Hear the road

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. 

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified HealthCoach

Though it may be hard to imagine with our recent heat wave, eventually the temperatures will begin to lower. As it does each and every year, the air will become fresh and brisk, the leaves will give off their characteristic autumn fragrance, and outdoor activities will once again beckon.  This seems to be the perfect time of year for family bike rides. Now that the kids are back in school, many families look forward the weekends when they are able to spend quality time together. Biking trails are a perfect way to enjoy scenery, discover nature together and benefit from the bonus of sunshine and exercise.

Whether you choose to enjoy your recreational cycling through a park, following a trail, or on the road, many of the experts’ safety tips apply across the board. If it is a chilly day, it may be tempting to don a warm sweater or fleece sweatshirt in a beautiful fall color.  However, as cozy as you may be, you are also not quite as visible to other cyclists or drivers.  Plan ahead and layer if the weather dictates, but be sure that your outermost layer is a bright, light color.

Most cyclists are well acquainted with the need to adhere to helmet safety, properly inflated tires, and effective brakes.  What often goes overlooked, however, is the vital importance of hearing the road.  This means being aware of your surroundings.  Being able to hear cars coming upon you from behind is a key element in thwarting a potentially serious collision.  Similarly, hearing conversations can indicate an approaching pair of cyclists, or an entire biking club.  Either way, you are safest when you can take the proper tactical maneuver to avoid being in their way or having them in your direct path.

When I see runners getting their exercise on sidewalks or streets, it is hard not to notice the ever-present audio devices plugged into their ears.  After 27 years of teaching aerobics, I fully understand the importance of music with a strong, motivating beat.  Listening to a steady stream of energetic tunes keeps a runner going, even after hitting the proverbial “wall.”  Unfortunately, safe cyclists might wish to pass on this particular aspect.  The use of any audio device while riding outdoors is simply inviting trouble. 

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On a clear fall day, there are so many natural sounds to be taken advantage of while enjoying a recreational or competitive bike ride: the crisp leaves rustling as the wind increases; the cheerful chirp of birds as they communicate and plan for their upcoming southern migration; even the babble of a brook, should your chosen path take you through a more natural setting. Missing out on these audible gifts from Mother Nature robs you of being fully present in your cycling experience. Even if you fall into the more hardcore category of Tour de France hopefuls, placing safety first can offer a multitude of advantages…including peace of mind.