Thursday, October 23, 2008

Almost got "railed"

On the DERT (Disappointing Example of a Rail Trail), the classic crash occurs when riders hit one of the rails at a shallow angle. This sweeps the front wheel right out from under them. In a common variation, the front wheel goes over, but the rear wheel doesn't follow.

I have developed a pretty reliable technique for getting over the crossings smoothly. The narrow space between or beside the rails prevents a rider from lining up perfectly perpendicular to the rails to cross them. Signs advise riders to stop and dismount completely.

I slow down at the crossings, setting up as open an angle as I can. As the front wheel touches the rail, I rock the bike toward the outside of the turn, standing it up and turning the front wheel more perpendicular than the overall approach angle of the bike. Stand on the pedals to let the bike rock over the crossing and keep your center of gravity low. If the rear tire gets swept slightly, weight on the pedals lets it move into a stable alignment with the front end and hop over. Because the bike is already leaned slightly toward the outside of the turn, the rear wheel does not get swept out from under me.

Speed is important. Going too fast has obvious drawbacks, but the bike wobbles and hangs up on the rails if you go too slowly.

This morning was my first trip down from Cotton Valley on Silver. Because of the bike's length, weight and slack angles, it holds its line much more strongly than the Cross Check. Heavy frost coated the rails as I bombed into the first crossing at too shallow an angle. The front tire slid, but then hopped over. The fixed drive brought my pedals around so that my weight shifted outward in time to keep me on top of the bike. The rear tire slid a little, but also came over, as one foot blew out of the toe clip. I flailed on down the trail, bouncing up and down on my one foot attached to the crank until I could get the other foot back in.

I slowed way down on subsequent crossings and all the plank bridges, which were heavily frosted.

Almost to town, I ran into another obstacle, apparently a gift from the trail maintenance authorities. New fill!
This is the view looking back at it I after I had ridden around it on photo left.

It was still there on the ride home tonight. The herd had developed a much more defined path on that left side.

As expected, the actual workday was fairly tedious. Riding helps tremendously. I just like seeing my bike hanging there while I'm working. I know I just have to hold out a few hours to get back onto it.

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