Commuting to work is a no-brainer: you get to combine travel with a workout, and it's cheaper than pretty much any form of public transport - as well as being quicker. However, if you're new to cycling, it can be daunting - the fear of cycling amongst traffic can put some people off, as can road obstacles, and the Great British weather.
Fear of these factors absolutely doesn't need to stop you riding - you just need to know what to be on the lookout for, and how to deal with situations that may arise. Here are some of the hazards you need to be aware of, and most importantly, how to deal with them...
Depending on your commuter bike of choice, it's a good idea to avoid potholes, especially if you don't have any front suspension, as most riders don't.
Potholes can be a hazard for a number of reasons. If you have no suspension, and skinny tires, they can easily throw you off balance and cause you to wobble, and of course repeatedly riding through potholes can cause damage and excessive wear to your wheels and rims.
When potholes are full of rain water, they are even more of a hazard for cyclists because you can't see what objects and dangers may be lurking beneath, so do be extra careful in wet weather.
Though less common, tram lines are another annoying hazard - there might not be many in your area, but if there are check out this advice from cyclocross pro Helen Wyman.
It almost goes without saying, but riding over broken glass is a big no-no. Sadly, tyres are not bombproof and even the smallest shards can have you changing and inner-tube in no time.
It isn't just the tyres you have to watch out for either. If you cycling over loose rocks, gravel and broken glass, there's always the risk of debris getting kicked up into the frame - this won't cause any structural damage, but it's always a shame to scratch your much-loved beauty!
A driver turning across the path of a cyclist is one of the biggest causes of collisions. Though both parties need to pay attention, common advice is to ride defensively - never assume you've been seen. If you see a vehicle indicating, stay clear of it and be aware and look around as you cross junctions - even if it is your right of way.
When stopped at a red light, be wary of cars turning left - especially if it's a large vehicle such as a lorry or bus. It's best to position yourself at a safe distance from the vehicle and ensure you're in their line of sight. If possible, give them a wave, just to make sure they're aware of you!
If you ride in more rural areas, country roads or in the mornings and evenings when the roads are less busy, you need to watch out for wildlife. It's not uncommon to be cycling down the road and see a fox run out into your path, or a squirrel jumps out from a tree.
Birds are the biggest wildlife hazards, and ones to watch out for as they can take off, or appear to fly right at you. If you approach a cluster of birds pecking away at the pavement, give them a wide berth!
The best way to prepare for all of the above is to give yourself the best line of sight - a good set of lights for use in low light can make all the difference, and high lumen versions really can show up the road just like car headlights.
Gravel can be a pain for road and commuter cyclists. It's rough, loose and it rolls beneath you. If you cannot find a smoother line around, or through, the gravel road then the best you can do is knuckle down and maintain a constant pace.
Riding too slow will cause you to hesitate, wobble and even have an accident. Braking can lead to skidding and going too fast is never the safest option. Keep a strong body position on the bike, and pedal and a consistent and comfortable pace through - we've got more advice here.
There are some things that we just can't control, like the weather.
Although there is some brilliant waterproof urban wear on the market, the weather can cause hazards on the road. When it rains, potholes fill with water, and surfaces can become more slippery, which can lead to additional dangers to watch out for. We've got an entire post dedicated to helping you with this, but the key advice is simply, to slow down a little bit to allow for extra braking time.
Similarly, ice can be a serious problem and often takes you and your bike, by surprise. Avoid iced over puddles, or puddles in general, and if the conditions are icy, prepare yourself and the bike before hand with the advice in this article.
Possible dangers don't need to put you off riding - you just need to be aware of them, ensuring you're armed with the knowledge of how to deal with issues that could crop up. The best thing you can do is be vigilant, and ensure you and your bike are prepared for all conditions.
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