promote helmet use," he said. "I have fallen several times myself, and a helmet has saved my life. I have broken the helmet every time I have fallen, and that would have been my head."

When choosing a helmet, make sure it complies with Consumer Product Safety Commission Federal Standards, and then make sure it's worn properly, said Debbie Richardson of the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service.

Follow these guides for purchasing and wearing a helmet.

- The helmet should be smooth, fit comfortably and not move when the head is jerked from side to side.

- It should sit parallel to the ground, not tilted back, with about an inch between the eyebrows and the edge of the helmet.

- Straps should always be latched when riding a bike. Straps should fit snugly but not too tightly. The clasp on each side of the head should be situated just below the ears, and you should be able to put a finger under the closed strap against the neck.

- Use the pads provided by the manufacturer and the strap adjustments to get a good fit. Try several helmets on, as not all helmets fit all heads.

- Avoid child helmets with snag points, a squared-off shell, inadequate vents, excessive vents, an extreme aero shape, dark colors and thin straps.

- Do not use a helmet after it has been involved in an accident. Even very small cracks in the helmet may greatly reduce a helmet's effectiveness in preventing injury.

As a vehicle

When it comes to the rider's safety, Wayne said it's important for a bicycle rider to remember the bike is a vehicle.

"You need to ride as far to the right that is safe, and you need to watch other traffic," he said. "A car or truck is a lot bigger than a bicycle, and if you go against one, you are going to lose."

A big misconception a lot of riders have, Wayne said, is that bicycles should be riding against traffic.

"You walk against traffic, but you ride with traffic," Wayne said. "There's nothing more disconcerting for a car driver than to see a bicycle coming at you in your lane."

Rules of the road

Along with wearing a helmet and obeying traffic signals and laws, additional bicycle safety tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission include:

- Give cars and pedestrians the right of way.

- Be extra careful when turning left.

- Stay in complete control of the bike and keep hands on the handlebars.

- Never wear headphones when riding because they impair hearing.

- See and be seen. Wear light or bright-colored clothing for motorists to see.

- Avoid biking at night, especially children who are four times more likely to be injured when riding in low light (nighttime, dawn or dusk) than in daylight. If riding at night, equip your bicycle with head and tail lights and wear reflective clothing.

In Nebraska, you could get a ticket if you're riding at night without head or tail lights or some type of rear reflector on your bike.

"You have to be defensive," Wayne said. "You watch what's going on around you and be very observant and try to be as safe of a rider as you can."

Even though a bicyclist has a right on the road, Wayne said, "if you want to ride tomorrow, you have to watch what's going on and be a safe rider. Just enjoy doing it."

Wayne also suggested having a rearview mirror on your bike.

"As you get older, your hearing gets worse, and newer cars are very quiet," he said. "If a car comes behind you, I want to see what's going on. I always have a mirror on my bicycle."

Wayne said bicycles are a fun thing, "but it is a machine and not a toy. They are a vehicle, just like a car or motorcycle or truck. They can make your life less expensive, there's less hassle, and it's a great way to relax in the evening.”

The Grand Island Independent