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Bicycling Safety Training
The speed made possible by riding a bicycle inherently increases the risk of injury, with the head being the most vulnerable body part. However, any bicycle fall is potentially life threatening even without speed, because the head is likely to strike a hard surface with enough force to cause a concussion, if not a skull fracture. Accordingly, an essential part of cycling gear is a good quality and well-fitted helmet. It is essential to understand the risk involved from head injury and the absolute necessity of wearing a helmet when biking.
The helmet, however, is no match for a collision with a motor vehicle. Youths often want to ride in vehicular traffic without an adequate respect for and understanding of the risks related to the bike and motor vehicle collision. In such a collision, the bike rider always loses.
Defensive riding practices and cycling rules of the road must be learned and practiced before riding in vehicular traffic. Practice should be conducted on bike trails or lightly traveled roads until skill levels are sufficient for safe riding in traffic. Special attention should be paid to staying in the bike lane and being alert for the danger of doors being flung open into the bike lane by parked cars and with drivers making a right-hand turn across bike lanes.
Bicycling need not be too expensive. A great many used bikes are available for sale at affordable prices. Likewise, bike helmets and clothing can be purchased inexpensively with a little searching. Discount sellers are easy to find both in traditional stores and on sellers’ websites. Like most products, however, you often get what you pay for in terms of quality, and there always are low-quality bicycle products for sale that should be avoided. Determining the quality of bikes and accessories is something leaders can teach.
Before you start training for a long distance ride, it is important to make sure you have the right bike that fits you well. Bikes are made for different types of riding and cannot effectively be used interchangeably. Mountain bikes are designed for trail riding and should not be used for long- distance road riding. That is because they are too heavy to be ridden long distances at high speeds. Weight—lack of weight, really—is everything in long-distance riding and especially hill climbing. To satisfy the 50-mile ride requirement for the Cycling merit badge, you should use a lightweight road bike, preferably one weighing no more than about 25 pounds.
Good fit is as important as weight. Little neck or seat pains quickly become unbearable over many miles. The most important part of your bike is the seat, and a newer ergonomic design is really worthwhile for comfort on long rides. Get expert assistance to make sure your bike is the right type, size, and design for your body type and for long-distance riding, and that it’s properly adjusted for you. Padded bike shorts are also recommended for comfortable long-distance riding, and can be purchased at most stores that carry cycling equipment.
On a road bike, the handlebar ends should be tilted up or down so they are parallel to the ground. If the handlebars are in the correct position, your back should be at a 45-degree angle when you are riding. (This angle is a suggested guideline: your personal preference may vary.) If not, you may have to change to a different size handlebar stem or adjust the height of the bars.
Avoiding Cycling Sunburn – Skin sun damage is cumulative and can lead to skin cancer. To avoid skin damage, follow these tips:
- Use a sunblock with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher on all exposed skin, and reapply it several times during the day.
- Use gloves for protection from the sun and spills.
- Wear long sleeves and biking tights.
- Wear a head and neck cover. Your helmet will also provide some protection from the sun.
To check the fit of a bicycle, straddle the top tube and lift the handlebars until the top tube reaches your crotch level. If the road bike fits you, there should be about an inch or two of space between the front tire and the ground, which allows you to dismount safely and ride with maximum efficiency. For a mountain bike, there should be 2 to 4 inches of space.
Four Weekend Rides for Cycling Merit Badge
Here is a simple plan to work toward the Cycling merit badge. Scouts should also ride on their own or in small groups in between these rides. Your counselor can help you adjust the mileage if you plan to use a mountain bike instead of a road bike.
- Weekend 1 Training Ride Distance: 20 miles
— Elevation gain: 300 feet Average speed: 12 mph
— Time goal: 2 hours, including rest and food breaks
- Weekend 2 Training Ride Distance: 30 miles
— Elevation gain: 500 feet Average speed: 13 mph
— Time goal: 3 hours, including two breaks for rest and food
- Weekend 3 Training Ride Distance: 40 miles
— Elevation gain: 800 feet Average speed: 14 mph
— Time goal: 4 hours, including three breaks for ride rest and food
- Weekend 4 Training Ride Distance: 50 miles
— Elevation gain: 1,000 feet Average speed: 15 mph
— Time goal: 4.5 hours, including four rest and food breaks
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