Equipment and safety gear
In Manitoba, anyone under 18 is required by law to wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet while cycling. Adults are encouraged to be a role model for children and also wear a helmet while cycling.
A simple fall off of your bicycle can result in serious head trauma and even the most experienced riders are at risk of an accident. Fortunately, when worn properly, a helmet can reduce your risk of a head injury by 85 per cent.
How to choose a helmet
Simply wearing a helmet is not enough. It must also fit properly and should be certified according to standards by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Snell Memorial Foundation, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
A cycling helmet should fit snugly on your head, even with the chin strap undone. Most helmet manufacturers provide a variety of foam pads that can be adjusted to fit a range of head sizes. Once fitted, you should be able to move your head from side to side or back and forth without the helmet tipping off.
To ensure you're visible to motorists, choose a helmet that is bright in colour. The helmet should also provide adequate ventilation to keep you comfortable, even in warmer temperatures.
Your helmet should sit level on top of your head with no more than a two-finger width above your eyebrow.
The side straps should be adjusted to form a “V” shape, slightly in front of and just below the ears. This is accomplished using sliding or locking clips (See the helmet manufacturer's instruction for specifics on how your helmet clips work.)
Adjust the length of the chin strap so that one finger fits under the strap. It needs to be snug, but not uncomfortable.
Double check to make sure the helmet doesn't rock back and forth when you move your head around. Open your mouth wide and you should feel the helmet pull down on your head. If your helmet has a rear stabilizer, adjust it to provide more stability and comfort.
This video shows you how to fit your helmet properly.
How do I know if my helmet needs replacement?
If your helmet is damaged or its shell has deteriorated, it may be time for a replacement. Helmet standards and quality change over time and many older helmets don't meet current requirements.
Helmet manufacturers recommend that you replace your helmet every five years. However, this is highly dependent on usage and care.
Your helmet needs to be replaced if:
- you have been in an accident while wearing your helmet even if damage to the structure of the helmet is not be visible
- there are cracks or damage to the surface of the plastic shell since small cracks anywhere on the shell indicate aging and the need for replacement
- the shell colour has faded significantly as the plastic portion has likely become brittle
- the foam liner has any cracks or if any areas appear compressed or thinner than other areas of the helmet
- the straps, buckles or rear stabilizer are damaged or missing
In addition to a helmet, there are a number of other items you should consider when it comes to safely outfitting yourself and your bicycle.
- Always use good tires inflated to their recommended pressure, which is generally found on the sidewall of the tire.
- Narrow tires inflated firmly are easier for pedaling on hard surfaces, while wider tires provide more comfort and traction.
- For off-road use, tire pressure can be reduced to provide better traction and to absorb the impact of uneven surfaces. It's a good idea to check your tires regularly to make sure they are inflated appropriately for your needs.
- Ask your bicycle shop what type of tire would best suit your cycling needs.
- Brakes must be powerful enough so you can easily stop your bicycle at a moment's notice. Your hands should be placed on the handlebars so you can reach the brake levers quickly and easily.
- Having only one brake in good working condition is dangerous. Make sure both your front and rear brakes work properly and receive regular maintenance from a bicycle mechanic.
Lights and reflectors
- The Highway Traffic Act requires that you have a white light on the front of your bicycle and a red or amber reflector on the rear.
- In addition to these requirements, adding a red blinking LED light on the rear of your bicycle will greatly increase your visibility. These lights come in a wide variety of styles and can be seen for several kilometres.
- Check with your local bicycle shop for advice on the most appropriate lighting for your needs.
- Wear brightly coloured, reflective clothing (e.g. neon green, yellow and orange) both day and night.
- Wear a safety vest over your clothing to ensure you're ready for all riding conditions.
- Other recommended safety wear includes reflective ankle straps and reflective wrist bands. The constant motion of reflective ankle straps will increase your visibility and attract a driver's attention. Reflective bands on your wrists will make your hand signals more visible.
Other safety items
Here are a few other items that you can consider to make your ride safer and more enjoyable:
- Safety or sun glasses to reduce glare and protect your eyes from flying debris and dust.
- Gloves to increase your grip, especially in wet weather. Gloves can also protect your hands if you fall and make your ride more comfortable.
- A bell is useful as a courtesy to alert pedestrians and other road and trail users of your approach. This can be especially important on shared or multi-use paths.
- A mirror is a great safety devise to use while riding. It allows you to see the traffic in the travel lane beside you and to keep an eye on a riding partner without turning around. But remember – a mirror does not replace the need to shoulder check before moving over or changing lanes.
- A tool kit/pump is a necessity for longer road trips. It is also useful around town to prevent a potentially long walk for minor repairs. A basic tool kit includes tire levers, spare tire tube, patch kit, pump, screwdriver and multi-purpose tools for adjusting a variety of nuts and bolts.
This video shows you more about bike equipment and safety gear.