Dr. Eric Heiden is a Salt Lake City and Park City based orthopedic surgeon, specializing in sports medicine. As a former USA pro-cycling champion, he enjoys staying active riding his bike on the road and trails. As Summer winds down, Dr. Heiden tries to hit the trails as much as possible. Here are his top 5 tips for cycling safety:
Make a cycling plan.
It is always best to know which trails you plan to hit and how far you want to go. Have a backup trail in case your first choice is closed and let someone know where you will be going and how long you expect to be gone; maybe even take a friend. Knowing which trails you plan to ride can help you make sure your bike is built for that specific terrain. If you’re just starting out trail cycling, start easy. Slowly increase your trail difficulty and allow yourself time to get use to the bike. Remember that going for the hardest trail right away will only set you back further.
Check the weather.
A rainstorm can roll in quickly, this is especially relevant in Utah. Checking the weather ahead of time can help you decide which trails might get washed over or too muddy. Always dress appropriately and bring a jacket, just in case. Consequently, remember rocks and trails will be more slippery in certain conditions and should be avoided.
Wearing the proper gear can save you a lot of trouble in the future. Proper shoes, cycling shorts, a helmet, gloves and sunglasses are non-negotiable for Dr. Eric Heiden. Sunglasses aren’t just for the sun, they’ll save you from wind, rocks, or anything else that flies at your face. The proper gear can be the difference between getting back on the bike after a fall or heading to the hospital. Remember to carry an ID and emergency contact information with you, especially if you are riding alone. It is even a good idea to carry some cash, just in case.
Water. Water. Water.
Did we say water? Always pack a water bottle, cellphone, and food, depending on how long you plan to ride. Even short rides can exhaust your body quickly, depending on the terrain or heat. Plan ahead and listen to your body. Injuries come in many forms and not taking care of your body could be less time on the trail in the future.
Enjoy your ride.
When you are on the trail, look ahead at where you want to go. Target fixation works and will help your ride feel smoother and easier. Let your eyes roam the trail ahead before your bike even gets there. You are going to go where you are looking, so look where you want to go. Relax your grip, your legs and your arms. Your body generally has a pretty good built-in suspension. Tensing up your body causes it to fatigue quicker.
Most of all, be courteous on the trail. Horses and hikers have priority. Adding a bell to your bike can be a kind way to let others know you are coming up behind them. Remember, horses, hikers, bikers, in that order.