Monday, January 20, 2014

Gravity And Ice Versus Studded Tires And Hubris

Place yer bets! Place yer bets!

Actually, don't bother. As any regular reader of this blog will already know, my hubris loses to gravity every time. I may spout off about how to ride in winter, but I still learn the hard way every time.

Case in point: Last Thursday, we got a freak evening commute blizzard. Totally out of nowhere. I had the right bike and tires, but hadn't layered for 30-40mph winds blowing snow in my face. So, letting discretion be the better part of not losing a nose (or -- shudder -- other protuberance) to frostbite, I called The Best Wife Ever for a pick up in the four-wheeled vehicle. Of course, traffic getting out of the bustling metropolis of Des Moines was snarled beyond recognition thanks to the unexpected weather, so it took us 40 minutes to cover a mile -- or as Chicagoans call it, Tuesday. Adding even more insult, we were passed by a guy on a bike about a block from our house. Being thusly shamed, I knew immediately that I would be riding the bike to work on Friday, dammit.

Friday morning, the sun was shining, and all seemed right with the world. I layered properly for a change and headed out. Short, steep, icy hill out of my driveway? No worries. Just used those weight distribution tips from the link above. Ice rink at the end of my street? Pshaw! I'm an expert, remember?

Then I made the turn onto the major street at the end of my block and headed downhill both literally and figuratively. All was going just hunky and dory until my speed started to build up and I hit a badly pockmarked patch of ice... which set off a bit of a tank-slapper... which dumped me hard on my left side so fast, I think my legs were still stupidly trying to pedal as I skidded down the street like a fat, flailing hockey puck. Thankfully, the car behind me was giving me a lot of room (I think she assumed -- correctly -- that I might be insane).

I managed to pick myself up, but somehow, the force of the fall had knocked my chain off the chainring (which I expected) and wedged both chain and rear derailleur behind the largest rear cog in the back (huh, didn't see that coming). All I could do was throw the bike on my shoulder and scamper across three lanes of traffic to the sidewalk, where I faced the classic dilemma: Try to fix this thing, or just go home (a home I could still see from where I'd crashed) and say "screw it." More stubborn than smart as always, I wrestled the drivetrain back to a functional state and pedaled on in my sopping wet jeans.

It really wasn't a bad crash, though sitting motionless at a desk for eight hours afterwards didn't do me any favors. By the end of the workday, I was as stiff as first-generation Cannondale.

So let this be a lesson to you, kids (or geezers who should know better): Always bet on gravity.

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