Thursday, May 20, 2010

Race Pace Pilot Fish

New England has two seasons: winter and road construction. Winter is clearly over. A lighted sign announces that construction has begun on Route 28.

Over the years I have negotiated many construction zones. In 1995, almost my entire route was dirt for many weeks while two massive paving projects ran their course. That was easy. I just rode a mountain bike until the glorious day when my whole route was transformed into pristine pavement, including a hellish mile and a half that had been dirt for the first six years I rode that commute.

When a zone is short, I ride it with the motorists. When a zone is long, invariably the traffic control people send oncoming traffic down my throat as soon as the last MOTORIST in my queue passes them. This has led to some interesting maneuvers depending on what is happening in the lane from which we are barred.

The zone on 28 this week is long. When I reached it this morning I scanned the line of waiting vehicles to see which of them I might use. A travel trailer was about fifth in line, but the real prize was a tractor-trailer sand truck at the very front of the line. The traffic controller had just turned the sign from "stop" to "slow."

I sprinted up the death alley on the right to reach the pocket behind the big truck before it could accelerate away from me. Based on its rate of acceleration I guessed it was empty, or at least not as full as it could be. I was able to hang with it, but I had to wind out my top gear to get into the sweet spot near the tailgate, where the swirls of turbulence would push me forward.

The truck and I rumbled up to 42 miles per hour for a couple of miles. Sand and dust swirled around me, but it was not hard to maintain position. As always, I was more concerned that the truck might run over something that would take me down than about much of anything else. In the tight confines of a restricted lane, I figured the truck driver would probably tip me off by jamming the brakes if anything too exciting fell into the lane in front of him. I feathered the brakes to maintain my position in the ideal draft.

Once we cleared the single lane of the construction zone I faded to the right and let my whale shark go. The rest of the vehicles had kept a respectful following distance. No telling what they were thinking as they left me behind.

I can't count on having that kind of help every day. It was good today, though. I was all hopped up on diesel fumes and sand when I got to work.


Steve A said...

I'm surprised that nowadays the flaggers don't alert each other that there is a bike in the parade. Walkie talkies are no longer real exotic.

cafiend said...

I don't think they're incapable. I think they don't care. How many bikes will they see in a day compared to the number of steamed motorists who stomp and snort behind the gate like rodeo animals?

Ham said...

All on a fixie? 'nuff respect.

So. Let's say you've got an 80" gear. 42 miles is 221,760 ft. Equivalent circumference for 80" is 20.94ft So, 221760/20.94/60/60 = a cadence of 29.42? I must have something wrong, somewhere.

Ham said...

don't know what I did then. It's 61.6 ft/sec, so 2.94. Better. Still fairly awesome, but better.

cafiend said...

Ham -- Wish I could take credit and let my legend grow, but I do most of my commutes on my Cross Check with 24 (count 'em, 24) speeds. I probably use at least 11 of them. I tend to go fixed only in inclement weather or when I just need a "fix."