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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 01-09-10, 01:00 PM   #1
gnugear
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Two crashes in one week. Is it me or the bike?

I'm fairly new to commuting but I'm losing faith in my ability to do it in the Seattle rain. I know tons of people do it everyday but I just had my second wipeout in the same week. I've been commuting everyday since July and ride an '84 Eddie Merckx when the sun is out. My dedicated rain bike is an '81 Bianchi Nuevo Racing with full fenders and Bontrager 700x28 tires. I got it as a frame so I replaced the steel fork with a carbon one to accomodate a newer dual pivot campy brake I had on hand. The stopping ability is MUCH improved over the vintage brakes that were on there previously. Everything is in good working order so maybe it's just bad luck on my part?

Tuesday's accident occured when I was going down our parking garage. The brakes must have been wet because they just weren't stopping like they should ... until they locked up and I spun out on the pavement and banged up my shoulder.

Yesterdays accident occured on the street as I went over a metal storm drain ... it was raining and the whole bike just went sideways underneath me and I banged up my wrist and knee ... and ALMOST got hit by a bus.

Is it the tires? Is the road frame geometry too aggressive for wet weather? Should I look into disk or cyclocross type brakes? Just my bad luck? I don't want to give up but I'm a little freaked to get back on the bike with solid rain in the forecast. I'm even willing to invest in a new ride for the sake of safety. Any advice is appreciated!!
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Old 01-09-10, 01:11 PM   #2
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I am thinking you just may need to slow down some.
That is just a guess.
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Old 01-09-10, 01:20 PM   #3
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That's definitely a good point. Although both crashes were at normal "cautious" speed. I'll certainly slow it down a couple more notches though ...
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Old 01-09-10, 02:01 PM   #4
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Rather than be discouraged, use both wrecks as learning experiences- it's probably safe to say that those are two accidents that you'll never have again.

To spell it out though, you might have avoided the first wreck by riding your brakes at the beginning of the ride, well before you needed to use them. Also, like someone else mentioned, speed may have been a factor, especially descending a parking garage with (presumably) wet, slick floors.

For the second wreck...probably the main reason seasoned cyclists don't get into the same wreck as you is that they avoid metal surfaces in the rain- taking it slow, steady, and maintaining perfect balance is the effectively cautious way to do it, but abstinence is the only fool-proof way to ensure your upright integrity.

Expect to be overly cautious and easily spooked for your next several rides, but as you realize that you're (hopefully) not having any accidents, you'll get comfortable and confident, with the previous mishaps simply keeping any cockiness in check
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Old 01-09-10, 02:18 PM   #5
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I'd take the elevator if there is one in the parking garage. Those are pretty dangerous places to ride. It's like taking a parking lot (one of the most dangerous places to ride) and putting a bunch of pillars everywhere so your sightlines are reduced to nil.

Manhole covers and other metal items in the roadway should be treated like ice. Keep your weight back and do not turn at all. If you're mid turn and see some metal coming up, straiten up 'til you're past the metal. Also beware rainbows slicks on the street while turning. If you ever ride up onto sidewalks, be very careful on those knobbly yellow plates on the wheelchair ramps. They're also slick as ice when wet.

I ride my roadbike in the rain every day. Luckily I'm kinda out in the country, not on the mean streets of Seattle.
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Old 01-09-10, 03:40 PM   #6
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It's your technique and experience (most likely).

Things that you can get away with in dry weather won't work in the rain.

Brakes don't work very well when they are wet. People with experience ride change how the ride to accommodate the loss of performance.

Ride around the metal stuff (again an experience thing).

It's possible that (much) wider tires would make riding easier.
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Old 01-09-10, 04:16 PM   #7
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I agree with everyone else, but also wanted to say hang in there. You'll get to know your route much better by riding in the winter, and you'll know to avoid those types of incidents with experience. My first winter had a few falls too, but since then falls are much less frequent.

Watch out for patches of sediment on the road too, especially where puddles tend to dry out, leaving a wet slick patch of sediment/mud. There can even be a layer of ice under the surface, if the temperature is near freezing. That was the first lesson I learned during my first winter riding. I had bruises on my face and a good limp for about a week after learning that lesson the hard way.

I ride with 2.1"x26 cross country tires in the snow, 1.5"x26 semi-slicks in the pouring rain, and 32mmx700c Marathons in the dry or light rain, for what it's worth.
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Old 01-09-10, 04:25 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by gnugear View Post
Yesterdays accident occured on the street as I went over a metal storm drain ... it was raining and the whole bike just went sideways underneath me and I banged up my wrist and knee ... and ALMOST got hit by a bus.
Where were you positioned when you hit the storm drain? Near the curb, or out in the lane. If you were near the curb, you might be surprised to find out you're actually in far more danger there than out in the lane. But if you're going to be out there with the cars, make sure you do all you can to make yourself visible.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 01-09-10, 04:27 PM   #9
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1) slow down.
2) Kool-stop Salmon brake pads - reliable in wet weather.
3) treat any metalwork in the road as if it's oiled glass. avoid if possible, if not, go over it without turning at all, at right angles to it.
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Old 01-09-10, 04:28 PM   #10
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Yeah, just keep at it. You'll learn what to watch out for. Wet leaves are a killer too. Invariably someone in this forum will go down because of them in the fall.

Kool Stop Salmon brake pads may help with your wet brake problems. Some tires grip better than the wet than others too though it's not always easy to tell which ones ahead of time. Mostly its about staying within the traction limitations of you and your equipment. You might want to practice some controlled stops at different speeds while it's wet to give you a feel for what you can and can't do. Do this on a quiet street of course.
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Old 01-09-10, 04:32 PM   #11
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me personally wouldn't want to be on 700/28 tires in the rain, that might have been a contributing factor. In the rain, not smaller than 35, I'd say.
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Old 01-09-10, 04:42 PM   #12
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I spent four years in Seattle when in grad school, commuting to my office daily on steel rims. My experience-based suggestions:

1 Slow down some.
2 Ride your brakes periodically to keep the rims dry
3 If you are going to use rim brakes, Kool Stop salmon are the only way to go.
4 I think 28 cm tires are awfully narrow for practical daily use. Then again, you may not be able to go any larger.
5 Frame geometry probably not a factor.
6 Are the tires old and possibly badly oxidized?
7 Certainly not bad luck - I rode every workday and never fell.


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Old 01-09-10, 05:37 PM   #13
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6 Are the tires old and possibly badly oxidized?

Paul
Good one, never thought of that.

As an aside on the dangers of wet metal. drove over some tracks aggressively in an Audi ( AWD even! ) and had the tail flick out 30 degrees. That stuff is slick!
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Old 01-09-10, 05:46 PM   #14
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User error!

Have you heard the saying... "A poor mechanic faults his tools."

Don't fault the poor bicycle... it is probably out in the garage fearing for it's life!
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Old 01-09-10, 05:49 PM   #15
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It's definetly you. You should go faster and take turns sharper especially in the rain or ice.
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Old 01-09-10, 06:37 PM   #16
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Tire pressure can have a large effect on traction, particularly when it is wet. Inflating to the maximum rated pressure is not always such a good idea. Take a look at this article and set your pressure accordingly.
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Old 01-09-10, 06:57 PM   #17
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maybe a mountain bike with disc brakes would help with stability and control
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Old 01-09-10, 07:44 PM   #18
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Slow down in bad weather. Be aware of your surroundings. And sometimes accidents are just accidents. Learn why they happened and move on.
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Old 01-10-10, 03:33 AM   #19
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Bontrager 700x28 tires.
I've gotten some comments that Bontrager does not do wet well.
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Old 01-10-10, 03:50 AM   #20
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Seriously, why are the steel plates in a WET city like Seattle, not painted with non-skid?
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Old 01-10-10, 03:57 AM   #21
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In addition to avoiding metal in the rain, avoid painted lines and road markings, they are also very slippery. My rule of thumb is that shiny = slippery. One thing I did after I crashed last year was take a lesson with a bike coach, to see if he could spot anything I was doing wrong. He taught me some new techniques that really helped me regain my confidence; it was well worth the money.
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Old 01-10-10, 06:28 AM   #22
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Bontrager is a brand not a model. Not sure what the responder was suggesting.

Bontrager 700x28 tires? Here are a couple of models:

http://thebikerack.com/product/bontr...elect-4029.htm
http://bontrager.com/model/07796

Personally I'm running 700c x 35 touring tires with metal studs!

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Old 01-10-10, 06:49 AM   #23
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Seriously, why are the steel plates in a WET city like Seattle, not painted with non-skid?
Grit epoxy can be applied like paint.
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Old 01-10-10, 10:12 AM   #24
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4 I think 28 cm tires are awfully narrow for practical daily use. Then again, you may not be able to go any larger.
28 cm, huh? That's about as wide as the rear wheel on this bad boy:



I'm guessing you meant 28 mm perhaps?

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Seriously, why are the steel plates in a WET city like Seattle, not painted with non-skid?
How 'bout just knowing that they're slippery and taking that into account? The OP never said where in the road he hit the metal, did he? If he was in the gutter, that's probably the most dangerous place he could possibly be.
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Old 01-10-10, 11:32 AM   #25
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Thanks for all the replys! Let's see, I'll try to address some of them ... The Bontrager's are Race Lites (not sure if that's good or bad) and only 6 months old. I'll probably investigate something with better wet weather traction. Are Gatorskins good for that?

I was wedged between parked cars and traffic when I hit the drain. But get this ... the drain had long slats going in the same direction as the tire line. I knew that was a disaster in the making so I hit it at a slight angle. Probably the reason I wiped out. And no, there was no paint or anthing on any of the drains that I can see.

Didn't know about reducing the tire pressure. I have it at 120 psi so I'll definitely lower it as well as look at some wider alternatives.

Lastly, I'll slow down. These 45 year old bones can't take this much jarring!
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