January 20, 2022

Seven Tips to Stay Safe While Cycling

The advantages of exercising outdoors are many. In addition to increased physical benefits, outdoor exercise can lead to increased enjoyment and self-esteem, as well as decreased tension and depression. If you are in search of a good outdoor exercise, look no further than off-road cycling. Cycling builds muscle, increases bone density, and helps with everyday activities such as balance, walking, standing, and endurance. While there’s no doubt getting outside is beneficial, there are also risks. Follow these tips to stay healthy and safe while you enjoy your cycling adventure:

Dress for the weather

Whether it’s the dead of winter or the height of summer, lightweight, breathable workout attire is a must for outdoor exercise of any kind; when cycling comes into play, a helmet will be the most important part of your cycling attire. In addition, wear eye protection to not only prevent squinting, but also to protect your eyes from obstacles in your path such as low-hanging branches or vines. Wear long socks to prevent scratches and snags, and consider wearing light elbow and knee protection for extra safety.

As a general rule, you should dress as if it’s 15 to 20 degrees warmer than the thermometer reading. But be careful! In the winter, too many layers could leave you sweat-soaked and freezing. In the summer, choose synthetic, breathable fabrics like polyester, as natural fabrics like cotton can hold moisture and cause irritation. Additionally, you should always take care to protect exposed skin from the sun and the wind.

Activate your animal instincts

Depending on where your workout takes place, you could encounter anything from stray dogs to wild animals. When bike riding on trails in or near wooded areas, scan the ground for snakes and the rest of your surroundings for wildlife. While it’s unlikely you’ll see a bear or mountain lion in a populated area, raccoons, possums, and other wild animals are less skittish around humans. Even a seemingly tame dog or cat should be treated with caution, as they aren’t always friendly. Animals are more likely to engage with other animals.

If you are biking with your pup, it is important that you keep your dog safe from predators and other wild animals. Furthermore, make sure your dog is trail-trained, such as teaching him to follow as opposed to lead, leave wildlife alone when he is in trail mode, and respond quickly to your safe/emergency word.

Watch the forecast

It only takes a moment for a calm summer afternoon to give way to a vicious summer storm. While the rain won’t hurt you, accompanying lightning, hail, or flash floods definitely can. You should also know what to do if you get caught in a storm. First, look for a safe place to wait out the inclement weather. Get inside if you can, but if not, sit in your car or crouch under an overpass. If there is no other option, lie down in a storm drain or a flat area of grass until the storm passes. If water starts to rise around you, don’t try to outrun it. Find higher ground, and call emergency services immediately.

Know the area

When exercising outdoors, pick a place you know well and follow common sense safety rules: Bike only in the light of day. Always carry identification, and make sure a family member or friend knows where you’ll be. Leave valuables like watches and jewelry at home, but carry your phone. Bike without headphones to ensure you can hear your surroundings. If you are approached or called out by somebody you don’t know, keep moving. Moreover, consider carrying personal protection like mace or a whistle.

Take the path less traveled

A path to the unknown can be a good thing, especially if you are looking to switch up your typical exercise routine. Perhaps you are biking along a paved path in a nature preserve and happen to notice a dirt trail out of the corner of your eye. It might be tempting to give it a try, but off-road cycling is a completely different ball game than regular cycling, so make sure you are prepared with the right equipment to enjoy everything off-road cycling has to offer. Bring along a map or compass if you are unfamiliar with the area, and bring plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen in case your off-road adventure takes you farther than you planned.

Keep your valuables safe

It’s crucial that you keep your valuables safe while you're outdoors and focused on your exercise. This is especially true if you're traveling abroad, such as for a walkabout or cycling tour. If you're exploring exciting places like Kathmandu, Puerto Vallarta or Pico Duarte, things can be tricky if you hit a snag. To ensure you can hit the trails and roadways with peace of mind, you might want to set up an account with an inexpensive money transfer service before you leave home. For instance, Remitly offers a special rate on your first transfer to Brazil. And if it’s a transfer to Mexico, there’s a limited time offer of 20.90 pesos per US dollar on your first transfer.

Trust your gut

If during your workout you feel threatened or uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to take measures to ensure your own safety. Even if there is no visible threat, end your workout immediately if you get the sense that something is wrong. If you see a suspicious individual, keep your distance and maintain eye contact. If the individual approaches you, run away, blow your whistle, or dial 911. When it comes to your personal safety, “better safe than sorry” is the way to go .

If you think there are a lot of safety issues to consider before going out on your bike, you’re right. However, don’t worry that it’s too dangerous to enjoy a ride; just remember the old saying: “an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.” Keep these six tips in mind, and you can count on an enjoyable cycling experience!

Image via Pixabay