One of the safety rules of the AIDS/LifeCycle is to ride as far to the right as is safely possible. Cyclists want that to be a separate, dedicated bike lane which is marked, signed, and free from debris. In many cities, you might well get that. But on our increasingly long rides, you won’t get the nice shoulder you want.
For instance, on Day 1, we’ll be riding up 92 from just below San Mateo to Half Moon Bay. The portion of 92 just before Skylawn is a steep, curvy climb with only two lanes of traffic. It has 1000 feet of elevation gain for only about 2 miles of riding. And it is bordered by broken stone from the crumbling hillside. The question is: how do you ride on such a road?
The answer is: by planning ahead.
On many parts of that road, there is a painted line. You’ll be tempted to think, “Hmm, painted line, must be a shoulder on the other side.” But then you look and there’s nothing but a gaping maw full of broken stones. Do not ride in that!. What you have to do is balance your skill level with the terrain, your current state of fatigue, the number of riders on the road, and the amount of traffic on the road. Sometimes that may mean taking the entire lane. Sometimes that may mean riding just on the outside of the white line, in the lane. Sometimes that may mean accepting a lift from a SAG driver. Pay attention to traffic conditions and your own personal skill set.
But one thing you must never do is stop on a steep hill with lots of traffic. Just keep pedaling. If you think you cannot, you must wait to find a safe spot to pull over. It is unsafe for you, drivers, and other riders to unclip because of fatigue or skill-related problems.
As a new cyclist, you may think I’m being harsh. Better that then the alternative in this case.
The takeaway from this is:
- Don’t stop pedaling.
- A white line is not enough to define a shoulder. Don’t ride in broken rocks or other, similar debris.
- Avoid stopping on steep hills at all.
- Determine if you need a rest before the climbs.
- If you are on a hill which is too challenging for you, wait until there is a wide, visible shoulder before you pull over.
- Practice will get you there.
- Call out when you’re going to stop in an unusual situation: “STOPPING!” Don’t be shy about repeating it.