Thursday, February 3

Modified Rules

That Ice is Even Slipperier Than it Looks
Bedford, Texas on February 3
According to ABC News, right now it's colder in Texas than Alaska. That's not really as dramatic as it sounds, since much of southern and coastal Alaska is really quite temperate and we've got it easy compared to almost any place north and east of us. What's more, ABC News is very Dallas-centric since the Super Bowl will be here thise weekend. Still, it's notable when Texas is colder than just about ANYWHERE. Tomorrow, I'm determined to do my first "Texas Icebike" commute. Since you only get to be a first-timer once, I thought I'd make a few pre-commute notes here based on my test rides, as well as influence from sites such as "Icebike." I call them "modified rules." My friends from northern climes may snicker, but in Texas, if you want to learn to icebike, you gotta do it whenever the chance arises. Besides, you Yankees have gotten my dander up!

It really isn't always true that "cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as the operators of vehicles." The statement contains a presumption that the cyclist and other vehicle operators are actually capable of acting as the operator of a vehicle, meaning to operate in a predictable fashion in accordance with the rules of the road. The last couple of days, I notice many of the four wheeled vehicles around here have been not been operated either predictably or in accordance with the rules of the road. I haven't seen any two-wheeled types (yes, the motorcyle meter reads zero). Our local newspeople and traffic reporters are besides themselves with joy. My test rides have convinced me that, while I might be able to do better, defensive cycling suggests I modify my operating methods somewhat.

Under modified rules, one does as well as one can. To start with, I plan to SLOW DOWN. Hitting black ice at 20mph on a bike can get real exciting and even at 10mph it can really hurt. In this regard, I am doing exactly what I'd do if I were driving the Land Rover and traction was marginal. Besides making it easier to avoid a skid, slowing down makes it more likely a successful stop can be accomplished. If nothing else, there's more time to contemplate the wall you are sliding towards than if you were going faster. There's another reason to slow down while cycling as well - you need more clothes. What? Well, when you're riding along energetically, you dress much lighter than you would if you were simply standing around in the cold. Down to freezing, I only wear a long-sleeve t shirt under my cycling jacket. Well, the downside of dressing lightly is that if something goes wrong, it gets real cold fairly quick. I plan to dress heavier than I would dress to ride to work on a cold day without ice. Simply put, things are more likely to go wrong when its slippery. So I'll slow down and dress a bit warmer.

Second, while riding along the roads locally, there will be nice dry stretches with pavement that's as good as anything you'd see when it's 110F out, and then there'll be sudden slick areas. These are most often near intersections for some reason. Maybe road ice is like moguls on ski runs. I don't know. In any event, when I hit these slick stretches I more or less forget about optimal lane position and try to avoid any sudden motions or any other action that would make the loss of adhesion even worse. Staying upright is a good outcome. I don't get picky about which wheel track I wind up in. I'm just happy to have the rubber still on the road when the sliding stops. The good news is the cyclist keeps a predictable course while sliding as long as he/she can stay upright and moving. Well, unless there's someone running alongside with a curling broom.

Rantwick's Mom Might Not Have Had THIS in Mind When She Warned Him About Parking Lots, But This is Typical
Third, at intersections, right or left turns sometimes simply won't happen on a bike. Even in the Land Rover, there's frequently a second or so of sliding in the middle of the turn before solid adhesion is regained. I've seen motorists panic when they slide in the turn. Texas drivers. On the bike, I've concluded I'll turn pedestrian and WALK through many intersections tomorrow. Even with that, I imagine I'll fall once or twice. I guess that means "the rightmost lane that serves my destination" will probably usually be the righthand through lane if I'm going straight or want to turn left. If I plan to make a right, I'll simply stop before the intersection and hoof it to the intersecting street. Still, falling down halfway through a left turn is not very predictable operation, while falling down in a crosswalk at least is less unexpected to any nearby motorists. They'll probably be sympathetic to the poor crazy cyclist attempting to walk his bike across the street. If I'm really lucky, I won't have to help any of them after they crush a street pole. I don't recall what fraction of cycling accidents involving cars are "cyclist falls down while making left turn and car slides across him," but I have no wish to be an exotic statistic.

Routing will also modify. My normal, preferred route to work is very direct. My route tomorrow will reflect the reality that many motorists that might overtake me will be unable to capably slow or stop, or make lane changes, whether partial or full. I have no wish to wind up like the pedestrian signal near work that a Chrysler PT Cruiser driver used to help him stop (before y'all berate the guy, know that the Hurst Police were having a nice chat with him about his stopping technique in a teaching opportunity). In short, I will prioritize streets where I know the motorists will fear to go, where I can avoid "must walk through intersections," and hills where I can get the uphill segment over by virtue of a short walk. Rear wheelspin seems SO inefficient!

Two Modifications Have Been Made for the Ice and Cold Weather
Equipment, too, has been modified. In the photo above, I have made two modifications to Buddy. One is unlike equipment on any of my other bikes. Can you ID them?

Gratuitous Bike Photo Irrelevant to the Rest of This Post
Oh, I almost forgot. While speaking of equipment, I'll also be bringing a different lock to work than normal. I checked today and the lock I leave at the bike rack at work is frozen and I couldn't get it apart. I was not pleased about that, but I'd REALLY have been grouchy if I arrived at work and found my lock wouldn't open.

Anyway, I'll see how all this works tomorrow. Being Texas, all this frozen stuff will be gone by Superbowl Sunday and I may have to wait for years for an opportunity for "Return of the Texas Icebike." In the meantime, to y'all in the central US and along the east coast. Know that I'll understand just a tiny bit what it's like to bike in an arctic apocalypse - and wait until tomorrow to say "I told you so." My pre-ride estimate is that the commute will take an hour instead of the more typical 34 minutes.

20 comments:

PaddyAnne said...

different pedals and thermos holder?

Steve A said...

Well, that's the usual water bottle holder, but it is empty so that I don't get a big ice cube. You are correct about the pedals. After this morning's test ride, I concluded that I did not want any foot restraining system for ice riding until I get at least minimally competent. The pedals were hanging around from who knows what.

Pondero said...

Well, like our northern buddies, I admire your motivation and courage. But mostly I want you to return home safely, and tell us all about it. Be careful out there!

RANTWICK said...

Good luck, my friend! +10 on walking the insections. Potential for looking stupid or getting hurt are super high with the ice. Is it really forecast to last through the night?

RANTWICK said...

Intersections. Yes, them.

Steve A said...

Reading about the giant snowstorm, my heart goes out to our northern brothers and sisters. I fear we'll unearth their frozen bodies when next the glaciers retreat.

As for me, I intend to be VERY careful. As I noted, I have no wish to wind up like that pedestrian crossing signal. It's also no accident (no pun intended) that I have practiced each day this week and that the first ride is on Friday. But it is tomorrow or never if I believe the weather forecast.

Steve A said...

Rantwick, the forecast for tomorrow is for a high of -2C. And that is the warmest it has been all week. I just hope it doesn't snow tonight, but I've chosen the bike with the best brakes and good tires. If it snows, I'll regret not changing over to the cyclocross knobbies.

Steve A said...

Maybe my lament about the passing of the coldest time of year was a tad premature...

Chandra said...

Please be safe out there, Steve! All the side streets in my neck of the woods have sheets of ice over them. It is like a skating rink out there.

Peace :)

Velouria said...

"To start with, I plan to SLOW DOWN. Hitting black ice at 20mph on a bike can get real exciting and even at 10mph it can really hurt. "

You know, to me that seems like common sense and that is exactly what I do. But when I wrote about it earlier, like 5 different people replied that slowing down was wrong/bad, with one even suggesting that I seemed too frail and incompetent to cycle. Now, I consider you pretty bad-ass as far as bicycle commuting goes. If you slow down, I don't feel like such an idiot anymore. So thanks : )

John Romeo Alpha said...

This weather is for the birds. Possibly penguins. I hope warmth returns soon, and that your ride on the ice doesn't end up resembling a penguin slaloming down a hill on his belly.

Justin said...

Good plan all the way around - I did plenty of walking the other day. Just be sure to lower the pressure on your tires a bit. There will be snow tomorrow, so most of that ice will be hidden. Also, your braking ability will be greatly compromised, because your rims will be frozen and your brakes will have very little grab. Since you are on a road bike, you might consider lowering your seat a bit so it's easier to make an emergency dismount.

Steve A said...

Justin - while it ain't a roadbike, lowering the seat is probably a good idea.

Big Oak said...

One good thing about using lock-in type pedals is you won't pull any ligaments when you go down from trying to brace your fall. I've learned to hang on to the handlebars also to avoid wrist injuries.

I do like the rat-trap pedals. I have some really old ones I put on the Kuwahara and have ordered some new old-style MKS rat trap pedals.

By the way, Buddy doesn't mind the old pedals - he knows you'll be switching those out soon anyway.

GO PACKERS!!

Justin said...

Is it a drop bar MTB? I'm jealous. I can't find a frame tall enough for me to do that - at least not one that I like.

Steve A said...

Cyclocross. With the snow, I was kinda wishing I'd changed out the road tires for knobbies and the seat lowering makes sense. Really, it's just another snow skill like skiing or snowboarding. Well, except for the underlying ice.

Trevor Woodford said...

You be careful out there on the ice.
A lot of my club mates have 'hit the deck' on black ice over this winter period and there have been a few broken bones. As I said take care..!

Justin said...

Ah, so it's still a skinny tire. I went to the store this am and it's much harder than the past few days - be ready to do some countersteering. I fell 6 times on the way to the store, and none on the way back. The ice is actually much easier than the snow.

I want a cyclocross bike w/ discs - I have been eying the Redline Vonquest pretty closely lately.

Ed W said...

Watch for slick patches of ice at intersections. The heat from car engines and exhausts can produce some glassy ice with a thin layer of water on top. Guess how I learned about this?

Also, if you have to cross any cobble stones, Belgian blocks, or those oh-so-stylish bricked crosswalks, be aware that the surfaces are slightly rounded and can be quite slick when icy. I learned that one the hard way too!

Have fun, Steve.

Steve A said...

Of course, Ed left me to discover the dangers of getting OFF the bike before the interesection to make sure I had discoveries to make. Guess how I know THIS? It's no fun if they tell you EVERYTHING!

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