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Newbie Road Fears(18 posts)

Newbie Road FearsChickenLittle
Mar 19, 2001 3:30 PM
As a newbie to road cycling, I have some concerns about a few things that I've never had to deal with on the MTB trail. Namely automobiles and dogs, with the autos my main concern.

Can anyone offer advice on how to deal with these threats? Should I carry pepper spray for the mean pooches? How about an electromagnetic pulse generator to disable vehicles?

Seriously though, what should I do, not do concerning my fears?
be afraidfreddie kruger
Mar 19, 2001 3:46 PM
be VERY afraid
re: Newbie Road Fearslook271
Mar 19, 2001 3:50 PM
Dogs I don't worry too much about, as I haven't had much trouble with them. You need to be firm with them and let them know that you're not afraid. Yelling "NO!" often times will have them back off. They can sense when you're afraid, so don't be! Cars, that's another matter. You need to be as visible as possible, give them room when you can, and if there is no good shoulder, ride on the right side of the lane and expect them to do something stupid, like turning infront of you or cutting you off. Expect the unexpected, and be alert. Might want to carry a semi-automatic weapon, in case things get ugly!(KIDDING!!!!!)
re: Newbie Road FearsCliff Oates
Mar 19, 2001 6:12 PM
Amazing how the word "no" has so much power, isn't it? Of course, my dog knows exactly what "no" means, as do most dogs I've run across. The only time I got seriously hassled by dogs was when I was crawling up a fairly steep hill and a couple of pooches got curious about me. I kept shouting "no!" at them, and every time I did I could hear them whimpering behind me. They eventally got bored and wandered off.

If no doesn't work, then a frame pump would come in handy. Not as a club, but as a handle. The dog is going to chomp on it like it was a stick, and now you've got a way to keep the dog away from you. I haven't needed this technique on my bike, but I have had to use it when I have been walking my dog and stray dogs got too curious for everyone's comfort. Of course, I used a stick in this situation, my dog rarely flats, so I don't normally carry a pump when walking her.

With cars, you have to be visible and predictable. Wear bright colors and obey the traffic laws. If you want to blow off a stop sign or a red light, you are assuming all risk for that behavior. Take the lane if that's what it takes to ride safely on a particular stretch of road. Making eye contact with a driver goes a long way towards getting them to respect your space. Wave and smile at people who yield the right of way to you, and signal drivers whom you are yielding to so that they don't run the "how long can he hold that track stand" experiment. Basically, assume everyone is an idiot and do everything in your power to communicate.
Your "spider-sense" should be tingling ...Humma Hah
Mar 19, 2001 4:02 PM
... you preceive correctly. Be aware of everything around you, including cars behind you. I use a mirror on my helmet -- some folks don't like them, and they are a distraction at first. What is in front of you is more important than what is behind you, but you need to be aware of both.

Cars coming toward you may turn left into your path. Cars coming up behind you may turn right in front of you. Cars in driveways or side streets may pull out in front of you. Drivers can be looking right at you and fail to see you, or misjudge your speed.

Parked cars are a threat, too. A door can open suddenly, or someone (kids especially) can come around without looking. You need to "claim your lane" well before reaching parked cars. If you wait to the last second, and cars are coming up behind you, you cannot safely swing left to clear the parked cars.

Look ahead. Plan ahead. Is there a pothole? A drain grate? A right turn lane? Glass? Debris? Will you be able to ride straight ahead? Avoiding last-second maneuvers can save your neck.

Dog problems are usually rare. However, if you ever DO have a dog problem on a particular route, you can be virtually certain you will have it again at the same spot. That may be time to get some anti-dog defense. Usually they prefer to chase and not bite, and would have some difficulty getting a good chomp on fast-spinning feet, even if they can easily keep up with you. Most dogs call off the chase at some invisible point, the edge of what they perceive as their "territory".

You probably crash more on a MTB than a roadbike. A roadbike crash has more possibility of being lethal, however. A 3200-lb car at 60 mph has the same energy as a 32-lb cannonball going 600 mph.
Assume that every car wants to kill you, &Largo
Mar 19, 2001 5:55 PM
you'll be juuuuust fine.
Cars ARE a threat....Cora
Mar 19, 2001 6:44 PM
and should be treated as such. Being aware of your surroundings and making eye contact goes a long way toward knowing which driver is your biggest threat. Last time I couldn't make eye contact I was blown into the sky (I know, not very supportive of my statements, but the wheels were in motion and there was nothing to be done but prepare for the inevitable).
As for dogs, I ride many miles through residential, rural etc. and have had few issues. Once you're riding for a while, you'll get to know a few of the pesky pooches and what their game is.
A little fear is healthy ...bianchi boy
Mar 19, 2001 7:32 PM
as long as it doesn't keep you off the road. Use that fear to keep yourself constantly aware of what cars are doing -- the ones behind you, the side and in front. Manage that fear by wearing bright clothes, using a mirror, riding defensively. Be careful not to make sudden swerves into the road -- particularly when you encounter a hole or a dog -- without looking first to make sure a car isn't behind you.

As for the dogs, I have three techniques I follow in this order:
1. Try to outrun the dog -- it's a great way to work some intervals or sprints into your training.
2. If the dog's got the angle on you or catches you by surprise, yell No or Go Home or Stop at it loudly.
3. Pull out the old water bottle and squirt at its face. It usually stops them in their tracks.
Don't be afraid, but do be careful.Starliner
Mar 19, 2001 10:44 PM
Fear won't help you out, it scatters your mind, keeping you from focusing on what you need to do to stay upright and moving on. You must maintain your awareness at all times of what is ahead of you, while keeping a sharpened, vigilant ear out for what is behind you. Both at the same time? Yes, but the more you ride (and set aside your fears), the more it'll become second nature (and the enjoyment of road riding will be had).
Dogs,cars,& other dangers of the roadPeter Rhodes
Mar 20, 2001 4:12 AM
I've been riding now for 11 years. I have been pretty lucky in that time. 2 years ago I got hit by a car while riding, and just 3 days ago I got bit by my first dog ever. I do recommend pepper spray. It will deter a dog. you just need to have quick access to it. In most cases the dog will not wait for you to notice it is coming.
I would honestly say that I've been bumped, swerved at,had stuff thrown at me,yelled at and every other conceivable annoyance you can imagine from people in cars. I honestly think that people get behind the wheel of their vehicle and their brains shut off. I can't tell you the number of times some one has sped by me (or us) to cut us off because they wanted to turn right into a street. It bothers me so much that these people cannot take 5 seconds out of their so busy an obviously more important lives to let me (or us) pass and turn behind us. I live in NH, not exactly a thriving metropolis. It is very easy in this state to get off a "main road" and onto a secondary and less travelled road. That is usually where the best riding is anyways.
Dogs is another concern. Not a significant one though. The most important lesson here is to just stay alert. Be aware of the yards you're going by. Look down the road at approaching houses. Most dogs will bark, and maybe chase you for the sake of running. The majority however will not chase to bite. I have found most times if you just yell "HEY" at the dog they stop. I do recommend the pepper spray though.
DazerDT
Mar 20, 2001 5:39 AM
I recently moved to rural Mississippi (ya-friggin'-hoo) and actually found some incredible roads to ride on about 10 miles from my house. The down side, however, was thenumber of rednecks' dogs untied, roaming the yard which almost always seems to stretch across the road and up and down it either side for a good 100 yards or so. I was getting really discouraged because there were so many, and they were so aggressive. I started carrying pepper spray, in a jersey pocket or tucked under the edge of my shorts. I've only used it once, and I gotta admit I baited the sucker. There's this chocolate lab that is the biggest pain in the ass, and I finally got sick of him. So as I went by him about a week ago, I had the intention of spraying him rather than outrunning him. He didn't yelp (I actually like dogs, just not when I'm on my bike, so I didn't want to hurt him...), but he did stop, look confused, then go to the grass and start rubbing his face in it. :0) I also now carry a Dazer, which you can find by doing a search on yahoo. It looks like a garage door opener, but it emits an ultrasonic sound that annoys, not hurts, dogs. I take that with me when my wife and I ride our tandem, because it's a little harder to outsprint a dog on a tandem...she's in charge of 'Dazing' the dogs, and it's almost comical to watch them! Some still come out after you, but they won't get near as close. It costs about $32...worth it if you ask me! As for cars, after being hit by one last summer, I now use a little mirror inside my sunglass lens...works wonders! It's also great for group rides to see someone trying to sprint past you before they actually get past you and it's too late. I also had a dogtag made with my name, address, ph#, wife's name, and my blood type that I keep on my body, not in my seatpack, in case I'm hit in the middle of nowhere and left for dead.
Hey DT....CC
Mar 20, 2001 7:33 AM
What part of MS do you reside in? Im in Jackson.
Hey CC...DT
Mar 20, 2001 6:50 PM
...I live in Columbus, unfortunately. I'm in the Air Force. Actually, this past weekend I was down in Jackson. I had called Michael Harrison at The Bike Rack and asked about group rides. He told me of one meeting at 1:30 at the Holmes Jr College off of Old Agency Rd. I went, and about 20 others showed up. Man, I miss group rides!!! If you guys ever want to make the trek up here, I'll take you on some SMOOOOOOTH roads where you can go for 15 miles without seeing a single car! There's also some pretty good hills a little east of here, more than what we did this past Sunday in Jackson. You guys got some good riders there...I definitely had a great time!
Never, ever...4bykn
Mar 20, 2001 7:57 AM
trust a car's turn signals. Some don't use them when turning, and some seem to just enjoy having the blinking light on the dash and leave it on.. As someone else mentioned, if possible make eye contact with the car driver. If he/she knows you see him/her then the driver seems to give a little more respect, something to do with loss of anonymity.
Never had a problem w/ a dog until last night!!! I have always..Jimbob
Mar 20, 2001 8:06 AM
just either slowed down, ignored them or swerved toward them and it works every time. I dont know, maybe I havent come across a really agressive one yet. But my problem last evening was entirely different. Im getting ready for the Sea Otter DH this weekend. I got this new front tire and wanted to go out and push it at high speed as well as get a few 3-4 minute downhill intervals in. I go out to my location, I rarely see anybody or anything on this trail, and do my thing. As Im flying downhill well beyond my AT and probably atleast 35 mph I suddenly see a dog trotting along. I slam on my brakes and the dog just darts right into my path and takes out my front wheel. Needless to say, I hit the dirt hard. I am fine, just a lot of abrasions. I hate crashing. Especially when its something dumb like that. I learned a good lesson though. I will never be going full speed downhill again unless its on a closed course.
dogs, cars...and kids in the suburbsHaiku d'état
Mar 21, 2001 5:52 AM
two things i've not seen here yet, with which i've had many problems: kids on scooters and bikes in suburb streets, and teens/rednecks between 7:00 and 10:30 PM.

I find that kids, riding circles or playing the street in their neighborhood, will tyically get in my path AFTER THEY'VE SEEN ME in lieu of getting out of the way. lots of 'em like to shout and point and are amused/amazed that an adult (term used loosely) would wear superhero tights and ride a flashy bike. i'm forced to navigate a few miles of suburbia to get to/from any decent ride route, and they're like little moving cones on a dynamic/ever evolving obstacle course. except for the ones on bmx bikes that like to race. >;-)

i've been riding at night after my toddler gets to bed, which is often times the only chance i have to get on the bike, aside from the trainer, after work. i've noticed my ride "bubba rating" goes from 0-3 on weekend mornings to 3-5 during the week after 7:00 PM. last week i was passed by a redneck caravan, in which each vechicle, independently and of its own accord, had a person hang their head out of the window and yell either "heeey ma-yan" or "hey fay-get". it's amusing 'til you realize that it's dark and you're miles from home. i'm lucky not to have had bottles and cans thrown at me from the inbred passing in their el caminos and econoline vans (no offense meant to el camino or van drivers).

i've considered carrying one of those telescoping batons, but i think most rednecks are like country dogs or territorial woodland creatures, in that they tend to push until you push back, then what happens after is a matter determined by two factors: mating season and intoxication. one or two good ole boys in a beat-up 1989 ford escort are going to tend to pull over and get out, and, finding you already off the bike and ready to defend yourself, mouth off and get back in the car. one or two good ole boys and their woman in the car is another story. either mix, with or without a mate, plus alcohol...well, that's unpredictable.

suffice to say that (and this is repeating what i've read here and found on my own to be very true) we look much smaller and more delicate riding a shiny bike while wearing a crash helmet and lycra. it's something about lycra that enrages people in cars, especially those listening to hank williams jr. (no offense intended to bosephus fans ON THIS BOARD), or those with "will deer/duck hunt for food" or deer skull bumper stickers on their pickups (no offense intended to pickup truck drivers). funny thing, too, is that i get a 15-25% increase in the ride "bubba rating" on wednesday nights after church lets out. (no offense intended to church-goers).

moral of the story: ride slow around kids in suburbia, and judge carefully when dealing with inbred motorists. i'm not carrying that telescoping baton yet, as it's been pointed out to me here on this board that...pull out a baton and the driver might go back to his car for a projectile weapon.

good luck.
Dog repellerAIR HORN
Mar 21, 2001 8:09 AM
I used to ride on great country roads with ridiculous numbers of loose dogs. Sometimes 10 or more would chase me on a ride. Biting is not the only problem. One ran straight under my front wheel and I hit him square, but miraculously, no crash.

My solution: AIR HORN Scares the crap out of them without hurting them. Get one at a local boating store.
Two more things...Jay
Mar 21, 2001 9:11 AM
1) Though this one has been said by a few others here, try to plan your rides so that you spend a minimum amount of time on busier roads. On a less travelled road, a car driver has a better chance of spotting you well in advance as opposed to spotting you last minute or not at all.

2) Be conscious of riding into the sunset or sunrise when it's at a sharp angle. Drivers will have much more trouble seeing you at these times of day when the sun is streaming into their eyes.