5 Enemies Cyclists Face (and How to Defeat Them)

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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5 Enemies Cyclists Face (and How to Defeat Them)

Unfortunately, cyclists face a lot of obstacles on a ride. But instead of letting hazards get the best of you, there are things you can do to combat the common enemies most cyclists face on their daily rides.

From the howling wind to the annoying wheel sucker, here’s how you can defeat the worst of what the road throws your way.

Whether you expect it or not, those really windy days can slow your pace to a crawl and make your ride pretty miserable. Strong winds can also be dangerous, pushing you off your line of travel into another cyclist, or worse, into the lane of traffic.

How to defeat it: To combat strong wind, there are a few things you can do to make your ride more pleasant and safe:

  • Take it easy: When there’s a strong headwind, don’t let your miles per hour throw you off. Monitor your heart rate and keep your efforts moderate.
  • Slow your cadence: A slower cadence makes it easier to control your bike in gusts of wind..
  • Get low: Lowering your head and chest and riding in the drops makes it easier to steer.
  • Draft when possible: Taking turns blocking the wind with a ride partner or two makes the wind easier to manage and gives you a much needed mental break.
  • Ride an out and back: The good thing about strong winds is, a headwind in one direction means you’ve got a tailwind in the opposite direction. Ride slow and easy in the headwind and save your energy to hammer through the tailwind. The misery of the headwind will be countered by how much fun it is to speed home in record time with a 20-mile-an-hour wind at your back.

Poor, uneven asphalt, broken glass and other debris not only make for a bumpy ride, but also has the potential to cause a flat tire. Let’s face it — having to get off your bike and repair a puncture is no one’s idea of a good time.

How to defeat it: Flat tires can’t be avoided completely, but there are a few things you can do to prevent them and make your ride more comfortable. Tubeless tires are your best option, and though they haven’t caught on as much as expected because of the initial setup time, it’s worth the extra effort in the long run. Tubeless tires make pinch flats almost non-existent, and if glass or some other sharp object punctures your tire, the sealant takes care of most minor slashes. If you happen to get a puncture roadside, you can still repair it by placing a regular inner tube in the tire. Tubeless tires are also a bit more comfortable on rougher roads, and opting for a larger width (28cc) makes your ride even less harsh.

Drivers are known for being impatient. During rush hour, drivers are more likely to try to squeeze past you while you’re riding on the shoulder or turn in front of you, cutting off your path when you’ve got the right of way. These situations can be dangerous and make it more likely get clipped by a motorist who isn’t giving you the space you’re entitled to on the road.

How to defeat it: When traffic is moving faster than you are, staying to the right shoulder or in the bike lane is your best method of travel and usually your safest option. However, when traffic is heavy, slow moving and cars aren’t giving you the space you need to ride, a better option is to move directly into the lane of traffic. This makes it easier for cars to see you, and it gives you more space to operate safely and more time to react to cars changing lanes or making turns. Cyclists have just as much right to the road as other vehicles do — just remember you have to follow all the rules of the road.

Dogs react to things going by them fast, especially if it’s something unusual they’re not used to seeing. Unfortunately, cyclists fall into this category, and chances are sooner or later you’re going to attract a pooch that’s off their leash. When a dog starts to give chase, there’s always the potential of an accident or a dog bite.

How to defeat it: If you can spot the unleashed dog quick enough, outsprinting it might be your best option. Most dogs can sprint around 20 miles per hour, so if you can get your speed up before you reach the dog you can probably get away. However, if it’s waiting for you, you might have to try something different. If the dog isn’t overly aggressive, using a stern voice and giving it commands like “No,” or “Go home,” might work. When this doesn’t do the trick and the dog is close enough and can potentially bite you, get off the bike. Keep the bike in between you and the dog, using it as a shield for any potential attempts to attack you. Look away from the animal and use the ignore it approach. Once the dog gets bored it should go about its way.

Populated areas usually have a few routes cyclists commonly travel. While wide bike lanes and less cars are normally a good thing, every once in a while you’ll attract a few unwanted ride partners attempting to get on your rear wheel for a free ride out of the wind. This can be impolite, if not downright annoying, especially if the wheel sucker isn’t volunteering to take his or her pull at the front.

How to defeat it: An uninvited cyclist riding close to your rear wheel can cause an accident when their intentions are unknown. Because of this, it’s best to sit up and slow down. This signals you aren’t looking for a ride partner and prefer to ride alone at your own pace. On the other hand, if you wouldn’t mind a little company, sit up and introduce yourself. Ask the cyclist on your wheel where they’re headed and if they’d like to take turns pulling on the front.

About the Author

Marc Lindsay
Marc Lindsay

Marc is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for Active.com.


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