Lane position is your primary tool for daytime visibility. In dusk or rain, bright solid colors can make you stand out.
Quality lights are essential to being seen at night. A head light and tail light (plus red reflector) is required by Florida law to operate a bicycle at night. Many regular night-riders like to use multiple lights. Tail lights are more effective when they are fixed solidly to the bike and pointing to motorist eye level. A Headlight actually works well on a helmet, as it can be pointed where the cyclist is looking to see something, or to get the attention of a motorist. There are many different kinds of lamps and power sources for bike lights – learn all about bicycle lighting at Wikipedia. (Check the blog as the days get short for articles about lighting and nighttime visibility.)
Remember you not only need to be seen, but also see the pavement ahead of you. A high-powered headlight is best for that. If you can’t afford an HID or other high-lumen light, mounting inexpensive LED lights to the fork can provide the pavement lighting you need to avoid hitting a hole or object that could cause you to crash.
Retro reflective material adds to your visibility. Keep in mind that retro reflective material reflects light back to the source. Lane position is critical to visibility at night.
Motorists must detect, make a decision…then react. Note the difference between dark clothing and the RIGHT reflective material:
Blue clothing – 55 feet (15m)
Red clothing – 80 feet (25m)
Yellow clothing – 120 feet (40m)
White clothing – 300 feet (91m)
Reflective Clothing – 700 feet (213m)
Sunset & Sunrise Visibility
Can you see the cyclist? See: The Blinding Sun
Most of us wear sunglasses during the day to protect our eyes from the glare and UV rays. Protecting our eyes from flying debris is critical, day and night. Always carry clear or yellow-tinted glasses if you think you might be riding at dusk or after dark. There are several brands of glasses with inter-changeable lenses and some with lenses that adjust to light conditions. It’s important, especially with night-time glasses, that the lenses are vented. This helps to reduce fogging when you stop.
The object is to avoid crashing. But in the event you do, you’ll be glad you were wearing a helmet. Make sure it fits. Wear it properly, covering your forehead and be sure the straps are snug. If you do fall and hit your head, thank your helmet for a job well done and retire it permanently. A regularly-worn helmet should be replaced every few years as the materials are degraded by heat, sweat and ultraviolet light.
Gloves give you a better grip on your brakes and handlebars. They’ll also protect your hands if you fall. And in the one or two days of Florida winter, they’ll keep your hands warm.
Your pants can cause you to crash. If you wear work clothes on your bike, it’s a good idea to place a strap around your right pant leg. This will keep the cloth from blowing into your chain ring. Another good use for ankle straps – you can buy straps with retro-reflective tape on them. When a car’s headlights reflect on ankle straps, it clearly communicates to the motorist that she is seeing a cyclist ahead.
If your bike does not have bosses for a frame-mounted rack, there are plenty of rack options that mount to a seatpost. Some even have extensions for panniers. Do not attach a seatpost-mounted rack to a carbon post! If your bike has a carbon post, you’ll need to replace it with aluminum.
Most of the bikes made for touring or urban transportation are set up for frame-mounted racks on the front and rear. Touring bikes have a longer wheelbase and can accommodate bigger panniers. If you have a bike with short chainstays (like a racing-style road bike), you may need smaller panniers that are taperd on the front side, or a rack long enough to mount panniers with clearance from your pedal stroke.
Bags, Baskets and Panniers
While you can bungee most things onto a rack, there are many excellent utility bags designed to carry everything from a business suit to groceries.
It is better for braking and handling to carry more weight on the back of the bike.
Rear bags and trunks strap or clip onto your rack. Panniers clip on and off easily, allowing for quick-removal. If you’re locking the bike outside, you’ll want a system which allows quick removal of trunks and panniers.
The choices of panniers are endless. Here are a few fun ones:
Back-pack Pannier — Comes in handy if you have a hike from the bike rack to your office.
Grocery Bag Panniers — Not plastic or paper, add eco-shopping to your eco-transportation. Carry them into the store and fill them up.
Pedals and Shoes
For longer trips, it’s a good idea to secure your feet to the pedals. Open pedals only allow a partial pedal stroke, decreasing your efficiency.
Clipless pedals require cycling shoes with cleats attached. But stiff-soled cycling shoes are a good idea even if you use a cage or strap. Riding in soft-soled shoes, like sneakers, decreases the efficiency of your pedal stroke and is hard on the arches of your feet.
For commuting, a mountain-bike-type clipless pedal with 2 sides and easy release works better than a road-bike-type pedal. Recessed cleats make it easier to walk from your bike to your office, or through stores if you are running errands.
Even if you wait out a rain shower, a wet road will make a mess of your bike and clothes. Fenders and mud flaps will keep you clean and dry.
Handlebars & Brakes
There may be as many kinds of handlebars as there are bikes. For the purpose of this section, we’ll just compare drop bars with flat bars.
There are 2 considerations — aerodynamics, handling and braking efficiency.
Drop bars, found on road bikes, offer more options for comfort and aerodynamics — especially for a long commute. The typical hand position on the brake hoods is not ergonomically efficient for instant stopping. Auxiliary brakes can be installed on the top of the bar (just remember to push your weight backwards when emergency braking).
Flat bars, typically found on city bikes, offer amore upright and less aerodynamic positions. They provide quicker handling and more efficient access and activation of the brakes.