It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt. We learn this as a kid, but we sometimes forget to be mindful of this simple but essential life lesson. When it comes to severe injury, the greatest risk factors are collision with a motor vehicle and excessive speed. If you limit your speed to a reasonable amount (15 mph) and take extra caution at intersections, you will greatly reduce your risk of a serious injury.
1. Watch your speed
How fast is too fast? It depends. If you're cruising on a smooth surface in dry conditions, 18-20 mph will not feel that fast for a confident rider. Add some gravel, water or any other debris that can make the surface slick and suddenly you'll feel that speed is excessive.
The point here is that you're not always going to know the surface conditions until its upon you and then it can be too late. Slowing down the ride and enjoying your surroundings can make the difference between a catastrophic accident vs. a pleasant ride.
We like to convince ourselves that we're always in control. The simple fact is that we're not and limiting speed and wearing a helmet can save your life!
2. Be aware of the terrain and conditions
It's easy to be extra cautious in rain or other apparently slick conditions. What can be more tricky is the minor road changes that can affect traction. This all comes down to experience and knowing what to look for:
- Wet spots or puddles
- Excessive sand or gravel
- The edge of sidewalks where there is a groove between the concrete sidewalk and the grass. Tires can get stuck in these grooves and trying to steer out or straighten out the bike can be extremely difficult at speed.
- Mildew - look for surfaces that receive consistent watering but are in the shade. A perfect example of this is a sidewalk with large tree canopy above.
In these situations, slow it down and be extra cautious when it comes to braking and turning.
3. Know your limits
No one really wants to accept that they aren't capable of doing something. It hurts our pride and it's tough to come to terms with diminishing capabilities. That being said, you need to know your limits when attempting to ride an e-bike. You should seriously consider the risks, to yourself and others, if you suffer from any of these conditions/issues:
- diminished physical strength
- balance issues
- reduced mental cognition
- poor eye sight
4. Double-check traffic and make eye contact with drivers at intersections
Let's be honest here. Many drivers aren't mindful of cyclists and are oblivious to their surroundings. Many seem to be in an extra hurry these days or using their phone behind the wheel, so it's not uncommon to see rolling stops at intersections or drivers encroaching into the crosswalk at red lights.
That means intersections are especially dangerous. Take your time and be sure to make eye contact with the surrounding drivers before proceeding.
5. Increase your visibility
Use your bikes lights (front and rear) and wear bright, visible clothing to ensure that drivers can easily see you. We understand that everyone doesn't own or want to wear Hi-Vis neon yellow clothing, but it can be something as simply as not wearing dark clothing (black, navy blue, etc) when riding at dusk and dawn.
6. Brake early to avoid hard braking or sudden stops
Regulating speed is essential but so is regulating braking pressure. It's not fun to fishtail on an e-bike (trust me on this one) and this can be avoided in most situations by controlling your braking. Start braking much earlier than you intend on stopping and use subtle braking pressure in wet, uneven or sandy conditions. That should do the trick!
7. Take your time with mounting and dismounting
E-bikes are generally heavy and the PAS (pedal assist) doesn't kick-in until the first rotation. This can make mounting and getting some momentum difficult for those that aren't super comfortable on a bike. Same with dismounting. The weight and speed can take some getting used to, so take your time and go easy. We recommend starting off at a lower seat height position so you feel firmly grounded and in command of the bike. Once you get more comfortable with the weight and balancing the bike, slowly move the seat position to the desired position.
8. Always wear a helmet
If you're reading this, then you might not be sold on the idea of always wearing a helmet. I get it. It's not fun. It's not comfortable. It's not cool. None of that stuff matters if you're in accident.
I didn't fully understand this until a loved-one had a near death experience from an accident. The idea of losing someone or dealing with the life changing consequences puts it all into perspective. Think of the people in your life that love you, the people that need and rely on you to be there for them. Wear a helmet for them!
"Helmet use was associated with a 93% decrease in risk of fatality, which, alternatively stated, means that non-helmeted riders were 14.3 times more likely to be involved in a fatal bicycle crash." - Epidemiology of bicycle injuries and risk factors for serious injury