Admittedly, I love to bike and – quite obvious to anyone who follows me on social media – can be a bit obsessive about it.
Often I am stopped at the park by someone asking about the equipment I use or a good place to pedal. I always enjoy the conversation and frequently laugh at the look of shock some people show at the cost of my gear.
My response is simple… How much are you worth?
Yes, true, I paid a nice chunk of money for a high-end bike to complement my middle-of-the-road bike. And, yes, I have an indoor setup that is pretty freaking cool. But, that’s not the purpose of this blog post.
Today, I want to discuss the safety equipment on my bike and why you should seriously consider spending a few bucks if you plan on doing a lot of pedaling.
Let me start with the “brains” of my system – the GPS head unit. I currently use the Garmin 830. In addition to it having an awesome navigation system and the ability to collect more data about my ride than you can possibly imagine, it also provides safety features that no rider should be without. Three of my favorites include:
- Incident Detection – My 830 is tethered to my iPhone via Bluetooth. With incident detection activated, the 830 detects an accident and sends a text message to my emergency contacts that includes my exact location! This is especially handy if I somehow become incapacitated during a ride where there is no one else around.
- Headlight Automation – Paired with a Garmin Varia Headlight, the 830 automatically increases/decreases light intensity as needed and changes from daytime safety strobe to nighttime full power.
- Rader System – Paired with a Garmin Varia Taillight, the 830 notifies you of approaching cars, their relative distance, and whether or not they are approaching at a safe speed.
This bring me to the Garmin Varia Headlight I just mentioned. Regardless of whether or not you make the full plunge to a computerized lighting system, you really must purchase a headlight with at least 500 lumens (the Varia is 800 lumens). Anything less is useless. During the day you want a bright strobe that can be seen be cars when approaching intersections, and in dark situations – such as tunnels – you need a light that is bright enough to cut through the darkness. A $20 light simply doesn’t cut it! Take a trip into the Big Savage (pictured above) on the GAP with a cheap light and you will quickly see what I mean.
The radar system was a game-changer for me, probably my single best purchase. While it won’t tell you if a distracted driver is about to slam into you, it does let you know the number of cars that are approaching and whether or not they are at what the system thinks is a safe speed. This saves me from constantly looking over my shoulder as I ride. And, when my ride is over, I can see exactly how many cars did pass me and at what speeds they were going when they passed. It really is a cool little “toy” to have!
Let’s move now from the bike to the biker. More than anything else, you need to purchase a good helmet. Do not go cheap on the helmet. This is the only thing protecting your brain from the pavement. You should be using a helmet that either incorporates MIPS or a Koroyd-type system. Personally, my main helmet is a Smith Trace. I chose this helmet as my primary because it was the only one I could find that incorporates both of these safety systems. I won’t go into details on how they work and why they are better, but do yourself the favor and educate yourself on why they are important!
The next thing I want to mention is actually the least expensive. It’s called Road ID. Whenever I bike, run, hike, or travel, I wear a little gummy bracelet that has a small metal plate attached to it. On the front of the plate is my name, a URL, and a toll-free number. The underside contains a password and access code. If, heaven forbid, I ever find myself in a situation where I am unable to respond due to an accident or injury, first responders know to use the Road ID login information to access my identity, health insurance and information such as allergies, and emergency contacts.
Finally… be prepared!
Both of my bikes have standard tools that enable me to perform general maintenance on the side of the road. I also carry spare tubes (even for my tubeless tire bike), a pump or CO2 system, and a small first aid kit. I can’t tell you how many times I have stopped during a ride to help a stranded cyclist who simply needed to have something tightened but did not have the universal bike tool!
So, before you take to the road or trail on your next biking adventure, make sure you have what you need to ensure a not only fun – but also a safe – experience.