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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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Health
This Fitness Startup Lets You Pay for Gym Time by the Minute
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In a perfect world, factors like time, money, and convenience would never stand in the way of your workouts. But as anyone who’s signed up for a gym membership and never got around to using it knows, that isn't always the case. A new startup aims to make fitness more accessible to people who are unwilling or unable to make a serious financial commitment up front. As Fast Company reports, POPiN lets users at several participating health clubs in New York City pay for gym time by the minute whenever they want.

The concept applies sharing economy principles to the fitness industry. Members with the app on their iPhone or Android phone can choose from four gyms currently partnered with the startup. Each center includes luxurious amenities that are normally exclusive to members paying roughly $200 a month. With POPiN, users can walk in, check in with the front desk, pay $.15 to $.26 for each minute they’re there, and check out before they leave. A 45-minute workout might end up costing them around $8.

The average gym membership goes for nearly $60 a month, and gyms depend on the fact that a significant chunk of their customers let memberships go to waste. POPiN claims it is designed for people who might be more comfortable hitting the treadmill every day one week and taking a break from the gym the next, as opposed to adhering to a strict schedule. With a variety of fitness centers in their system, POPiN also wants to give its users greater access to a diverse range of equipment than they would get with a single gym.

The app has been around for only a few months and is limited to New York City for now, but the long-term plan is to expand to more cities across the country within the year. If you’re still waiting for POPiN to arrive in your area, here are some more app-based ways to improve your exercise regimen today.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Animals
15 Examples of the Most Epic Metamorphoses from Youth to Adult
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We’re all familiar with the most dramatic metamorphosizers of the animal kingdom: butterflies. They go from a tiny egg to an awkward wiggling caterpillar to mysterious pupa to a delicate, colorful winged creature. However, there are many other animals besides butterflies that undergo dramatic transformations from youth to adult. Here are 15 of the most epic metamorphoses seen in nature.

1. LADYBUGS (COCCINELLIDAE)

What’s black, white, and red all over? Many ladybugs are—but only in their final stage of life. Turns out these little beetles undergo one of the most epic metamorphoses in the animal kingdom: For most species, after adult female ladybugs mate, they lay a clutch of tiny yellow eggs right in the middle of an aphid colony, usually on the underside of a leaf. Eggs hatch in a week, revealing spiky black worm-like larvae that readily gobble up the aphids around them. When a larva is fully grown, it changes into a blob-like yellow pupa. Finally, the black, white and red (or sometimes yellow or orange) insect appears.

2. MAYFLY (EPHEMEROPTERA)

Mayflies, the less-elegant cousins of dragonflies and damselflies, have one of the most unique metamorphoses of all insects. Most insects’ life stages move from egg to nymph to pupa to adult, but mayflies do not have a pupa stage. Instead, it is the only type of insect to undergo a subimago stage, meaning it’s almost an adult in the sense it grows wings … but cannot fly long distances and isn’t yet sexually mature. The mayfly’s final life stage, the fully flighted and sexually mature imago or adult, is extremely short, lasting just a few hours to a few days.

3. PEACOCK SPIDER (MARATUS)

Left: Jurgen Otto, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; Right: Jurgen Otto, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Peacock spiders are tiny, venomous, and beautiful (especially the colorfully rumped males) arthopods native to Australia. Male peacock spiders are so beautiful, in fact, it’s hard to believe that, like all spiders, they go through some not-so-glamorous life stages: egg, egg sac, spiderling, adult. When male peacock spiders reach sexual maturity they try to seduce less-colorful female peacock spiders by performing a showy dance.

4. NUDIBRANCH (NUDIBRANCHIA)

While adult nudibranchs are essentially colorful and ornate blobs of the sea, they don’t start out that way. In fact, after hatching, nudibranch larvae are tiny, plain-looking and have small snail-like shells. Over the course of two months they morph from this plain stage into adults, along the way getting larger and more colorful, losing their shells, and growing gills and feelers, called rhinophores.

5. CROWN OF THORNS STARFISH (ACANTHASTER PLANCI)

Another sea creature that looks completely different as an adult than a juvenile is the crown of thorns starfish. When looking at an adult, it’s easy to see where this creature gets its name: It’s completely covered with dangerous-looking sharp spikes. But after hatching, it looks like not much more than a translucent, floating blob. Over time it grows arms, and later, spikes, then fixes itself to rocks where it feeds on coral.

6. IMMORTAL JELLYFISH (TURRITOPSIS DOHRNII)

The secret to a long and prosperous life, it turns out, is to be a jellyfish. The aptly named immortal jellyfish begins life as an egg, like all other jellies. It then enters the free-swimming larva stage, then settles down into a polyp on the ocean floor, and then finally morphs into a sexually mature jellyfish. Unlike most other jellies, an immortal jellyfish is capable of reverting back into the polyp stage at any time it faces environmental stress, attacks by predators, sickness or old age—essentially being reborn as a young jelly.

7. FLATFISH (PLEURONECTIFORMES)

Think of Pablo Picasso’s most asymmetrically painted human face, stick it onto a fish, and there you have a flatfish. These fish, which include flounder and sole among other species, begin life inside tiny eggs that float up to the surface of the sea. For a few weeks, a larval flatfish swims upright and looks just like a typical baby fish. But after a few weeks its skull bones shift and one eye migrates to the opposite side of its face, forcing the now-lopsided fish to swim sideways. Eventually, when its facial features all move to one side of its face, it changes color and moves to live on the bottom of the sea, its blind side facing down.

8. EASTERN HELLBENDER (CRYPTOBRANCHUS ALLEGANIENSIS)

Left: Pete and Noe Woods, Flickr // CC BY 2.0; Right: Projosh More, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Also called the snot otter and devil dog, the eastern hellbender is a giant type of salamander not exactly known for being beautiful in its adult form. Slippery, wrinkly and the color of mud, they’re right at home at the bottom of rivers, where they can live up to 50 years. Like all salamanders, hellbenders begin as eggs. From their eggs they hatch, coming into the world small and adorable. As time passes, they grow larger and less cute.

9. CHALAZODES BUBBLE NEST FROG (RAORCHESTES CHALAZODES)

Don’t let this lime-green frog’s bright and cheery looks fool you: It lives in only one tiny area in India and is critically endangered, threatened most by an ever-shrinking habitat. These creatures were once believed to lay eggs that developed into tadpoles on pond surfaces like many other frogs. But in 2014, it was discovered that they had a different reproductive strategy: The frogs crawl into a living bamboo shoot that has a hole in it (probably created by insects or rodents) and lay their eggs there. The creatures skip the tadpole stage entirely, hatching as froglets. Because they don't have a tadpole stage, the species doesn't require water to lay its eggs.

10. MIMIC POISON DART FROG (RANITOMEYA IMITATOR)

Mattias Starkenberg, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Covered in bright hues spotted, striped, banded, and blotched with contrasting black, the poison dart frog is one of the most striking-looking of all amphibians. Yet they don’t start out that way. After hatching, young mimic poison dart frogs are looked after by their mother, who lays a clutch of unfertilized feeder eggs to provide them with some nourishment (and, at least for some species of poison dart frog, toxicity). Tadpoles are brown and black, growing more colorful with age until they reach their fantastic adult form.

11. KEA (NESTOR NOTABILIS)

The kea is a large, vulnerable species of parrot native to New Zealand, with green and blue feathers on its back and brown and orange feathers on its underside. While adult keas appear majestic and beautiful, they don’t start out that way. Baby keas retain an alien-like, sparse white hairdo for several months after hatching. Keas are considered a very intelligent species, observed working together and using tools.

12. LAYSAN ALBATROSS (PHOEBASTRIA IMMUTABILIS)

Laysan albatrosses are another species of bird where the babies are very little like their parents. But unlike baby keas, baby Laysan albatrosses hatch as adorable fuzzy gray blobs. As they grow older, the babies slowly grow adult feathers and lose their baby feathers. This leaves them with unique hairdos that sometimes make them look like human celebrities. Ringo Starr, anyone?

13. FLAMINGO (PHOENICOPTERUS)

Left: Getty Images // Right: iStock

Unlike keas and albatrosses, baby flamingoes look a lot like their parents, except they’re missing something: color. Flamingo chicks hatch with gray and/or white feathers, over time taking on the same pink hue as their parents, which becomes more intense over time. Why? Well, you are what you eat, and flamingoes eat shrimp and algae rich in carotenoids, the same pigments that cause shrimp to turn pink when cooked.

14. VIRGINIA OPOSSUM (DIDELPHIS VIRGINIANA)

Virginia opossums are scavengers, eating carrion and rotting vegetation, and that helps keep the environment clean. Virginia opossums are native to North America, where they’re the continent’s only living marsupials. These opossums have pouches for carrying their babies, just like kangaroos. Also like kangaroos they give birth to large numbers of navy-bean-size babies, which grow inside their pouches. When they’re born, they look more like pink jellybeans than animals. Over the course of three to five months, they mature, growing fur, sharp teeth and long tails.

15. GIANT PANDA (AILUROPODA MELANOLEUCA)

Getty Images

Giant pandas are called giant pandas for a reason: They’re enormous in size, weighing up to 250 pounds. But these bamboo-munching bears don’t start out that way. When born, giant panda cubs weigh just 90 to 130 grams (about as much as a small apple). Besides being way smaller in size, baby pandas are also quite sparsely furred—and so they look very different than what they will as fuzzy black-and-white adults.

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