You’ll be riding with hundreds of cyclists on the Storming of Thunder Ridge. That’s a lot more riders than your typical Saturday morning ride, so safety is paramount.

For Ryan Kephart, a road racer and firefighter at the busiest Ladder Company in Washington, DC, safety is a way of life. He shares these safe riding tips to enjoy a fun and incident-free day in the saddle:

Communicate – Like driving, you need to let other cyclists and motorists know your intentions. Use verbal and hand signals to communicate whether you’re turning, slowing or stopping. Let riders know when you’re about to pass them (“On your left”). Warn them when you’re about to stand (because your speed tends to slow for a split second). And alert fellow cyclists about potential dangers and hazards (i.e., car up, car right, hole, dog, etc.).

Be Smooth & Predictable – Safe cycling is akin to driving your car on the highway: it’s more efficient and stress-free when there aren’t sudden changes in pace and erratic maneuvers. When riding, be consistent so you don’t trigger a chain reaction among the riders behind and around you. Make gradual changes to your speed. Avoid hard braking. Try not to coast (instead, keep those pedals turning; soft-pedal if necessary). Hold your line and don’t swerve. And, if you’re at the front of a paceline, no eating or drinking until you pull off and rejoin the back of the group.

Stay Alert – Accidents happen when riders get distracted. So resist the urge to listen to music while riding because it impedes your ability to hear cars and other cyclists. Same with your phone (pull over if you need to take a call). Regularly make a brief scan of what’s ahead, around and behind you. If you’re drafting or following another rider, don’t fixate on his or her wheel; keep those eyes moving. Also, avoid overlapping your front wheel with the rear wheel that’s in front of you or drifting too close; any touch will likely cause you to lose control and fall – ouch!

Share the Road – Although you’re riding on lightly-traveled back roads, there is still going to be vehicular traffic. So be safe and be a good ambassador of the sport. Don’t ride two or three abreast; instead, go single-file. Also, stay about two feet from the right side of the road. This should keep you away from gnarled pavement, make you visible to drivers and give them plenty of room to pass you.

Helmet Fit – Helmets can prevent serious injuries and save lives. But only if they’re worn correctly. If most of your forehead shows and the chin strap swings loosely, it’s not properly adjusted. See your local bike shop to ensure that you have a proper helmet fitting.