Emphasize Movement

Even your socks can help keep you safe when cycling.  Since the human brain is wired to notice movement and has the ability to recognize a rhythmic up-down movements of pedaling motion as a cyclist’s, by adding strikingly bright socks to your cycling kit can offer a powerful and low-tech tool for enhancing visibility on the road.

I try to wear as much Hi-Viz colors as possible on all my moving body parts, including my helmet, sun sleeves and gloves.

Check out the science at An Open-Road Study of the Daytime Conspicuity Benefits of Fluorescent Bicyclist Apparel

Ken Whittaker


Be Noticed!

In my post “5 Step Guide on What Clothing to Pack” I talk about how cycling clothing is notoriously functional at keeping a cyclist comfortable. Just as important, however, your cycling cloths can also help improve your safety on the road too.

I’ve noticed an alarming fashion trend toward dark cycling cloths recently. While they may look cool, dark cycling clothes blend into the environment and they reduce your visibility to motorist on the road. Recently, I was astonished to meet a cyclist wearing camouflage clothing. I don’t want to sound cruel, but what was he thinking? Was he trying to win the Darwin Award for contributing to the evolution of humanity by removing his genes from the gene pool.

On the road, I wear Hi-Viz clothing. Hi-Viz colors stands out and can be seen well from a distance and in low light. That’s why yellow has become the standard worldwide for warning signs. Similarly, wearing a Hi-Viz clothing serves as my warning sign to motorists that they are sharing the road with a cyclist.

While this seems like common sense, if in doubt you can find the supporting science here at “The Safety Impact of a Yellow Bicycle Jacket“.

Ken Whittaker


Touring Specific Cycling Shoes

Cycling Touring Shoes

Once while touring in Acadia National Park, I stopped at the top of a waterfall to take in its beauty. It was a wonderful experience until the metal on bottom of my cycling shoe began to slip on the wet rocks. I literally had to throw myself to the ground to keep from going over the waterfall. Since then I’ve switched to SPD (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) clipless pedals and multi-use/touring shoes and I’ve never regretted it.

There is something reassuring about clicking in my pedals and becoming one with the bike. Now, I feel equally confident off the bike. With the SPD cleats recessed in the bottom of the shoe, only the shoe’s tread makes contact with the ground so the shoes are very sure footed and safe for walking.

Another advantage to using SPD multi-use/touring shoes is that they don’t look like cycling shoes so I don’t mind wearing them off the bike. Also, they eliminate the dirty looks from establishment owners for click/clacking across their floors or demands that I remove my cycling shoes while in their establishment.

Ken Whittaker


Cycling During Heat Advisory Warnings


On my ride today my GPS (Garmin Edge 1030) kept giving me a Heat Advisory warning. While cyclists need to take precautions in the heat, some advantages we have during hot weather are that we generate our own cooling breeze and can carry plenty of water. But there are other steps we can take to protect ourselves from hyperthermia:

Ride during the coolest part of the day. – I try to get out early and avoid riding at midday.

Pick a cool and shady route. – If I can, I like to head for my favorite shady rail trail that runs along a river. This route is considerably cooler than riding on the road. If I do overheat, I can always cool off in the river.

Drink plenty of water. – My GPS allows me to set an alarm at the completion of ever mile. I use this alarm as a reminder to take a drink. I never wait until I feel thirsty. I’ve found that if I do, it is too late and I’ve already started to dehydrate. I carry three water bottles and refill them every chance I get so I will not run out of water.

Take frequent breaks. – Since I can’t easily monitor my body temperature, I watch my heart rate very closely in hot weather. If I see it rising for an unknown reason or not returning to an expected rate after heavy exertion, I find a shady spot and take a break until it returns to normal.

Wear cool clothing. – Here cyclists are in luck. For the most part, our clothing is designed to keep us cool. However, I add sandals, sun sleeves and head scarf to my kit to keep me cooler.

Also see my posts Sunscreen 1st and Sunglasses

Ken Whittaker


Sore Butt

One of the biggest complaints I hear from new cyclists is that they get a sore butt from riding a bike. Unfortunately, many new cyclists give up on the joy of cycling before they overcome the pain. Here are nine common and some not so common tricks I use to eliminate the problem.

1. Padded shorts – Padded shorts have become a cycling standard because they work by reducing soreness from cycling. A little bit of padding goes a long way, so don’t overdo a good thing. Your shorts don’t need to be Lycra. There are plenty of baggy padded cycling shorts available. However, tight fitting Lycra shorts don’t bunch up into a wedgie like baggy shorts can.

2. Go Commando – Lose the underwear when wearing cycling shorts. Cycling shorts are designed to be worn without underwear. Wearing underwear only causes problems such as bunching. While Lycra shorts may have a “freeing” feeling that may take a little getting used to, they also have a modesty panel built in so the “freeing” feeling is not also revealing.

3. Get a gender specific saddle – There are saddles designed specifically for men’s and women’s anatomies. Make sure you have a saddle designed to fit your anatomy that helps to relieve pressure where it counts.

4. Get off your butt – You can greatly reduce the beating your butt takes simply by taking your weight off the saddle when riding on rough sections of road or when encountering bumps.

5. Change Positions – Luckily, touring bicycles have drop handle bars that allow you to change your position on the bike easily. In doing so, you are also reducing the pressure on the same points on your butt.

6. Keep riding – Toughen up the tissue around the sit-bones by continuing to ride. Most seasoned cyclists do not experience a sore butt except on very long rides because they have toughened up this area over time.

7. Wax the saddle – This is a secret I’ve used for years but I find many cyclists don’t believe me when I tell them. While it is a common practice for riders with an unpadded leather saddle to wax their saddle, I’ve found that it is just as useful for padded saddles as well. I use spray furniture wax on my saddle. A waxed saddle helps me to easily slide to a new position. Frequently changing my position on the seat helps prevent pain caused by remaining in one spot too long.

8. Massage – It’s always worth a laugh when I tell a new rider to get a butt massage. However, I find that massaging the sore area after my ride eases the inflammation, improves blood flow and reduces the soreness in my butt for me.

9. Reduce tire pressure – While cycling across the United States in 2015, the chip seal road surface throughout most of Texas was a jarring experience not quickly forgotten. To reduce the beating on our bodies at the contact points at the handlebars and saddle, we reduced the air pressure in our tires by several pounds per square inch (PSI). Let your tires absorb some of the beating rather than your butt.

I hope these nine tricks help to get you back in the saddle again.

Ken Whittaker


Updated April 26, 2018


Sunglasses

Sunglasses are an important accessory to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. When choosing sunglasses always consider UV protection, vision and comfort before fashion.

When purchasing sunglasses, I look for the following:

UV protection – I only wear sunglasses with UV protection. Extended UV exposure can cause Cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s lens that can blur vision.

Polarized lenses – I prefer polarized lenses because I find that they reduce the glare on the road surface and car windows. This helps me to see the drivers inside the cars around me so I can see if the drivers are aware of me or have acknowledged my hand signals.

Brown tint – I also prefer a brown tint over a gray tint. I find that the brown tint gives me more contrast when cycling on asphalt roadways and makes it easier to spot obstacles and debris.

Comfort – I do not wear wrap around glasses because I don’t like the feel of then and it seems like they distort my peripheral vision. In addition, I use Croakies to keep my glasses in place.

Ken Whittaker


Updated April 18, 2018


Sunscreen 1st

While on the subject of cycling clothing, I should mention that the very first thing I put on even before a stitch of clothing, is a generous amount of sunscreen. Although I’m the type of person who tans easily and I rarely get a sunburn, it’s a ritual for me to apply SPF 90 sunscreen each morning before dressing while I’m cycle touring.

I make applying sunscreen the very first item of my daily agenda not only so I wouldn’t forget it, but also so I won’t miss some of the riskier spots for me getting sunburn. Since I am a balding man, I start at the top of my head and work down.

That said, my nastiest sunburn while touring was when I missed applying sunscreen to the top of my ears. Another problem area for me is when my sleeves and shorts ride up and I get a wicked sunburn line around my legs and arms on those areas normally not exposed to the sun.

The sun can be deadly, so don’t forget the sunscreen!

Ken Whittaker


Updated April 17, 2018