Friday, November 5, 2010

Downhill fun - November 5, 2010

Take a big steel bike, add in wet leaves and wet roads, throw in an oil leak and just for fun add in a strong cross-wind; you get a ass clenching slide.  This was earlier this week when it was still monsoon season and I was dropping down a hill.  I had my tire flipped around to the single speed to keep my stability up as high as possible on the wet roads, so relied on coasting to get up to speed going down the hill.  It is not horribly steep (7%) or long so I was maybe doing 24-25 mph. 
Just as I went into the slight curve at the bottom of the hill my front wheel slide a little on a couple of leaves, which isn’t a big deal normally, but then it continued to slide across the painted lines marking the bike lane.  My natural reaction was to bring my back tire in line with my front to keep the bike upright by basically forcing it to slide over and I think that would have ended the problem except for the wind and the oil.
There was a pretty rainbow of color on the cement below my tires indicating a slick of oil of gas which obviously reduced my tire contact with the cement.  There was also a strong wind that had kicked up and as I rounded the corner became a cross wind pushing at the already sliding wheels.  I think if it had been one or the other I would have managed to keep the new line around the corner that I had slid into, but the combination of the wind and oil continued to force my bike to slide or in retrospect the road turned and my bike didn’t.
At that moment I was less concerned with what had caused me to find myself sliding on both tires across the road and more with keeping the bike upright and hopefully out of the second lane of traffic.  Really I had lucked out that no one was in the first lane of traffic because before I was able to get traction again I had slid from the center of the bike lane to the far left hand side of the car lane.  With the less aggressive structure of the bike, the bigger wheels and wider tires in most situations would have led to an easier to control bike on wet surfaces, once it broke loose though it was like trying to fines an elephant.
I did get the slide stopped and remained upright and got the bike back into the proper lane and I even had dry shorts when it was all finished.  Just the perfect combination of hazards to make sure that I was paying attention.  In the end I wasn’t too worried about hitting the pavement, I was more worried about hitting the pavement and having no control over my slide (and with a nylon outer pant in the fore-mentioned conditions I would have slide a long ways) and moving into oncoming traffic at tire level.
Well maybe a little worried about falling off my bike and how it would affect my ego.  I have only dumped once and that was through sheer stupidity.  I overcooked a corner on an eight foot wide path at the bottom of a hill that was sloped the wrong direction when I came into it at over 35mph.  It didn’t really matter how good your bike skills are, there simply wasn’t enough room to make the corner at that speed.  At least the blackberry bushes broke my fall!

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