Thursday 20 April 2017

Cycling Safety: Tech and Tips to Keep You Safe!

The weather is finally starting to improve enough for consistent outdoor cycling, and I'm sure many of you (like myself) are eager to get outside riding!  But unlike riding on the indoor trainer, outdoor cycling is accompanied by some risk, with the greatest risk coming from distracted drivers.

Distracted driving is an issue that now hits close to home for my family and I.  Last fall, my mom was seriously injured when a driver didn't feel like stopping at a red light before making a right hand turn.  The result was her being hit, then getting trapped under the car and dragged for 5-10 metres.  The incident left her with a broken nose, ribs, a seriously swollen face, and some serious road rash.
Fortunately, she has now more or less completely healed of her physical injuries, but like with all traumatic incidents, she is still left with the memory of being run over.

The helmet my mom was wearing saved her life, but regrettably, a helmet isn't much good at helping prevent crashes.  This year, I'm stepping up my safety game with some cool, proactive safety gear, and doing my best to be visible on the road.  Here are the three main things/pieces of technology that I am trying this year:    

Daytime Running Lights

We all more or less know we need to have lights on when riding at dusk or at night, but what about during the day?  A strong front and rear light blinking during a daytime ride will alert a car to your presence far before they reach you.  This gives them plenty of time to prepare themselves to safely pass you.  If they are distracted (phone, passengers, etc), the light will ideally be bright enough to catch their attention and get them to re-focus on driving/passing you safely.

A daytime light however needs to be much brighter than your 30 lumen nighttime blinker.  A car won't see that light (the 30 lumen light) until they are +-100m away from you, which is probably less than 5 seconds until they pass.  
The daytime rear light I am running is 200 lumens, and will be visible from over 1km on a bright sunny day.  This is to say, a car will see this light before they see you, your bike, or your high visibility jersey, giving them plenty of time to prepare for a safe pass.

My rear light: Dinotte Quad Red.  Its expensive, but the best you can get.  The video below is a short clip of this light on my bike.
A cheaper, but still good option: Lupine Rotlicht.

My front light: Dinotte Quad Amber.  Same price as the Quad Red, so its pricy (you can buy them in a bundle for a slight discount).  The Amber colour has much better visibility for DAYTIME riding than a regular white light, so it is worth investing in one.
The minimum lumen for your REAR light should be no less than 100 lumen.  Anything less, and the light won't really serve much purpose during the day. lights are cheap for a reason!
The front/rear Dinotte lights

Livetrack/Incident Detection

This is a feature you likely already have, but don't know about.  All of the new Garmin devices offer what they call livetrack, which is essentially just tracking. The livetrack works by linking your Garmin device up with your phone and relaying your position via satellites.  This allows family or friends (who are back at home) to view your ride or check where you are (very useful if you are out longer than usual or they do not know what route you took).  You will need to have data on your phone for this to work (something I didn't know about), but it uses only around 1mb of data per hour of riding, so it won't strain your data plan.

This is just an example off Google, but it is something similar to what viewers at home will see

The incident detection is a feature that is unique to the Garmin 820 Edge (which is the unit I recently purchased).  This feature works via accelerometers built into the unit, which after detecting a crash will send out an automatic emergency message through your phone (again, phone and Garmin must be connected, and data on).  The Garmin will text or email three preselected contacts with a message saying you have had a crash, and will also send them your location.
Hopefully this is a feature I don't actually have to use, but if worse comes to worst, it is a very valuable feature (which is not available on any other Garmin bike computers at this time).  

High Visibility Clothing

The final thing I am doing this year to be safer on the road is to wear high visibility clothing while riding.  This includes riding in florescent yellow jerseys, or at the very least, brightly coloured jerseys that will stand out on the road.  There are a lot of options here for what will work, but some of my favourite items are my Castelli Gabba jersey (in bright yellow), my pink Gillet, and my bright blue Bianchi jersey.  The idea here is just to avoid wearing darker colours (especially in spring fall when you need to wear a jacket, most of which are dark colours).

Castelli Gabba in yellow.  Great for standing out on overcast days  

Like I noted above, a car won't see your brightly coloured jersey from a far distance, but they will see your light, making the light in my opinion, the better of the two.  The jersey is definitely a nice final touch of extra visibility on the road, but without a light, offers limited safety value.

Final Thoughts

After testing out this gear for the past month or so of spring riding, I can confidently say I am feeling much safer on the road.  Cars definitely seem to be taking notice of me and affording me plenty of space when they pass (and often times slowing down to pass as well).  The livetrack feature of my Garmin also has been very reassuring to my family back home (especially when I got caught out in last weeks thunderstorm).  All in all, these are some great pieces of tech that I would highly recommend as you get back to cycling on the roads.  Safe riding!


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