Getting out and enjoying the scenery, or just commuting to work or school on a bike has many benefits, but staying safe when riding needs to be considered. Protecting yourself against criminals, wildlife, and stray dogs require some forethought and preparation.
First, the most important consideration is where you ride. Is it a safe area? There are certain neighborhoods in my city that I wouldn’t ride a bike through. Heck, I wouldn’t even drive my car through them. It’s sad, but there are some places where riding a bike just isn’t a good idea.
Also, trust your instincts. If the vibe you’re getting isn’t a good one where you’re riding, go somewhere else. If you can avoid riding by a suspicious person, or group of people, do so. Be wary of someone flagging you down to have you stop and speak with them. Just ride past and keep eye contact. Let them know you see them and are watching their every move. Don’t be easy prey.
If they jump out in front of you, pick up speed and try to go past them, or if you have to, charge straight towards them. One nice thing about ebikes, especially fat tire ebikes, is that they usually go fast, and it would not feel good being hit by a 70+ pound bike going 20+ mph. Ideally, you want to turn around and avoid a confrontation, but if you don’t have the choice, and you can’t ride past them, do what you have to do.
Always carry your phone with you. This is the most important piece of protective equipment you can carry. Not only will you be able to call for help, but it can pinpoint exactly where you are using the phone’s built-in GPS. Many cities have 911 services that can pinpoint precisely where you are located. So, even if you don’t know exactly where you are, your phone does. Of course, this brings up the point that you should always know where you are! Map out your rides, know the street names, know alternative routes, how you can obtain help, who to call, etc.
If you’re in a remote area without cell service, consider carrying a satellite communication device, like the Garmin InReach Mini, or a similar product. These are especially useful if you happen to get lost or injured in a remote area.
Stay in Contact
Communicate with a friend or family member about where you plan to ride and when you plan to be back. If your plans change, let them know.
Use a Smartwatch to Track Your Route and Stay Connected
The Apple Watch and many of Garmin’s GPS watches have the ability to send your current location to a designated friend or family member. Through an app, they will be able to see exactly where you are. So, even if you may not be able to call for help with your location information, the app will show where you are to this designated person who can call for help.
Many of these watches can also detect crashes, and will send out alerts to emergency services and/or your designated person. A smartwatch with LTE service works independently of your phone, which has advantages. Even if you become separated from your phone, or you lose it, you’ll have your watch on you to continue tracking you. You’ll also still be able to make phone or send text messages. This is super ideal for a cyclist who doesn’t want to be weighed down be a phone. Usually, these types of watches don’t have the best battery life, so make sure they are fully charged before you ride.
Ride With a Buddy
Normally, I’m riding on a designated bike path away from traffic. It’s ideal, but it does put me out in the middle of nowhere. I’m almost always riding by myself, though it’s always a good idea to ride with a friend. You’ll be much less of a target. Many cities have bike clubs that you can join and go on group rides. Commercial bike tours are also becoming more popular for vacations.
Bike tours are usually led by an experienced guide. He or she will know the area well, and you’ll be riding in a group. Other commercial bike tour services can drop you off at a trail and pick you up at the other end, at a designated time. They will be able to provide great recommendations, and if you have mechanical issues with your bike, or you become injured, they may be able to come pick you up.
Keep Your Bike in Good Condition
An important thing to consider is to keep your bike in good working condition. Flat tires or other mechanical breakdowns will make you more of a target. Bring a patch kit with you, possible some Slime, or some other way to quickly repair a flat tire. This means you need to know how to work on your bike. Bikes aren’t complicated or scary to learn how to fix. Get to know their parts and the types of repairs that you can do on the side of the road with a few tools.
With ebikes, it’s not so practical to change a tire out in the middle of nowhere, so preventing flat tires is ideal. Slime or tire inserts can prevent most flat tires. Slime can be used preventively, or can seal a hole after a puncture. Carry a bottle of Slime with you. You’ll also want to have an air pump of some sort.
Personal Protective Devices
For your day-to-day riding, carrying personal protective devices is a great idea. Depending upon your state laws, you can carry pepper spray. I would recommend choosing pepper spray specifically for a bicycle. Here are two good options on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3cZkNmN and https://amzn.to/3qBezNr. These attach to a bike’s handlebars or frame for quick and easy access. These are most useful for scaring off dogs or would-be robbers. If you’ll be riding in wilderness areas where bears and other potentially dangerous wildlife reside, carry bear spray too.
Loud alarms are also a good idea. Just a simple keychain alarm attached to a handlebar can do the trick. You will be able to quickly and easily activate ear-piercing sound levels to draw attention to your location, and may scare off wildlife, too.
Carrying a Weapon
Conceal and carry is also an option. Depending upon your state laws and what type of property you are riding on, you may be able to bring a handgun with you. Especially for women riding alone, a handgun might not be such a bad idea. It’s the ultimate choice for defense against an attacker. You will need to carry it on you and follow state laws, but you will have learned all of that in your conceal carry classes.
A pepper ball gun might be a good idea, for those who aren’t so keen on carrying a lethal weapon. Different states have different laws on such guns, and personally, I’d choose one that doesn’t look like a real gun. After all, you don’t want to pull a pepper ball gun on someone with a real gun! They obviously have the advantage.
An advantage that pepper ball guns do have is being more precise at hitting a target from a farther distance, compared to a can of pepper spray. You also don’t have to worry so much about wind direction and spray being blown back on you. One with many positive reviews on Amazon is this one.
Most of all, use common sense. Avoid areas that are known for criminal activity. Ride with a friend or a group if you can. Bring a phone with you, or some other way to stay in contact. Map out your rides, know where you are, and know how to get help. Bicycling overall is a safe activity, and you’ll be able to enjoy some of the most scenic and amazing places on earth, but you need to be prepared and know how to protect yourself. Just a little preparation goes a long way.
>>Shop at Moosejaw for Your Outdoor Adventures!