Utah’s beautiful trails and roadways offer some of the best cycling on Earth, and biking is a great way to explore while being active. Unfortunately, accidents are always a risk when riding on roads and mountain trails and they can lead to some serious consequences.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that bicyclists face a higher risk of crash-related injury and death than occupants of motor vehicles. Almost 800 bicyclists were killed with an estimated 515,000 emergency department visits in the U.S. in 2010 alone.
This statistic may alarm you, but you can reduce your risk of injury by simply arming yourself with proper gear and following these safety tips.
How can I protect myself?
Helmets– Head injury is a major cause of both fatal and nonfatal cycling injuries. Proper-fitting helmets are essential; it should comfortably touch your head all the way around and be low enough to maximize side coverage. The helmet should stay snuggly in place with a comfortable strap.
Visibility– When sharing the road with motorists it’s important to be visible. Wear bright or light-colored clothing during the day and reflective or fluorescent clothing at dusk or at night. Equip your bike with a white light on front and a rear reflector or taillight on back. In the mountains, consider using a bike bell so people can hear you coming on busy trails.
Obey– Follow the rules of the road for safe cycling. This includes riding with traffic, using hand signals when turning or stopping, and following all traffic signals, signs, and road markings. Scan the road behind you and make eye contact with drivers when possible to ensure they see you. Always ride defensively. When mountain biking yield to horses and hikers on the trail.
How can I treat common cycling injuries?
Minor vs. Major– Carry a small first aid kit along when mountain biking to treat minor injuries, and learn to recognize the signs of more serious injuries. Know when to seek medical attention to avoid detrimental injury complications that can prolong your return to cycling. If ever in doubt as to the extent of an injury, see a physician.
Head or Neck Injury– Any head or neck injury should be taken seriously and needs to be evaluated by a medical provider trained in the diagnosis and treatment of head injuries. Even mild concussions, if not treated properly, can lead to debilitating, long-term problems.
Joint Injury– These injuries are usually related to a fall, but can also be due to overuse and include bone, muscle, tendon, and ligament injuries. For joint or extremity injuries, immediately get off the injured area, elevate it, begin frequent icing, and use a compression wrap. If the pain persists or worsens seek medical care, preferably from an orthopedic or sports medicine specialist.
Though cycling can never be risk free, you can protect yourself and minimize injuries by riding smart, so strap on your helmet, hop on your bicycle, and have a safe cycling season.
Travis McDonald, MD is a Primary Care Sports Medicine Physician who practices in the Salt Lake City area with the Center of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation Excellence (CORE). Visit for information on Dr. McDonald and CORE’s services .