Road riding survival tips, no. 1 – Mind the Gap!

So, perhaps you’re new to riding in the road and are now trying to stay off the sidewalks as much as possible like our campus ordinance and bike safety advocates want you to.  Great!  Well, there are a number of things to keep in mind, beware of, and not just cars, trucks and buses.

CAUTION! Pavement edge drop zone
CAUTION! Pavement edge drop zone

Here’s one of them to the right.  This is a pretty common road-side hazard that takes many forms.  It’s basically the edge of the road and that difference in height between the edge and the curb gutter pan cement (or dirt if you’re out in the country) can cause you to lose control and crash you as you try to regain control should your front wheel drop off that edge.  The same condition occurs at the edge of a off-road path or sidewalk and is often covered by grass making the hazard hard to notice until it’s too late.  This is one of the most common crash scenarios that we hear about in our shop. I hope this will serve as a visual reminder why you shouldn’t ride up close to the curb when riding in the roads.  And when riding on pathways or sidewalks (if you must) keep that nasty edge in mind when/ if you have to go off the edge to get around something/ someone. Survival Hint:  Pop a little wheelie when getting back on the road/ path/ sidewalk to avoid crashing. Not far from the above photo is this pothole in the bike lane (2nd photo to the right); could also be a dead animal or spare tire, or whatever.

Beware the bike lane pothole
Mind the Gap!  And beware bike lane potholes!

You need to be able to miss stuff like this without swerving into traffic, so it’s best to ride far enough out into the travel lane (particularly when using these very narrow bike lanes or paved shoulders) so that you have options to get around such things without swerving at the last second into traffic & risk getting hit. See this web page courtesy of the League of Michigan Bicyclists that lists all of the Michigan Laws Pertaining to Bicyclists including the right to ride in other areas of the road way to stay safe and get to where you need to go like any other legal road user.


Author: Tim Potter

Sustainable Transportation Manager, MSU Bikes Service Center; member of the All University Traffic & Transportation Committee (; founding member of MSU Bike Advisory Committee (; advocate for local & regional non-motorized transportation issues thru the Tri-Co. Bike Assn. Advocacy Committee (; board member of the Ride of Silence (; year-round bicyclist of all sorts; photographer; soccer player; father of 3; married 30 yrs. to Hiromi, Japanese national (daughter of former Natl. Keirin Champion, Seiichi Nishiji); Christ follower.

2 thoughts on “Road riding survival tips, no. 1 – Mind the Gap!”

  1. Great advice Patrick! Thanks for the additional insights. On your 2nd point, if you don’t know how to ‘bunny hop’, even simply unweighting yourself off your seat (i.e. standing up) will allow your legs and arms to absorb the shock of hitting a pothole or some object and will lessen the damage to your bike.

  2. Spot on with two of the worst hazards on our extremely dilapidated MI roads.

    A few things that have helped me in avoiding hazards over the years:

    1.) Watching the road 20 or so yards ahead of your bike for hazards and plan a route through or around them. If you are unable to stay in the bike lane to avoid a hazards like potholes, animals, or what-have-yous, scanning the road far ahead of your wheel will give you enough time to take a quick check over your shoulder to look for oncoming cars BEFORE you swerve out into the main traffic lanes. The farther ahead you check the road, the more time you will have to adjust your speed, signal your move into the main traffic lanes, and to find a good break in heavy traffic to do so.

    2.) Learn to bunny-hop. Chances are you won’t see every hazard. So, being alert and ready to hop over the ones that you didn’t notice until they were 10 feet away could mean the difference between road rash and staying on two wheels. You will always benefit from having a little more speed if you aren’t a very strong bunny-hopper as you will be able to clear longer obstacles with a smaller hop.

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