By now you will probably have heard about the events that rocked the world of British cycling at the beginning of the month. On the evening of 7 November, Olympic gold medallist, Tour de France winner, and cycling advocate Bradley Wiggins was involved in a collision with a van at around 6 pm, while doing some light training on his bicycle not far from his home. Wiggins, often affectionately referred to as Wiggo, spent the night in hospital with a bruised hand and ribs and is still recovering at home after the accident.
Less than 24 hours later, another high-profile cycling personality, British cycling head coach Shane Sutton, was also hospitalised and had to be put into a medically induced coma after a collision with a Peugot 206 left him with a broken jaw, broken ribs and bleeding of the brain. Sutton was taking his regular pre-work ride at around 8.55 am when it is believed he was struck by the car.
Although it's a sad fact that every cyclist has to expect to be involved in the odd incident now and then, many have undoubtedly been shocked to see these cycling heroes knocked from their saddles. It goes without saying that these men are among the country's most seasoned riders, and both were riding their bikes on roads they were familiar with, so what could have contributed to their accidents?
Every paper and pundit is currently jumping on this still-raw opportunity to point the finger at careless drivers and make calls for better provision for cyclists on British roads. Although these are noble causes, I've been questioning whether a good chunk of the blame for such incidents should be attributed to the cyclists themselves - or could there be other, less obvious factors at play?
In the infographic A Light in Dark Places recently created by electrical components manufacturer ArrowEurope, there is a stark correlation highlighted between the sunrise and sunset times in the UK between October and February and the times of day fatal accidents occur. The data comes from resources provided by the Department for Transport and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, among others, and also suggests that cyclists are failing to protect themselves with appropriate lights, high-visibility clothing and reflectors while riding during these hours, which could account for the higher level of fatal accidents during the winter months.
The graphic goes further by directly attributing 25% of all cyclist accidents to inappropriate safety equipment or impairment on behalf of the cyclist. Although this still leaves a fair chunk of the blame for most accidents at the doors of unresponsive or careless drivers, it certainly does suggest that there's more to staying safe on the roads than praying that drivers will be able to see you.
So if the sun and perhaps a little carelessness caused by familiarity could have been enough to take down the likes of Wiggo and Sutton, what hope is there for the rest of us?
Plenty - if, and only if, that 25% are willing to learn from the experience of individuals wiser than they are. The cyclist community gets larger every day and yet many still don't seem to pay heed to the laws of the road - we're still seeing that official bodies like the Sussex Police are having to threaten cyclists with fines just to get them to fit even the most basic night safety gear to their bikes. If we have any hope of chopping that 25 per cent down to zero, cyclists need to get wise to the fact that they have the same responsibilities on the road as motorists. After all, if a motorist was driving at night without headlights or reflectors on their car and was involved in a crash with a cyclist who was properly attired, you can bet no one would blame the cyclist for not seeing them.
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Your hands will quickly suffer if not protected from the elements so you need a decent pair of windproof gloves. Ensure they are close fitting and stretchy to allow movement with good grip and look for reflective features for helping drivers see you signalling in the dark. TRY: The ELITE MTB Glove, available from Pearl Izumi, delivers durability control and style along with exceptional fit and back-of-hand ventilation. Interested in a cycling holiday? Try Mark Warner.
The hardest part of your body to keep dry is your feet. Having mudguards and mudflaps fitted to your bike will go a long way in keeping you dry but you also need sensible footwear. You can choose from neoprene or gortex cycling overshoes , which fit over normal shoes, or waterproof outdoor type shoes, such as a mid-length boot. It’s a good idea to keep your dry work shoes in the office, so you can slip them on for toasty feet. TRY: Evans Cycles Endura Road Overshoes for snug and dry feet in a cutting-edge design. Interested in a cycling holiday? Try Mark Warner.
Most cycling helmets are designed with vents to keep your head cool during athletic riding. One option is to wear a cycling cap underneath. If your helmet is too tight for this you may want to look into commuter/urban helmets which generally have fewer vents and come with removable vent covers so you can customise your helmet for winter riding. Options for keeping ears warm include thin ear muffs skiers use, ear bands and ear warmers. TRY: The low bulk SealSkinz Waterproof cycling cap from Evans fits comfortably under most helmets. Interested in a cycling holiday? Try Mark Warner.
Your legs will be generating their own heat so it’s your upper body that needs special attention. Look for warm, breathable fabrics like merino wool for base layers and avoid cotton which can get damp and clingy from your body moisture. Soft shell tops for active wear are comfortable mid-layers but if you want to go with a less sporty option then a tightly knit jumper will also do the job. TRY: Women's Elite Softshell Wxb Jacket This windproof, waterproof and warm Softshell jacket, available from Pearl Izumi, is ideal for cold weather cycling. It also has one zippered back pocket with three inside dividers and reflective elements for low light visibility. Interested in a cycling holiday? Try Mark Warner.
You are required by law to have working lights fitted when cycling in the dark. You need a white front light and a red back light, as well as a red rear reflector. A popular option is LED battery lights, which are inexpensive, emit a powerful beam and have a long battery life. They can also be removed from the bike to store safely. Dynamo lighting systems use electricity generated from the bike so are a great green option. TRY: Cateye’s light sets have great power and rang, and click in and out of their holders easily. Interested in a cycling holiday? Try Mark Warner.
A backpack is usually sufficient but if you prefer to distribute the weight and have lots to carry, cycling pannier bags, that mount on each side of a pannier rack at the back of the bike, are designed for this purpose and will mean you can transport a full suit to work. Saddlebags mount laterally behind the saddle and are also great for carrying larger loads. Beware of fake courier bags with no stabiliser strap that goes across your waist to keep it in place. A proper courier bag that slings across one shoulder with the second waist strap is, however, ideal and good for avoiding a sweaty back as it will hang lower than a normal backpack. TRY: If you need to waterproof your backpack consider a Respro Hump Back Waterproof Cover. Interested in a cycling holiday? Try Mark Warner.
on’t be put off cycling to work by the worry of not being able to start work feeling and looking fresh and tidy, do a bit of forward planning with these tips: -Pick wrinkle-free work clothes, avoiding materials like linen that will crease in your bag. A top tip is to roll, not fold, garments. -Antibacterial wipes will help freshen you up and odour eliminating fabric sprays are great for keeping sweaty cycling clothes odour free as you store them during the day. - If your route allows it it’s a good idea to slow down and exert less energy during the last stage of your cycle so your body cools down as you arrive less sweaty. Interested in a cycling holiday? Try Mark Warner.
While it’s true that there are some hi-tech specialised commuter bikes available for those that fancy splashing out, the bike you have is likely to do the job just fine. Hybrid or Roadster bike owners should be pretty much ready to go. Mountain bike owners should have little problem and can attach some clip-on mudguards to help them stay dry and clean. They may also want to invest in some slick road tyres to reduce rolling resistance for an easier ride, whilst road bike owners can fit puncture proof tyres to prepare their bikes for sharp debris like glass bottles on city roads. Interested in a cycling holiday? Try Mark Warner.
On the odd occasion you may run into trouble during your ride to work. To be prepared with a few basic tools, make sure you have a pump, tyre levers, a multitool and a spare tube, as well as a puncture repair kit. If you haven’t a clue how to fix your bike consider attending a bike maintenance workshop. It’s worth doing your research as some cycling businesses, like Cranks in Brighton, offer them for free or a small donation. For complete piece of mind consider a roadside recovery service for cyclists, such as Cycleguard Rescue or Cycle Rescue, which start at £18 for a full 12 months. Interested in a cycling holiday? Try Mark Warner.
Like all vehicles bikes need a bit of TLC to stay in safe working order. A few days before you plan to start commuting do a safety inspection to check tyres are pumped, the chain is intact, and gears and breaks are working efficiently. Then once a year take your bike to a bike store for a professional service. Evans Cycles has qualified mechanics and offers service packages to help keep you on the road. Interested in a cycling holiday? Try Mark Warner.
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