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This outlines the 25 minute pre-ride "safety session" or "advice clinic" which I give prior to GPC Novice and Century-Prep rides. (Yes, it can all be covered in 25 minutes if one is concise.) I posted this in hopes it may be useful to other ride leaders. But it's an outline only: If you don't already know the material, some of it won't make much sense.


  • Static:
    • Brakes — adjustment; not rubbing against sidewalls.
    • Cables (visual)
    • Bounce check — quickly reveals many problems — investigate any rattles.
    • Tires pumped
    • Quick visual tire check — for cuts, etc
    • Careful tire glass check (not right now, though)
    • Quick release — correct tightening
  • Riding:
    • Derailer check (not right now, though)
  • Anyone who fails — go see a co-leader for adjustments.


  • Starting — the correct way. It checks your brakes, too.
  • Relax your hands and body. Avoid "death grip".
  • Arms bent. Hand positions. Thumb position!
  • Power comes from thighs & glutes. Pedal in 'circles.'
    • Avoid upper body gyrations.
    • Trunk braces the legs.
    • Pedal in 'circles.'   How to tell and practice
  • Steering: largely with your weight. The bike naturally goes straight when your weight is centered. (That's why riding no hands works). Internalize this ... it may save you a spill!
  • Constantly scan the road surface for hazards: potholes, debris, glass.
  • Looking back: Chin touches left shoulder (L.A.B. method). Neck stiffness/looseness.
  • How to brake:
    • Evenly, but front does the work.
    • (Demonstrate front vs. rear, walking the bicycle)
    • For hard braking: weight back.
  • Control your speed on downhill. Feathering & pumping brakes.
  • Posting (demonstrate).
  • Resources:
    • Bike handling classes, e.g., Mike Cox.


  • Be courteous of peds, etc. You are the faster & heavier vehicle.
  • Watch out for dogs, kids, baby-strollers, rollerskaters, etc.
  • Pass on the left; call out and ring bell.
  • Single up if the path is busy.
  • Some have posted speed limits, e.g. 15mph.
  • If stopping, pull off the path.
  • Less challenging & less excercise than open road.


  • Lots of novice bikers are afraid of riding in traffic. They shouldn't be. They simply haven't been educated.
  • Share the road. This means:
    • Bikes & cars share the roads, often the same travel lanes.
    • Same roads, same laws.
    • Cooperate with drivers and they should cooperate with you. Eg: Let them pass when you can.
  • Vehicular biking: Think like a vehicle; act like a vehicle. You'll be treated like a vehicle.
  • Be just as alert to traffic & obstacles as if you're a car driver.
  • Where to ride on the road? Lane positioning: done by speed:
    • To the right;
    • Not so far right you're in the doorzone / debris zone;
    • Not in the shoulder, unless it's very good quality.
    • Not on the sidewalk, unless under 18 (depends on municipality).
    • Not in right turn lanes when you're going straight.
  • Be predictable. Don't weave. Act the way you'd want a car driver to act.
  • Always observe lane markings, traffic lights, etc. Always ride with traffic.
  • Intersections (done by destination): Always take the right-most lane that goes where you want.
    • Turning left: Use the left lane (or rightmost left-turn lane, if several).
    • Going straight through an intersection which has right-turn-only lanes: Where should you be?
    • Differences if entering a road from a bike path. Then what are you?
  • Take the lane:
    • Always, when stopped in an intersection.
    • Whenever the lane is too narrow for safe sharing.
    • When safety otherwise dictates — e.g., moving same speed as auto traffic
    • But not unnecessarily.
  • Summary: "Bicyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles." —John Forester.
  • Drive defensively, bike defensively.
  • Common sense and common courtesy.
  • Resources:


  • Great fun, but need to avoid problems.
  • Ride a 'straight line'. Again, be predictable. Think of being in a freeway lane.
  • When much traffic: ride single file, except when the group takes the lane (e.g., to turn left)
  • Be alert to other bikers, ahead and behind.
  • Bad things to do:
    • Quickly stop in front of someone.
    • Veer into someone's path.
  • Don't follow too closely — but assume someone is following you too closely
  • Don't pass on right — except if very safe and necessary; then call out. (Exceptions)
  • Calling out:
    • "Car back" (single-up for cars to pass) (don't over-call this one)
    • "Car up" (narrow tricky roads only)
    • "Ped up" (if on the right)
    • "Slowing"   "Glass"   "Stopping"
  • Hand signals
    • Left.   Right.   Slowing.   Stopping.
    • Point out hazards.
  • Drafting, pacelining, and tight packs are advanced techniques. Not for novices.
Get these notes in PDF format, handy for printing (2-sided) and taking to the session.
Copyright © 2007 Mark Abrahams