One of my greatest pleasures is hopping on my Madeleine on a whim and pedaling down the road without having to worry about anyone else. I can ride at my own speed, stop when I want, and go as far as my legs will carry me. I canít do this, however, without giving some though to my safety.
Itís one thing to take to the open road when you have cycling partners who will be there in case of an emergency. Itís quite another when youíre all alone. You have to be prepared to fend for yourself or get the help you need on your own. Following a few simple guidelines will greatly enhance your safety and security.
First, as you should when you go anywhere alone, tell someone where youíre going. Pick someone who will notice if you donít return or check in when you were supposed to. Tell her when youíre leaving, when you expect to return and where youíll be (at least in general terms if you think you might just ride where the wind blows you). When youíre back, be sure to let her know so she doesnít worry about you.
Take a cell phone with you and be sure the battery is fully charged before you leave. If you donít want to answer incoming calls, turn it off or set it to a silent mode, but take it with. You never know when youíll have a mechanical problem you canít handle on the road, or worse, get hurt and need to call for help.
Always be sure to have identification with you, including emergency contact numbers, and carry it on your body, not in a bike bag. If you get in an accident, you could quickly become separated from your bike. While youíre being taken away in an ambulance is not the time for them to realize they donít know who you are and that your bike is miles behind.
Carry basic bike tools with you. Have spare tire tubes, patches and tire levers (and know how to use them) so you can fix a flat on the road. You wonít be able to fix every problem that might occur, but be prepared to handle basic problems.
Prevention is the best solution. Eliminate problems before they have a chance to happen. Take the time to make sure your bike is in good repair and that the tires are properly inflated. Be visible: use lights, reflectors, safety triangles or whatever other means you have of making sure motor vehicles can see and avoid you. If youíre riding in dim light or darkness, use a headlight so you can see and a taillight so others can see you. You can never be too visible. Follow the rules of the road (remember, youíre a vehicle, too) and ride in a safe and controlled manner.
Cycling solo can be a liberating experience: take the time to ensure that it is an experience that both starts and ends well. Be safe, ride hard, and have fun!