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Professional Cyclists Share 8 Tips for Biking Safely

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Cycling has never been more popular: Upwards of 104 million Americans ride bikes each year. At the same time, more than half of them worry about their safety and the possibility of being hit by a car, according to a survey from Breakaway Research Group [PDF]. But staying safe on your ride is pretty simple as long as you’re paying attention.

“It’s really important to be aware of the people and the traffic around you when you’re on the bike,” says Tim Johnson, Cannondale ambassador and former professional cyclist. “Learning to ride deliberately and defensively is key for staying safe on the bike.” For more tips on how to do that by avoiding flats, falling, and collisions, keep reading.

1. TUNE UP REGULARLY.

If you notice a rusty chain or cracked tire, you definitely want to take your bike to the shop for a tune-up. But it’s a good idea to take it in occasionally even if everything seems A-OK. “Regular checkups are necessary for safety and catching any small problems before they become bigger issues,” says Josh Vick, director of product development for Schwinn. As a general rule, take your bike in for a tune-up at least once a year.

2. PUMP IT UP.

Keeping your wheels at the proper pressure—which varies depending on the type of tire—can make you less likely to get a flat. Consider asking your bike shop about installing tubeless tires on your bike (most bike tires have an inner tube, inside of the rubber casing; the tube is usually what gets a hole and needs to be replaced or patched when you get a flat). “With a tubeless tire, it uses a sealant liquid that will plug any holes automatically,” says Johnson, so you won’t have to stop suddenly or take time to fix the flat.

3. BRAKE WITH BOTH HANDS.

It might seem overkill to clamp down on your brakes with both of your hands, but trying to slow down with only one can set you up for a crash. “Use just the front brake and you might pull too hard, which can cause you to lose control,” says Vick. Likewise, “too much rear brake can cause the bike to skid.” 

Also, adds Johnson, make sure your brakes are properly adjusted. “A lot of people have brakes that have fallen out of adjustment, or if a wheel is crooked, the brakes will rub and don’t work as well,” he says. Also, if there’s anything that has lessened traction on the road (like water, sand, or leaves), give yourself more time to brake, so you can do so gradually and avoid skids. 

4. LOOK WHERE YOU WANT TO GO.

As a general rule, where you set your sight is the direction your bike will take. “Going into a descent or a turn, the No. 1 thing you can do is look where you’re going,” says Johnson. “If you’re staring at the pavement in front of your front wheel, you don’t see what’s coming around the corner.” He advises scanning far ahead, paying attention for people or cars that might come into your path.

5. FOLLOW TRAFFIC RULES.

Because a bike is smaller, thinner, and less forceful than a car, it’s tempting to think regular traffic laws shouldn’t apply to you. But you want to ride your bike as though you’re driving a car, says Johnson. “Stay in your lane, don’t whip through red lights—because it keeps you safer by letting cars know what to expect. You want to ride in a way that cars can kind of know what you’re up to and you can adjust.”

6. KEEP YOUR DISTANCE.

When riding on a busy street or amid other cyclists and pedestrians on a pathway, keeping some space between yourself and others is essential for avoiding a crash. “Using hand signals will help other riders navigate around you, and be sure to also pay attention to other riders’ signals,” suggests Vick. Look ahead for potholes or other obstacles and start swerving around them as soon as possible, says Johnson, to give people behind you time to respond. 

7. ASSUME THE POSITION.

How you position yourself on the bike can help you feel stable as your navigate curves in the road and turns. Try to hold the majority of your body weight over the center of the bike, not putting too much pressure forward on the handlebars, says Johnson: “Almost all of your weight should be over your two feet.” He suggests thinking about it as though you’re squatting over the bike ever so slightly.

8. GO ON THE DEFENSIVE.

As a rule of thumb, when you’re on the bike, you should imagine you’re invisible. “In the city, ride as if no one ever sees you,” says Johnson. “People who ride in the city successfully ride with the assumption that no one sees them and if they don’t look out for themselves, they might get hit by a car.” 

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3 Reasons Why Your New Year's Resolutions Fail—and How to Fix Them
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You don’t need a special day to come up with goals, but New Year’s Day is as good a time as any to build better habits. The problem is, by the time February rolls around, our best laid plans have often gone awry. Don’t let it happen this year: Heed these three simple tips for fail-proof resolutions.

PROBLEM 1: THEY’RE TOO OVERWHELMING

Let’s say your goal is to pay off $5000 worth of credit card debt this year. Since you're giving yourself a long timeframe (all year) to pay it down, you end up procrastinating or splurging, telling yourself you’ll make up for it later. But the longer you push it off, the bigger and more overwhelming your once-reasonable goal can feel.

Solution: Set Smaller Milestones

The big picture is important, but connecting your goal to the present makes it more digestible and easier to stick with. Instead of vowing to pay off $5000 by the end of next December, make it your resolution to put $96 toward your credit card debt every week, for example.

In a study from the University of Wollongong, researchers asked subjects to save using one of two methods: a linear model and a cyclical model. In the linear model, the researchers told subjects that saving for the future was important and asked them to set aside money accordingly. In contrast, they told the cyclical group:

This approach acknowledges that one’s life consists of many small and large cycles, that is, events that repeat themselves. We want you to think of the personal savings task as one part of such a cyclical life. Make your savings task a routinized one: just focus on saving the amount that you want to save now, not next month, not next year. Think about whether you saved enough money during your last paycheck cycle. If you saved as much as you wanted, continue with your persistence. If you did not save enough, make it up this time, with the current paycheck cycle.

When subjects used this cyclical model, focusing on the present, they saved more than subjects who focused on their long-term goal.

PROBLEM 2: THEY'RE TOO VAGUE

“Find a better job” is a worthy goal, but it's a bit amorphous. It's unclear what "better" means to you, and it’s difficult to plot the right course of action when you’re not sure what your desired outcome is. Many resolutions are vague in this way: get in shape, worry less, spend more time with loved ones.

Solution: Make Your Goal a SMART One

To make your goal actionable, it should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. When you set specific parameters and guidelines for your goal, it makes it easier to come up with an action plan. Under a bit more scrutiny, "spend more time with loved ones" might become "invite my best friends over for dinner every other Sunday night." This new goal is specific, measurable, time-bound—it ticks all the boxes and tells you exactly what you want and how to get there.

PROBLEM 3: YOU FELL FOR THE “FALSE FIRST STEP”

“A false first step is when we try to buy a better version of ourselves instead of doing the actual work to accomplish it,” Anthony Ongaro of Break the Twitch tells Mental Floss. “The general idea is that purchasing something like a heart rate monitor can feel a lot like we're taking a step towards our fitness goals,” Ongaro says. “The purchase itself can give us a dopamine release and a feeling of satisfaction, but it hasn't actually accomplished anything other than spending some money on a new gadget.”

Even worse, sometimes that dopamine is enough to lure you away from your goal altogether, Ongaro says. “That feeling of satisfaction that comes with the purchase often is good enough that we don't feel the need to actually go out for a run and use it.”

Solution: Start With What You Already Have

You can avoid this trap by forcing yourself to start your goal with the resources you already have on hand. “Whether the goal is to learn a new language or improve physical fitness, the best way to get started and avoid the false first step is to do the best you can with what you already have,” Ongaro says. “Start really small, even learning one new word per day for 30 days straight, or just taking a quick walk around the block every day.”

This isn’t to say you should never buy anything related to your goal, though. As Ongaro points out, you just want to make sure you’ve already developed the habit a bit first. “Establish a habit and regular practice that will be enhanced by a product you may buy,” he says. “It's likely that you won't even need that gadget or that fancy language learning software once you actually get started ... Basically, don't let buying something be the first step you take towards meaningful change in your life.”

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6 Tips for Achieving Your Fitness Resolutions in 2018
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If the holiday season makes visions of sugar plums dance in your head, the caloric austerity plan you have in mind for the new year will feel like a rude awakening. Between snacks, drinks, and the main meal, the average American consumes over 4500 calories on Thanksgiving Day alone, and with a calendar full of holiday parties, this over-indulgent lifestyle usually persists until January 1.

For anyone who’s planning to pursue a fitness- and health-related New Year's resolution, it’s important to start preparing before the clock strikes midnight on December 31—it's nearly impossible to make a drastic lifestyle change at the drop of a hat. Use these expert tips to get a head-start on your fitness goals in order to maximize your success.

1. DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE DEDICATION NEEDED TO MAKE A CHANGE.

It takes a lot of patience and persistence to follow through on your fitness goals. “The problem that most people run into is that they don’t think through what they’re getting into,” says Dean Gavindane, a certified personal trainer and CEO/co-founder of SuperMe Performance.

Gavindane says that underestimating the level of commitment needed to stick to a new fitness routine is common because people see their fitness goals “as a sprint instead of a marathon.” Understanding that your new diet and workout routine won't achieve results overnight is the first step to shedding pounds and toning up.

2. START COUNTING YOUR CALORIES.

Losing weight is a simple math problem: Eat fewer calories than you burn each day. In order to count calories effectively, you therefore need to know how many you are taking in through your food as well as how many you are expelling when you exercise. Use a fitness tracker and a calorie-counting app to help you make smart snacking choices during the holidays.

3. KEEP A FOOD DIARY.

Jen Hazzard, cross country coach and adjunct chemistry and physics professor at Fulton-Montgomery Community College, has her clients keep a food diary where they record what they eat on a daily basis, using each day as a benchmark for the next. She says the diary is a way to be honest with yourself and to change the way you think about your nutrition changes. “I avoid the term diet,” says Hazzard. “It suggests giving up things you love for things you don’t like. You should never make fitness about denial, but about finding a middle ground. A good start to finding that middle ground is treating certain meals like rewards.”

Hazzard also says that by cutting out processed and junk foods, you’d be surprised at the quantity of healthy food you can consume without gaining weight. There’s no shame in filling up the pages of your food diary as long as they’re healthy foods.

4. STICK IT OUT FOR 66 DAYS.

Hazzard has also worked as a consultant for a wellness program called Commit to 66, which is based on a 2009 study that showed the average length of time it took participants to form a new habit was 66 days [PDF]. It's important to remember that 66 days was the study's average, so it may take you more or less time. What’s important is setting a long-term goal to help you curb your impulses as well as keep from getting discouraged.

5. DON'T BE AFRAID TO EXPERIMENT WITH FITNESS.

It's easy to get in a rut at the gym (do you head to the elliptical every time you're there?), but keeping an open mind about your physicality and trying new things is an important part of shedding weight. "Simple yet effective exercises and workouts can be done in several different ways depending upon the time allowed and equipment provided,” says Tiffany Tatlock, a certified personal trainer, meal planner, and competitive bodybuilder.

6. INCORPORATE BODYWEIGHT WORKOUTS INTO YOUR ROUTINE AT HOME.

If a gym isn’t available for you (or if it feels sub-Arctic outside and you can't bear to leave the warmth of your home) it’s still possible to get in a great workout, no equipment required. Here are some body-weight circuits that Tatlock has suggested that can be performed at home and aren’t very time-consuming.

Set 1:
Floor Touch Squats (10 reps)
Wide-Grip Push-Ups (10 reps)
Squat Jumps (10 reps)
Full Tuck Crunch (10 reps)
Rest (60 seconds)

Set 2:
Forward and Backward Lunge (10 reps each leg)
Tricep Dips (10 reps)
High Knee Skips (10 reps each leg)
Bicycle Crunch (30 seconds)
Rest (60 seconds)

Set 3:
Flutter Kicks (30 seconds)
Swimming Plank (10 reps each side)
Diagonal Squat Thrust (5 reps each side)
Toe Touch Beetle Crunch (10 reps)
Rest (60 seconds)

Set 4:
Lateral Lunges (10 reps each leg)
Close-Grip Push-Ups (10 reps)
Single-Leg Skater Squat (10 reps each leg)
Vertical Leg Lift (10 reps)
Rest (60 seconds)

Set 5:
Plank (30 seconds)
Skydiver (30 seconds)
Tick-Tock Squats (10 reps each leg)
Spinal Rock-Up (10 reps)
Rest (60 seconds)

Completing sets one through five marks one round, and Tatlock advises performing up to five rounds in your workout session. “Effective and great workouts are all about giving it your all,” Tatlock says. “Typically, three to four of these sessions per week can be effective when the gym isn’t achievable.”

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