For cyclists, few things come close to the sensation of cool early morning air, the world waking up, the sound of a bike’s wheels over gravel or tar. An evening ride holds its own little pleasures. But, as any rider will attest, road riding poses hazards at any time of the day, and taking your bike off road amplifies the challenge. “Mountain bikers have their own perils to take heed of too,” says Pieter Diesel-Reynolds, veteran cyclist and co-founder of the Cape Duo Challenge, a multi-stage race that challenges three hundred teams of two riders on road and off-road terrain.
Diesel Reynolds, along with co-founders Ernst Viljoen and Pieter Joubert (both cycling fanatics), have a few tips to offer for how to stay safe during your ride both on and off road.
Avoid busy roadsEveryone has their personal favourite route, which is all fine and dandy if the traffic isn’t too hectic. “This is true for mountain routes too,” says Viljoen. “Some off-road trails are popular not only with cyclists, but also with runners and dog-walkers. Safe to say, many of us have had the pleasure of an unleashed dog taking an interest in us. The only upside to this is that we involuntarily get the chance to dramatically improve on our speed!”
It may sound fairly obvious, but the solution is simple; work out different routes for different days and times. “As a cyclist, you actually don’t want to get accustomed to the same trail as it makes you complicit. Challenge yourself all the time, and you will start reaping the benefits sooner than you might imagine,” Viljoen continues.
Shine your light
“Another obvious tip, albeit one that we don’t see in practice as often as we should,” Pieter Joubert says. “With so many options at your disposal – think visibility vests and lights – you have no excuse to be taking a chance in this regard. Mountain cyclists would do well to invest in headlamps too. On that note, try as far as possible to avoid areas that are not well lit or too secluded; unfortunately, muggings have become an all-too-real part of life in South Africa.”
A little help from your friends
“While nothing beats the serenity of a solo ride, buddying up really is the way to go. In the event of injury or other emergencies, it is better to have someone who can be of immediate assistance,” says Diesel-Reynolds.
Think of the other perk; there’s motivation in numbers. Cycling has become a pack sport, and the joy of riding in teams is largely in the camaraderie. Your riding friends will not only keep you motivated, but also offer handy tips and advice.
Get the right tools for the job
The market is, and has always been, flooded with handy cycling gadgets and gear; take advantage of this. After all, part of the fun of being a rider is kitting yourself out with a rig that suits your desires and needs.
Check out Footloose Pedals (http://www.footloosepedals.co.za/), for instance. These new cycling safety pedals – a product by South African cyclist and entrepreneur Hennie Terblanche – offer all the benefits of traditional cycling pedals, but attach without the use of magnets for more comfort and quicker release.
Respect the elements
“I certainly don’t let the weather put me off, and I don’t believe that any rider should fall into that trap; otherwise there will always be an excuse not to go riding,” Viljoen says.
“The point here is, cycle in the rain or extreme heat, but with caution; learning how to navigate storms and sunshine all add up in making you a more experienced and versatile rider,” Joubert adds.
Stick to the rules
“Unfortunately, so many riders are guilty of not adhering to road safety rules. Take a step back from yourself and comply with basic riding etiquette and traffic regulations. It just makes the world a better place for everyone,” says Diesel-Reynolds.
Cycling shouldn’t be about concerns; after all, the pleasure of riding lies in the freedom. But by taking a few basic precautions, you’ll be keeping yourself safe and fit to ride for many more days to come.