ON THE ROAD
As Mike Harris discovered, you can't legislate common sense - there'll always be cyclists who refuse to wear a bike helmet because it infringes on their right to have their heads explode like pumpkins when they come in contact with a concrete telephone pole. Even those who wear skid lids get it wrong. Straps do more than attach a helmet to the head; they're meant to be adjusted so the front sits low on the forehead. After all, that's the first part of your body that's going plow into a parked car. Since straps stretch, they also need regular tightening to keep them in the right position.
The biggest hazard on the road are those white cube vans people rent to move house. Not only road hogs with poor sightlines, they're also driven by people who've never been behind the wheel of a truck before. Runner-up: drivers who turn right without checking their mirror for cyclists. Don't assume if a car is signalling that the driver sees you. Honourable mentions: private ambulances, passengers jumping out of cabs, sewer grates and street car tracks, especially when wet.
In courier speak, the door prize refers to what happens when a motorist opens a driver-side door directly into the path of an oncoming cyclist - a finable offence, by the way. Stay out of harm's way by riding well out of the arc of car doors and keep an eye on all parked cars' left mirrors. If someone's sitting in the driver seat, you'll see the driver's reflection. And don't zigzag in between parked cars. Ride confidently in a straight line so you can be seen at all times.
ON THE MAP
Next week, Toronto's Cycling Committee issues its annual Toronto Cycling Map, a handy fold-out reference that shows designated bike lanes, bike-friendly crosstown routes and off-road trails. Available free at City Hall's front desk and selected bike shops. Hotline: 416-392-7592.
A bicycle is a machine. Toe clips make your legs an extension of it. But many cyclists are afraid of them, thinking they’ll get trapped and break an ankle if they fall strapped into a bike, and direct-contact SPD pedals and shoes can get expensive. Cheap strapless plastic pedal attachments are a good alternative – about five bucks a pair at most bike shops. They’re great for novices and don’t scratch up your shoes. You’ll never ride clipless again.
Racing bikes run on skinny smooth-tread tires for a reason. Inflated to 100 psi, only a very small portion of the tire comes in contact with the road, which results in greater speed but a very bumpy ride. Wide, knobby off-road tires are designed to come in contact with uneven surfaces and need less pressure. In summer, 40-psi slicks are ideal for downtown conditions. They'll turn your CCM clunker into a pricey Pinarello. The few gas stations left south of the 401 charge up to 50 cents to use an air pump to inflate your tires, whether car, bike or Winnebago. Here's where they let you pump up the volume for free. Bikes on Wheels, 309 Augusta, south of College
Canadian Tire, 838 Yonge, at Davenport
Curbside, 412 Bloor West, at Brunswick
LOCK IT UP
If you have to leave your bike outdoors for periods of time, always lock it somewhere well lit and remove any quick-released equipment (seat, wheels, panniers). Never leave your bike locked up outside overnight. Chances are, come morning, your ride is on the way to a chop shop. Register your wheels with the police at http://www.torontopolice. www.on.ca/bike/
Bike chains are one of the cheapest components of a bike, but they also do the most damage, grinding against expensive-to-replace cogs and gears. Remember to use a quality lube like Phil's Tenacious Oil to keep your drive chain working smoothly and efficiently.
IT'S THE LAW
BELLS AND WHISTLES
Ontario’s traffic code requires that every bike be equipped with a functional bell or horn. And don’t forget that the code also requires bikes to carry front and rear lights once the street lamps come on.
Accidents are never planned, so it's good to be prepared when they do. When hit, call 911 for ambulance assistance if you're injured, and report the collision to the police (416-808-2222). Even if it appears you're not hurt, make sure to get the driver's name and phone number, insurance information and licence plate number and report the incident at a police station immediately. Two days later you might find out you have a concussion and $200 damage to your bike. And, as every Judge Judy fan knows, you can't seek damages without police and medical reports or an estimate for the repairs. Ride legal, sue legit.