Almost all RAGBRAI riders will agree that a helmet is an essential piece of equipment that every rider needs. A helmet will protect your brain if you are involved in a crash. Lights are required if you ride after sundown or before sunrise and could prevent you from being involved in a crash.
If you have ridden RAGBRAI before, you already know that it is pretty rare to see someone without a helmet. If you are one of the new riders, get a nice helmet and remember to pack it.
There is more to it than having a helmet. You need the RIGHT gear. Pick a helmet that is comfortable and well fitted. All new helmets meet the same safety standard set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission regardless of cost. Look for a CPSC sticker on the inside of the helmet.
The helmet should be adjusted properly to fit your head. Make sure the helmet is level and covers your forehead. There should only be two fingers width between the bottom of the helmet and your eyebrows.
If your helmet has a retention ring (the dial that tightens around the circumference of your head), make sure it is snug. Test by shaking your head “no”. Your helmet should move with your head and not wiggle independently.
Finally, adjust the straps. The straps should meet in a “V” shape just below your ears. The chin strap should be tight enough that you can only fit two fingers between your chin and the strap.
Nothing screams “Newbie” like an ill-fitting helmet.
Lights are another essential piece of the RIGHT Gear. I have to be honest – I no longer pack a headlight or taillight for RAGBRAI. I’ve used it once in my 10 years of RAGBRAI. I plan my ride to be complete before dark.
There is plenty of daylight to ride each RAGBRAI day. The RAGBRAI route and services times are set to encourage riders to be in before dark. For safety’s sake, plan to be in before dark on RAGBRAI.
If you ride before sunrise or after sunset, remember lights are required by the Iowa Code. Bicyclists must have a white headlight and red taillight or reflector. They must be visible for 300 feet. There are plenty of good lights available with a variety of options. Check with your local bicycle shop for details and prices.
You can do more to be visible at night. Reflective vests or clothing, additional lights, and blinking lights could prevent you from being involved in a crash.
As you begin your training for RAGBRAI, be sure you have a helmet that fits and meets the CPSC standards. The helmet and straps should be adjusted for maximum protection. . If you are going to ride at night, the law requires you have a headlight and taillight or reflector.
If you are going to ride RAGBRAI safely, you are going to keep in mind the following safety tips:
1. The RIGHT stuff.
2. The RIGHT gear.
3. The RIGHT communications.
4. The RIGHT riding.
5. The legal RIGHT.
6. The RIGHT frame of mind.
7. The RIGHT abilities
8. The RIGHT attitude
9. The RIGHT attention.
10. The RIGHT condition
Mark Wyatt is the executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, a statewide advocacy organization for bicycling. Mark is also a League Cycling Instructor (LCI), board member for the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking. More information about the Iowa Bicycle Coalition can be found at www.iowabicyclecoalition.org.
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