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Safety Tips for Beginning Cyclists

Sure, you may never forget how to ride a bike, but even seasoned cyclists sometimes need a reminder to stay safe. If you're taking up cycling as an adult or teaching your child how to ride for the first time, here are a few tips to get you off and riding.

Before you hit the road, perform these safety checks:

  • Check the fit and condition of your and your child's bicycle helmets. Replace a helmet if it's too small or has been worn in a fall. Make sure you adjust the chin strap so that it's snug and buckle it.
  • Schedule a maintenance check for your family's bicycles. Have a qualified bike mechanic check the tires, brakes and gears. Schedule these checks every spring before you and your family take your first ride.
  • Adjust your bicycle to fit. Your ride will go more smoothly and your body will work more efficiently if you move your seat's height to fit you. It should be just tall enough that there's a slight bend in your knees when your leg is fully extended.
  • Wear bright and reflective clothing. If you plan to share the road, it's important to be seen by other motorists. Equip your bike with lights and wear reflective tape or neon colors.

For the Young Cyclist

If you're hitting the road with little ones who aren't quite ready to pedal on their own, you have a few options.

1. Bike Trailers or Buggies

These are the small, two-wheeled carts that attach behind bikes and can carry children up to age 6. Although children are strapped in, they should still wear helmets to protect them in the event of a collision. Because the buggies are low to the ground, they are often out of drivers' sightline. For this reason, they should be used on bike trails – never on the street.

2. Child Bike Seats

Suitable for children up to age 5, these are seats that attach to an adult's bicycle. Like the bike trailers, children are strapped in here as well, but protective headwear is still recommended. These seats are not recommended for novice cyclists, as the added weight of a seat can throw off a bike's balance.

3. Trailer Bikes and Cycles

These are designed for slightly older children who are ready to help pedal but can't quite keep up with mom and dad. A trailer cycle attaches to the rear of an adult bike, adding a seat, handlebars, and an extra wheel, similar to a tandem bike. Again, it's important for both you and your child to wear a helmet. It's also worth speaking with your child's pediatrician to make sure he or she is developmentally ready to start riding

Now that your bike has been checked and fitted to you and you've equipped your children to ride along with you, map out a safe bike path with one of these websites:

Sources: Consumer Reports, Discovery Channel Online, Krames Staywell, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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