June is bicycle month, and more people, of all ages, are biking for fun and exercise.
"Biking is great exercise for people of all ages, including people with joint problems, because they get a good range of motion without putting weight on the joints," says Almonte family physician Dr. Kate Miller.
Wear a helmet – "This goes for everyone, of every age, for every bike ride," says Dr. Miller.
Ride the right size of bike – "You may be tempted to hand down a bike from one child to another, even if it is too big or too small for them," says Dr. Miller. "But the wrong size of bike will affect the child’s balance and stability, so it is important that children ride the right size of bike."
Ride a bike that fits your needs – "There are great new bikes that have wider tires for better balance and permit the rider to step on and off, not swing their leg over," says Dr. Miller. "They let you place your feet flat when you come off the seat and have taller handle bars, which permit you to sit up higher and have better visibility. If you are 70, you need a different bike than someone 20, so get one that fits your needs and abilities."
Start out slowly – "For your first ride, don’t bite off more than you can chew," advises Dr. Miller. "Take some short rides before tackling a longer one. If you are stiff, be sure to stretch."
Be careful on rural roads – "Be aware of the shoulder surface on rural roads," she cautions. "They can be softer, making it easier to drop off the road. Also keep in mind that vehicles may be driving faster on rural roads and may come up behind you quickly."
Stay off the sidewalk – "Sidewalks are not safe to ride on unless it is a very small child riding slowly," says Dr. Miller. "The road is a safer place for bike riders than sidewalks. Also, cyclists are a lot faster and more powerful than they think. If they strike a pedestrian they can cause serious injury."
Pay attention – "Don’t listen to your MP3 player while biking," warns Dr. Miller. "You need to be able to hear the traffic and what is going on around you to be aware and safe."
Be visible – "If you ride at night, always have a light on your bike," says Dr. Miller. "If your children are biking, make sure their clothes are brightly coloured and put a flag on the bike so it easier for motorists to see."