Cycling safety: accessories for riding with peace of mind

For complete peace of mind when you take your bike out for a ride, you need the right accessories to not only avoid accidents, but also comply with the SAAQ Highway Safety Code to avoid receiving costly fines.

These include lights on the back and front of your bike, reflective bands around your ankles, a helmet, lock and even a bicycle bell. Discover the mandatory—or highly recommended—safety equipment you need, and how to select it for your kind of cycling.

1. Lights (mandatory)

Bicycle lights are essential for safe cycling in the streets. In fact, the SAAQ makes them mandatory. There are two categories of lights: those which enable you to “be seen” at all times (mandatory), and those that enable you “to see”, needed if you ride in the dark.

Where do you usually cycle? On well-lit city streets or on dark roads? Do you need additional lighting to see the road clearly? These are things to consider before you buy lights for your bike.

If your goal is simply to meet the SAAQ’s Highway Safety Code, you can buy affordable lights that allow you to “be seen”. Usually rechargeable by USB, they are often portable too, so that you can remove them and keep them from being stolen. Prices vary depending on the quality of materials, which have an impact on their durability, and more importantly on the number of lumens that determine the strength of the light they give off.

If you occasionally need extra lighting, you can buy lights to “be seen” with higher lumens rather than invest in lights “to see”, which are pricier and mainly recommended for riding on trails or unilluminated night roads.

The law and fines

How many lights are required on your bike? You must have a total of 6 reflectors located on the front, on the rear, on the spokes of the wheels and on both pedals. Are you a night rider? Then you need to have a white headlight and a red taillight. If you fail to meet these standards, you can be ticketed with a fine of around $80 to $100.

2. Reflective bands (mandatory)

If you don’t have any reflectors on your bike pedals, you’ll need amber or white reflective bands around both ankles in order to be adequately visible.

To be even more visible, the SAAQ also recommends that you wear a vest, install reflective bands on the rims, bike frame and your bags, as well as wear reflective pant clips or have reflective tires.

3. Helmet (highly recommended)

To wear a helmet is not mandatory by law for cyclists, contrary to what most people think, except for electric bike riders. Nonetheless, your helmet is your most essential safety accessory.

Just as for a bike, your choice of helmet depends on both how you will use it and your personal preference. If you like to road bike, a helmet without a visor is usually best to increase your visibility. If you ride a hybrid or mountain bike, a helmet with a visor gives you more protection from the sun and the inevitable branches you’ll be riding through.

Higher-end helmets are lighter and have more holes for aeration. If you do long trips often or want to sweat less, they’re worth the investment. They are also moulded rather than glued to the shell, which makes them more aesthetically pleasing.

Lastly, make sure your helmet is comfortable, and of course, the right size! It’s essential to try the helmet on and adjust it properly for your head so that it’s snug and doesn’t move. Some helmets come with an adjustable headband, which can help you find the perfect fit.

Are you a resident of Sherbrooke?

Careful! In this region, helmets are mandatory for cyclists under 18 years old.

4. Lock (highly recommended)

A lock is not a safety accessory, but unless you plan to buy a new bike every week, you’ll want to invest in its security!

Locks are a means of dissuasion. Manufacturers put a security rating on them to give you an idea of the lock’s quality. This rating varies from one manufacturer to another, as do the prices and quality. If you’ve invested in an expensive bike, you’ll most likely want to invest in a high-end lock, too.

The two types of locks—U-locks and cable locks—are each available in a variety of qualities, and neither one is necessarily better than the other. It’s really a question of what you usually lock your bike to and the way you carry it. A cable lock is easy to attach to the bike seat, while a U-lock can be easily carried in a bag.

5. Bicycle bell (highly recommended)

The devil is in the details—and a bicycle bell is one of the details that can make a big difference in cycling safety. A bell lets you announce your presence to drivers and pedestrians, not to mention alert the inevitable person who opens a car door in your path, or other cyclists or pedestrians crossing the road.

No matter your budget or how often you get out on two wheels, don’t skimp on your safety accessories. An accident or a fine are not worth the initial savings. With the right safety accessories, you can get around worry-free!