Monday, January 7, 2008

Down... but not Out

Well... it was inevitable, eventually.

I had a weather-related crash this morning on the commute. Actually, two of 'em.

I did fine on the "flat."

But I got to the "Americana hill," and decided to take the sidewalk.

(The hill, for those who are not intimately aware, is a 5-lane roadway, 30mph speed limit that is never observed, with a wide sidewalk on either side. It is roughly 1/4 mile from top to bottom, and I'd guess there's a 50-foot elevation change. It's also a northward-facing grade, so it doesn't get much sun, particularly this time of year.)

I normally ride down in the right-hand traffic lane, going within 2 or 3 mph of the posted limit. (Of course, all the speeders have to go around me in the other lane.)

But on snowy, icy days, I lean toward the sidewalk, only because the curb gives me an additional measure of protection from sliding-out-of-control cars and trucks. (Rule to live by: You can probably survive a bicycle crash, but crashing the bike and then getting run over could spoil your day!)

This morning, it was snowing - actually quite heavily, but at ride-time, only maybe 1/8 inch of accumulation. That 1/8 inch of snow was no problem on flat, smooth pavement, but I hit that sidewalk and it was 1/8-inch of new snow-cover over mounds of frozen slush, snowmelt from the previous day that had frozen, etc.

The first crash was maybe 50 feet into my sidewalk sojourn. I was going slow, and no damage. I picked up my sorry carcass, and decided to give it another go. VERY slowly and deliberately. I got another 50 feet or so, and down I went again!

The second crash was ever-so-slightly more severe. I tore a small hole in the knee of my britches, and there's a corresponding strawberry-size patch of road rash on my knee.

DANG IT! Those britches were almost new! (Dickies work pants - I'm not a GQ-kind-of-guy. I'm glad I chose not to put on the $100 Gore-Tex overpants.)

I walked (walked and slipped actually - it was VERY slippery!) down the hill to where it started leveling off a bit, then mounted up and rode on in.

Fortunately, the Missus is a seamstress, and she can patch my britches up so they're functional again.

And when I wax philosophical, I could buy 3 pairs (!!) of those pants for the cost of one flippin' tank of gas. So my high estimation of bikes-as-transportation has not been severely impacted.

Ride on.


Anonymous said...

Bikeboy, today I went down for the first time also. Thankfully I was going very slowly on a street with no traffic nearby. I believe that my front tire got caught in a frozen rut, started skidding sideways and down I went. I must have landed on my wrist as it's a bit sore now.

I was also riding yesterday morning and it seemed far worse than today. I got close falling perhaps half a dozen times. It was the first time riding in Boise that I wished that I had studded tires. The snow itself was no problem, but I felt very insecure on the rough, icy spots.

Anonymous said...

Oh man, I'm glad everyone is ok. I chickened out and drove today. You guys deserve a medal! Funny, I felt guilty driving. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

Mark, sometimes wisdom is better than valor....

I've decided to walk to work until road conditions improve. It's a viable option as my office is only about 2 miles away. I'm planning on using hiking boots with special attachments for extra traction. As Bikeboy observed, sidewalks can be treacherous.

Bikeboy said...

Mentally picturing bob t in his Mount Everest expedition boots with crampons mounted, hiking down the sidewalk...

The roads were MUCH better this morning! (At least along my standard route...) I took the roadway rather than the sidewalk going down the hill; it was moist with the de-icer stuff, but not inordinately slippery. My timing was good, so I didn't have impatient motorists tailgating me. (Although some redneck zoomed on down in his pickup, going 40mph or so. As is usually the case, I caught up at the traffic signal.)

2-5 inches of snow is predicted today... we shall see. (Worst-case scenario - I'm just a couple blocks from the downtown bus stop, and about 3 blocks from home at the other end. And all the buses have bike racks. But I'm expecting to ride.)

db said...

You guys are braver than I. I want at least 3 days without snow before I'll get back out there.

Glad to hear there've been no serious physical issues with all the accidents.

Anonymous said...

The great and mighty bikeboy went down?

I have had only one close call. No studs but fat MTB tires help. You might have to give up the roadbikes on the bad days on go for the less aerodynamic MTB.

Apertome said...

I'm glad you're OK. I find our streets are in better shape than bike paths and I suspect better than sidewalks, but I haven't tried riding on the sidewalk. It seems to me the streets get more salt/sand, and cars driving on them tends to help melt the ice.

So I'd guess the street would mean better traction for you, but I certainly understand not wanting to be too close to drivers.

Bikeboy said...

Clancy, I'm still riding the "touring" bike, but I've switched from fair-weather "skinny" tires to 35 (mm?) cyclocross-type tires. They have teeny-tiny little treads on 'em. Pretty much useless on ice... but they seem to grip OK in the snow. If conditions deteriorate, I'll have to oil the chain on my off-season "beater" mountain bike, and put some air in the tires.

Last night I was riding home on the bike path (for you locals, the greenbelt detour that goes over the trestle and up to Garden street), and some guy on a skinny-tire road bike came up behind me! On bumpy packed-down snow! I guess each person has his own tolerance level for "extreme" riding, huh?

extrovertonage said...

Yowch, keep your layers on, pedal king.

Thought of you when I saw this this morning. (I'm the guy next door, by the way.) Can't say as I endorse the beer, but the message is spot on.

Anonymous said...

Walk was fine but it felt strange not to be biking.

Although my 2 inch tires have been working well on dry and even wet snow, they have been no match for the icy ruts that I have encountered recently. Therefore, I have bitten the bullet and ordered studded tires. Although nothing will guarantee safety, I figure they will be worthwhile if they keep me upright and reduce the chances of injury.

I found the following web site to be very helpful:

Bikeboy said...

Bob T, I'll be waiting for some feedback, after you get a season of studded riding under your belt. (Of course, you understand, the minute they arrive we'll have unseasonably dry/warm weather for the rest of the winter! It's one of those "The Force" things.)

Bikeboy said...

Hey, extrovertonage... that is one AWESOME commercial! (I remember some others that were probably done during the same campaign, but not that one.)

I'm feeling very PATRIOTIC now! (Actually, I've always considered foreign-oil-independence to be a patriotic stand, and have been proud to do my part.)