Bicycles/Printable version


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Style Guide edit

  • In an attempt to standardize the content in the Bicycles wikibook, please use American English. For example, please use the spelling "tires" instead of "tyres" and "standardize" instead of "standardise."
  • Please place the {{bicycles}} tag at the top of each new page.

To Do List edit

  • Bicycles/Trail Safety (for off-road bicycles)
  • A learning-to-ride section (what's the best way to integrate it into the current book?)
  • Use {{stage short}} indications to give other contributors a better idea what parts need to be expanded.
  • Update {{bicycles}} template.
  • Rewrite Bicycles/Introduction to include information on the wikibook, reasons to ride bicycles (if you need convincing), expand note on bike shops to be non-bias.
  • Untangle Bicycles/Riding Tips and Safety and Bicycles/Safety.
  • Start stubs for Beginner chapters.

List of Contributors edit

Add yourself to this list if you feel you have contributed to the Bicycles wikibook:


The world of cycling edit

Welcome to the Bicycles Wikibook!

Bicycles are one of the most ubiquitous forms of transportation in the world. Most children remember their first bike; with it came the chance to explore their world with more freedom than ever before. As we grow, however, bicycling becomes more than just a childhood rite of passage.

Wind in our hair and feet on the pedals, we have several good reasons to climb on and take a trip. Much of the world uses bicycles as a primary form of daily transportation.

What would take several hours of travel on foot becomes faster and more efficient on two wheels. Many people use bicycles to run short errands, commute to work, or get groceries. Some cyclists take trips across entire states or cross-country solely on a bicycle. Reaching speeds of 15-19 miles an hour (24-30 km an hour) is achievable by even beginning cyclists, while more experienced riders can reach speeds equivalent to automobile travel.

"Century riders" travel 100 miles or more within a typical day. Complimentary to simple transportation, bicycles (stationary and otherwise) have helped people become healthier by losing excess weight and improving cardiovascular fitness. The exercise benefits of cycling are well known. Using the largest muscles in the body, bicycling allows riders to reach aerobic heart rates that drive up metabolism, and give a good workout. With the relative newcomer in the bicycle world, mountain bikes, this form of transportation is taking us on rugged terrain once thought impassable by anything other than hiking boots or pack animals.

Extreme sport enthusiasts have adapted the bicycle to perform gravity defying stunts, such as flips and mid air acrobatics, in a style known as BMX (Bicycle Motocross). In short, bikes remain a popular way to get people between points A and B, whether those destinations are found on a map, from one state of health to another, or to explore the unknown.

Bicycles have become an important part of the landscape. Most people understand the saying, "as easy as riding a bike." Or we understand that some dormant skill is easy to pick back up if it's "just like riding a bike." Likewise, many immediately think of bicycles when we make an allusion to "coasting", "picking up speed", or "going downhill".

Wikibook Bicycles edit

This wikibook will examine bicycles from various perspectives. The book aims to appeal to the complete beginner, the potential cyclist, and budding or seasoned bicycle mechanics. We will look at choosing the "right bike" for what you want.

We will also examine the kind of gear you might want for your bike. Then we will see how to maintain and repair your investment. Unlike automobiles which require knowledge of the internal combustion engine, electrical systems, and a series of other intricate assemblies, bicycles are relatively easy to diagnose and (oftentimes) fix. Many road riders include a small mechanic's kit that fixes many roadside mishaps.

Likewise, upgrading a bike is relatively pain free, with the exception of some more exotic parts. Many bikes can be upgraded by changing out a few key components such as brakes or shifters. Furthermore, many bicycles can be modified by the owner to better fit their cycling needs.

Further Reading edit

Buying a Bicycle

Mountain Bicycles

Deciding what model of bicycle to purchase can be easy for experienced users but slightly difficult for newcomers. Basically you need to understand what you want to get out of your bike. Mountain bikes (MTBs) are good for what's in the name --mountains, climbing, going uphill--, because their gear ratios make pedaling easier.

If you tend to stay urban, you may want to opt for a road bike, which are made for simple rides: good for speed but tend to put more pressure on your legs. Road bikes are designed to help cyclists get the most out of the road such as the frame shape of the bike, the width of the tires, and the component's weight.

In Europe, bike shops are very common because the use of bikes in the country over vehicles; however, in the United States bike shops are around but not as commonly found. In America, while it is common to see children riding bikes, you will hardly find adults biking, because they are more prone to using motorized vehicles. Large retail stores, such as Wal-Mart, commonly have a selection of bikes, but they are often poorly engineered and therefore cheap. If you want a durable bike you would need to go to a bike shop and get a bike from a reputable company.

What style

When you walk into a bike shop you see a huge range of different styles of bicycles. There may be bikes with enormous suspension systems, little things with ribbons sticking out, bikes that are light with very thin wheels, and big monsters you think King Kong couldn't lift. There are several main types of bicycles you'll see in your local bike shop--upright bicycles, mountain bikes, road bikes and kids bikes.

Upright bicycles or city bikes have wide saddles and swept handlebars curved towards the rider, and are suitable for transportation or utility cycling. They are particularly common in the Netherlands.

Mountain bikes are usually the bigger bikes with wider but smaller diameter wheels. As other bikes they come in many varieties. Cross-country mountain bikes are the lightest weight modern mountain bikes, with only front shocks or with low travel full suspension; the intended use being riding long distances over unpaved paths through medium terrain, like hiking on a bicycle. For more aggressive mountain bikers, all-mountain, freeride, or downhill mountain bikes exist. They are for going down steep slopes at high speeds, over big drops. They are extremely strong, but heavy, and not designed to be pedaled for much distance. In many places they are taken up ski lifts in the summer, or driven up in a automobile, and only ridden down hill.

Road bikes are designed for road riding as a sport. They are suited for speed and efficiency. For example, the thin tires cut down on rolling resistance and the ultra light frames allow riders to reach some amazing speeds with the least effort.

You might see cyclocross bikes, which are similar to road bikes in geometry, but are built to take larger tires and be ridden off-road. Often, there are separate brake levers on the tops of the road handlebars.

There are many types of bicycle available. Choosing the bicycle that fits your needs is an important first step to enjoying your cycling experience. This chapter aims to weigh the pros and cons of some cycles.

Transport or utility biking edit

Upright city bicycle for transport or utility biking with step-through frame, front basket, rear rack and chain guard
Upright city bicycle for transport or utility biking with step-through frame, chain guard and rear panniers for luggage


  • The most comfortable after recumbent.
  • Suitable for sore backs or riders with back trouble.
  • Good for maintaining upright posture for all riders in good health.
  • Appropriate for roads in cities and towns.
  • Superior rider visibility.
  • Appeals to women with wide saddles and step-through frames.
  • Good for transporting luggage.
  • Accessories such as front baskets, bike racks, chain guards and kickstands common.


  • Bad off-road capability.
  • Slower than road bicycles.
  • Less portable - no quick release wheel.
  • Kerbs are difficult to mount in urban environments.
  • Unusual for male bicycle riders in certain countries.
  • Less popular and therefore less available in some countries.

Road biking edit

A racing bicycle


  • Roads are easily accessible.
  • Speeds can reach well in excess of 40KPH.
  • Can be made easy or hard (if you ride long or fast or take hills).
  • Can be very enjoyable and exhilarating.
  • Burns many calories and increases physical fitness.


  • Can be dull, rigorous and sweaty.
  • Traffic requires being aware of situations and using safe skills.
  • Fast riding and descending require skill.
  • Entry-level road bikes tend to cost more than entry-level mountain or "hybrid" bikes.
  • Crashes at high-speed are very dangerous.

Cross-country Mountain Biking edit

A Cross-country mountain bike


  • Very challenging
  • Very good exercise.
  • Scenery is usually better than road biking.
  • Facilities and Trails accessible.


  • Hard.
  • Can be tiring.
  • Smooth ride is a joke
  • Facilities not as easily accessible as road biking.
  • Also dangerous!

This type of riding is for die-hard individuals, and people who like hiking.

Freeride Mountain Biking edit


  • Increasingly popular.
  • If you like skiing...
  • Fast.
  • Going off jumps is an exhilarating experience (once you get used to it).
  • Fairly challenging.
  • Truckload of fun.
  • Safe if rider is wearing body armor.
  • You can do big tricks in this type of riding.


  • Dangerous if rider is not wearing body armor.
  • Scary at first.
  • Hard to access.
  • Not good exercise.
  • Expensive.

In slopestyle, riders can perform tricks. For daredevils with lots of money and health insurance.

Recumbent Bikes edit

Two recumbent bicycles


  • Comfortable.
  • The fastest of all bicycle styles[1].
  • Excellent exercise.
  • Can ride longer distances in comfort.
  • With proper gearing, can climb hills easily.


  • Not ideal for riding in urban conditions due to low riding position. Cars may have trouble seeing you.
  • Recumbent bicycles tend to be more expensive because they are not mass produced.
  • Recumbents tend to be harder to find for test rides.
  • More skill needed to balance (unless you're riding a recumbent trike!).
  • Not as well understood by bike mechanics and shops.
  • Climbing hills can be more difficult if one is used to standing up off the pedals to climb in an improperly high gear on a diamond frame bicycle, although extra leverage can be gained by pushing against the back of the seat. As noted in advantages, this is not an issue with proper gearing.

Equipment and Accessories

Parts of a bicycle

Parts edit

Accessories edit

Clothing edit

General Safety

Manuvering around safety cones. Practicing manuvering not only improves cyclist ability, it also improves cyclist safety.

This chapter is meant to deal with General Safety, and will cover what equipment you may need, visibility maintenance and security, all of which can be adjusted before a rider begins their daily commute.

Maintenance edit

First and foremost a cyclist needs a well maintained and functional machine. The bicycle is one of the few consumer durables still intended to be maintainable by the owner: most cycle maintenance is simple and requires only basic tools. At the very least the rider should regularly check safety-critical components:

  • Brakes: the front brake should be capable of locking the front wheel so that if the bike is pushed forwards, the rear wheel lifts; the rear brake should be capable of skidding the rear wheel.
  • Headset: with the front brake firmly on, rock the bike forwards and backwards. If you feel a clunk as the bike moves, and the handlebars move around, then the headset probably needs adjusting or replacing.
A winter tyre for bicycles which provide better grip in icy conditions.
  • Tires: inspect your tires regularly for cuts and wear. Worn tires can blow out, with perilous consequences. They also puncture more readily. Check that your tires are pumped up enough. Pinch the tire between thumb and forefinger: It should feel hard. Mountain bike tires typically run at about 45psi, road bike tires at anything up to 120psi. Do not use garage forecourt airlines (gas station air compressors) to inflate bike tires, use a proper pump preferably with a pressure gauge. Over-inflated tires can lift off the rim and burst. Under-inflated tires compromise control and can result in pinch flats, also known as snakebite punctures for their characteristic double holes.
  • Wheels: In turn, lift each end of the bike and spin the wheel. It should spin freely and the rim should remain roughly the same distance from the brake blocks. A wheel which is badly out of true may indicate a broken spoke - this should be fixed as soon as possible or else more spokes (or the whole wheel) will probably soon fail. Try to move the rim from side to side. If it moves or you feel a clunk, then the bearings may be worn and should be checked. If the wheel feels gritty as it spins, or rumbles, the bearings are probably damaged.
  • Handlebars: stand in front of the bike, facing towards it; hold the front wheel between your legs; grab the handlebars and try to turn. If the bars twist on the stem, tighten them.
  • General: if you have mudguards (fenders), a rack, a chain guard or any other equipment attached to your bike, give it a good rattle from time to time and check that it is still securely fixed. Loose mudguards, for example, can go in your wheel and bring you down.

Lights & conspicuity edit

The general consensus is that if you ride after dark you should use lights. This a legal requirement in most places. It is also generally recommended that you dress to be seen, especially in poor weather. Although this consensus is broad-based, it is largely intuitive and there are few studies to support or refute it.

Bike fit edit

Children edit

It is common for parents to buy a bike that is too big, in the knowledge that a child will grow. This can make it very difficult for the child to control the bike properly - in most cases it would be better to buy a second-hand bike the right size than a new one with "room for growth," which is, in reality, too big.

Adults edit

In adults the biggest fault is usually having the saddle too low, but this is mainly an issue of erroneously perceived comfort and health. It upsets the ability of the rider to control the bike and damages the riders knees and back. The best advice when buying/fitting a bike is to go to a specialist bike shop (Caveat emptor) and take advice.

Helmets edit

A well fitted and maintained bicycle helmet is among the most commonly considered pieces of safety gear.

Benefits of helmets edit

The obvious purpose of a helmet is to protect much of the head from serious injury during a crash or accident. Instead of the head taking damage directly, the helmet can take the blunt force of the damage, reducing impact on the rider by either deflecting or crushing from the source of impact, instead of the riders skull.
In addition to being a protective piece of safety gear, it is notable that this protection is passive, that is to say it is in effect as long as the helmet is worn. In a fast moving accident, a rider will not have time to outstretch their arms to protect their head, and doing so risks further loss of control of the bicycle. A properly worn helmet should offer protection without needing any thought or action by the cyclist in those key moments - freeing up precious mental bandwidth to focus on best handling the situation.
A bicycle helmet adds around an inch or a few centimeters to the height of a rider, which can help a cyclist be seen by others when they are behind obsicles such as other vehicles, hedges, etc. Combined with the bright white or colored shell most helmets are clad in, this increases rider visibility to others.
Eye protection
Most bicycle helmets do nothing to directly protect the eyes from debris or other hazards. That said many bike helmets have a built in vizor. This mainly helps keep the glare of the sun out of the eyes, but they also help with deflecting low hanging twigs, falling nuts, etc. A disruption or lapse in vision can be the difference between a pleasent ride and an accident. Bike helmets do not replace dedicated eye protection, but it could suppliment it.
Legal compliance
In many jurisdictions it is illegal to ride a bicycle without wearing a helmet. While such laws may or may not be enforced, wearing a helmet in such jusrisdictions errs on the side of caution and compliance with the law. This can reduce unnessicary interactions with the police, or can help otherwise demonstrate that you intended to ride a bicycle within the law.

Caveats edit

With all that in mind, a helmet is only one part of a comprehensive bicycle safety strategy. A bicycle helmet will not protect the whole body, nor the whole head or neck. It is part of a rider's last line of defense, and does not replace other safety gear, nor does it replace safe riding techniques and practice.

Among some cyclists the safety benefits of a helmet are considered controversial. These controversies often include changes to motorist and rider psychology caused by the wearing of a helmet, debates over helmet effectiveness in a crash, and the broader health and safety outcomes caused by the hassle of helmets leading some to drive automobiles instead, ultimately reducing community health. Still others focus on personal liberty, and believe that nobody should be required to wear a helmet by law. It is ultimately up to the rider whether or not they wear a helmet.

Conclusion edit

With all that said, It may be worthwhile to wear a helmet just to keep the sun out of your eyes. If you do decide to wear a helmet, make sure that it is well-fitting and is correctly fastened and that it is worn in the correct position. Take care of your helmet, it must not be dropped or bumped and make sure that the surface is not scratched which could damage the internal structure.

Local Information edit

Find a local independent bike shop that you trust. Go in and have a chat with the people and see if it is your kind of place. The staff in a good bike shop will be able to offer invaluable advice and they are mostly happy to help. Independent bike shops are recommended because their staff tend to be more passionate and knowledgeable about cycling than in most chain shops.

Many areas also have local cycling organisations, ranging from sport-oriented cycle clubs to campaigning organisations for 'transport' cyclists.

The Internet edit

There are many web forums offering discussion of all aspects of cycling and related issues, as well as information sites run by individuals and organisations. Links to some of these are given at the bottom of the page.

Government Information edit

Government agencies issue information and advice about cycling. the UK Highway Code contains a summary of road traffic laws and official 'best practice'. Whilst few cycling organisations advocate breaking the law, many see the advice elements as written by non-cyclists, and not necessarily in line with reality or cyclists' best interests.

Maintenance edit

It's vital that the bicycle you rely on is in good condition. Learn to do simple jobs like lubrication and brake and gear adjustment. Clean your bike regularly. Take your bike in for a service at your bike shop at least once a year. Essential safety critical parts that you should check often are:

Are your tires in good condition and correctly inflated?
Don't ride on bald or flat tires.
Are the wheel bolts tight enough to hold the wheel in place? If you have quick-release wheels check that the quick release is correctly tightened every time you ride your bike. Does the wheel run straight and true? if there are wobbles in the spinning wheel your bike shop can easily "true" them for you.
Check all your brake and gear cables for signs of rust, wear or fraying. The brake cable is one of the most important parts on a bike so make sure you keep a close check on its condition. If your cables look worn out get your bike shop to fit new ones.
Test the brakes before you get out on to the road. When looking at the brakes check that the brake pads are not worn out, and that they make contact with the wheel rim correctly when force is applied on the lever. Ask your bike shop to show you how to perform day to day adjustment on your brakes.
See also Adjusting Brakes.

Many bike shops, public libraries, and other community organizations run cycle maintenance courses. Check with the staff in your local cycle shop, cycle group, or community center.

Security edit

Bike theft is rampant in many areas, some unexpected. If you're going to leave your bike anywhere you must assume that it will attract thieves. The usual method used by bike thieves is as follows:

Understanding Thief Behavior edit

Bikes usually disappear overnight.
Bikes are stolen by opportunists during the day but organised bike gangs steal bikes at night, after mapping out their intended locations in the preceding daylight hours.
Beware of strangers on bikes.
Prior to an organised theft, young strangers or near-strangers will be seen observing in the area of the bikes during the daytime, perhaps on bikes themselves. Even if they are sent away it is wrong to assume that the point was won; they are casing the place for a night theft and they or others will return, usually the same night. If observers are noticed during the day, take the bikes into the house regardless of any inconvenience.
No lock is totally safe.
Any lock can be broken, but buy a good lock to keep the odds in your favor. Thieves use car jacks to break d-clamp locks, and bolt cutters for chains and cables. Some say that skeleton keys are available for locks.
Bikes are then stripped of any peculiar fixings
In fact, all of the brakes and other accessories can be removed; They are interchanged between other bikes to confuse recognition.
The thieves sell the bikes quickly
They get comparatively low prices for bikes but in view of the low penalties imposed on their activities, they steal large numbers of items. Selling the bikes compounds the difficulty of recovery even if the items are found.

Defense against Theft edit

Bear in mind then, the following points:

No cycle lock is thief proof
All you can do to protect your bike is buy time. You have to increase the risk for the thief to the point that they will not bother targeting you. By the time that a bike is stolen, the chance of it being recovered by police is poor.
Invest in a secure cycle lock.
There are many types to choose from. The staff in the bike shop will be able to offer you the best advice. A common guide is that you should invest at least 10% of the price of your cycle in a lock. Ideally consider a lock that can fasten both wheels and the frame to a bike stand or other immovable object. Two locks of different types may be better than one. Insurers insist on good locks and they have approved lists.
Insure your bike
Read the policy carefully; some of these are difficult to claim on. If your bike receipt does not have all of the items on it, including the bike number, date of purchase, cost, and other items, then make sure you get these or the insurance might not work. Similarly, the receipt for your bike lock is expected to be much-detailed, including its make, model, price, and serial number, so that you can justify the good lock clause. No easy task; most counter receipts lack detail. Although most insurance covers theft away from home when an approved lock was used, insurers will not usually pay for a bike stolen from the common area of flats whether or not a good lock was used, (on the railings). There is often a stipulated front-door lock quality for insured items in the house itself, though frankly, taking the bike into the house at night gives the best protection of all. Sadly, many only realize the limitations of insurance after an unsuccessful claim.
Quick release components need locked too
Wheels and saddles need locked to deter petty thieves. It might be worth investing in a light cable lock to secure your components to your frame. Two locks are also better than one because it takes the thief longer to remove them.
Choose the place that you lock your bike up carefully.
Never lock your bike up somewhere that you hope it won't be noticed - remember, no lock is thief proof, but they buy time. If the thief thinks it will take too long to remove the lock, and they might be caught then they won't attempt a theft. By locking your bike up in a quiet spot you are removing the only advantage you have. Ideally choose a designated cycle parking facility provided by the (most) municipal authorities. If not then lamp posts, fences, signs, etc. provide useful locking points. Make sure you lock your bike up in busy places. There are a few major points to make about picking the object you lock your bike to:
Never lock your bike to cast iron railings!
Cast iron is brittle, so although a railing looks strong a sharp blow from a heavy hammer can shatter it in no time at all. If you're not sure find something else to lock your bike to.
Check that the bike stand or other object is secure.
Bicycle locking stands should not move. They should be as solid as a rock. Some really do just lift up out of the ground. Some fences have railings that slide right out. What ever you're locking your bike to, give it a good shake before you lock your bike to it. If it looks like it might go somewhere, choose somewhere else to lock your bike.
When you lock your bike to a sign make sure it's a tall one.
Thieves will just bend the sign up and lift your bike over the top of the post if they can. Make sure the post is too tall for them to do that. Also, in some countries, (London, UK), the police might object to bikes cabled to lampposts, and as such if an offense is being committed, you might that it makes for a difficult insurance claim in the event of a theft.
Try not to leave your bike outside overnight anywhere.
You will find that insurance policies may not cover this, even in the common area of your home. Take any bike that you value into the house, a garage, or a shed. Folding bikes make this regime easier, even if they have 26 inch wheels.
Make your cycle less attractive to thieves.
You can get your bicycle frame stamped with a unique number (sometimes your postcode or zip-code) and registered with the police. There are also electronic tags that identify your bike as stolen if the police find it. There are internet property registers like that are used by law enforcement and bike owners to check whether or not for-sale and recovered items are already reported as stolen. Theoretically, there should be no international boundaries to internet registers, though the lack of international police liaison (and their disinterest) might prevent it. Priority in most police forces is given to crimes against the person, so bike theft has quite a low priority.
Some cyclists wrap the frame of their cycles in tape.
Use either electrical insulating tape or "gaffer" tape to make the frame unique; this also covers the labels on an expensive frame and protects the paintwork. It is also removable, any gunk left over from the tape can be removed with degreaser. Some (particularly messengers) cover their frames in vinyl stickers. This looks cool but might not be to everybody's taste. It has the same effect as taping.
Fitting mudguards gives a bike a slightly less racy appearance.
It also helps make it less attractive to thieves.
Take lots of photos of your bike.
This will help you identify it before reporting a find to police. It is difficult to check a serial number on a parked bike, and perhaps dangerous too, so consider other ideas, like keeping a photo of the bike's paint chip patterns on your phone for a quick comparison. Chip patterns are quite unique and thieves rarely take the trouble to cover them.

Visual Guide to Bike Security edit

Clothing edit

Cyclists wearing high visibility clothing.

Cycle shops sell a wide range of clothing specifically designed for cyclists.

Summer Clothing edit

In the hot, humid, and cloudy summer you may to wear shorts and a t-shirt. The "wicking" t-shirts sold in bike shops and mountaineering shops etc. will draw the sweat away from you and help keep you dry. A light wind-cheater is handy for colder moments.

In areas with harsh sunlight, it may make more sense to wear a loose fitting shirt and pants. (Though not so loose fitting it can get caught in the mechanical bits of the bike!) This stops the harsh light fron directly hitting the body.

Regardless of the clothing you pick, you should still apply sun protection to any parts of the body where it is needed.

Winter Clothing edit

In the winter you'll want breathable waterproofs - something that keeps the rain off but also lets the sweat out, normal waterproofs will just trap your sweat and make you feel damp.

When riding a bike in winter, your hands will be even more exposed to the cold then usual. Make sure to have good cyclist gloves that ward off the frost bite while maintaining the flexibility needed to quickly handle controls.

You may consider bringing hand warmers just in case.

If riding in the snow, avoid white clothing to aid in your visibility.

Pants, Shorts, and Skirts edit

Standard Clothing

Among standard clothes, in general the more freely it allows your legs to move, while remaining out of the chain, the better it is. For that reason, shorts and other loose clothing are commonly prefered, followed by flexible fabrics such as sweatpants or even business slacks. Denim, particularly jeans, offers a lot of protection, but is also quite restrictive, especially before the fabric is broken in.

It is possible to ride a bicycle with a skirt.

Cycling Shorts

Specialty bike shorts are perhaps the most efficent clothing for cycling, being one of the least restrictive options for leggings allows the cyclist to operate nearly unimpeded. That said, shorts offer less physical protection then pants.

Cycling shorts are really good for cyclists aiming for high speeds and unimpeded riding. These shorts are different from normal shorts in that the seams are specially placed to avoid chafing your "sensitive" regions, and sometimes they have padding to soften the ride. Bike shorts designed this way are often intedned to be worn without underwear. They can be made of special wicking material to draw away sweat and keep you dry.

The look of cycle shorts can be controversial for many riders, and some non-riders may even see such clothing as indecent. and to wear them in some locations requires a degree of boldness. For commuters going to work, wearing only bike shorts and a light shirt could be out of the question. Some riders may wear these under more conventional clothes for a more standard look.

Visibility edit

It is important to be as visible as possible when cycling. It is very easy for other road users to fail to see a cyclist in the dark until it is too late.

The reflectors supplied with your bike are a legal minimum requirement (in the UK and many other jurisdictions) but they will not be enough to ensure you are fully visible. Reflectors fail for myriad reasons- see Sheldon Brown's guide for a list. Pedal reflectors tend to work the best, because they are in motion most of the time, resulting in a "flashing" effect. Spoke reflectors help to make you visible from side on, and like pedal reflectors are in constant motion. Despite this, A cyclist has to take responsibility for their own visibility. If the car that hits you has no headlights then your reflectors won't do anything. It is important that you fit front and rear lights. Many cyclists also attach extra lights to their clothing/helmet.

Despite the problems with bike reflectors, don't be tempted to remove them, They're an important back up. Many cyclists attach extra reflectors to their bike. Reflective tape is particularly useful as is can be wrapped around the frame, turning the surface of the bike into a reflector with out adding any unsightly bits of plastic and metal. Reflective clothing is also recommended. A wide range of reflective jackets, belts, trouser clips, vests etc. is available in cycle shops. A cheap alternative can be the reflective tabards worn by road repair crews. These are available in builders merchants and should be certified to be industry safety standards.

Bells and horns edit

A bell on a bicycle

A bell or horn (or among London cycle messengers an elaborate whistle) is an essential piece of safety equipment. Use it to warn pedestrians of your approach on shared pathways, or if they have not noticed you when they are crossing the road. Ring your bell for a few seconds before going round any blind corners. If you cycle on canal towpaths ring the bell before and while going under any bridges, as the entrance to many bridges (in London for example) is obscured by a kink in the path. Remember that bicycles don't make any engine noise so you have to help others become aware of your presence.

Other road users edit

It is inevitable when cycling in an urban centre that you will come in conflict with other road users, including both moving and parked motor vehicles, pedestrians, maintenance activities, deliveries and trash pickups. Many regular cyclists (and many drivers) have a long list of examples of imbecility on the part of drivers that led to a near miss/close shave, or seemingly unwarranted aggression from frustrated motorists. Growing numbers of motorists and pedestrians have equally-long lists of absurdly bad behavior by cyclists. Cycle-commuting is healthier for you and better for the environment. These personally- and socially-desirable benefits entitle you to no more special consideration than anybody else on the street. The important things you must remember are:

  • You have as much right to be on the road as motorists (except emergency vehicles in the course of their duty). If they can't pass you safely they ought to wait. You may not want to hold your breath for this, however.
  • Other users - especially pedestrians - have just as much right to use the roads and streets. If you endanger their safety by not observing road-rules, you are just as culpable as any motorist who will not give you space. Your additional attention is warranted for children, people with disabilities, animals, many seniors, and visitors who are unfamiliar with local right-of-way arrangements.
  • Safety is everybody's lookout. It is your responsibility to be seen - this can mean slowing down when approaching cross-traffic; wearing highly-visible gear in poor light (fog, rain, dusk, glare) and lights visible for 100 meters when it is dark; giving indications of your intention to move in the lane or make a turn. It is also wise to be aware of distractions that may afflict other riders, drivers, and pedestrians - these include phones and music players as well as sudden noises, flashing lights, or furious activity in the environment. Making eye contact with drivers at junctions, etc., really helps ensure he/she has seen you, and lets you anticipate when someone may pull in front of you.
  • Streets are for riding. Sidewalks are for walking. Don't ride on the sidewalk, and don't ride the wrong way down a one-way street. If a street has a bicycle lane, use it. Follow safety rules for bikes on stairs, escalators, and public transit. Stop at stop-lights and stop signs. Exercise care to avoid slower-moving and halted vehicles and pedestrians.
  • Crowded urban areas are never a place for racing or time-trials. Many urban cyclists are goal-oriented, intense, and assertive individuals who easily transfer this attitude onto the street. Being focussed prevents general-awareness of your surroundings, however, it is a major safety hazard.
  • Do not retaliate or provoke a confrontation. A cyclist is much more vulnerable than a motor vehicle. Even an exasperated gesture may provoke road rage, making a bad situation worse. Be satisfied that cycling in cities is quicker, better for your health, environmentally friendly and a social activity. If you really want to make your voice heard you can see if your city has a cyclist's association, or perhaps join a bike ride organised by the protest group Critical Mass (but avoid illegal behaviors).

See Also edit

References edit

External Links edit

  • - A huge site with lots of safety, maintenance and fun tips, in-depth bike history categories. A rich seam of cycling information.
  • - The website of the London Cycling Campaign. Full of information for cyclists in London and beyond

Road Safety

This chapter is meant to cover safety while riding a bicycle on a road. For more information on general safety, including preparing for riding, please see the General Safety chapter.

Bicycle crashes edit

Bicycle hit by a car

The first recorded bicycle accident is probably a collision in 1842, allegedly between Kirkpatrick McMillan, an early rider of the velocipede, and a young girl in Glasgow. The report, however, is vague and the identification disputed.

Causes of crashes vary according to local conditions. Research in the UK, based on hospital based samples, has found that 72% of cyclist accidents involved no other vehicle at all, and that 7% were claimed to be caused by motor vehicles.[1] This contrasts with another analysis which found that between 60% and 85% of serious cyclist injuries are the result of negligence by a motor driver.[2] A study conducted in 2000 by SWOV (Institute for Road Safety Research) in the Netherlands found that single bicycle accidents accounted for 47% of all bicycle accidents, collisions with obstacles and animals accounted for 12%, and collisions with other road users accounted for 40% (with the remaining 1% having unknown or unclassified cause).

This is what one would expect from thermodynamics; a cyclist only accident only provides a small amount of energy whereas a motor vehicle can provide a lot. The injuries are related to the energy available. Falling off and hitting obstructions tend to be relatively minor, usually not involving any hospital attention, so no appearance in the statistics. Motor vehicles add a lot of energy; even at very low speeds they can crush cyclists.

Defining danger edit

The boundaries are blurred due to cyclists' reputation for flouting the rules of the road. Some of this is deserved, some is not. In its Research Report 549 of 2003, the Transport Research Laboratory noted that:

A key finding which should be noted was that, when commenting on the scenarios it was usually the behaviour of the cyclist that was criticised – no matter how small the misdemeanour. Few links were made between the cyclist’s behaviour and any external influences that could be affecting their choice of behaviour; i.e. the respondents’ comments indicated that they thought the cyclist’s actions were inherent and dispositional behaviours. In contrast, the motorists’ misdemeanours were excused or justified in terms of the situational influences. As this tendency seemed to continue across the groups and the individual depth interviews and was unprompted, it is unlikely that group dynamics had any significant effect on this finding. [...] This aligns with the psychological prediction of targeting of members of an ‘out group’.

Defining safety edit

Although many accidents involve a cyclist alone, collisions whether accidental or not that also involve a motor vehicle put a cyclist in much greater danger and therefore account for a much greater number of serious injuries. A cyclist who is hit by a car is more likely to be killed than one who just falls off.[3]

As long ago as the early 1930s there were efforts to clear cyclists off the roads to make way for private cars, then the preserve of the elite. These were successful in Germany, then an authoritarian regime, and spread during the war to German-occupied countries such as the Netherlands, but was resisted in other countries.

During the mid-part of the twentieth century, the traffic engineering response to the increased use of motor vehicles in the United Kingdom, as in the rest of the industrialised world, was to look for solutions which not only eased the passage of traffic through the streets, but which also protected vulnerable road users from the dangers of the motor car.[4] In the 1940s, an influential proponent of this ideology was Herbert Alker Tripp, an assistant commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police.[4] Tripp argued in his book Town Planning and Road Traffic that: "If we could segregate pedestrians completely from the wheeled traffic, we could of course abolish pedestrian casualties".[5] This philosophy was also pursued by Colin Buchanan, his 1963 report for the UK Government Traffic in Towns, defined future government policy[4] until the end of the century. Buchanan himself knew that segregation had not been proven to work in the case of cyclists, he famously wrote in his 1958 book Mixed Blessing "The meagre efforts made to separate cyclists from motor traffic have failed, tracks are inadequate, the problem of treating them at junctions and intersections is completely unsolved, and the attitude of the cyclists themselves to these admittedly unsatisfactory tracks has not been as helpful as it might have been".[6]

Primary safety edit

The state of knowledge regarding primary safety has advanced significantly through education, but some vehicular cycling programmes remain controversial, such as Effective Cycling (US) and the development of Britain's new National Standards for cycle training. In addition to technical improvements in brakes, tyres and bicycle construction generally (for example, it is now rare for a chain to snap and throw the rider when accelerating away from a stop), there are well-understood behavioural models which actively manage the risk posed by others.

Most important among these is the understanding of road position.

Safe Cycling edit

Much of what is covered here will be found in the syllabus of a thorough cycling course. Cycle training has developed very considerably in the last couple of decades, and any new or returning cyclist, adult or child, is likely to benefit from formal training from an accredited instructor. At the very least it's worth riding out with an experienced "bike buddy" who can help you get started.

Road position edit

Best practice puts the cyclist's wheels more or less where the nearside wheels of the motor traffic would normally go (the "secondary riding position") or, at points of particular danger such as junctions and width restrictions, in the centre of the lane (the "primary riding position" or "taking the lane").

The majority, 73% according to UK data, of car/cyclist collisions occur at junctions or "junction type" locations. Analysis of T-junction [7] and Roundabout[8] collisions has indicated that failure to yield by entering motorists is a significant accident type. Other significant collision types involve turning-motorists failing to yield to oncoming cyclists and so-called "hook" or "overtake and turn" type maneuvers. Expert opinion has it that, having taken due account of the nature and speed of any following traffic, cyclists may best protect themselves from such collisions by adopting a prominent road position approaching junctions.

This has two functions: first, it places the cyclist where drivers are actively looking. Second, motorists must "overtake" so may be discouraged from simply driving past the cyclist and then turning across them. Similarly, away from junctions, a prominent position correctly communicates the space the cyclist needs and makes passing a matter of overtaking properly, rather than squeezing past. Additionally most minor injuries to cyclists, possibly up to 85%, result from simple falls[9]. Arguably, keeping out from the curb also keeps the cyclist away from potential hazards such as drainage grates, gutters, potholes, roadside debris, loose gravel and glass etc. However, a sense of caution is required, what works in urban conditions for someone like a young adult sports-cyclist may not work for someone else who is less able or experienced. As with all road users, cyclists should try to exercise common sense and use gradual experience to build up to new traffic situations.

The advice on positioning contrasts with a lot of information historically given out in basic cycle training for children, and appears to conflict with the vehicle codes in a number of jurisdictions, which will often require a cyclist to ride as far into the gutter as possible. Many drivers also feel that a cyclist has no right to use the road, and that cyclists should be as close to the margin as possible so as not to interfere with their speedy passage. It is worth remembering that no highway code is intended to actively endanger life; the wording may be careless or possibly ignorant but should be interpreted as meaning as far toward the margin as is consistent with safety - and that might mean in the middle of the lane.

Road hazards edit

General Hazards edit

Never ride a cycle along the passenger side of a large vehicle, such as an HGV or bus. Exercise extreme care when you are passing vehicles of this type, particularly on the passenger side, if the driver decides to make a turn across your direction of travel you will be in a potentially fatal situation. According to the City of London cycling guide [2] "over half of cyclist fatalities in the central London involve left turning lorries"

Try to avoid potholes where you can, but if you have to ride through them stand up on the pedals and take your weight off the saddle. This will reduce the strain on the wheels, the frame and your body, and also mean you don't lose as much speed. The same technique applies to cobbled streets or particularly bad road conditions. Experienced cyclists learn to negotiate potholes and rough patches with bunny hops or through a procedure known as "getting light". Getting light is essentially a bunny hop that does not leave the ground, but results in the wheels' being relieved of most of the rider's weight. Toeclips or clip-less pedals make all varieties of bunny hop much easier.

In very slippery conditions (e.g. snow, ice, mud or wet leaves), avoid using the front brake and rely on the rear to slow down. A front wheel skid will invariably result in the bike falling over.

Never trust motorists to obey the rules of the road. Most do, and you shouldn't be antagonistic towards them, but as much as possible you should ride in a way that prevents or minimizes harm from occurring should a motorist flout the rules. They are likely to survive a crash with a cyclist. The reverse is far less true.

Metal edit

Metal drain covers are often placed in the part of the road where cyclists ride, particularly at junctions. These become slippery in wet weather especially after a dry period when rubber particles and a film of oil have built up.

A variant on this is the drainage grating with slots that run parallel to the direction of travel. These can easily grab a cycle wheel and cause a crash. Waffle plates and other alternative bicycle-safe designs use holes that will not grab a bicycle wheel; best practice indicates that cyclists should in any case ride further out than the drainage grates.

Bridges usually have expansion joints. Some leave gaps large enough to grab a bicycle wheel. Most can be crossed safely, carefully, at an angle.

Railway tracks crossing the road combine polished metal surfaces and deep channels that can trap a wheel and throw the rider off the bike. When crossed perpendicularly they usually cause only a jolt, but tracks crossing the roadway at an angle are much more apt to grab the front wheel. The standard advice is to cross tracks at a right angle, or as near to a right angle as possible. Tram lines running parallel to the line of travel of cyclists require particular alertness. Whilst a bus or lorry driver can be prosecuted for dropping a bit of slippery oil, long slippery rails are inherent to the design of a tramway.

Speed bumps edit

Speed bumps used as traffic calming devices on public roads are designed according to an accepted standard and yet present some hazard to cyclists. Some of the desirable design features are a smooth transition from the road surface and a limited slope. Speed bumps on many roads and parking lots don't meet these standards, and are usually of a design which present a hazard to cyclists. One example is a bolt-on rubber speed bump with an abrupt edge that can cause a bicycle front wheel to turn sharply and eject the cyclist.

A UK spec speed table is particularly savage, constructed with flat paving brick tops and concrete slab slopes. This limits the speed at which a cyclist can approach, particularly with small wheels. Because of the sand core the paving surface is dislodged by heavy vehicles (buses, dust carts etc.) and the surface soon becomes uneven.

Slippery (Icy) Conditions edit

On very slippery surfaces, even a minor lean to one side can cause the whole bike to slip, and the biker to fall over. However, it is still possible to bike in these conditions. In fact, depending on the surface properties of the road or pathway, the likelihood of slipping into an accident on a bike is arguably less than that of in a car or on foot. However, a winter rider must do things differently than a summer rider.

First, the seat of the bike should be lowered so that both the rider's feet can touch the ground at the same time. This is done so that, if the bike does slip, then the rider can support the bike with his or her legs. Having both feet down creates a stable structure. Note that lowering the seat will make riding more difficult, as the rider cannot fully extend his legs when pedaling. Also, the rider should not use clipless pedals nor toe clips to ensure that the feet can quickly extend to the ground.

When biking in slippery conditions, it is sometimes recommended to use the rear brakes rather than the front ones. Note, however, that in non-slippery conditions, it is recommended that the front brakes are always used. The use of rear brakes in slippery conditions is for the same reason that cars have anti-lock brakes on their front wheels; since the front wheels are used for steering, then the rider/driver is unable to steer when these wheels lock up. Thus, it is recommended to only use the rear brakes when possible, in case the bike starts to slip and a course adjustment is necessary.

Lastly, studded tires are a wise investment in climates with prolonged slippery conditions. These tires add much-needed traction to the bike itself. In most locations with long winters, any reputable bike shop will sell studded tires.

Riding in the dark edit

Reflective tape can improve bicycle visibility at night.

Visibility is key to bicycle safety on shared roads in any circumstance, and this is especially true when cycling in the dark or at night. Ideally one should avoid or reduce the amount of time spent cycling at night, but this is not always possible, especially for commuter cyclists. If riding in the dark is unavoidable, stick to well lit areas and lower speed roads if at all possible.

Reflective devices such as reflective tape should be used at a minimum to enhance bicycle visibility when a light hits a bicycle.[10] In addition to this measure, but not substituting it, forward, rear, and helmet mounted lamps should ideally be mounted to provide light for the rider, in addition to making the bike more visible to those when a light is not shining directly on it.[11] Make your clothing part of your safety gear by wearing bright colored clothes.[12] If possible wear a reflective vest or jacket.[12]

Be on the look out for others at night, and give them a wide berth if possible. Be especially aware of drunk or tired drivers.

Braking edit

As a moving vehicle brakes, the vehicle applies a forward force on the road, and the road applies an equal and opposite backward force on the wheel. When braking a bike at maximum deceleration, all the force is transferred to the front wheel, and the rear wheel is on the point of lifting. It follows from this that the front brake provides more braking force than the rear. Many riders are reluctant to use the front brake fully for fear of going over the handlebars, and some old-fashioned training encouraged use of the back brake.

Modern direct-pull cantilever brakes (e.g. Shimano's V-brake) are very effective. Riders who are unfamiliar with these brakes might easily apply more brake force than intended and lose control. Novice or returning riders should learn how to brake properly using primarily the front brake. One exception, when rear brakes should be used over front brakes, is in very slippery road conditions. In these circumstances, if the front tire locks up (because of braking), then it will not be able to steer the bike, and a frontwheel slide can result. Using the rear brake allows the rider to steer while braking. Prudent riders practice braking and turning until they have a good feel for how the bike will handle under heavy braking. Cadence braking can help decide which brake to use; use as much brake force as you can get but without locking that wheel. On a well-maintained bike and having practiced properly it is very unlikely that a rider will go over the handlebars when braking, typically half a g (5m/s^2) which is more than the coefficient of friction between the tyre and a wet road.

Brakes generate heat. On long descents, or stopping from speed, this causes rim brakes to lose efficacy - this is known as brake fade (cars get this too). If the rider sits up straight, air resistance will provide much of the braking force, and the cycle will reach a limiting speed of under 25mph except on the steepest of roads. The rear brake can also be used to gently slow a descent. The front brake should be used in combination with the rear so as to avoid overheating either one. Disc brakes are less prone to fade, but it does happen.

Water degrades braking efficiency. Rim brakes in particular will not work until the rim is dry, potentially losing valuable seconds. Always brake early in wet weather, and if the roads have recently been dry watch out for oil lifted from the road surface. Steel rims become nearly frictionless when wet. When steel rims were the norm it was possible to buy leather brake blocks which worked in the wet; these are now hard to find. In practice the best thing to do with a steel rim may be to replace it with an aluminum one.

Cycle paths edit

Cycle paths have a checkered history. Standards of design, construction and maintenance vary widely.

Statistically, cycle paths have an indifferent safety record. This is largely a result of loss of priority and conflicts at junctions. In general, a cycle path reduces risk between junctions, but greatly increases danger at junctions. The balance of danger will depend on the frequency of junctions and other crossings. Width is also an issue: the minimum recommended width for a cycle path is around 2m, but some are very much narrower. Maintenance can also be patchy; glass and potholes are common. Shared-use facilities, shared with pedestrians, are generally considered to be least satisfactory.

On-road cycle lanes are also a mixed blessing. Some are well designed, and the advanced stop line (a section of road which allows cyclists to clear junctions ahead of motor traffic) is generally appreciated by cyclists. But some cycle lanes are too narrow, located in the door-zone of parked vehicles, disappear at the point of greatest danger, take the rider out of the line of sight at junctions, are ill-maintained or littered with debris. For the most part, road cyclists agree that the main carriageway is preferable both for visibility and because the passage of traffic sweeps away any debris.

See also edit

References edit

  1. "EXTENT AND SEVERITY OF CYCLE ACCIDENT CASUALTIES". Scottish Executive. 2005-08-09.
  2. Davis R, Death on the Streets: Cars and the mythology of road safety
  3. Davis R "Death on the Streets:Cars and the Mythology of Road Safety." Leading Edge 1993
  4. a b c "The cost of bad design". The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE). 2006.
  5. H.A. Tripp (1942). Town Planning and Road Traffic. E. Arnold.
  6. Colin Buchanan (1958). Mixed Blessing. L Hill.
  7. "Irish Junction Design Practice". Galway Cycling Campaign. Retrieved 2006-05-16.
  8. "Multilane Roundabouts". Galway Cycling Campaign. Retrieved 2006-05-16.
  9. "Bicycle Crashes and Injuries in Western Australia". Retrieved 2006-08-27. {{cite web}}: line feed character in |title= at position 29 (help)
  10. "Bicycle Safety and Operations – bikeUCI". 
  11. "Urban Cycling Safety Tips". BIKES. 7 September 2012. Retrieved 27 March 2022.
  12. a b "Riding Tips | Portland State University". Retrieved 27 March 2022.

Maintenance and Repair

A diagram listing parts of a bicycle

Bicycles throughout the world are made with standardized, interchangeable parts. Unlike many modern products, the technology used in bicycles is simple enough to allow many riders to repair their own vehicles with a minimum of effort.

For any cyclist, bicycle maintenance is a particularly useful skillset to acquire. Every skill learned in this area—no matter how simple or complex—can aid in keeping your bike in good working order, save you money, and make the difference between pushing your bike home or riding it.

Contents edit

More bike stands please…


The scope and utility of a bicycle can often be extended through modification by the user or through the after-market.


Style Guide edit

  • In an attempt to standardize the content in the Bicycles wikibook, please use American English. For example, please use the spelling "tires" instead of "tyres" and "standardize" instead of "standardise."
  • Please place the {{bicycles}} tag at the top of each new page.

To Do List edit

  • Bicycles/Trail Safety (for off-road bicycles)
  • A learning-to-ride section (what's the best way to integrate it into the current book?)
  • Use {{stage short}} indications to give other contributors a better idea what parts need to be expanded.
  • Update {{bicycles}} template.
  • Rewrite Bicycles/Introduction to include information on the wikibook, reasons to ride bicycles (if you need convincing), expand note on bike shops to be non-bias.
  • Untangle Bicycles/Riding Tips and Safety and Bicycles/Safety.
  • Start stubs for Beginner chapters.

List of Contributors edit

Add yourself to this list if you feel you have contributed to the Bicycles wikibook:

External Links

External links edit

Bicycle Communities edit

Main Manufacturer Links edit

Respected Maintenance Sites edit

Specific Interest Pages edit