If you have a cell phone, charge it and carry it with you on the bike. Or if possible, borrow one for the day. There's no better insurance when you're miles away from help or home.
Jot down maintenance and law enforcement phone numbers that may be provided on trail signs or kiosks. Carry them with you in case you need non-emergency assistance during your ride. 911, of course, is the universal number for emergencies.
Take the Right Stuff
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't strive to be self-sufficient. Good equipment is essential. A tire patch kit, spare tube and some basic bike tools come in handy in emergencies or for quick adjustments on the fly.
Give your bike a quick inspection before hitting the trail by checking tire pressure, brakes, shifting gears, etc. And try out that new micro tire pump (or other unfamiliar gadgets) before you ride. You may find that your new pump is set up for a different tire valve type than the one on your bike!
Also, carry a water bottle and take something to eat on longer rides. If you have room in your bike bag, you may want to take a first aid kit. You never know...
Wear A Helmet
The days of awkward, uncomfortable head protection are long gone. The technology from today's racing helmets has long since trickled down to the consumer market. The bike helmets of today are lightweight, comfortable and well vented. There is no downside to wearing one. So what's your excuse for not protecting the most important part of your body?
If you tend to deliberately park your car at one end of a trail before heading out to ride, listen up. This practice can give you the feeling of setting off on an adventure and not seeing your gas-guzzler until your long journey is over. A nice concept, but not very practical. Should you have a major mechanical failure or accident at the opposite end of the trail, you may find yourself at the furthest possible point away from your car!
To avoid testing the fates, park near the middle of a bikeway when decent parking is available. This provides the added benefit of cycling past your vehicle at least once during your ride (if you're riding the entire trail), allowing you to grab more sustenance, if necessary (you did bring plenty of food and water, right?). If you're lucky enough to have a sag wagon, arrange a drop off and pickup point with your driver and have them carry a cell phone, too.
Finding a safe trail parking area can also be an issue in some cases. Checkout these safety tips.
To avoid mishaps with other users on the trail, always ride defensively. If you ride the roads or have ever ridden a motorcycle, you know the drill: Expect the unexpected. On the trail that can be dogs darting in front of your wheel, toddlers being unaware (and unrestrained) of their surroundings as you approach, cyclists stopping in front of you without warning, rollerbladers kicking a leg into your path or spokes, etc.
If you slow down when you approach traffic and ready yourself for Murphy's law to take effect, you'll be fine.
"On Your Left!"
Or "Passing on your left," if you prefer, is a safe way to give a shout out to warn trail users that you are approaching and about to overtake them. This technique can take a little practice if you don't have a strong voice. Call out too early and you won't always be heard. Give a shout too late and you'll startle the folks you were politely trying to warn. Or, simply use a bike bell as your signal.
Be Careful at Road Crossings!
For impatient cyclists trying to religiously maintain a certain pace or heart rate, road crossings can be viewed as a bothersome, unpleasant interruption during a great workout. Get used to it. There are road and/or driveway crossings on virtually every major trail. That's the bad news. The good news is that learning to respect all crossings will go a long way toward ensuring you'll be around to enjoy these bikeways for many years to come.
Most Ohio bikeways are multi-use trails that allow many different types of users to enjoy these pathways. This can result in heavier usage in some areas, particularly on weekends during summer months.
But we're not talking about rush hour gridlock here, as many Ohio trails are largely rural and offer wide-open stretches that go on for miles. We're referring to trail sections closer to urban areas during prime time, on those perfect weather days during a beautiful summer weekend. Ideal conditions always brings everyone out to enjoy their local bikeway, whether on foot, rollerblades or bike.
This shouldn't be a problem for cyclists who enjoy a leisurely pace, but for those who ride faster, avoid areas prone to prime time congestion unless you're willing to navigate a maze of cycling families, rollerbladers, dog walkers, etc. If you can't avoid those areas, try riding during the early morning hours or late in the day.
Go With The Flow
Despite a few crazy trail traffic concepts out there, such as "Ride Right -- Walk Left," staying to your right when trail traveling is the proper way to go. Faster travelers will overtake slower movers by passing on their left: joggers pass walkers, bladers pass joggers and cyclists pass bladers and so on. Obviously there can be a lot of passing on congested bikeway sections. Be patient and don't crowd out oncoming traffic by passing too hurriedly.
Side by side trails, like the Holmes County Trail, can be a bit trickier. They provide one surface for buggies and horses, while the other is designated for bikes. But the two sections are sometimes flip-flopped which can lead to the bike trail being on the right, then crossing over to the left hand-side while you're still riding in the same direction. Read the trail signs regarding proper usage, then when in doubt, simply slow down when you approach others and stay over to the farthest right-hand edge of the trail. That way, even if you happen to be on the wrong trail, you're still moving with the flow of traffic.
Horses may or may not be easily spooked or accustomed to cars or bikes. Try not to test them to find out. When a horse and rider (or buggy) are approaching you from the opposite direction, simply stop and pull off the side of the trail and wait for them to pass. Overtaking a horse or buggy is another matter altogether as the horse cannot see you coming. Passing them on the road is generally safe since the horse is familiar with cars doing the same. On the trail, however, this may not be the case. Unfortunately, we don't have the definitive answer on this one so we'll have to suggest you use your own judgement. If you'd like to shed some light on the proper protocol required here, email us.
Getting "High" On The Trails
Trail riding at high speeds over long distances can really get the endorphins pumping. It's easy to get a euphoric high while zipping through the countryside with little regard for automobiles and motorized traffic since, well, you don't have to worry about that on the trail, right? Wrong. Potentially dangerous road crossings lay in wait for you on most every bikeway. Though crossings are usually well marked for cyclists, the type of road you're approaching is usually a mystery until you're right on top of it. It may be a deserted lane or a busy county highway.
Be prepared to stop at each road, driveway, parking lot or sidewalk crossing.
Trail Rules & Guidelines
The following is a typical set of trail rules. For specific guidelines on a particular trail, checkout the Ohio Trail Overseers page.