Hotter'n Hell Biking Tips

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Brent Ragsdale
  • 882nd Training Group
As the 2007 Hotter'n Hell weekend quickly approaches, Aug. 23-25, many of you may find yourself preparing to conquer either the entire 100 miles, or smaller distances of 100 kilometers (62 miles), 50 miles, 25 miles, or the 10 kilometer (6.2 mile) ride.

Regardless of distance or level of competition you desire, here are a few safe and useful training tips to help you meet your goals. Safety should always come first. 

Proper-fitting equipment is essential for both comfort and safety. At a minimum, you should have a helmet, sunglasses and gloves. All riders are required to wear helmets during the ride, and it is something you should wear every time you get on a bike - just like your seatbelt when driving your vehicle. 

I've had two friends suffer severe crashes, one during a mountain bike ride, the other on a road ride. Both helmets were cracked in five places following the crash, but more importantly, both of my friends lived to ride another day. 

Let the helmet do the cracking - not your head. You can get a well fitting helmet for less than $40, but it needs to be on your head when you are riding. 

One piece of equipment you may want to consider using is a mirror so you can see the traffic coming up behind you without having to turn around and look. It is common for riders to drift into the direction they are looking, which could put you in the direct path of a passing vehicle if you are riding on a road with a small shoulder. I use a mirror that attaches to my sunglasses; others attach to your helmet or handlebars.
Preparation and situational awareness are keys to safe training. Drive a potential riding route in your car prior to the ride and take notes of the surroundings.
Are there houses directly off the road? If so, you will want to be aware of kids playing and possibly running out into the street, cars pulling out and even dogs. 

Will you be riding outside of the city in the rural areas of our community? If so, check to see if you have cell phone coverage. 

If possible, plan to ride by a convenience store during your ride in case you need additional nutrition. I always try to keep $5 in a plastic baggie for these occasions. 

During your ride, look ahead to avoid road debris like gravel, broken glass, sticks, shredded tires, dead animals and potholes. These are hazards that can cause a flat tire or worse - a crash. Remember to make sure you are safely moving around the obstacle, not making any sudden moves into the flow of traffic, another benefit of having a mirror. 

Like it or not, if you ride long enough, you will run into dogs that will be out on the road or will run out from yards. The first thing to remember is not to panic by swerving or slamming on the brakes, which could cause an unnecessary crash. It is best to keep moving.
It the dog is chasing from behind or a long distance from the side, speed up. If it is in front of you or closer to your side, then you may have to slow down or even stop. Most dogs will respond to a simple but authoritative yelling of the word "no!" Chances are they've heard that hundreds of times before and, if you can convince them that you mean it, they will normally stop.
Worse case scenario: get off the bike and keep the bike between you and the dog until you can separate yourself far enough away to resume riding. 

Whether or not you are taking part in the Hotter'n Hell, these tips can keep you biking safely for years to come. More advice on clothing, food, training, and other aspects of preparation can be found on page 12 of the Hotter'n Hell flyer published by the Times Record News and now available in our local bike shops.