Riding a bike is a great way to enjoy fresh air and get a healthy cardiovascular work out, not to mention the fun of riding with the family.
In order to stay safe when riding, there are some important checks you need to make to your bicycle and its safety equipment.
Helmets are such a crucial part of bicycle safety that 21 states have laws that require youngsters to wear them while riding a bike, due to the risk of brain injury in the event of a fall. To ensure safety, a helmet should have an approval sticker from the Consumer Product Safety Commission that says it meets their standards. Make sure the helmet fits correctly. It should fit level on your head, without tipping backwards or twisting sideways. You must fasten the safety strap snugly, so the helmet remains in the proper position while riding.
Related: Bike helmet fit guide
Especially if you ride your bike in the dark, bright clothes are important to ensure visibility. Avoid wearing dark colors, and make sure clothing does not hang down near the bike’s chain or tires where it could become entangled. A reflective vest or reflective tape applied to the helmet also aids in visibility. Closed toed shoes are a must for riding, and tie laces tightly.
It is important to make sure you're not riding a bike that is too big for your frame. When standing, there should be at least 1 inch between you and the top bar. Adjust the seat so that your leg is slightly bent when the pedal is extended.
Prominently displayed reflectors are a must for the front and back of the bike. If you ride in heavy traffic areas, an orange flag that extends several feet above the bike helps motorists see the bike more easily.
Before riding, check all of the bolts around the handlebars, seat and wheels for tightness. Inspect the chain for wear or damage, and add oil as recommended by the manufacturer so that it moves freely and smoothly. Test your brakes, and fill tires with the appropriate amount of air for the type of riding you plan to do. If the tires are low on air, examine the tire to make sure there are no obvious leaks or cracks in the material.
Related: City of Seattle interactive bike map