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  1. #1
    contiuniously variable TransitBiker's Avatar
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    Black ice: the invisible enemy

    I went down for the first time on the new bike a few minutes ago on black ice that was literally in the process of forming. The ONLY warning was my rear wheel slipping but i thought at first the N360 may have a problem (one i could deal with later) but no it was simply slipping on ice that had formed literally minutes before i rode over it. As soon as the sun goes down, the IR light keeping things wet vs frozen goes away, it seems. I am OK, bike is OK, broke strap on one of my shoes, but that is fixable as i have a pack of plastic rivets.

    Has this happened to anyone else, where the black ice simply wasn't there not too long before (under an hour)?

    I am really looking forward to getting a winter wheelset this autumn if possible, and maybe even a set of studded tires in addition to a default set of slightly knobby tires.

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  2. #2
    afraid of whales Mr IGH's Avatar
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    I haven't had a fall like that since I bought a set of Kenda Klondikes. Studded tyres are a must if there's any chance of ice on the road.
    IGH's, Dyno Hubs, LED lights and old frames

  3. #3
    Senior Member yankeefan's Avatar
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    I'm pretty sure this has happened at least once to everyone who has ridden in winter climates. Tires make the difference my friend. Happened to me a couple weeks ago on my brand new road bike. There was a false dawn of sustained above freezing temperatures and I thought literally all the ice was gone, only to wipe out over a patch of black ice while corning at 3mph. Scratched my princess and haven't ridden her again since

  4. #4
    Senior Member mcours2006's Avatar
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    happened to me on driveway ice that was covered with a light duting of snow. no damage, but still sucked.

  5. #5
    I love the rolling hills. ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Whether or not to use studded tires when ice can form isn't even a question in my book. For the cost, they could save you from even more expensive problems down the road.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
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  6. #6
    Junior Member kookie's Avatar
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    Happened to me a few years ago on my road bike (regular tires). Just riding along and whoops! As I was sliding I was more concerned of slamming into the parked cars. I ended up in between the parked cars. Cut my knee but I was more embarrassed than anything else. A car behind me pulled over and asked if I was OK. I said yeah and then he followed up with "Embarrassed?", I said yeah...The second car the same thing...

  7. #7
    Senior Member wolfchild's Avatar
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    Good quality studded tires such as Schwalbe or Nokians is your best insurance.

  8. #8
    Senior Member auldgeunquers's Avatar
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    I nearly went down the other day on studded tires. I got too aggressive in a corner on ice and my guess is the bike was leaned enough to lift off the studs. Got a foot down and saved it and continued on my way. This happened while turning left with oncoming traffic. Good argument for platform pedals in winter by my estimation.

    I did have a black ice incident on my motorcycle though - first ride of the season and rode through a puddle on a shadded corner. It was frozen solid and clear as glass. The motorcycle just disappeared from under me. A Broken clutch lever meant a push and walk the couple of hundred yards back to home. As I recall there was a distinct thought process that went something like "Hey! where'd my bike go??? - This is going to hurt! - Yep, that hurt. - Where'd my bike go?"
    More bicycles will make you more happy. Soon you will have a garage-full of bicycles and your spouse will wonder why you're so happy when the garage is such a mess. -Jeff Wills

  9. #9
    Senior Member wolfchild's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by auldgeunquers View Post
    I nearly went down the other day on studded tires. I got too aggressive in a corner on ice and my guess is the bike was leaned enough to lift off the studs. Got a foot down and saved it and continued on my way. This happened while turning left with oncoming traffic. Good argument for platform pedals in winter by my estimation.
    I agree , platform pedals are the way to go during winter. Riding with foot retention during winter is asking for trouble.

  10. #10
    Disco Infiltrator Darth Lefty's Avatar
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    Thread should have been titled "The Phantom Menace"
    Genesis 49:17

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
    I agree , platform pedals are the way to go during winter. Riding with foot retention during winter is asking for trouble.

    As if spuds make it any more difficult to put a foot down.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
    Thread should have been titled "The Phantom Menace"
    Nice one


    Quote Originally Posted by spare_wheel View Post

    As if spuds make it any more difficult to put a foot down.
    There are different kind of wheel slipping. Some allow you more time to prepare and other don't. I had 2 close call during the previous winter and 1 this winter. I was lucky in all 3 but the one this winter was way faster and harder to handle than the other 2. I'm not sure i would have been able to stay on my feet with anything other than platform pedals this time.
    Last edited by erig007; 02-22-15 at 08:26 PM.

  13. #13
    Senior Member yankeefan's Avatar
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    Honestly, I just cannot grasp why you guys have such a fear of clipless pedals. I've ridden during and after blizzards (and posted the pics in the "how was your commute" thread!) with my SPDs and have never had any problems putting my foot down on the rare occasions when I do lose traction and come close to wiping out. Muscle memory makes it rather easy and intuitive to disengage the pedals in a moment's notice. If you're having problems instantaneously disengaging from the pedals you probably haven't practiced it enough for it to become second nature or you have your spring tension way too high. Clipless pedals seem to have a reputation of somehow being less safe than platforms, but I'd arguably attribute most of this safety risk down to user error rather than any inherent characteristic of the pedal. Of course if platforms make you feel safer then by all means continue using them through the winter.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by yankeefan View Post
    Honestly, I just cannot grasp why you guys have such a fear of clipless pedals. I've ridden during and after blizzards (and posted the pics in the "how was your commute" thread!) with my SPDs and have never had any problems putting my foot down on the rare occasions when I do lose traction and come close to wiping out. Muscle memory makes it rather easy and intuitive to disengage the pedals in a moment's notice. If you're having problems instantaneously disengaging from the pedals you probably haven't practiced it enough for it to become second nature or you have your spring tension way too high. Clipless pedals seem to have a reputation of somehow being less safe than platforms, but I'd arguably attribute most of this safety risk down to user error rather than any inherent characteristic of the pedal. Of course if platforms make you feel safer then by all means continue using them through the winter.
    User error because of clipless is still a valid reason. You won't miss unclipping with platform pedals. You could make the mistake of buying slippery platform pedals though.

    This guy says he had miles of experience unclipping

    Last edited by erig007; 02-22-15 at 09:14 PM.

  15. #15
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    I've hit black ice at high speed, and the only good thing I can say about it is that you don't get road rash.

    It's a real hazard for two wheeled vehicles, and the only way I can describe it is - imagine you're riding your bike across a table cloth when the magician decides to pull it out. It's not so much that you fall sideways as straight down with the bike shooting out from under you like a cartoon banana.

    Today was the ideal combination of conditions for black ice formation. Warm temps and snow melt washing across the roads, then dropping temps to freeze it in place forming an invisible (black) ice sheet.

    It's especially dangerous at night, and is a good reason not to ride on winter nights.

    It also helps to recognize where it's more likely to form and ride there with extreme caution.
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  16. #16
    Senior Member yankeefan's Avatar
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    Again, if it makes you feel safe then go ahead with platforms. As long as we understand that your issues stem from user error rather than by some inherent danger when using the pedals. I'm simply saying that there is no reason to avoid clipless during winter due to a belief that there is an intrinsic time lag associated with unclipping vs platforms (i.e. you can't respond as quickly to put your foot down), because there isn't. I do acknowledge that there are situations beyond your control, such as when grime gets stuck in your pedal/cleats and makes unclipping more tedious, especially if you are using road pedals. Off-road pedals tend to be a lot more forgiving in these situations.
    Last edited by yankeefan; 02-22-15 at 09:26 PM.

  17. #17
    Senior Member yankeefan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    I've hit black ice at high speed, and the only good thing I can say about it is that you don't get road rash.

    It's a real hazard for two wheeled vehicles, and the only way I can describe it is - imagine you're riding your bike across a table cloth when the magician decides to pull it out. It's not so much that you fall sideways as straight down with the bike shooting out from under you like a cartoon banana.

    Today was the ideal combination of conditions for black ice formation. Warm temps and snow melt washing across the roads, then dropping temps to freeze it in place forming an invisible (black) ice sheet.

    It's especially dangerous at night, and is a good reason not to ride on winter nights.

    It also helps to recognize where it's more likely to form and ride there with extreme caution.
    Yea I'm anticipating lots of black ice tomorrow morning.

    If only we could have TWO consecutive days of high temps! And by high I mean above freezing...

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by yankeefan View Post
    I'm simply saying that there is no reason to avoid clipless during winter due to a belief that there is an intrinsic time lag associated....
    +1, don't decieve yourself into believing that you'll have enough time to unclip and somehow manage the fall. A black ice fall is as near instantaneous as possible, and you won't know your down until you are. When you hit the impact will dislodge and release the cleats. In fact you might be better off clipped in so the bike lays down cleanly with your knees in. Hopefully you have well padded hips and shoulders.

    BTW- I've experienced a decent number of black ice crashes over the years, and never suffered any injury except to my pride. Clothes even don't get torn. But You do wake up stiff in the morning.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by yankeefan View Post
    Again, if it makes you feel safe then go ahead with platforms. As long as we understand that your issues stem from user error rather than by some inherent danger when using the pedals. I'm simply saying that there is no reason to avoid clipless during winter due to a belief that there is an intrinsic time lag associated with unclipping vs platforms (i.e. you can't respond as quickly to put your foot down), because there isn't. I do acknowledge that there are situations beyond your control, such as when grime gets stuck in your pedal/cleats and makes unclipping more tedious, especially if you are using road pedals. Off-road pedals tend to be a lot more forgiving in these situations.

    Clipless pedals brings 2 extra difficulties over platforms. No mechanism is exempt of failure. So there is already a risk of mechanism failing for a start. Clipless pedals bring another risk of failure to the risk of failure of mechanism which is human error. Unclipping bring extra constraints that reduce the number of degrees of freedom of your feet. You therefore have a complex action to do with your feet as rotating your ankle is a complex action. Plus this complex action isn't just for one foot but for both that you may have to deal with at the same time. Humans aren't good at doing 2 things similar at the same time (try moving your left hand up and down and your right hand sideways at the same time). So above the risk of failure of the mechanism you have how one interact with pedals.
    Another difficulty over this is that wheel slipping on ice may happened without any warning as opposed to hitting a vehicle for instance where you may have milliseconds or even seconds to prepare for the crash. When there is no time to anticipate i prefer having to do simpler actions than more complex one.
    Last edited by erig007; 02-22-15 at 10:31 PM.

  20. #20
    Senior Member yankeefan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erig007 View Post
    Clipless pedals bringing 2 extra difficulties over platforms. No mechanism is exempt of failure. So there is already a risk of mechanisms failing for a start. Clipless pedals bring another risk of failure to the risk of failure of mechanisms which is human error. Unclipping bring extra constraints that reduce the number of degrees of freedom of your feet. You therefore have a complex motion to do with your feet as rotating your ankle is a complex motion. Plus this complex motion isn't just for one foot but for both that you may have to deal with at the same time. Humans aren't good at doing 2 things similar at the same time. So above the risk of failure of the mechanism you have how human interact with the pedals.
    The only constraints I see here are the constraints you impose on yourself by telling yourself that rotating your ankle is a complex motion. Whenever I ride the local bike share I find myself twisting my heels as I come to a stop even though I'm using platforms; the motion is that ingrained into me that it becomes reflexive. A lot of people have to think before they unclip - even very experienced riders who are used to anticipating their stops in advance would struggle to unclip in a moment's notice. I think riding in NYC where I encounter all manner of craziness has forced me to learn how to unclip without thinking, because its impossible to anticipate the crap I experience during my daily commute. Platforms are clearly advantageous for you for winter riding so continue using them.

  21. #21
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    My studded tires go over black ice very nicely. My shoes, not so much.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  22. #22
    Senior Member yankeefan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    +1, don't decieve yourself into believing that you'll have enough time to unclip and somehow manage the fall. A black ice fall is as near instantaneous as possible, and you won't know your down until you are. When you hit the impact will dislodge and release the cleats. In fact you might be better off clipped in so the bike lays down cleanly with your knees in. Hopefully you have well padded hips and shoulders.

    BTW- I've experienced a decent number of black ice crashes over the years, and never suffered any injury except to my pride. Clothes even don't get torn. But You do wake up stiff in the morning.
    I think it comes down to speed, angle and mental alertness. I wiped out over a patch of black ice that I didn't expect to be there because I thought all the ice was gone (that was before we got hit with those consecutive blizzards). Even with platforms I'd still hit the deck. Its impossible to react in those situations. Then there are situations when you are aware that the road is icy and you are more alert and avoid cornering at extreme speeds or angles. Riding slowly in a straight line you can often feel your wheel slipping from under you and can react to stabilize the bike, if necessary. There are a lot of variables that can hinder your reaction time in these situations, but for me I've never found clipless pedals to be one of them. Whenever I hit the deck its never because I couldn't get my feet out fast enough, its because by time I realize I was falling it was way too late to do anything.

  23. #23
    Senior Member yankeefan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2manybikes View Post
    My studded tires go over black ice very nicely. My shoes, not so much.
    Now this is a reason to use platforms during the winter! Cleats don't play well with icy surfaces.

  24. #24
    Senior Member
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    Glad you're OK.

    I was riding home a couple years ago, literally the last day of work before knocking off for the rest of the year. It seemed cold but the MUP was clear. Naturally the temps were falling as I rode. I turned off to a little connector that goes through a woods, and there was just enough of a frozen puddle in a shady spot, that I went down hard. No serious damage to the bike, but I broke a rib.

    Now I have studs for this reason: So far this winter, there has been minimal snow, and I could get by with regular knobbies or even street tires on most days, but I prefer to have the added margin of protection from the studs in case it freezes while I'm at work, or I don't notice a bad spot in the dark.

    I experimented with having the studs on just the front wheel. Peter White advises against this, but a friend of mine recommended it. The idea is that the front wheel gives you enough control to avoid crashing, but a street tire on back reduces the rolling resistance penalty. Still, when it got colder and snowed in earnest, I put on the second studded tire. There's only so much experimentation I want to do, at least until I've survived a couple of winters and know what I can and can't do

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by yankeefan View Post
    The only constraints I see here are the constraints you impose on yourself by telling yourself that rotating your ankle is a complex motion.
    It is complex because it requires you to repeat the action to learn it. If it was simple you wouldn't have to.

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