Sunday, December 27, 2009

Doping is good, but remember to dope safely.

Do you dope? I've seen how doping can increase performance. When I switched from a MTB/folder hybrid bicycle to a road bike with 105 everything, suddenly I gained 5km/h plus of average speed. No more low 22km/h, I have hit 28km/h, just by doping! And when your average speed is 28km/h, it usually means that you often hit 36 - 40+ km/h. That's dangerous. Very dangerous, especially on a road bike with less than an inch's worth of contact with the ground.

Further, this isn't the beautiful roads of Europe where you have the whole road to yourself with the occasional car passing by. This is Singapore, where "occasional" is best defined as a dozen per hour, and it is only at places as ulu as Lim Chu Kang where you get such a privilege. On roads where us commuters ply... forget it. It's a dozen every minute.

The good news is that you can buy equipment that makes your ride safer. But first we must define what is a 'safe ride'. A safe ride is best defined as a ride that does not result in an accident.

Contrary to classical wisdom, I'd like to bring out a revisionist view on helmets, wristbands with your name/NRIC/blood type/address. Helmets do not make a ride safer. Helmets make an accident safer. They do not add to a safe ride, they add to a safe accident. Just like that Volvo with a five NCAP safety rating. They do not make driving safer, they make an accident safer. Of course, the city braking feature of a Volvo makes driving safer. Obviously, you'll never know when you'll eat shit on the road, so like they say, "use your head, wear a helmet". Don't pray pray on the road.

On the whole, I still think a road bike is inherently less safe to ride on the road than a mountain bike or a hybrid. A fat-tyred bike is better at conquering shit. The biggest risk to a road bike or any bike with a tyre width of 1.5" or less is falling into the gaps between the rails of a drain. I've eaten that shit before, and it wasn't pleasant. Think disc brakes at full power. You're gonna endo. But I do agree that riding a road bike will keep you on the bike more, because it's more exciting, adrenaline-pumping, and fassssssssssssst. Keep a safe distance from the curbs though.

I propose you get three minimum equipments:


Still, you should get lights. The more annoying the better. You need some really dazzling ones. If you don't dazzle drivers, they don't see you.

Any mirror is better than no mirror. Whether it is that $2 blindspot mirror you can get from your hardware shop, or the $12 Cateye mirror, they serve the purpose of allowing you to judge who's behind and plan ahead. One important note is that they are not a good replacement for turning your head and looking behind. All these mirrors are convex and thus they generally exaggerate distances.

I always wondered how people with perfect vision ride with all the shit that fly in their eyes. Even with spectacles, sometimes crap from the road can hit my eye. You might think, riding with one eye is possible, but it feels funny, and you can't really judge distances very well with one eye. This is one thing that you really shouldn't play play with. If anything, this is one of the most important safety equipment you can buy.

For further safety equipment, check Brown's guide to commuting located in the Links column.

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