Fun With Bikes
Sarasota-Manatee Bicycle Club Safety
SAFETY TIPS FOR NEW CYCLEFEST RIDERS
Every November, more than 600 cyclists take to the streets of Lakewood Ranch for the Sarasota-Manatee Bicycle Club’s Gulf Coast Cyclefest Bike Ride. The event hosts riders of all abilities, from seasoned experts and weekend enthusiasts, to beginners and families with young kids. Cycling with such a diverse crowd requires extra care—and lots of politeness.
It takes 80 plus volunteers from the Sarasota-Manatee Bicycle Club to make this event happen.
As with any time you ride, make sure that your bike is in good condition, tires aren’t worn and tubes are pumped, brakes stop you quickly and your chain is clean and lubed. Come equipped with spare tubes, a pump or CO2 cartridge, tire levers and the other tools you always carry.
Luckily, if you are already at the ride getting your bike ready and you find something that needs attention, there will be a bike shop or two with staff at the start of the ride to help out. USE them.
If you didn’t preregister, head to the pre-registration area.
This event will have several route distances to chose from. There will be cue sheets for each distance at the registration table. Each route will be marked with colored arrows on the road for you to follow, but it is nice to have a cue sheet handy incase of a wrong turn. Make sure that you find out what color the arrows are for the route you want to ride before you leave. My group made that mistake once. We planned to ride a metric century and more than halfway through we found out that we were following the arrows for the century! Having a cue sheet came in handy on that ride!
It’s Not a Race
The Gulf Coast Cyclefest is not a race. Even if you are a regular club group rider, large cycling events have a different feel. There is excitement in the air as everyone is busy getting ready and then steps up to the start to go. If you want to go fast, start at the front of the pack.
The roads that you will be riding are open for cars so you still need to follow all traffic law while you ride. There will be riders who are pushing the pace and testing their fitness level, and then there are riders who are just looking at the sights. It’s important to be patient as you come up to slower groups, and keep in mind that this might be some people’s first substantial ride.
Large group rides are a great time to try to ride a longer distance then you ever have because they are supported with rest stops, food, water, and SAG vehicles available to help if your bike has a problem or to take you back to the start if you run out of steam. So go for it.
During the first few miles, the group will usually be packed with little room between riders. Keep your hands ready on your brakes—it’ll help you react quickly should you need to slow down. Even with a large group in front of you, you still need to watch out for pedestrians, road debris, and other obstacles that might be hard to see through the crowd of riders. Keep your head up and pay attention.
Whenever you or your group begin to pass other riders, please call out “Passing on your left” loud enough for everyone to hear.
Don’t forget your safety knowledge, riding with a large group of people that you may or may not know, requires extra attention to where you are at all times. Do not overlap wheels, Don’t ride to close to the edge of the road, follow all traffic signals, pass only on the left, watch the “door” zone.
Rest stops are there for a reason especially if you plan to make this your first metric or full century. Stop at each one if only to get off the saddle to drink, stretch and catch your breath. Don’t stay at any rest stop for too long, you may start to cramp or get behind on your time riding. Be aware that there are time limits on the ride itself. Rest stops may close before you reach them if you dawdle too much and the sag may ask you to be driven in if your are still on the course when the ride is closing up.
Be a Friendly Cyclist
Talk to people, say hi, as you pass or as they pass you. Announce yourself if you pull behind a rider you do not know to catch a draft behind them for a break. Also, thank them or offer to pull them some, before riding off ahead.
All routes end back on Main Street where you can now RELAX, have lunch, meet new friends, listen to music, check out the businesses marketing their products. And get excited for THE GULF COAST CYCLEFEST 2019.