Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
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One of the most versatile tools in law enforcement, emergency medical response, and security today is the mountain bike. Quiet, cost efficient, and amazingly effective, mountain bikes are able to bridge the gap between automobiles and foot patrol. Experience has shown that citizens are more likely to approach a bike patrol officer than even a neighborhood beat officer, optimizing community oriented or problem oriented policing efforts. Bicycle officers are better able to use all of their senses, including smell and hearing, to detect and address crime. Bike patrol officers are often able to approach suspects virtually unnoticed, even in full uniform. Bike-mounted security officers create a highly mobile, visible presence in a wide range of facilities, including shopping malls, casinos, office parks, gated communities, hospital complexes, and amusement parks. The mobility of an EMS provider on a bike can mean the difference between life or death in congested or crowded conditions. EMS on bikes are increasingly deployed in tourist areas, during special events, in amusement parks and sports arenas, on college campuses, and in airports, train stations and other transportation hubs. They are also indispensable in urban and wilderness search and rescue and mass casualty situations.
For more reasons to deploy public safety cyclists, view this video presentation, developed in conjunction with the Towson University Department of Electronic Media and Film.
Mountain bikes have proven effective in a number of different environments. They are swift and agile in busy urban areas where traffic snarls and crowds delay motorized units. Bikes are also effective in less urban areas for park patrol, parking lots, campus areas, residential patrol, business security, athletic or civic events, and specialized details. They can be operated on streets, sidewalks, alleys, trails, and in any areas that are difficult to access with motor vehicles.
- Bicycles can easily penetrate crowds – in highly congested areas police, EMS, and security personnel on bikes can move around more easily than patrol cars and ambulances.
- Response time in heavy traffic is improved – during their trial period in Orlando, bike medics responded in less than one minute 55% of the time; less than two minutes 83% of the time; and less than three minutes 95% of the time; contrasted with an average of four minutes for motorized rescue units.
- Stealth advantage – bicycles give officers the “stealth advantage” – because they are silent. Cops on bikes can ride right up to the scene of a crime before they are noticed.
- Police, EMS, and security cyclists lead by example – promoting helmet use and bike safety to the community and its children.
- Bicycles are great for public relations – an officer or a medic on a bike is much more approachable than one in a patrol car or ambulance.
- Bicycle use promotes good health – and departments benefit from decreased healthcare costs.
- Bicycles are enjoyable – even occasional bike duty improves morale.
- Bicycle are cost-effective – the average cost per bike is approximately $1200, a fraction of the cost of a cruiser, an ambulance, or any other motorized vehicle – and the annual maintenance costs are low.
- Bicycles are environmentally-friendly – no fossil fuels or emissions, and less parking surface is needed.
For more advantages of deploying public safety cyclists, view this video presentation, developed in conjunction with the Towson University Department of Electronic Media and Film.
Contact IPMBA for a Bike Team Start-Up Information Packet!
Packets contain information about equipment, team uses, training, funding, personnel selection. They also contain actual policy and procedures manuals from a variety of bike operations and a variety of other useful materials.
This compilation of resources is available only via regular first class mail, so please include your postal address in your request.
Send me an EMS Bike Team Start-Up Information Packet!
While many officers and EMS providers know how to ride bikes, far fewer know how to cycle and survive in complex traffic.
Unlike recreational cyclists who can choose routes that are convenient and safe, public safety cyclists have to ride where they are needed. That may mean they have to ride in extremely heavy traffic and other challenging situations.
They need to know where to ride on multi-lane or channelized roadways. They must be able to brake safely with maximum effectiveness and control. They must be able to perform evasive maneuvers if a car or object suddenly appears in their path. They need the skills to ascend and descend curbs, stairs, and other environmental obstacles. And it is essential that they maintain control of their bicycles while operating at slow speeds.
Police and security cyclists must know what tactics to use in a pursuit and how to dismount quickly but safely and perform an arrest or fire their sidearm. They must be familiar with the effects of exertion on their ability to take control of a situation and on their ability to handle their firearms.
EMS cyclists must know how to cycle with a heavy load, select and pack medical equipment, and position a bike at a scene in such a way that it blocks curious onlookers yet does not hamper access to the medical equipment. They must also know how to use the bike to defend themselves and their patients should a hostile situation arise.
Just because a person knows how to ride a bike doesn't mean they don't need training any more than having a driver's license means that emergency vehicle operations training is not necessary. Training is essential to safe and effective public safety bicycle operations.
These courses are approved by the International Police Mountain Bike Association (IPMBA) and are accredited by a number of state agencies. Based on principles of vehicular cycling, they utilize proven techniques to teach public safety cyclists how to ride safely and comfortably in traffic, off-road and under various conditions. Students spend hours in skill development, riding in diverse traffic situations and practicing patrol tactics or EMS-specific techniques. They learn to ascend curbs, descend stairs and perform emergency maneuvers designed to avoid crashes. All students who achieve a minimum score of 76% on the written test and a satisfactory rating on the practical exam are eligible for certification. Membership is required for certification; and certification is required for future advancement to IPMBA Instructor. Advanced training is offered at the annual IPMBA conference.
IPMBA offers Police, EMS, Security Cyclist Courses and Bicycle Response Team Training through its extensive network of certified instructors. With the exception of the courses offered at the annual IPMBA conference, all IPMBA Police, EMS, and Security Cyclists Courses and Bicycle Response Team Trainings are organized by individual instructors.
Police Cyclist Instructors (PCIs) are eligible to offer Police and Security Cyclist Courses; Security Cyclist Instructors (SCIs) are eligible to offer the Security Cyclist Course; and EMS Cyclist Instructors (EMSCIs) are eligible to offer the EMS Cyclist Course. Some instructors are dual-certified, so you may find police officers listed as EMSCIs and vice versa. Instructors with a "B" appended to their instructor number(s) are eligible to conduct the IPMBA Bicycle Response Team Training.
If you would like to attend IPMBA training, there are several ways to locate an IPMBA course. Visit Host a Class for information about hosting a course at your location.
First: Check the IPMBA Training Calendar. These courses are submitted to the IPMBA website by the course coordinators. Listings typically include course dates, fees, accommodations, and local contacts, including instructor information. Fees vary based upon the instructor’s expenses, facility requirements, whether or not the course is grant-funded, what is included in the tuition, etc. Some instructors include the Complete Guide to Public Safety Cycling and IPMBA certified membership, while others leave these the responsibility of the student. Please check the details carefully and contact the local contact for more information and/or to register.
Second: If none of the courses on the calendar meet your needs, use the online instructor search tool. We recommend searching by state if your city search yields no results because the search results do not include surrounding areas. Searching by state enables you to target prospects based on geography, agency type, agencies with which you may have a relationship, personal connections, etc.
Third: You may contact instructors directly via phone or email to find out if they have any forthcoming courses that have not been listed on the calendar, if they know of any other local courses, or to arrange a course for your personnel. Dates, location, and fees are negotiated directly with the instructor, but some details are non-negotiable. The maximum student-to-instructor ratio is 10-to-1, the course must be 32 hours long and adhere to IPMBA standards, safety measures must be met, etc.
If you are unable to locate an instructor in your area who is willing or able to meet your training demands, please contact the IPMBA office at 410-744-2400 or by email about hosting a class. The staff can refer you to instructors who are interested in contractual training opportunities or post an RFP to the IPMBA Instructor networks. In either case, negotiations remain between you and the instructor(s) from whom you receive proposals.
Information about the IPMBA Police, EMS, and Security Cyclist Courses and Bicycle Response Team Training, including Fact Sheets, Unit Plans, and Model Schedules, can be found at About the Courses.
Visit the training page and click on the course you are taking for a list of equipment.
Visit Become an Instructor for detailed information on how to become an IPMBA Instructor.
Thank you for your interest in hosting an IPMBA Instructor Course. Site selection criteria is listed below. After reviewing the information, including the IPMBA Instructor Course Checklists and Agreement, please email a brief proposal describing your training facilities and other local amenities. Be sure to include some date options (Monday-Friday). IPMBA hosts 2-3 Instructor Courses annually, rotating them around the country.
The IPMBA Instructor Course is a five-day, 44-hour course. Class is typically scheduled Monday-Friday from 8am-6pm, with the exception of the day selected for the night ride, usually Wednesday. That day’s instruction begins at approximately 1pm. A lunch break is typically scheduled from 12-1pm and a dinner break from 5-6pm on the designated night-ride day. Students and instructors are on their own for meals. A course syllabus can be found in the Instructor Course Curriculum packet. A planning schedule will be provided to hosts upon selection.
Site Selection Criteria
- Host agency “willing and able” to host the training (see IPMBA Instructor Course Checklists and Agreement)
- Low or no-cost meeting facilities
- Ease of access to varied cycling conditions from meeting site, including urban obstacles and off-road
- Availability of large parking lot convenient to meeting site for on-bike training
- Proximity of moderately priced accommodations at or convenient to the meeting site
Host Agency Responsibilities
The host agency is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the course is professionally organized and smoothly implemented. Because this course teaches PCs, EMSCs, and SCs how to be instructors, the students will use it as a model for conducting their own classes. It is essential that IPMBA maintains its own high standards of instruction. From the moment the students check in to the awarding of the certifications, the administration of the course should be seamless: registration desk operating efficiently, classrooms unlocked and properly equipped, bicycles stored close at hand, cones available for set-up when the students arrive at the course, ride guides and communications in place, etc. Only those agencies equipped to provide the type of facilities, equipment, personnel, and support demanded by this course are considered as potential hosts.
The choice of facility for the IPMBA Instructor Course depends on several factors: meeting space, access to on-bike training areas, and cost/proximity/quality of lodging and meals. Ideally, the meeting rooms, training areas, and lodging are located close together; the meeting space and AV equipment are available at no charge; the cost for lodging is reasonable; and dining facilities (cafeteria, restaurant, etc.) are easily accessible and reasonably priced. Options include:
Police or Fire Training Academy. Academies typically have adequate training facilities and equipment for the classroom portions, with suitable on-bike training areas nearby. The academy must have on-site housing or moderately priced hotels/motels nearby as well as a cafeteria with decent food or nearby, quick restaurants.
Academic Campus. In addition to their many classrooms, colleges and universities often have meeting rooms available in the student union or on-campus conference center. Public colleges may provide meeting space to a police or fire department at no charge. They loan or rent AV equipment at a reasonable cost and generally permit outside AV. On-site housing is sometimes available year-round and generally available in the summer months. Dining options include retail outlets and dining halls.
Hotel. Hotels have meeting space that is available at a reduced rate or free to groups that are utilizing sleeping rooms and/or have catered meals. AV is usually very expensive and outside AV is sometime prohibited or subject to a user fee. Meals are likewise expensive. Limited service properties such as Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Courtyard by Marriott, etc., sometimes have limited meeting space and are more reasonably priced than the major meeting hotels.
Planning a course while trying to keep the expenses to a minimum, while providing quality training space and lodging, can be a challenge. Hosts must be prepared to do their research to provide the participants the best training experience for the least money.
This is an instructor level course and it must be conducted in a most professional manner. Only quality classrooms – roughly square, obstacle-free, with suitable acoustics, ventilation, and temperature control – are acceptable. Adequate and secure bicycle/gear storage space adjacent to the classrooms is essential.
Classrooms must have flexible seating in order to expose students to the various types of room sets – theatre, schoolroom, chevron, “U”, hollow square, etc. The various classroom environmental changes are part of the learning experience.
All classrooms, primary and breakouts, must have a variety of properly functioning audio visual training aids. See the AV Needs Checklist for a complete list. Ideally, the AV equipment will be available at no charge. Many academies are equipped with the full array of AV. If the course is being held at another type of facility, the host should attempt to make arrangements to borrow the necessary equipment from such community partners as businesses, academic institutions, or other governmental departments. Rental of such equipment is possible, but it is expensive and will drastically affect the overall cost of the course. In general, IPMBA is unable to reimburse the host agency for the cost of rented AV equipment.
On-bike facility needs include a large flat parking lot, a large flat grassy area, and an area with usable stairways and other urban obstacles. The Host must secure any necessary permits to use these locations. Ride guides are to be provided to escort students from the classroom to the on-bike training area, and cones must be procured and transported to the location at the designated times. Ride guides may not be students in the class.
It is also recommended that a rain location be secured for the on-bike maneuvers, such as a parking ramp or similar facility, in which cone courses can be set up and safely conducted out of the weather.
On-Site Coordination: A host coordinator must be designated to oversee the planning and implementation of the course. Prior to the course, the coordinator will be the point of contact for IPMBA staff and instructors. The host coordinator is responsible for the course logistics and operations, and should be on-site throughout the five days to trouble-shoot and problem-solve. Rarely do things go totally as planned, and when unexpected things occur, it is essential to improvise, adapt and overcome, as the Marines say. An influential “go to” person within the host organization can make that happen.
Communications: A system of communications must be established using radios or cellular phones. Instructors must be able to communicate among themselves and with the host coordinator at all times. The host coordinator should be accessible via cell phone, radio, and/or pager. A protocol for summoning EMS in the event of a serious injury must be established and communicated. In the event of a serious injury or death, the Lead Instructor is the sole spokesperson for the organization.
Mechanical Support: If the host agency does not have an expert mechanic on-site, arrangements should be made with a local bike shop to provide support. The shop can serve as a shipping & receiving station, provide assembly & shipping services for a negotiated fee, and provide discounted parts and/or “drop everything” service for any bike repairs too complex for students. The name, phone number and address of the shop will be provided to students and instructors.
Social Functions: The host agency may schedule social functions, tours, or other activities outside of class hours at its own discretion and expense. Activities should not be scheduled without prior approval from the lead instructor.
The break-even point for the course will be determined using relevant expenses. A cancellation date will be set in accordance with the cancellation policy of the facilities reserved. If, on that date, the registration numbers are low enough to result in a financial loss, the event will be cancelled and all registration fees (not including instructor application fee, membership dues, or Police/EMS/Security Cyclist certification fee) will be refunded.
For information on how to host a course, visit Host a Class.
HOW TO BUY A PUBLIC SAFETY BICYCLE
Over the years, many public safety professionals have asked for my advice about purchasing a mountain bike for patrol use. What brand should we buy? Should we buy full suspension? What sort of equipment should be added to the bike? And so on.
This article will attempt to demystify the process of buying a public safety bicycle and related equipment.
The first rule of buying bike equipment for your unit comes from something I learned years ago in Community Policing training. I was taught that “the problem drives the tactic,” meaning that the community problem you are attempting to solve will dictate the tactics you utilize to resolve it. This relates to mountain bike equipment because the way in which you plan to utilize your bike patrol will dictate what kind of equipment you should purchase.
Before you start shopping, conduct a bike unit self-analysis to establish your basic needs.
Here are a few examples:
BikeTown EMS Agency utilizes a bike patrol for about one to two weeks annually, during special events. Because the bikes will not be used regularly or frequently, this department may be able to purchase a slightly below mid-range model bicycle, although they should still opt for sturdier wheels.
BikeTown Police Department deploys a bike patrol unit on two shifts per day, seven days a week. In this instance, the bicycles will get utilized much more, causing more wear and tear on the components and requiring more maintenance. This agency should purchase a higher quality bike in order to stay serviceable.
In addition to the amount of street time the bikes are expected to get, there are other factors that should be considered, such as:
- Will the bikes be used primarily off-road or on-road?
- Will the bikes be used at night?
- Will the bikes be used in any adverse weather conditions?
- Will each bike be issued to one specific person, or will they be shared?
- Who will be assigned to bike patrol?
- Who will be responsible for maintaining the bikes?
Once you have assessed your needs and considered the composition of your bike unit, it is time to start shopping.
All Work and a Little Play
When purchasing a mountain bike for a public safety agency, remember that it will be a work bike, not a recreational bike. It is as important to choose a bike that can stand up to the demands of emergency work as it is to choose a motor vehicle designed for this purpose. An entry-level mountain bike from a department or “big box” store is not made with this purpose in mind. It will not withstand the rigors of bike patrol for very long. These bikes are not even as good as the lower-end bikes found in bicycle retail shops. The starting point for a public safety bike should be a mid-range bike from a reputable manufacturer – generally those that are sold through bike dealers (for a list of bike dealers and general advice on purchasing a bike, visit the National Bicycle Dealers Association at www.nbda.com.)
In this article, “mid-range” refers to mountain bikes whose drivetrain components are, at minimum, of the Shimano-brand “Deore” level or the SRAM-brand “X7” level. These bikes usually have a retail price tag that starts around $850 U.S. and increases from there. Examples include the iFORCE Patrol Bicycle, Safariland-Kona Patrol Bike, Volcanic Approach, Smith & Wesson Tactical, Fuji Police Special, and KHS K9.
All of the above-mentioned bicycle manufacturers – and maybe a few others – produce public safety specific models. For the most part, these can be good buys because, after many years of feedback from bike cops and medics, the manufacturers have equipped them with the most commonly requested accessories. These include rear racks and bags, rear-mount kickstands, bar ends, water bottle cages, etc. The package price tends to be a little bit lower than if you bought everything separately, and the price increases with accessories of better quality.
Of course, if the items are not needed (as determined by the needs assessment), the package ceases to be a bargain. If the public safety model does not meet your needs, or if you would like a brand that does not offer one, it is possible to “spec” your own bike. Most mid-range bikes can be set up with components and accessories to fit your needs.
When shopping for a public safety bike – either one that is sold as a package or one that you intend to equip – if your budget allows, look for a bicycle that has above average components.
As mentioned above, the components of the bicycle should start with something in the mid-range of component groups. “Components” refers to the mechanical parts of the bicycle, including the drivetrain, cranks, derailleurs, shifters, and brakes. Many of these components will be Shimano brand. Shimano offers several different levels of mountain bike component groups. The Deore group is in the middle of the Shimano product line, and no public safety bike should be equipped with anything less. Deore SLX and Deore XT are the next steps up the product line. Although I normally recommend that department buyers first look at bicycles equipped with Deore components, if the bicycles are to be used full-time, SLX and XT parts should be considered. Some bicycles are equipped with SRAM components instead of Shimano. The minimum level of SRAM components should be X7. The SRAM brand is well-respected in the industry, and they also offer higher-end components for heavily used bikes.
Brakes are a very critical item – skimping here is not a good idea. As of this writing, a few new public safety bikes come equipped with “V-brakes”, which tend to be inexpensive but work very well, but disc brakes are rapidly becoming the norm. There are many good quality disc brakes out there. Shimano’s Deore disc brakes work very well and are affordable, and I’ve been impressed with the performance of the Avid disc brakes. Disc brakes are available in both hydraulic and cable actuated models. Cable actuated models (such as Avid’s BB7 brakes, which are operated via cable rather than hydraulic fluid) tend to be easier to adjust in the field.
Most mountain bikes today come equipped with front suspension. A bike with only front suspension is sometimes referred to as a “hard-tail.” A bike with both front and rear suspension is known as a dual suspension or full suspension bike. In most instances, a full suspension bicycle is not required for public safety use. A good quality hard-tail that properly fits the rider will normally be a much better buy.
A good suspension fork can really help relieve the fatigue that a bike officer or medic will experience in their hands, wrists, arms, and shoulders while riding the bike for a full shift. This is an instance in which who is riding the bike comes into play; the suspension fork must be adequate to support the weight of the rider. A rider who weighs more than 200 lbs (not uncommon for a fully-equipped bike cop or a fully-loaded EMS bike) will most likely “bottom out” an entry-level suspension fork. This is an area to consider upgrading from the standard fork that comes equipped on the stock mountain bike. Many suspension fork manufacturers make forks and components for “Clydesdales” (riders who weigh more than 200 lbs). Forks designed with these attributes tend to be more ideal for public safety use (suspension forks that can withstand aggressive riding and heavier riders are produced by RockShox, Fox, and Marzocchi).
Frames come in a variety of metals, including aluminum, chromoly steel, titanium and carbon fiber. The pros and cons of each type are hotly debated by all kinds of bicycle enthusiasts, but most public safety cyclists agree that the ideal frame is sturdy yet lightweight, properly constructed and not too expensive. Most public safety models on the market today are constructed of aluminum because it meets all those criteria.
Just as important as material, if not more so, is bike fit. The key component in bike fit is frame size, so once you have decided which brand and type of bike to buy, be sure to consider the size of the riders. If a bike does not properly fit the rider, injury is a strong possibility. Health-related risks of riding a bike that is too small or too large include knee injuries, back pain, arm and wrist pain, etc. If you plan to have several riders sharing the same bike, consider grouping your personnel by size and buying bikes accordingly. And then, assign their shifts so no rider is stuck with a bike that is either way too big or way too small. Ideally, fit each of your riders to their own assigned bike. Bikes should be fit by the dealer or with the help of a qualified instructor, before you purchase your fleet. This can save your department lots of headaches in the future.
A factor to be considered with fit is wheel size. The former mountain bike standard, the 26” wheel, has been joined by two larger diameter options (known as 29” aka ‘29er’, or 27.5” aka 650b). There are perceived benefits to each wheel size. 29ers usually appeal to taller riders, and tend to roll over obstacles easier. Smaller riders may have difficulty in handling this wheel size. The 27.5” wheel size is fast becoming as prevalent as the others, and is considered an in-between size that appeals to both tall and small. This size affords the rider the benefit of rollover while maintaining the agility of the 26” wheel size. 29er public safety bikes are now offered by iFORCE, Safariland-Kona, and Volcanic. It probably won’t be long before more public safety bikes come outfitted with the 27.5” wheel. No matter the size wheel, durability and load-bearing are key.
As mentioned above, most public safety models offered by bike manufacturers come with everything you need to “drive it off the lot.” A great deal of research has gone into determining how best to equip a bike for public safety use. Whether looking at packages or buying your own accessories, when purchasing items such as racks, bags, and light systems, look for items that are heavy-duty and able to take a lot of wear and abuse. If you buy the cheapest item available, chances are you will be back to buy another sometime soon.
All public safety bikes should be equipped with pedal retention devices (toe cages/clips, clipless, or a strap system such as PowerGrips or Hold Fast), saddles designed to reduce pressure (this is largely a matter of personal preference), and puncture resistant tires mounted on sturdy wheels. If the bike is to be used for night patrol, it should have suitable lights – a steady or flashing red rear light, and a headlamp (that is, a light whose purpose is to light the rider’s way) that produces at least 42 lumens measured at a distance of 10 feet from the light, and 9 lumens when measured 20 feet from the light. Most bikes will also need a rear rack (EMS riders might want to find a heavy-duty rack due to the extra weight they will carry), a rear trunk bag, and a rear-mount kickstand.
Finally, is it advisable to install a siren? Consult your needs assessment (and your local vehicle code) for the answer!
Selecting and purchasing a bike for public safety use seems like a daunting task, but you do not have to do it alone. Remember the lesson from Community Policing 101, and that the best bike for your agency is the one that best suits the rider and agency’s needs.
Original author: Monte is a 20-year veteran of the KCMO PD. He was on bike duty for seven years, including four as Bike Operations Coordinator. He served on the IPMBA Board of Directors from 2001-2005, including three years as Industry Liaison. He has been an IPMBA-certified instructor since 1999 and has earned the status of IPMBA Instructor Trainer.
Contributing author: Mitch is a 20-year veteran of the Boulder PD. He was on bike duty for fifteen years. He volunteers with the NMBP. He served on the IPMBA Board of Directors from 2007-2013, the majority of this as Education Director. He has been an IPMBA-certified instructor since 1994 and has earned the status of IPMBA Instructor Trainer.
© 2013 IPMBA. This article has been updated from the original, which appeared in the Winter 2006 issue of IPMBA News.
- A high-quality mountain bike, in good mechanical condition, that fits the rider properly.
- A properly fitted bicycle helmet, approved (in the United States) by Snell, ASTM, or CPSC.
- Shatter-resistant protective eyewear, for day and night.
- Pedal retention system—toe clips/straps, Power Grips™, or clipless pedals with appropriate shoes
- Padded cycling gloves, long- or half-fingered
- Ballistic protection (in accordance with departmental policy)
For more details about these items, read Outfitted for Duty: Bicycle and Personal Protective Equipment
For more information about why these are important, read Bike Patrol, Health & Safety: Equipment Implications.
Since the revival of policing by bike, IPMBA has partnered with uniform manufacturers to develop products that meet the unique needs of bike-mounted public safety personnel. These specialized products are designed to enhance the safety and effectiveness of public safety cyclists.
The right clothing and equipment will help the public safety cyclist perform better and therefore have a greater positive impact on the community. If equipment and clothing are not up to industry standards, the productivity of the bike unit may suffer.
Bike jackets, shirts and shorts/pants are designed differently than their standard uniform counterparts. The best choice is high-quality uniforms designed with input from bike personnel to make them functional, fashionable, and comfortable. Choosing a bike uniform based on cost alone will be more expensive in the long term.
Patrolling by bike is a physical, and often harsh, outdoor activity. Uniforms must be constructed to block the wind and protect against the rain and cold, yet provide ventilation to a perspiring body. In extreme heat and cold, proper bike uniforms can prevent heat- or cold-related illness or injury.
Cyclists can generate an extra 10 to 15 degrees of body heat while riding. In hot weather, an improperly hydrated or ventilated cyclist can easily fall victim to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. An individual wearing body armor may be especially susceptible, a factor that must be taken into account when establishing a uniform standard; for instance, being permitted to wear shorts instead of long pants in hot weather is imperative. In cold weather, the heat generated by cycling is a mixed blessing. It can allow the cyclist to stay warmer while wearing less insulated clothing.
However, perspiration dampens clothing and causes the body to lose heat faster and feel chilled sooner. Some items, such as cotton turtlenecks, may seem warm, but once sweaty, will work against the rider.
Specialized bike patrol uniforms are made of high-tech fabrics intended to both transport perspiration away from the body and protect the wearer from the environment. They are often made of specially engineered fabrics such as CoolmaxTM, X-Static Silver™, SupplexTM, which are incorporated into stretch knits and wovens. These fabrics will not hold moisture from perspiration, and if the fabric next to the skin is dry, the rider will stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
Specialized bike patrol shirts come in polo-like pullovers and traditional button-up styles, with either long or short sleeves. Polo-style shirts have proven to be popular among bike personnel, who like the comfort and the more approachable look. Polos made by uniform companies usually use CoolmaxTM or other wicking fabrics similar to those used for cycling jerseys. If a more traditional look is desired, cycling-specific uniform shirts with a Class A design are available. Officer often select the traditional style because most have a center front zip, which offer easier access to back-up weapons than polo-style shirts.
Made of lightweight CoolmaxTM or other fast wick-and-dry fabrics, these shirts have epaulets, pockets with flaps, traditional collars and sewn-in creases. They are available in both high visibility and traditional uniform colors, and in solid or two-tone color combinations. Uniform cycling shirts are typically cut longer in the back to prevent them from coming un-tucked while riding. They are roomy in the shoulders for ease of movement and chest to accommodate body armor and have longer sleeves to reduce exposure to the elements while riding.
Cycling Shorts and Pants
Sitting on seams is uncomfortable; therefore, bike pants and shorts minimize seams and place them in areas that do not have direct contact with the saddle. Bike pants hug the leg at the bottom to prevent entanglement in the chain, and the knees are often articulated and vented for freedom of movement and air flow. Bike uniform pants and shorts should be made of a material that dries quickly after getting wet from rain or sweat.
Most pants and shorts are made from materials such as SupplexTM and other stretch knits. Some pant fabrics are lined with a breathable film like GortexTM or UltrexTM, which makes them waterproof and wind-resistant. Several companies use imported stretch knits of varying weights that are water resistant and windproof without laminates. Some bike pants are available with zip-off legs to double as shorts.
Some cycling-specific shorts and pants are equipped with a built-in chamois pad. The uninitiated believe that the chamois is there to provide padding between rider and saddle. While it can alleviate some soreness, its real purpose is to absorb moisture and reduce chafing and saddle sores.
A cyclist should not wear cotton underwear between the chamois pad and his or her skin. Cotton will retain the moisture the chamois is supposed to absorb and will increase the possibility of chafing and saddle sores. It is advisable to use special cycling underwear of Coolmax™, silk or similar material that will wick any moisture through to the chamois.
Many uniform pants and shorts do not contain chamois pads, but are cut to accommodate cycling shorts underneath them. Many cyclists wear thickly padded shorts at first, but as they grow accustomed being in the saddle, they often opt for thinner but still absorbent chamois.
Much like hemlines, inseam length of shorts varies with fashion and personal comfort, but shorts should neither be too short nor too long. Long shorts can easily get snagged on the saddle, while short-shorts can expose the inner thighs to chafing against the saddle and perpetuate the “Lt. Dangle” stereotype. The recommended range for comfort and appearance is 7”-10”, depending on leg length.
The standard riding position requires that bike patrol jackets be cut and sized so they are roomy across the shoulders, with slightly longer sleeves and back. They should be ordered large enough to accommodate multiple layers of clothing and body armor under them.
Jackets can be purchased with or without insulated liners. Nearly all jackets are lined with wickable, breathable material to help them stay dry inside. Jackets are typically available in materials like treated SupplexTM, or a SupplexTM-like material laminated with a breathable, waterproof film like GortexTM. The former is less expensive; the latter is more versatile and effective. Some jackets feature removable sleeves to accommodate a range of weather conditions.
While bike uniforms have to be comfortable and breathable, they must also be readily identifiable as uniforms. Many public safety cyclists wear colors not worn by their non-bike counterparts, such as yellow, white, or red shirts that make them more visible. Bike patrol jackets are the most dramatically different from standard uniforms, with color combinations such as safety yellow (HVL), yellow or royal blue over navy blue or black.
These brighter, contrasting colors enable motorists to see bike personnel more easily. Non-traditional shirts and jackets should use shoulder emblems and reflective stencils both front and back, to clearly identify the wearer as a part of the police, security, or EMS unit. Shoulder patches can also be worn on both sleeves of uniform shirts and jackets to facilitate recognition.
Socks and Undergarments
Socks should be moisture-wicking and trim-fitting. Cotton socks can trap moisture, which can lead to chafing, blisters, and athlete’s foot. Cycling-specific socks come in a variety of colors and cuff heights; selection will be dictated by departmental policy and personal preference. Several manufacturers of cycling socks offer “police” socks, and most offer customization for agencies which want personalized socks.
Undershirts made of technical fabric (or lightweight wool) are recommended to manage moisture and body odor. Compression garments are popular for this purpose, but these shirts are also available in regular fit. Undergarments should be washed after each use. Moisture-wicking body armor carriers can also enhance comfort while riding.
Female riders should select moisture-wicking sports bras or trim bra tops under their body armor and/or shirt. Seamless bras without hook closures and/or adjustable straps help prevent body armor chafing.
Several uniform shoe manufacturers make cycling shoes designed for bike duty. Cycling shoes have narrower soles than athletic shoes, so they slide easily into toe clips. Most are compatible with clipless pedal systems. Bike patrol-specific shoes have stiff soles to keep the foot from bending during hours of pedaling, yet are flexible enough to be comfortable during periods spent off the bike, for instance, while providing medical care or pursuing a suspect. Cycling shoes should be a mandatory uniform item for public safety cyclists, especially those who operate full-time. Proper footwear can prevent such conditions as plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the tough, fibrous band of tissue (fascia) in the sole of the foot connecting the heel bone to the base of the toes.
Between 2002 and 2012, 37,191 public safety cyclists attended IPMBA's Police, EMS, and Security Cyclist Courses, an average of 3381 per year. During that time, IPMBA Instructors conducted 4,199 courses, an average of 382 per year.
The number of police officers on bikes varies from year to year. The US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics surveys police departments and sheriffs offices every so often about their operations, including bike patrol. A summary of bike patrol stats from 2003-2007 (the most recent year available) can be found in the USDOJ BJS Bike Stat Summary 2012.
The number of police departments deploying bikes varies from year to year. The US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics surveys police departments and sheriffs offices every so often about their operations, including bike patrol. A summary of bike patrol stats from 2003-2007 (the most recent year available) can be found in the USDOJ BJS Bike Stat Summary 2012.
Many bike unit members have inquired, “When should a patrol bike be replaced?” The answer is rather ambiguous – it largely depends upon a number of factors, such as material, age and condition of the frame, fork, wheels, and components. It is recommended that fleet bikes that have been heavily used and are older than five years should be replaced. If little or no periodic maintenance is performed on the bikes, they may need to be replaced sooner.
The most important item to consider when deciding to replace or repair a newer bike is the frame. Frames should be inspected frequently, during routine service or at the least annually, by a qualified bike mechanic for cracks. Usually, if the frame is in good shape, everything else can be repaired or replaced. If the frame is damaged, it should be replaced. Some brands offer lifetime warranties and will replace broken frames. Parts from the damaged frame, if they are still serviceable, can be used on the new frame. However, because of changing technology and industry standards, replacement is often the best option for a frame that is more than five years old.
The second most important item to consider for replacement is the fork. Checking for cracks and misalignment problems will prevent a catastrophic failure and rider injury. Check for internals that leak and damaged seals. A qualified bike mechanic will be able to identify internal and external damage, and can provide an estimate for cost of repair vs. replacement.
Wheels should be inspected and maintained often as well. Tension and trueness are both important in preventing failure or poor wear that can affect brakes and drivetrain performance. The component group, or the mechanical parts of the bicycle – drivetrain (e.g. shifters, cassette, front and rear derailleurs, the crank set, and the chain) and brakes – require routine, preventive maintenance to ensure the longevity of the fleet.
A qualified bike mechanic (either in-house or at a bike shop) should maintain and inspect the bikes on an ongoing basis. Only properly trained bike mechanics should be charged with the responsibility of maintaining the bike fleet; if the bikes are to be cared for in the motor pool, the fleet mechanics should be cross-trained as bike mechanics.
Warranty cards should be returned to the bike company to ensure timely response for any frame problems that arise. Records of purchase, repair, and regular maintenance should be kept to ensure the bikes are in proper working order at all times and to determine when they should be replaced. These records can help guide the decision whether it is more economical to repair or replace a bike. As with an automobile, the costs of maintenance can eventually outweigh the costs of replacement.
Note: these guidelines assume that the patrol bikes are, at minimum, mid-range bicycles from reputable manufacturers. Inferior bicycles are never acceptable for patrol work. To maximize the life span of the department fleet, bikes should be kept clean and well-maintained at all times.
The following is a suggested list of parts to keep in stock and parts to order as needed.
This list is suitable for departments without in-house mechanics:
Tires and tubes
Patches and glue
Pedals, toe clips and straps
Cables and housing
Assorted fasteners for racks, bottle cages and fenders
Saddles (ergonomic and gender-specific as needed)
Wheels (front and rear)
The following is a list of parts to keep in stock and parts to order as needed (in addition to the above-listed items) for departments with in-house mechanics. Only a qualified mechanic should install and/or repair these items due to the risks of rider injury if the repairs are done incorrectly.
Spokes (of proper length and gauge)
Cables & housing (brake & shifter)
Ferrules for cable housing
*These drivetrain items should be replaced at the same time.
Download sample maintenance logs.