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Bike MS Safety & Support

Interactive Safety Demonstration

The National MS Society has prepared an interactive Safety Guide for all Bike MS participants. Please review the Safety Guide for tips and advice to maximize your Bike MS experience!

Click on any of the headings below to expand that section:

Cycling Equipment | Cycling Etiquette | Riding Skills | Hydration & Nutrition | Fully Supported Route

Cycling Equipment

All Cyclists are responsible for keeping their riding equipment in good working order. Safety, comfort, and performance are all determined through proper equipment, so please take this seriously. If you need support, visit a local Bike shop to discuss your needs. They have experience that is specific to this ride and have worked with thousands of riders.

Get the Right Bike for You
The ride is a long-distance bike ride of up to 182 miles on a paved surface. To successfully complete your journey, you need the right equipment. Visit an Official Bike Store for bike recommendations.

Get Your Bike Properly Fitted
Being fitted to your bike is just as important to your comfort as having the right kind of bike. It should be appropriately sized for you. The saddle, stem and handlebars should also be properly adjusted. All Official Bike Stores offer bike fitting.

Listen to Your Bike
Unusual sounds – such as squeaks, popping, grinding, creaking or rattling – are warning signs of a problem and should be inspected. A complete overhaul is recommended annually. Official Bike Stores offer free, professional inspections, along with estimates on routine maintenance or repairs for your bike.

ABC Quick Check
A is for air
" Check you wheels for worn tires, loose spokes, warped rims, and proper tire inflation.

B is for brakes
" Check brakes for function, cable tightness, worn pads, frayed cables, and alignment of the pads with the rims.

C is for cranks, chain, and cassette
" Check your pedals and cranks for tightness.
" Check for chain looseness and bad links; clean regularly. Lubricate with bicycle chain lube.
" Check the derailleur for worn cogs and adjustment. Check that your gears change smoothly.

Quick is for quick releases
" Check to ensure that the wheels are clamped securely in the drop-outs before each ride.

" Check your helmet for cracks and make sure it fits properly.
" Check your shoes for tight cleats and straps/buckles.

How to Adjust a Helmet
Helmets are designed to prevent serious head injury. A serious fall or crash can cause permanent brain damage or death. Bike crashes or collisions can happen at any time so ALWAYS WEAR A PROPERLY FITTED, DAMAGE-FREE HELMET. Adjust your helmet in six easy steps, or consult with your local bike shop if you need support:

  1. Put on your helmet.
  2. Slide the helmet forward until it rests about 1/2 inch above your eyebrows.
  3. Shorten or lengthen the side straps so they form a "Y" around each ear.
  4. Adjust the chinstrap so it is snug underneath your chin. You want to be able to breathe freely, but you don't want a space between your chin and the strap.
  5. Fasten the chinstrap.
  6. Push the helmet back and forth while it is on your head. The helmet is properly adjusted if the skin on your forehead moves with the helmet and if the helmet is comfortable.

Cycling Shoes
Use cycling shoes with locking pedals for comfort and performance. Cycling shoes have stiff soles to prevent foot flex and fatigue. Special cleats lock into pedals, keeping the shoes from slipping and adding increased cycling efficiency. Shoe straps and/or buckles allow tightness adjustment in case of foot swelling on long rides.

Cycling Shorts
Use padded cycling shorts with a high quality chamois. In addition to providing comfort and performance, they are breathable, lightweight, stay dry to inhibit bacteria growth, and reduce pressure points and chaffing.

Cycling Eyewear and Gloves
Proper eyewear is important to protect your eyes and field of vision from airborne objects discharged by a cyclist in front of you or by a nearby vehicle. Cycling gloves will keep your hands warm during cold weather and will protect your hands in the event of a crash.

Cold Weather Gear
If you've never cycled in cold weather before, you will be surprised at how warm you will get! Cycling is an aerobic activity, which means that your body will produce heat more than walking. Most first-time cold weather cyclists find that they have overdressed and are too hot.

It's more than likely that you already have clothes that will work for your legs and torso. Your extremities are the most challenging to keep warm - hands, feet, and head - and may require something extra. Following are a few tips:

Warm-Up: Don't hit the hammer from the get-go! Start slowly so that your body, and especially your joints and muscles can warm up. Your body works better when it is warm.

Layering: Layering allows you to add and subtract layers according to how warm/cool you are. Function over fashion rules. It is important to use thin/lightweight materials do reduce bulk and maintain maneuverability. How many layers to wear depends on the individual and the length of the ride. Shorter rides may require warmer clothing since the body has less time to heat up. Many cyclists recommend that you start off feeling a little cool because you will quickly warm up. If you overdress you will become sweaty in no time. Experiment with different combinations and see what works for you. Consider marking down the daily temperature, what you wore that day, and what worked well. Remember that once you stop cycling you will cool down quickly - so carry an extra layer if you plan on stopping for an extended period of time.

Torso: A thin water/windproof jacket is a must. There are many cycling-specific jackets on the market. Start with a wicking base layer next to the skin made of polyester/micro-fiber-synthetic fabrics to keep sweat/moisture away from the skin; silk and wool are natural fabric choices. Stay away from cotton as the base-layer as it will absorb sweat and keep it next to your skin, making you wet and cold. Jackets with full front zips increase your options for moderating temperature.

Legs: Many cyclists are comfortable wearing tights (over the cycling shorts) or leg warmers. Knee warmers are also an option for "warmer" temperatures.

Head: Cover your head to conserve the most heat. Cycle specific hats and helmet liners fit snugly under the helmet. Leave a few extra minutes to adjust your helmet to fit over your hat.

Hands: Hands are in a stationary position so are more subject to cold than the rest of your body. Try wiggling your fingers when stopped. Use full-finger gloves – make sure that glove thickness does not hinder shifting and braking. Have a waterproof option available for rain - if your gloves aren't waterproof try a shell. Ski gloves are particularly good for temperatures below freezing. If your hands sweat, consider a wicking liner to keep the sweat away from your skin.

Feet: Cover your cycling shoes with over-booties or toe warmers. Avoid sock layers because that can cut off circulation.

Cycling Etiquette

Cycling Etiquette: When you are riding with many other riders, there are some cycling customs and etiquette points we all must follow.

  • Riding safely in big groups requires a mature and positive frame of mind. Always ride smart, ride safe.
  • Riding safely in big groups requires communicating with other riders around you. (Be sure to check out our tips)
  • Maintain your personal space; avoiding close proximity to other bikes.
  • Avoid sudden sideways movements while riding in a group; be predictable and always hold your line.
  • Be considerate of slower and faster riders around you; remember that this is a fun ride, NOT a race.
  • Be careful, signal, and let others know when you're slowing or stopping.
  • Passing and being passed is a critical skill. Please review the passing tips.

A final point, we are all ambassadors for cycling as we travel along the roadways and through the many communities along the way. Be especially considerate of our friends and neighbors who are gracious enough to share this special route with us. Among other things, this means do not hog the road; let local traffic get through to and from their homes. This also means you should use the facilities provided along the way, not the shrubs.

Ride Tips - Passing

Passing on a bicycle is a two-way process. As a general rule, the passer has primary responsibility for a safe pass; however, both the passer and "passee" have a few simple responsibilities to make a pass safe and friendly.

The passee(s) should:

  • Be aware of approaching riders (look behind and listen! NO headphones); consolidate to single file to allow a safe pass;
  • Acknowledge calls to pass; saying "Thank You" is a GREAT way to do this!
  • Maintain a steady speed and hold a consistent line-don't suddenly slow down or speed up as you are being passed, and don't swerve.

The passer(s) should:

  • Call "Approaching rider" as you get close;
  • Slow a bit to allow buffer space; communicate "Rider up, slowing" to your group; groups must only pass as a single line;
  • Check the road behind to ensure no approaching vehicles, making sure there is enough room for everyone to safely pass;
  • Call "Passing on you left" after the other rider has acknowledged your presence, indicating number of riders in line if passing as a group;
  • Move left to allow adequate space as you come around as you smoothly accelerate to your previous speed to make the pass;
  • Allow plenty of room before pulling back in to the right so as to not cut off the passees;
  • If in a line, the last rider should indicate "Last rider."

Ride Tips - Vocal Warnings

  • Slowing - When someone yells "Slowing!" it means that there is something causing them to slow down. This could be a traffic light, slower bikes or some road hazard. Prepare to slow down, tap you brakes and repeat the yell "Slowing" to indicate that you've heard the warning and to alert those behind you that you are also slowing down.
  • Stopping - When someone yells "Stopping!" it means they are stopping. If they are just pulling over to fix a flat or rest, you should prepare to pass (see tips above). However, this could be a stop light or major road hazard, so you must be prepared to stop. If necessary, tap your brakes while repeating the yell "Stopping" to indicate to others that you've heard them and to alert those behind you that you are also slowing to a stop. It is important not to slam on your brakes, especially if there are others behind you!!
  • Hold your line - When someone shouts, "Hold your line," this means that you need to steer a straight line as best you can. In most cases, the person is attempting to pass. If you swing out or don't keep your bike steady, you could cause trouble for the other cyclist.
  • On your Left - When someone yells "On your left," it means that they are passing you on your left side. You should never hear "On your right." First of all, you should be riding towards the right side of the roadway unless passing, so there should no room for anyone to pass on the right. NEVER PASS ON THE RIGHT.
  • Car Up - This is a verbal caution to beware of an approaching vehicle and to stay right. When you hear this, repeat the call so that others know that you are aware of the approaching vehicle and to alert others.
  • Car Back - This means that there is a vehicle coming up from behind. Move to the right as safely possible to allow them to pass. Repeat the call so others ahead of you also know about the car.
  • Holes - When someone shouts "Holes," "Bumps" or "Road kill," they are warning of road surface hazards that could cause you problems. Generally they will also point to the hazard. Be prepared to avoid these hazards without swerving into other riders. Again, repeat the warning for those behind you.
  • Cracks – Riders will call "Crack" when there is a crack parallel to your direction of travel. These cracks can catch your wheel and cause a spill. Many riders will wave their left or right arm forward and back with their palm facing their body to let riders behind know which side the crack is on. Pass the warning back while signaling with one hand if you can. Spot the crack and move over if needed, as smoothly as possible to avoid it.
  • Gravel - This warning means there is gravel in the road. They may also indicate gravel on the side of the road by waving their hand palm down over the side with the gravel. Ride around the gravel when possible, although you can ride through it safely if you hold a straight line. Gravel in a corner warrants caution when turning. Slow down and keep the bike more upright by pushing with the outside hand as you steer through the turn.

Riding Skills

The National MS Society is partnering with the League of American Bicyclists (LAB), a national organization dedicated to cycling, cycling advocacy and cycling education.

With LAB's network of League Certified Instructors, we can offer quality cycling skills and safety education classes to all riders and teams. Please contact your local NMSS office for more information.

The Society strongly encourages all ride participants to take advantage of this outstanding cycling, education opportunity so contact LAB today!

Watch this short video (just over 7 minutes) from League of American Bicyclists "Bicycle Safety Tips for Adults" to help you learn safety tips for the upcoming ride.

Group Starts & Group Riding

It is important that all riders, veteran or newbie, understand the courtesies involved with a ride this size. Follow some of these helpful safety ideas to make your ride more enjoyable.

  • Recognize that in a large group there will be riders who ride at your pace. If you have not been scheduled to ride with similar paced cyclists, find these riders at the start through open dialogue.
  • No matter what your pace is, do not be in a hurry at the start. This is a ride, not a race! If you purposely ride the first 5 miles at a slower, controlled pace, you will find a comfort zone.
  • Riding safely in big groups requires communicating with other riders around you. Call hazards, call when passing and listen to others. Give hand signals when stopping or turning. ( Be sure to check out Ride Tips - Vocal Warnings)
  • Maintain your personal space. Ride smoothly and predictably. Ride in a straight line. Do not weave. Avoid sudden sideways movements.
  • Passing on a bicycle is a two-way event. The passer and the passee both have responsibilities that will make the pass safe and friendly. The passers have the responsibility to ease up as they approach and wait for safe conditions to pass. The passees have the responsibility to listen, hold a steady speed and line, and go to single file to make room for the passers to get around.
  • Listen and respect the Ride Marshals, Medics and officers - they are looking out for your safety.
  • Common group riding mistakes include riding in pacelines when you are inexperienced with the general process, overlapping the wheel of the rider in front of you, riding more than 2 abreast and crossing over the center stripe.

The bottom line is to ride friendly and respect the communities that we ride through. Enjoy the ride - Remember that this is a fund-raiser to find a cure for MS, not a race!

Hydration & Nutrition

Do you "bonk" or completely run out of steam prior to finishing a ride? Do you feel blah the day after a ride? Know your Cycling HYDRATION and NUTRITION needs.

Do you see drastically different results when riding in the heat? Are you aware that the body efficiently adapts when properly exposed to heat while exercising? Test your cycling acclimatization knowledge.

Hydration Needs For Cycling

  • A well-hydrated body suffers less fatigue and fewer headaches and greater flexibility.
  • Proper hydration starts long before any ride. Drink 6-8 8oz. glasses of water every day during the training season & a minimum of 8oz the morning before a ride.
  • The day after a ride, the first and best response to feeling 'off' is to start drinking fluids immediately.
  • Being dehydrated by as little as 2% can hinder performance by as much as 10%. When dehydration increases to 5% performance declines by 30%. If you're already 2% dehydrated when you start a workout, there's a pretty good chance you'll be 4-5% dehydrated during it.
  • Mixing carbohydrates and a small amount of proteins enhances fluid absorption and retention.
  • Maintaining a 2:1 ratio of water to sports drink will decrease the possibility of dehydration. This can be done simply by having 2 bottles, one filled with water and the other sports drink, and monitoring consumption.
  • Drinking on regular intervals early in a ride allows for elevated energy levels later in the ride.
  • On average, the equivalent of 1 bottle of fluid should be consumed per hour. Take into account drinking more the higher the humidity and heat index.
  • Hydration and eating go hand in hand in the successful, comfortable completion of any long ride.
  • Consuming carbohydrates and protein, through drinks or eating, immediately after riding helps in both recovery and in "preloading" for the next day's ride.

Cycling Nutrition Knowledge

  • Hydration and eating go hand in hand in the successful, comfortable completion of any long ride.
  • Without proper food consumption, ANY rider is at risk for "bonking" in the late stages of a ride.
  • Mixing carbohydrates and a small amount of proteins enhances fluid absorption and retention.
  • Eating and drinking early in a ride allows for elevated energy levels later in the ride.
  • Do not overeat. Too large of a meal diverts blood flow to the stomach when you need it in the legs.
  • Eat small amounts on regular intervals to keep energy levels and blood sugar levels even.
  • Consuming carbohydrates and protein immediately after riding helps in both recovery and in "preloading" for the next day's ride.

Heat Acclimatization

  • Heat acclimatization, or adaptation, is the single most important thing you can do to avoid dehydration problems during the ride.
  • It takes 10-14 days of daily heat exposure, while exercising, to acclimatize.
  • Your level of acclimatization can be affected by the number of heat exposures per week, the number and type of training sessions and the increase in core temperature during the sessions.
  • Benefits can be received not only from riding outdoors but also from other outdoors activities such as running, walking and even working in the yard.
  • Acclimatization induces positive physiological responses such as decreased heart rate, core temperature and skin temperature during exercise. Read more on other scientifically documented physiological responses by reviewing the Acclimatization pdf.
  • Heat acclimatization may vanish after only a few days of inactivity in the heat.
  • Although beneficial for cycling fitness for the ride, indoor spinning classes will not help with acclimatization.
  • Drinking an excess of dietary water and electrolytes will not speed up the process of acclimatization.
  • Lack of acclimatization can lead to dehydration issues.

Fully Supported Route

While you ride, you should only be concerned about two things: having fun and riding safely! We take care of all the rest. Here are just a few of the volunteer groups you can count on during event weekend:

SAG Vehicles
Support And Gear (SAG) vehicles provide transportation to riders who need a lift to the next breakpoint. SAGs do not stop to make bike repairs, but they will bring riders to the next breakpoint. SAGs only move a rider forward along the route.

To signal a SAG vehicle driver, follow these steps:

1. Move safely off the road and well out of the path of other riders.
2. Dismount and stand near your bike.
3. Remove your helmet and wave it at an approaching SAG vehicle.

From a moving vehicle, it is difficult to distinguish a friendly wave from a call for assistance. Use the SAG signal when you need a lift. Be aware that some vehicles on the route are not equipped to carry riders. Also, SAG vehicles may be full at peak hours. Please have patience; another SAG vehicle will drive up soon.

HAM Radio Team
The HAM Amateur Radio Communications Team links the bike event with radio and cellular communication support and operations. Team members at Central Radio Network Control and in event vehicles provide the ride's information backbone.

Mechanical Support
We highly recommend that you have your bike inspected prior to the weekend to identify major issues. Bike mechanics will provide minor repairs on the road and at most breakpoints along the route. If you encounter a mechanical problem while riding and need assistance, move completely off to the side of the road and signal a SAG vehicle.

Route Markings to Look For
We make every effort to ensure you won't get lost. You'll see our route signs at each turn and even on straightaways, so you'll know you didn't make a wrong turn.

National MS Society staff and key volunteers will be monitoring the route.

Communities Who Welcome Us
Every effort is made to keep you safe. Where possible, local law enforcement agencies have been recruited to help you travel through hazardous intersections and on busy roadways. Be courteous, as they help you travel safely through their communities.

Personal SAG Vehicles Not Allowed
Personal SAG vehicles are not allowed on the route. Please understand our need to cut down on vehicular traffic for YOUR SAFETY.

Rest Stops
Rest stops are positioned every 10 to 12 miles on both days of the ride. Relax, hydrate, have a snack, use the restroom, check in with a mechanic, re-apply sunscreen, and enjoy the volunteers at these oases.

When entering a rest stop, please be aware that there are folks moving around on foot, so please be careful, stop, dismount and move off the roadway or away from other approaching riders and traffic.

Medical Support
Trained medical personnel will be at all rest stops to provide basic first aid and emergency care if needed. Medical personnel have the authority to remove you from the ride if warranted by medical necessity.

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Live Events

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