After a brief hiatus, Ask BikeNerd is back with two great questions, one for the bicyclists who are still a little green behind the ears and one that's painfully (pun intended, as you'll see) relevant to riders of all abilities and experience.
Aaron asks: What tools should I always bring with me when I ride?
Every ride, whether its your 3-mile commute into work in the morning or a Sunday morning ride around the Lake Washington Loop, is improved by a little peace of mind. Having the right tool kit prepares you to deal with any mechanical issue and at least limp along to the nearest bike shop (or bus stop).
I always carry a spare tube, a patch kit, two tire levers, a mini-pump, and a multi-tool with 4, 5, and 6 mm Allen wrenches, and an Allen and flat-head screwdriver. On longer rides I'll usually throw in a second tube. On my longest rides (i.e. multi-day bike camping trips), I'll include a chain breaker and an extra few links, just in case, but that's pretty overkill for riding around town.
One final tip for folks concerned about the grit and the grime. Toss a pair of latex gloves in your kit and throw them on if you have to change a flat or get your chain back on the chainring.
Emily asks: What should I do if I get hit by a car?
Fortunately, I don't have any personal experience to draw on to answer this question (*knock on wood*). But handling a car-on-bike collision correctly is important for your personal and potentially your financial wellbeing as well. I'm writing this with the assumption that you're not knocked out cold by the crash, so take it from that perspective.
The first step is obviously to assess whether or not you're physically OK. (Don't assume you are OK if you don't feel any pain at first; it's common for cyclists who get hit by cars to go into shock immediately afterward, making it hard to tell whether you're hurt).
It should go without saying, but if there's any chance of serious injury it's important to call 911. At the same time, it's important to call police and get them to file a report, even if at first glance it appears that there's no injury or property damage. This step often doesn't happen, leading leads to significant hassles down the road. The Washington (D.C.) Area Bicycle Association, has an excellent explanation of what to do and why on their web site.
According to WABA, it's important to call the police after an accident for two reasons. One: "If injuries develop later and/or insurance companies have to be involved, having a police report will be invaluable." And two: "In order ... to make bicycling safer, we need accurate crash reporting statistics, and in order to have those, you have to report your crashes."
The WABA site goes on to list the information you should take down, including:
• The names, driver's license numbers, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of any other drivers/bicyclists/pedestrians involved in the crash. This means vehicle operators, primarily, not passengers.
• The insurance companies and policy numbers of these people.
• The makes, models and license plate numbers of any vehicles involved in the crash.
• The names and contact info of at least two witnesses, if there were any. Don't use passengers of vehicles involved in the crash.
• The police report number.
• The name and badge number of at least one police officer who responded to the scene (Most police officers carry business cards with this info and will give it to you when asked. It will also be on a report, if one is necessary).
WABA's tips will go a long way to ensure you're able to recoup your costs after an accident.
That's it for this week's Ask BikeNerd. As always, send your bike-related questions (seriously, anything vaguely bike related is fair game) to firstname.lastname@example.org.