GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- Every time a cyclist puts wheels to the pavement, they assume a risk.

Exposed and vulnerable to cars, weather and obstacles, cyclists must take extra precautions to remain safe.

While these safety measures can be adapted at any time, they should be taught at an early age, said William Whitman, U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria safety director.

"Parents need to set an example for their kids by wearing helmets themselves and making sure their kids wear their helmets," he said.

And if parents don't enforce safe riding for themselves and their children, a garrison policy will, "which requires all service members, DoD civilians and family members to wear helmets while riding bicycles, skateboards, rollerblades and scooters," said Whitman.

As a cyclist, you can take steps to protect yourself from injury in two major ways: Having proper equipment and staying visible.

Stay visible on the road

• See and be seen. Make sure you're visible at all times. Wear neon or bright colors. Also, wear something that reflects light, like reflective tape or flashing lights. Just because you see a driver, doesn't mean he sees you.
• Use verbal and non-verbal communication. Make use of eye contact with drivers, turn signals, signaling road hazards to other cyclists and using arm signals for turning left and right.
• Be bright at night. When riding at night, wear reflective clothing and make sure that you have lights or reflectors on the front and rear of your bike.

Tip top equipment

Always wear a helmet. Protecting your brain saves your life.

When buying a helmet, ensure it fits snuggly, sits low on your forehead (one or two finger-widths of space above your eyebrows) and feels comfortable. Also, check that it:
• Snaps tightly, but comfortably, under your chin
• Doesn't slide around your head

Adjust your bike to fit properly. You should be comfortable riding your bike.
• Step 1: To adjust it, stand over your bike. There should be 1-2 inches between you and the top bar for a road bike and 3-4 inches for a mountain bike.
• Step 2: The seat should be level, front to back. When you're sitting, there should be just a slight bend in your knee when your leg is fully extended on the peddle.
• Step 3: The handle bar should be at the same level as the seat.

Check your equipment. Before riding, ensure your tires are inflated and brakes work.

More bike safety tips

• Control your bike. Keep both hands on the handlebars at all times. Carry items in a backpack or basket.
• Watch for hazards. Pay attention to avoid obstacles that could make you crash like potholes, glass, gravel, puddles, leaves and animals.