Ride Safety

Last Modified: 11/10/2020


Riding a bike is a legal activity that involves intrinsic risks, including of road accidents. Some risk factors (such as the behaviour of other road users) are largely outside our control, but there are things we can and should do to reduce our exposure to the various risks while participating in Audax rides (and while riding generally).

Riders are responsible for complying with Australian road rules for lighting and visibility. These require that cyclists riding at night or in reduced visibility display: 

  1. a flashing or steady white light clearly visible for at least 200 metres from the front
  2. a flashing or steady red light clearly visible for at least 200 metres from the back
  3. a rear red reflector visible from 50 metres. 

You must comply with each of these elements, but Audax Australia recommends that you treat them only as a minimum baseline. For example, we suggest that you use one fixed beam and one flashing light at the rear at night (although, if only using one, we recommend that it be flashing to say more obviously ‘this is a bike’).

Fortunately, modern lighting systems are extremely good and less cumbersome than in the past. LED lights provide reliable, bright light and long battery life. They can be seen from hundreds of metres, even from kilometres away. Riders can choose to power lights with hub generators, which provide reliable light ‘on-demand’.

In using lighting, things to keep in mind include:

  • Lights must be used at night, and in rain or fog, but Audax Australia strongly recommends lighting up well before dusk and staying lit up long after dawn, plus when it’s cloudy and when riding through dark forests and even in dappled shade. 
  • We also suggest running a strong flashing rear light at all times (day or night) for added visibility.
  • Ensure your lights are not be obscured by clothing, bags or other items. They must be angled correctly for visibility, vision and the comfort of other riders and road users. Don’t dazzle others with powerful head torches – blinking tails lights angled upwards can be particularly problematic when riding in groups.
  • Modern LEDs can diminish in brightness as battery power lowers. This can be a problem particularly for rear lights, which the rider does not him or herself see while on the bike. Always start an Audax ride with fully charged batteries and/or carry spare batteries for longer rides, and check light strength occasionally during a ride.
  • Although the reliability of lighting systems has improved significantly over time, nothing is infallible and Audax Australia recommends that you carry back-up front and rear lights.

Visible Clothing

Of course, lighting is only one part of the visibility story – wearing a significant amount of bright and reflective material is also important to optimise a rider’s visibility to other road users at night and in low light (including when you are off the bike, such as when next to the road mending a puncture).

The Audax Australia Safety Recommendations contain extensive material on reflective clothing – including what works and what doesn’t, drawing on Australian and international standards and research (tip, lots of commercial products are not up to scratch). 

Key points include:

  • The effectiveness of reflective material on clothing depends on its quantity, quality, placement and age/number of washes etc. 
  • Reflective material is best in strips 50mm wide and are most effective for cyclists across the lower and middle back, the front and shoulders and the sides. 3M Scotchlite or equivalent quality reflective material is recommended.
  • Audax Australia strongly recommends riders carry and wear at night:
    • a vest or device with at least 300 square centimetres of reflectivity and 200 square centimetres of front-facing should and/or side reflectivity AND
    • ankle band reflectors – which are particularly effective as the up and down movement of the anklets catches the eye.
  • For daytime riding, large blocks of fluorescent colours –​ particular red, yellow and orange – are particularly visible to drivers.
  • Riders are recommended to regularly check the effectiveness of safety elements on garments.

Bike Reflectivity

A rear red bike reflector required by law.

Additional options to increase your visibility on the road at night include using tyres with reflective side-walls, rims with reflective strips, or to adhere extra reflective material to the frame or any bike bags you are carrying.

For more detail on the science of reflectivity, what works and what doesn’t, please see the Audax Australia Safety Recommendations.

By law, you must have a roadworthy bike and safety equipment including a bell (in some states) and a helmet that complies with Australian standards. Not all helmets offer the same injury protection. Audax Australia recommends you consider procuring a helmet with MIPS, Wavecell or other advanced safety technology. It is also sensible to fit a mirror to your bike, particularly for long-distance road cycling.

Clothing needs to be not only visible but also appropriate for the weather. For long rides, in particular, check the weather forecast along the route beforehand and take out some ‘insurance’ by packing more rather than less clothing. And for overnight rides, consider carrying a compact space blanket.

As our rides sometimes traverse remote areas, randonneurs will often carry spare spokes, a chain tool and tyre boots (or even a spare tyre) along with more basic tools and spares. Ideally, you also subscribe to a mobile network with good coverage in the areas you most frequently ride and consider using a spot-tracker or similar device for, particularly remote riding. (The club has some for hire.)

Endurance cycling can place considerable demands on the human body. Know your body, its needs, and what substances you can ‘stomach’. If you have food allergies, it is your responsibility to inform the ride organiser beforehand, and supporting volunteers at controls, in order to avoid those foods.

Adequate fluid is critical for maintaining blood volume, regulating body temperature, and for muscle contraction during exercise. Proper hydration during a ride is also important for reducing tiredness. However, sweat rates and thus hydration needs are highly individualised[1], so there are no simple rules.

Audax Australia recommends that you err of the side of caution when deciding how much water to carry, particularly on hot days. Likewise, we suggest you carry some extra sports-gels or other calorie-dense pocket foods between controls as a contingency.

For more detail on nutrition and hydration on Audax rides, refer to Nutrition on this website.

Reference [1]: https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/sda-blog/hydration-during-exercise/

Plan Your Sleep

Cycling is a naturally stimulating activity, but fatigue and tiredness can build over an Audax ride, particularly a multi-day ride. You should plan to get plenty of sleep in the days before an Audax ride and pace yourself during the ride to ensure you can get adequate rest. 

Our circadian rhythms mean that alertness is lowest during the night but particularly between 2 am and 6 am, which is, therefore, a good period in which to be sleeping. (There is also another dip in alertness after lunch). If signs of significant tiredness eventuate (such as yawning, blinking, or not holding a straight course on the road), Audax Australia recommends that you stop for a rest, powernap or longer sleep. (You may alternatively want to take some caffeine).

If after these measures the signs of significant tiredness quickly return and persist such that it is unlikely that you could safely complete the ride within the time limit, Audax Australia recommends that you withdraw from the ride immediately.

After The Ride

The trip home after a long Audax ride is potentially one of heightened danger, particularly where riders need to drive long distances to get home after multi-day events.[2]

If you are doing a multiple-day ride or a ride that you will finish in the early morning period, Audax Australia strongly recommends that you either:

  1. Organise for another person to drive you, or
  2. Secure a place where you can have adequate sleep before you commence your trip home.

Reference[2]: https://www.arrivealive.mobi/Endurance-Sports-Driver-Fatigue-and-Road-Safety

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