|Evidence of traffic: Dust trails can aid you in being traffic aware.|
As we get toward the final post of the series it is time now to run through some basic gravel road riding tips concerning your safety. This can be summed up in the saying, "Ride Right".
It's pretty basic really. When climbing any hill steep enough that you cannot see the road on the other side, you should bear to the right side as you approach the crest of the hill. This is basic, unwritten form for any driver raised in rural areas where roads do not have a marked centerline. Traffic- be that automobile, truck, farm implement, or horse and buggy all know this tenet of rural road travel. So remember: Always Crest Hills On The Right Side!
I've seen this Rule of the Road save lives. It was during a ride I was in charge of for beginners where we had some pretty steep rollers. I made sure to strictly inform all the riders that day that cresting hills on the right side was expected. Good thing I did! There were about ten of us and just as we were about to crest a hill a big Dodge Ram truck came over the top going at a very high rate of speed. It was scary as it was, but had we had riders on the left side of the road they would have gotten blasted and would probably have died and certainly would have been severely injured.
Along with this rule I would also caution riders to not get lulled to sleep, in a manner of speaking, and let your guard down so much due to there being so little traffic, that you don't pay attention to your surroundings. You still need to be aware and keep checking for movements. It could be the tell-tale roost of dust heading your way. It could even be an animal coming out of a ditch or wooded area. (I'll speak to dogs at the end here, by the way) Just don't think that because the roads are seemingly empty that traffic won't happen.
|It's best to give farm equipment a very wide berth.|
In groups of riders use general group ride etiquette mixed with the "Ride Right" idea and the tips outlined here. While it is fun and enjoyable to ride two and even three abreast, be very careful and watch out for traffic,because it will happen. Also, drafting can be a handful on gravel and only the most experienced cyclists should even attempt this. I would dissuade the practice myself outside of racing, because gravel surfaces can be very unpredictable. It just is not worth the increased risk to rider safety. Especially for beginners.
Descending can be dangerous and my advice is to space yourself out, if in a group setting, and allow other riders lots of space. Things can happen pretty fast at 30mph or more, so it is best to not ride closely to other riders, if at all possible. Sudden changes in another rider's line would put you into a bind if you are too close to them. This is because making sudden reductions in your speed, or your direction of travel, in order to avoid another rider, will likely result in your losing control and crashing. This is because gravel is unforgiving and has little traction for sudden braking and maneuvering for riders trying to take avoidance measures. You just have little chance of pulling off such a move on gravel, so don't put yourself into a situation where you might get taken out.
Likewise, if you are descending hold your line if at all possible so you do not put another rider at risk of having to try to avoid you if you were to suddenly change your line. As outlined in an earlier post in this series, it is okay to drag and feather your brakes, reduce speed, look ahead down the hill where you want to go, and be cautious. While it is fun to "grip it and rip it" at times, you should not put yourself or other riders at an unnecessary risk of crashing.
A Word Or Two About Dogs: If you ride a bicycle long enough, at some point you will come across a dog or two, (or more!) that wants to bark, chase, hunt, or try to bite you. Be prepared! My best advice in the shortest form I can make this in would be to do the following. If a dog chases you out on the road:
What do you do when a dog gives chase?
- Assess the situation quickly. Can you outrun this dog, (most times if it is a medium sized dog or larger, the answer is no) If you cannot, prepare to stop. Yes- Stop.
- Put your bike between you and the dog.
- Next, there are two schools of thought here- Tell the dog(s) "GO HOME!!" in a commanding voice, or talk to the dog until it calms down.
- If the owner comes out let them call the dog(s) off because at that point whatever you say to the dog will be a moot point- The dog will try to protect its owner unless it is called off.
- If you are bitten, or harassed by an out-of-control dog, REPORT THE INCIDENT TO THE AUTHORITIES. Dog owners are responsible for the control of their dogs if you are on public property (the roadway)
- BE AWARE THAT IF YOU GO ONTO A PROPERTY YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS IF YOU GET BIT. Be very careful if you need to ask for help while out for a ride and you decide to approach a residence in a rural area. I know of a few incidents where riders have been attacked and bitten by dogs when doing this. When getting attacked and/or bitten happens, and you are on another's property, the owner may not be responsible for your injuries.
This could be a huge article, but these very basic points should be remembered and practiced for your encounter with a rural dog. (If you've never had a dog chase you while you are riding, just hold on, it will happen someday)
Okay folks! That's a brief review of the basic riding rules and some things to think about concerning dogs. By no means is this an exhaustive list or a comprehensive article on the subjects, but in order to keep it brief and easy, this is what I have for you.
Next week I conclude the series with a Final Send-Off!