Cycling is great fun and great for fitness, but stay safe with the right gear.

Gear Guide for Safe Cycling

It’s suddenly feeling a lot like spring, the most popular season for taking up biking. Maybe you just want to ride for fun and fitness, or maybe you’re training for the North Coast Climate Ride on May 20th, or planning on joining the pack for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Bike to Work Day on May 10th. No matter your goals, it’s important to keep safety in mind.

Cycling accidents happen more often than most people realize. In 2016, more than 45,000 people were injured in bike accidents in the U.S., and 835 were killed. This is why if you want to be a cyclist, whether on a road bike, mountain bike, or commuter bike, you need to outfit yourself with safety gear. Here’s a list:

Helmet: You must wear a helmet, or risk serious head injury or death. According to a 2016 study, helmets reduced the risk of serious head injury by 70 percent. Another study found that 75 percent of all bike fatalities involved a head injury. But not all helmets are equally protective. According to Consumer Reports’ helmet buying guide, a new helmet style known as MIPS (multi-directional impact protection system) has proven to significant reduce the severity of impact. Almost as important, though, is the fit of the helmet; you want it to fit very snugly, with the foam pads pressing slightly against your scalp, so it can’t slip in case of impact.

Bike Light: At dawn, dusk, and dark a light is a must. There’s no smarter investment than making sure you can see and be seen.

Reflective Ankle Bands: These are simple and inexpensive, but big on utility.  They allow for great visibility as your foot rotates around the pedal, while also keeping your pants from flapping or catching in the spokes.

A Water Pack: Reaching down to a water bottle holder is a safety hazard, and you need to stay hydrated, at least on long rides. Sipping from a water pack solves both problems.

Bike Seat/Saddle: Depending on the length of your ride, you’re going to be spending a fair amount of time in the saddle. It’s worth taking the time to test different models to ensure you’ll ride in comfort.

Bike Commuter Clothes: If you’re like most people, you don’t want to arrive at the office in spandex bike pants. But you probably don’t want to make a full change either. To solve this problem, look into the specialized bike commuter clothes that can make the transition from bike saddle to the office chair in comfort. The basic principle of bike commuting apparel is that the fabric has “give,” allowing for increased mobility and comfort.

  • Pants: These have a higher rise in the back of the pant to avoid a chilly draft and overexposure. Many also have reflective cuffs for extra visibility.
  • Shirts: Commuter shirts are sharp, professional, and are made from wicking materials.
  • Jackets: Commuter jackets have the features of a typical bike jacket (longer in the back), with room across the shoulder to accommodate reaching for the handlebars. They are often very water-resistant or water-proof. Some of these jacket are so stylish that you’ll want to wear them even on days you’re not riding!

Sunglasses: “Sun”-glasses is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, it’s nice to protect your eyes from glare, but it’s just as important to shield your eyes against debris. On non-sunny days consider wearing a clear lens.

Sunscreen: Depending on the time of your commute, there are plenty of rays out there to protect yourself from. While a little vitamin D is good for all of us, consider a daily sunscreen for protection.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.