Free ROAD iD – Live GPS Tracker App

As we already know, it’s getting a lot more dangerous on the roads for cyclists However, there is some comfort in being able to provide our family and friends with our live location information while cycling. As I mentioned in my post DIY Garmin Charge Power Pack Hack, I use Garmin’s Live Track function while I’m cycling. However, you don’t need an expensive bicycle computer/GPS for live tracking.

The makers of ROAD iD offer the free ROAD iD – Live GPS Tracker App that can provide a real-time eCrumb trail of your location and an optional Stationary Alert if you are inactive for a set amount of time. Your loved ones can have peace of mind while they monitor your status when you’re out on your next cycling adventure.

I use this app when I am cycling, walking my dog, hiking or any time I want someone to know my location. It has worked faultlessly for me. And you can’t beat the price . . . FREE!

Ken Whittaker


Bargain (Free) Helmet Cover

A few days ago, I posted that I used to carry a plastic garbage bag as an emergency rain coat.  While I would never recommend a garbage bag as a rain coat, I would, however, recommend a plastic shower cap as a light duty helmet cover.   And the price is right since you can generally score one for free during a stay at a hotel or motel.

Ken Whittaker


Wet Weather Kit

Day 40 Rainy Louisiana

Before I started bike touring, I wouldn’t even consider riding my bike if there was a remote chance of rain.  As a fair weather rider I never fully realized what I needed to keep pedaling comfortably in wet weather.  In retrospect, I cringe to think that I only carried a large garbage bag as an emergency rain coat. 

Inevitably, there will be rain and cold weather. And in many cases you have no other choice but to keep pedaling to reach your destination for the day. So, it pays to be prepared for anything that Mother Nature might throw at you.  Otherwise, you could find yourself in a deadly situation.

While nothing will keep you completely dry in the rain, a good wet weather kit will help to keep you warm, comfortable and protect you from hypothermia.  Hypothermia can occur when you are exposed to cold air, water, wind, or rain.   It is an emergency condition that can quickly lead to unconsciousness and even death. Surprisingly even exposure to water in the 70-80 °F range can lead to hypothermia. Needless to say, cold air, water, wind, or rain can be deadly business, so it pays to be prepared.

My wet weather kit includes:

  • Rain jacket
  • Rain pants
  • Helmet cover
  • Shoe covers
  • Lights and clothing with reflective material to make me more visibility to drivers
  • Dry bag with a complete set of warm dry clothes
  • A dry bag for electronic devices
  • And an emergency blanket

Don’t forget that wet weather can have a serious impact on your bicycle too. My wet weather kit for my bike includes:

  • Saddle cover
  • Fenders
  • Wet lubricant
  • And dry rag

Ken Whittaker


Be Eye-catching Flashy

As cyclists we put ourselves at risk every time we ride.  It seems like we are invisible to drivers sometimes.  I have vehicles pull out and turn in front of me all the time.  I’ve even been struck from behind and I’m sure the driver didn’t see me until I landed on her hood.  Being more visible in traffic is a life saver. 

The best way to make yourself more visible is to add front and back Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) to your gear.  It makes sense that a cyclist with lights is easier to spot than a cyclist without lights.  Lights increase our contrast with the background so we don’t just blend into the environment.  In fact, one study, Safety effects of permanent running lights for bicycles: A controlled experiment – PubMed (nih.gov), shows that bicycles equipped with (DRLs) have a significant (19% lower) reduction in crashes with vehicles as compared with bicycles without.  I’m so convinced of the effectiveness of DRLs that I’ve mounted a set on my helmet so I can direct the light by moving my head as needed by my situation.

If you don’t already have DRLs don’t wait another second, I suggest adding a set of bright high-quality front and back DRLs to your gear today.  Be Eye-catching flashy. It could save your life.

Ken Whittaker


How to Find the Best Bicycle Helmet

I wear a helmet because I believe that a helmet can make the difference between life and death in the event of a crash. When I was hit by car (see My Biggest Challenge) the last thing I remember, just before everything went black, was that my helmet hit the road really hard. While I suffered some very serious injuries, my only head injury was bruising to my face.

Hit by a car days after cycling across America

I’m not saying that just because I wear wear a helmet, you should too. Wearing a helmet is a personal decision. However, if you are in the market for a new bicycle helmet,

you might be surprised to learn that buying the most expensive helmet doesn’t mean you will get the most protection.

A joint project with Virginia Tech and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated 180 bicycle helmets using the STAR evaluation system. They found that while all helmets meet the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) safety standard, bicycle helmets do not provide the same protection and that price is not a good guide for buying a helmet.

In fact, after review their evaluation of road style helmets, I didn’t see much correlation between the price of a helmet and the protection it provides. The helmets with the top ratings (five stars) range in price from $50 to $325. So before buying a new helmet checkout Bicycle Helmet Ratings and get the best protection you can find, in a style you like, that is within your budget.

Ken Whittaker


Tiny Changes Can Produce Big Results

I know small changes can produce big results sounds like a cliché. But even your choice of socks can help keep you safe when cycling.  For example, the human brain is wired to notice movement and has the ability to recognize rhythmic up-down movements of pedaling. Adding strikingly bright socks to your cycling kit can offer a powerful and low-tech tool for enhancing visibility on the road. Check out the science at An Open-Road Study of the Daytime Conspicuity Benefits of Fluorescent Bicyclist Apparel.

Black Bike with Reflective Sidewall Tires

I make myself as visible as possible with as much Hi-Viz color as I can, including my helmet, gloves and even my special order “Atomic Yellow” bicycle. I also look for clothes and accessories that have reflective material as part of their design. Whether its clothing, tires, panniers, seat bag, etc., reflective material adds an extra layer of visibility in low light that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I don’t have to worry about dead batteries. The sidebar picture of my black bike helps to illustrate how much more visible my bike becomes in low light conditions with reflective sidewall tires.

Ken Whittaker


Dess Boldly Conspicuous

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. However, your cycling clothes can contribute significantly to increasing your safety on the road too.

Lately, I’ve noticed an alarming fashion trend toward dark cycling clothes. While it may look cool, dark cycling clothes blend into the environment and reduce your visibility to drivers on the road. Recently, I was astonished to see a cyclist wearing camouflage clothing. What was he thinking? I don’t want to sound cruel, but 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, dress to be boldly conspicuous. Wear Hi-Viz clothing that stands out and can be well seen from a distance and in low light. That’s why yellow has become the standard worldwide for warning signs. Similarly, wearing 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


Safely Crossing Railroad Tracks

In my experience, crossing railroad tracks can be extremely hazardous. On my first self-supported bicycle trip across the United States, I crashed crossing wet railroad tracks, ending my trip. To help avoid a similar disaster, here are the steps I take to safely cross railroad tracks .

  • Slow down – Exercise caution when approaching a railroad crossing.
  • Check for Trains – Be sure that there are no trains coming and never cross when the warning lights are flashing.
  • Pick the best path – Avoid large ruts that can swallow or damage a wheel.
  • Cross perpendicular – Always cross at a 90 degree angle to the rails.
  • Slightly lift off the seat – Let your arms and legs absorb some of the shock from the tracks.
  • Position the pedals – Level the pedals to a 3 and 9 o’clock position and gently squeeze your saddle with your thighs to stabilize and keep the bike upright.
  • Never lean – Leaning the bike from one side or the other while crossing railroad tracks can cause the tires to slide out from under you.
  • Slippery when wet. Railroad tracks, and manhole covers for that matter, are extremely slippery when wet.

This video illustrates how danagerous railroad crossing can be, especially when not crossed perpendicularly.

Ken Whittaker


Bicycle and Car Collisions aren’t Accidents.

Riding high in April, shot down in May.

Just five days after returning home from completing a fifty-two-day bicycle trip from coast to coast across the United States, I was struck by a car and severely injured just two miles from my home.  It was not an accident.  By definition an accident happens by chance or without apparent or deliberate cause. However, this is not the case when a car collides with a bicycle on the road.  Either the cyclist, driver or both violated the motor vehicle safety laws and caused the collision. In all collisions between a bicycle and a motor vehicle someone is guilty of carelessness or negligence.

However, regardless of who is at fault, it’s the cyclist who is most likely to be injured or killed.  The first step in keeping yourself safe when cycling is to be alert of the traffic around you at all times and follow the same motor vehicle safety laws as motorists.  Nevertheless, as in my case, you can do everything right and still be stuck by a motor vehicle. Hence the adage, “You can be dead right”.

As a friend and two-time coast to coast cycler once complained, it’s like wearing the Cloak of Invisibility while cycling.  To improve your safety on the road you need to be noticed.  Over the next several post I will talk about what I do to be more visible to motorist on the road.

Ken Whittaker


Dog VS Bicycle: Part 2

I have ridden across the country twice, among many other rides, and have ridden with cyclists who carry pepper spray and will routinely use this on any dog that comes close when they are too far away to kick them or kick at them with their foot. Call me naive or lucky, but I do not carry anything more than a water bottle and the lung capacity to yell a very determined “No” with a well-aimed spray from my water bottle, which has proven effective in deterring dogs getting too close. My fear, as a dog lover, is that they will be so focused on chasing me that they inadvertently do not notice the speeding car coming at them in the other lane. I also have the fear the dogs will mistime their pace or my pace and get caught in the bike, putting both of us on the pavement.

The reason I am so opposed to the pepper spray and/or the ill-informed practice that I have heard from other fellow cyclists wherein they will stop, jump off their bikes and run at the dogs to intimidate and terrorize the dog as they believe this is a good deterrent for the dog is that I know this can actually exacerbate the situation. The problem with this is that most barking dogs are fear barking, and most dog bites come from a fearful dog, so jumping off your bike and challenging/terrorizing not only teaches the dog that he is 100% correct in fearing a cyclist, but may make the encounter for the next cyclist to come upon this dog exponentially more dangerous for the cyclist and the dog. The dog may likely have a “I’ll get them before they get me” attitude, which makes him more likely to bite. Heaven forbid THIS cyclist also stops, jumps off his bike and believes intimidation will take care of everything.

Now, I have heard horror stories from cyclists who ride in foreign countries, and I will freely admit I have no experience with these more wild dogs. So please do not comment that I have a Pollyanna view for every dog in the world. This article is only regarding what I know, which are domesticated dogs in the United States. I have ridden through southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama where it seems there are an inordinate number of dogs who run freely. It may be unnerving to have a dog running too close, but you are likely not the first cyclist they have encountered. Hopefully, the cyclist before you is not one who terrorized a fearful or anxious dog.

I do not pretend to speak for cyclists who have been attacked by a dog and bitten previously, I have no doubt this leaves one, at the very least, wary of any dog you encounter, and I can see how a dog loudly running at you can trigger posttraumatic stress.

In my experience, I have found that nine times out of ten, domestic dogs in the US are harmless, i.e., they are not hoping to have you for lunch. However, of course have a game plan, give a deliberate and deep-throated “No!”, have an easy to reach water bottle for squirting and/or throwing to distract them long enough so your well-muscled legs can carry you down the road and the dogs give up the chase.

There will always be irresponsible owners who do not know or maybe do not care that their dogs are chasing passing cyclists. I would never in a million years tell you that I believe that all dogs are harmless. I never say never when questioned whether any given dog will bite because I do not know if there is a situation where the dog will be so frightened, in pain or sick, hungry, nervous enough to bite when it never showed those tendencies before. I just believe it is poor practice to pepper spray, kick, jump off your bike and stomp at the dog, as those may be sure ways to turn what could have been just a close call into a dog attack.

Submitted by

Lisa Arndt