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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 08-24-05, 09:27 AM   #1
craigery
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railroad tracks

How should I deal with them. They are a good 50 yards after a traffic light that I always get stuck at. They cross the road diagonally and are kind of rough. Should I just ride over them or is it too rough on my wheels?
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Old 08-24-05, 10:01 AM   #2
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Your wheels will be OK if you cross at 90 degrees but you have to manage the traffic behind you so they dont try to overtake as you are swinging in or out.
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Old 08-24-05, 10:21 AM   #3
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I hate the roughest tracks. I just try to get up off the seat and take them slow, and so far I haven't had a problem at 300 lbs. on 700x25 tires, so I don't think you will either.
Of course, last time I told someone not to worry, I broke a frame.
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Old 08-24-05, 10:44 AM   #4
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Yes, you must do your best to cross them on a path perpendicular to their direction or preapare to say goodbye to some skin on your arms and legs, not to mention the true of your wheels when you crash. It's tricky with traffic or a peloton around -- some early season Pro Tour race involved a big pile-up at some diagonal RR tracks IIRC.
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Old 08-24-05, 10:54 AM   #5
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.. they are also especially trecherous in wet weather. I cross a set every day and have had some wild slides, fortunately no crashes. Then again the bikes all have 700x23 tires pumped to 12 psi - not much of a hold on wet steel. As others have said, a perpendicular approach is most preferrable, stand out of the saddle, knees bent, to let the bike ride the bumps (kind to the wheels) and slow down well in advance of the first rail.

Happy riding,

Ed
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Old 08-24-05, 01:01 PM   #6
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I have nasty set of tracks on my commute home that is just at the bottom of a very steep hill. It's the kind where the pavement is bumpy and buckled around the tracks, making for a rough crossing. On my way home, I usually come rocketing down that hill at over 40Mph and have gotten really good at just bunny-hopping just enough to clear the bumps. For me, turns out to be much smoother than slowing down and crossing.

At that speed, I can also keep up with traffic and just take the whole lane and pick a better line across the tracks too.
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Old 08-24-05, 01:10 PM   #7
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french.ace and I have the same idea...I used to do a little jump front-jump all-jump back while at speed to get over the tracks, especially if the asphalt was sketchy next to the rails. With a bit of practice, you get the timing down.

I cross one nasty looking set on Ramona Drive right next to the Metrolink in Baldwin Park. They have installed hard rubber next to the rails, so it's really pretty smooth. Just go at them straight - no problem.

On Magnolia Drive in Riverside, a cyclist was sadly killed when her bike flipped on a set of rails crossing at about 45º. Now they have a short bike path that allows you to leave the road, cross the tracks at 90º and return to the road. Not really a bad option.

...but I still go at 'em straight!
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Old 08-24-05, 01:47 PM   #8
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Fat tires are advantageous but not required. Crossing at right angles is required unless you have some really fat tires even then you need to be more perpendicular than parallel. Get off the saddle before hitting them to lessen the shock.
I ride a fixed gear with 23mm tires across three sets or tracks twice daily without a problem. I don't slow down I just get off my saddle as I cross the tracks. Usually going much faster than the cars who slow way down due to how bad the tracks are. The key for me is that the tracks are all perpendicular to the road and I can take the lane to pick the best line across the tracks. If your tracks are more diagonal take the lane and allow youself room to hit them at a right angle. Make sure you slow down if they are wet because wet metal is very slick.
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Old 08-24-05, 03:32 PM   #9
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Take the lane and cross at a 90-degree angle. It's no fun to go down on the tracks.
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Old 08-24-05, 05:33 PM   #10
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I'm wondering if a bunnyhop is the answer, sometimes you can't do the 90-degree thing (I myself will do anything less than 45 degrees I just lean back and loosen up, especially my arms) and still have to go over the things. I feel the bunnyhop is a very valuable skill. I'm probably the world's most feeble bunnyhopper, but am getting better.
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Old 08-25-05, 06:56 AM   #11
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The tracks cross the rode at a 45 degree angle and I usually just hit them going slow at 45 degrees. I just wanted to make sure that it wasnt going screw up my wheels.
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Old 08-25-05, 07:20 AM   #12
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You may want to cross them with both feet off the pedals for additional balance. And if you do get snagged, your foot will be right there to prevent a fall. Of course, that only works at walking speeds, so you're stuck if you have to be going fast.
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Old 08-25-05, 08:02 PM   #13
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I got a real good one for you. While touring 2 years ago, I went through this, between Lac-aux-Sables and Rivière-à-Pierre:
– 15-17% downhill grade for 1,5 km;
– old style level crossing, at 10 degrees (i.e. almost parallel to the road) with wet wood between the rails;
– 10% uphill grade for 1 km and 18% uphill for 1 km.

I was touring with a loaded bicycle + trailercycle, so let's say I crossed slowly. Very slowly.
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Old 08-25-05, 08:33 PM   #14
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I cross multiple tracks every morning. Portland has the MAX (local commuter train) as well as a trolley. I have to cross tracks around 7-8 times. Many are at 45 deg to my path. I have learned my lesson in the first week I started commuting at my job a few months ago. I took a major spill, and my sholder has not been the same since.

If you cross over them anything over 45deg you'll be just fine. I have never had a problem. I even have to make a turn over one set at 45 deg and I have never even come close to going into the tracks.

~n
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Old 08-25-05, 08:40 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed Holland
Then again the bikes all have 700x23 tires pumped to 12 psi - not much of a hold on wet steel.
I wouldn't think they'd have much hold on the rims either. Are you sure you aren't just riding on the rims at 12 psi?
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Old 08-25-05, 08:52 PM   #16
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i took that as a typo for 120.

i'm not much of a bunnyhopper, but like others: 45 deg. +, off the seat, & the bounce of the bike without my weight all on the back wheel seems to take care of things pretty well. If I know the route, the rails, the traffic, & the relevant gaps, I'm comfortable taking a somewhat shallower angle, say down to 25 deg or so by lifting the front wheel over the gap. I don't think that's a proper bunny hop 'cause I don't get the back wheel off the ground.

In Seattle's industrial district it's not the rails that are the problem, it's the massive potholes that usually come right before or after them.

Last edited by bluejack; 08-25-05 at 08:53 PM. Reason: typo while spelling typo!!!
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Old 08-25-05, 09:28 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lilHinault
I'm wondering if a bunnyhop is the answer, sometimes you can't do the 90-degree thing (I myself will do anything less than 45 degrees I just lean back and loosen up, especially my arms) and still have to go over the things. I feel the bunnyhop is a very valuable skill. I'm probably the world's most feeble bunnyhopper, but am getting better.
One thing I've found about riding SPDs, I can pick up the rear end of the bike by hopping. So its a two-stage
front *hup* on the handlebars immediately followed by *hurf* up on the pedals. I mostly do this on abrupt changes in pavement height or potholes, but I think it'd be good for railroad tracks too. Definitely one of those
things to practice at low speed first, though
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Old 08-27-05, 10:48 PM   #18
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I've never had a problem with tracks until 14 days ago. I was behind another rider who got slotted and I ran into her bike. Over the bars and split my helmet. The dentist said I'm lucky and will get to keep my replaced tooth. You may be proficient crossing tracks but keep some distance away from riders you don't know.
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Old 08-27-05, 11:13 PM   #19
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Are RR tracks worse than speed bumps? I think I'd prefer one set of RR to the 6 speed bumps I have to cross everyday I ride.
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Old 08-28-05, 08:36 AM   #20
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While I know most here will discuss ways to ride across RR tracks I fell
on a some RR tracks once and will never ride across them again.

My front wheel grabbed an inside rail and pitched me down onto the next rail.
I was out of commision for a month over that deal & pain. So I don't
much care what anyone says..........for bicycles..... I'll take that extra
minute or two and walk across them.

From where I stand crossing RR tracks on a bicycle is the same as Russian
Roulette because going down could be every bit as deadly.
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