Exploring from the seat of a bicycle is an ideal way and pace to experience the diversity of the landscape and communities. Roads here, particularly the roads less travelled, twist and turn, with hills and valleys, bordering fields and wending through shady woodlands. No grid-patterns of roads here! Road builders followed the lay of the land, where granite ridges and lakes, wetlands and streams shaped the pattern of highways and byways.
For a safe and enjoyable ride, here is a collection of basic things to consider:
- Bike Check
- Gear Check
- Route Check
- Rules of the Road
- Rules of the Trail
- Enroute Repairs
- Links to Additional Resources
Ensure your bike is in good condition before setting out. Check the following and correct any problems, rather than letting them spoil your ride.
- Tires: no cuts or bruises, good tread, and enough air
- Wheels: rotate straight and freely; quick releases or wheel nuts are secure
- Drivetrain: pedals and crank bolts are tight, and pedals rotate freely; chain lubricated and running freely
- Handlebars: bolts tight; bars rotate freely
- Brakes: Adjusted properly and working; cables not frayed
- Seat: secure and at good height for you
- Accessories: racks, bags and other items are secure
- Shifting: works as you expect; cables not frayed
- Lights: for dim conditions at dawn, dusk, night and in the rain, ensure lights are working
- Dress for the weather and take along additional clothing (jacket, etc) for possible weather changes
- Check that your helmet is adjusted and fits well. Wear it!
- Generously apply sunscreen when conditions warrant
- Take a full water bottle for each hour you'll be riding. Know where you can stop for refills along the way. For hot weather, you'll need more, and consider using a sports drink as well.
- Sunglasses protect your eyes from bright sun and glare, as well as bugs, branches and gravel thrown up by passing vehicles.
- For long outings, take snacks along e.g. fruit, fig bars, energy bars; they all work.
- Ensure you've got I.C.E. (In Case of Emergency) contact information with you, as well as some money and/or a credit card. A cellphone can be helpful too (turned off unless needed).
- Know where you're going, about how long you'll be gone and the route you're following. Share this with someone not going (preferably your I.C.E. contact).
- Plan your road route to avoid high traffic and provide the most enjoyable trip.
- Plan your trail route to mitigate risk (e.g. wet rock surfaces after a rainfall)
- Know where possible stops along your intended route are located (for washrooms, food, drinks and shelter from sudden storms).
- Know the expected weather conditions for the region and time you'll be out.
- In Ontario, the Highway Traffic Act stipulates that bicycles are vehicles, and that bicyclists have both the rights and duties that apply to all road vehicle operators. Think of yourself as driving a bike, and follow all the rules of the road.
- Keep to the right of the road as far as is safe and practical. In urban areas, this means riding about one metre out from the curb in order to track a straight line, avoiding potholes, debris and grates. In rural areas, this means riding out from the edge of the road in order to be visible to overtaking, oncoming, and side-entering drivers. You can squeeze over closer to the edge of the road as a driver is about to pass you.
- Ride a safe distance out from parked cars to avoid being 'doored'.
- Signal your turns.
- Stay off sidewalks (unless you are, or are with, a child); walk bikes across pedestrian crosswalks.
- Remember that you are an ambassador for all cyclists. How you behave needs to be a reflection of how we'd all like to be viewed by motorists and the general public.
- Share multi-use paths (like the St. Lawrence Recreational Trail) with consideration for pedestrians and other cyclists.
- Ride on open trails only. Do not trespass on private property. Be aware that mountain biking on trails in many designated park areas is prohibited.
- Leave no trace. Stay on marked trails and don't cut new ones. When conditions are wet, soft or muddy, choose other trails or routes to avoid damaging the trail base.
- Control your bicycle. Inattention and speed are the main causes of getting wrapped around a tree or bounced off rock fields.
- Yield to others. Do your best to let others know you're coming around that turn, or up/down that hill. Yield to pedestrians unless the trail is signed for exclusive use for cycling. Downhill riders should yield to uphill riders, unless the trail is clearly signed as one-way or downhill-only. Pass other riders safely and courteously.
- Never scare animals. Deer and horses, when spooked, may bolt and cause a collision with you or others around you. And, don't surprise a skunk. Ever.
Be prepared for the occasional mechanical difficulty when you're on the road or the trail. A little training, planning and practice will let you ride home instead of having to make that embarrassing call for a pick-up. Know how to fix a flat, put your chain back on, and fix your gearing into a selected gear if a shifter or cable breaks. A basic repair kit will contain the following:
- Two spare inner tubes as well as a patch kit.
- Tire levers to assist taking the tire off the rim.
- A pump and/or CO2 inflator with at least two CO2 cartridges.
- A rag or wet wipes.
- A multi-tool with screw drivers and hex keys.
A more elaborate kit for longer-distance riding and touring may contain much more, for example:
- A spare tire
- 3 spare spokes for each length on the rear and front wheel, and a spoke wrench
- A spare brake cable and a spare shift cable
- A mini chain tool, a short length of chain, and a couple of chain quick-links.
- Zip ties (a.k.a cable wraps)
- A spare pedal cleat with cleat bolts
- For repairs to your most important equipment (you!), consider adding a small first aid kit if you're setting out for a multi-day tour.
Following is a short list of selected links to sources of information you may find useful. While all of these links have been vetted, we make no claims as to the accuracy, currency or relative applicability to your personal situation. As always, learn as much as you can, and use the information to make your own decisions.
- Cycling Skills Produced by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation in conjuction with the Ontario Cycling Association and CAN-BIKE, this website is an excellent source of information on cycling generally, including skills, safety and the law as it pertains to cycling in Ontario. In that site, also see the pdf booklet "Ontario's Guide to Safe Cycling".
- Young Cyclists Guide Produced by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, this website is an excellent source of cycling safety information for children. A pdf version of the booklet can be downloaded here as well
- NHTSA Bicycle Safety Tips for AdultsThis YouTube video, produced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association of the USA, provides a comprehensive overview to help you enjoy your ride, and to do so safely.
- Bicycle Tutor This is perhaps the best website for tutorials that'll help you learn how to look after all the mechanical aspects of your bike, from the simplest tasks like pumping up a tire and changing a flat, to full overhauls.