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This page last updated on: January 18, 2012
By David May
Security and Safety on a Bicycle Tour
Bring a strong bicycle lock. If you are going to be parking in a poorer area or a big city—even briefly, bring a heavy, strong bicycle lock and a cable to lock your front wheel to the frame. If possible, lock your bike to something fixed. I never leave my bicycle outdoors and visible from the street at night. I have never stayed in a hotel or b&b that didn'' have a garage or enclosed garden or courtyard or hidden lawn area to park my bike in.
Contrary to intuition, your bike probably is in greater danger of being taken when it does not have touring baggage attached. It will be much easier to ride, and much less conspicuous. Normally, I don't bother about my luggage, or attaching his bike to something fixed, when I am going during daylight into a supermarket, food shop, tourist office, restaurant, or modestly visited tourist site in a suburban or rural settingthough if I have bad vibes or will be gone al long time, I will take my handlebar bag with me. Thus far, in twenty years of touring, nothing has ever been taken.
When visiting major tourist sites on route (with hundreds of visitors), try to arrange to put his bike somewhere where it will be out of sight, or watched, or indoors.
If this cannot be accomplished, remove your bags from your bike, and consign them somewhere. Often, there are official check rooms available. For example, at a major château in the Loire Valley that I was determined to visit, bicycles were not permitted to be left inside, or in front of the building. I felt compelled, therefore, to ride his loaded bike right up to the château entrance; lock it; unload my bags and carry them inside to the checkroom; unlock my bike; move it about 300 yards away to a bicycle park by the parking lot; and lock it to a pole there. Then, like any other tourist, I visited the château for two hours. When the visit was over, I reversed the above process.
When there is no official place to check items, it is usually possible to agree with the seemingly trustworthy manager of a hotel or restaurant or shop to watch your bags for several hours. (I offer to pay, and do pay, or perhaps eat at a restaurant, and thank the manager profusely.)
Special warning: In Amsterdam and other large cities of the Netherlands, bicycles are stolen almost as a sport, and sometimes regarded as "social property". In central city areas do not leave your bike outside at nightor even for more than a few minutes during the day. Your touring bicycle would be a juicy target. You cannot afford to carry the weight of the locks that would deter theft. These sites will give you a bit of the flavor of things:
Obviously bike riding is, like many sports and other activities in life, more dangerous than being at home. In setting out on a bikewhether on a short ride or on a long tour, you have decided to accept these risks.
To the usual rules of traffic and personal safety, the author adds only a few: When in doubt, walk your bike. Generally, ride far out from parked cars, and watch them very carefully (as car doors, and cars suddenly pulling out, are, in the author's experience , by far the greatest dangers a biker faces). Don't follow closely a cyclist in front of you, unless you are both used to, and competent in, pack riding. Wear a helmet. If your bike gets out of adjustment or loose, stop immediately and fix it. Always check the road surface ahead, and glance away only momentarily; to look at sights, stop by the side of the road. Don't veer suddenly out into the road. If you become mentally or physically exhausted, stop, rest, and eat some high energy foods; feel rested before continuing.
In years of bike touring, the author has never had a security problem, or a safety problem worse than a scraped knee. While no guarantees can be given, with some care on your part, you should have a secure, safe and enjoyable trip.