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Old 03-10-13, 08:49 AM   #1
suburbanbeat
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Tips for traveling one-lane/winding roads?

Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm getting ready for my first tour anywhere outside of the continental United States. A friend and I are leaving for Puerto Rico on Wednesday. Our route looks solid enough, but unfortunately from what I understand, the roads there couldn't be less conducive to cycling! Most of the time we will be on fairly normal, two-lane roads along the coast (no shoulders, though). But there will be times when we have to travel on some one-lane mountain roads with plenty of blind corners and definitely no shoulder.

Does anyone have any words of reassurance or practical advice for these kinds of situations? This is the only part of the trip that I'm pretty nervous about, but I know that people tour in areas with roads that are way more precarious than the ones we'll be on. Maybe I'm just being a baby?

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Old 03-10-13, 09:27 AM   #2
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You are not being a baby, you are being practical and thoughtful.

Stay far to the right, wear bright colors to be visible, use a mirror and be ready to get off the road onto the shoulder (if there is one) if a car approaches and looks like it could hit you. If you see a car coming from in front, check your mirror to see if there is someone from the rear to, don't be caught 3-abreast. It doesn't matter if you have the right of way, yield / slow / get off the road as needed to ensure your own safety. Make sure there is enough room between you and your friend so that if you stop suddenly he doesn't rear-end you. If you are not able to ride pretty close together, it might be better to ride pretty far apart so that cars can pass you in 2 separate passes instead of one long pass especially if there are lots of blind corners - re-evaluate this as needed.

I don't know anything about cycling in PR specifically.... but if you start riding those roads and it feels too dangerous, be willing to change your route to be safe. Bike touring is not worth dieing for.

I hear PR is great, though, hope you have nice weather, light traffic and a fun trip!
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Old 03-10-13, 09:57 AM   #3
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Don't know about the advice to stay far to the right on narrow mountain roads in blind corners. Just like when in a car I prefer to go more towards the middle of the road in these situations, on a bike you could choose the center of your half of the road. The advantage is that you can see others earlier and others can see you earlier, allowing for more time to anticipate.
On the bike I imagine you are more worried about cars from behind, but the same thing holds, if you ride more towards the center of the road it will give the car more time to anticipate. If the road is so narrow that the car always has to react not to hit you, even if you ride all the way to the right, you better give them as much time as possible to react.
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Old 03-10-13, 11:02 AM   #4
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valygirls advice sums it up. I will repeat some just so you know its not coming from only one person.

* a easy to use, non vibrating, with a really good view mirror is important anywhere, but especially for narrow, windy roads with no or little shoulder. I use a helmet mounted one that gives me a non distorted view (non convex or not wide angled view) and if you are attentive, they can give you X seconds of heads up to possible 3 way encounters of you and rear and forward approaching traffic. These scant seconds can save your life.
Be heads up always for being prepared for bailing to side of road in a 3 abreast situation.

narrow roads also are more of danger for idiots doing insane passing maneouvers, so just be on the ball.

I biked a bit in Costa Rica last year and there were narrow, windy mountain roads that sometimes had hardly any bailout space, and being very vigilant was the name of the game, keeping ears and eyes open the priority.

also, goes without saying that in marginal riding situations, be careful that you arent a little spacey due to not being used to heat or conditioning, so just be aware of if you are feeling a bit off as you really do want to be completely on the ball.

When I arrived in CR last year, I had planned to ride from airport to the town where my friends live, in the end I got a terrible cold a few days before leaving and finally accepted the offer of a lift from my friends, and Im very glad I did. It would have been the worst sections, mostly uphill, and with sun and heat that my Canadian May body wasnt used to, plus I was feeling terrible--so to repeat Valygirls point, change or modify riding plans if the circumstances merit it.

One last point, in CR anyway, as the roads are very narrow, pedestrians and cars are comfortable with passing very close to each other, much much closer than we are used to (and I ride in a city all the time) so be aware of this and dont be wobbly when riding, and be very exact about holding a line (but always be aware of bailing to side for a given situation)

Without knowing how much you ride in traffic and are used to it etc etc, I'm sure you will have a fun time, just use your judgement for possibly chosing diff roads if sections are just horribly crowded and narrow.
Do please get a mirror if you dont have one. I really like my Take a Look one (it mounts on my helmet visor), but anything is better than nothing.

dont forget to drink regularly if you are coming from a cooler part of the States.
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Old 03-10-13, 04:35 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
Stay far to the right, wear bright colors to be visible, use a mirror and be ready to get off the road onto the shoulder (if there is one) if a car approaches and looks like it could hit you. If you see a car coming from in front, check your mirror to see if there is someone from the rear to, don't be caught 3-abreast. It doesn't matter if you have the right of way, yield / slow / get off the road as needed to ensure your own safety. Make sure there is enough room between you and your friend so that if you stop suddenly he doesn't rear-end you. If you are not able to ride pretty close together, it might be better to ride pretty far apart so that cars can pass you in 2 separate passes instead of one long pass especially if there are lots of blind corners - re-evaluate this as needed.

I don't know anything about cycling in PR specifically.... but if you start riding those roads and it feels too dangerous, be willing to change your route to be safe. Bike touring is not worth dieing for.
+1

And I'll just add ... listen. If the road has a lot of twists and turns, you might not be able to see the cars, but you may be able to hear them. From the sound, you may also be able to determine how fast they are travelling and possibly how big they are. So don't wear earbuds or anything that will block sound, and listen carefully to all the sounds around you.


Oh, also, regarding the bright colours ... in some parts of the world, just about anything bright will stand out, but if the foliage around you is also bright, a bright green maybe, with bright flowers, etc., your bright colours could end up blending in. You might need to move to hi-vis yellow, orange or pink for some extra visibility.
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Old 03-10-13, 04:42 PM   #6
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I've spent a good deal of time living and riding in Latin America (Chile, Brazil, and especially Guatemala)

Keep in mind that right of way is pretty much informally determined by the laws of physics and momentum. An 18 wheeler has more momentum and thus right of way over a bus which has more momentum and right of way over a small truck which has more right of way than a car which has more right of way than a motorcycle which has more right of way than a bike which has more right of way than a pedestrian.

Don't know about PR specifically but in other parts of Latin America it would not be unusual to come around a blind hairpin corner to meet two trucks passing side by side on a narrow road with a car zipping around them on the far side shoulder. Insane.
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Old 03-10-13, 05:00 PM   #7
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¡Ay, dios mío! ¿Que puedo yo decir?
Viví en Puerto Rico para seis años y conozco el tráfico.
¡Buena suerte!

I grew up there - been a while -
But my mother threatened to run into a telephone pole while driving and kill us all -
If we didn't behave in the back seat while she was negotiating Puerto Rican traffic.
The island is small and the population is large - but incredibly friendly.

I would definitely avoid riding in San Juan, during rush hour, and over holidays.
Also, I would avoid all major highways - use only back roads which are not direct.
Hey, like I said - the island is small - so zig and zag.
The south coast is way less busy and has less traffic.
The road up to El Yunque has lots of traffic - maybe early a.m.?
The mountains between Arecibo and Ponce are lovely.
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Old 03-11-13, 09:52 AM   #8
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WOW. Thanks for all of the tips, everyone. I appreciate all of the advice so far being really practical and clear (as opposed to someone saying "use your gut" although I totally understand the importance of doing that, too). Like I said, there is really only going to be one day where we'll potentially riding on such a road (PR-191 heading into El Yunque Rainforest, if anyone is curious). My hope is that we can leave Isla Verde around 6:00am and start the climb up the road no later than 8:00am, which will still hopefully be early enough to avoid most traffic.

That said, I'll certainly take all of the advice given to me thus far. I was planning on getting a mirror today, but it's been difficult to find one as I have bar-end shifters that rule out like 2/3 of the models I've seen so far. But I'll certainly do that tonight or tomorrow. Furthermore, I'll make sure that my friend and I are keeping in mind the distance between us to make passing easy for motorists. But yeah, most importantly I'll remember that if things are looking too heavy, we can always bail on El Yunque and get in an extra day on Vieques Island, not really such a bad alternative!

Jamawani - jaja, si tu puedes!

Glad you're mom chose not to punish your misbehavior by killing everyone! Fortunately, I don't think we are going to be spending any time in San Juan. We will only be there the day that we arrive.

Este es nuestra ruta, tenemos ocho dias:

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Old 03-11-13, 10:38 AM   #9
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Hi,

Quote:
Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
Stay far to the right
If we're really talking about a narrow, winding road, I think I disagree with this. I'd place myself closer to the middle of the lane to make sure I'm seen (mirrors and hi viz clothing - very good, I also recommend a flashing light).

When you see/hear the car coming up behind you, you need to evaluate whether there is room to be passed or not. If there is, then move over. If not, ride until there is room and then allow the car to pass. Remember that if you're already at the edge of the road, there's nowhere for you to go.

Definitely +1 on not riding three abreast in this situation.

Cheers,
Charles
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Old 03-11-13, 11:00 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by texasdiver View Post
I've spent a good deal of time living and riding in Latin America (Chile, Brazil, and especially Guatemala)

Keep in mind that right of way is pretty much informally determined by the laws of physics and momentum. An 18 wheeler has more momentum and thus right of way over a bus which has more momentum and right of way over a small truck which has more right of way than a car which has more right of way than a motorcycle which has more right of way than a bike which has more right of way than a pedestrian.

Don't know about PR specifically but in other parts of Latin America it would not be unusual to come around a blind hairpin corner to meet two trucks passing side by side on a narrow road with a car zipping around them on the far side shoulder. Insane.
+1
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Old 03-11-13, 01:06 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by suburbanbeat View Post
Este es nuestra ruta, tenemos ocho dias:

http://tinyurl.com/aehloe3
You are NOT taking Avenida Kennedy on you way back into San Juan from Bayamon.
That's the road my mother threated us about - and that was years ago.
Consider riding to Catano and taking the ferry - also a ride about in Old San Juan is a must.
Ride out to El Morro through the parklands.

Going backwards - -

Also, I see you are riding Hwy 2 - which still has lots of traffic - esp. since the expressways are toll roads.
(Puerto Rico is poorer than Mississippi - so many people can't afford the tolls.)
Rincon is great - albeit a bit surfer touristy - Cabo Rojo is a lovely desert micro-environment.
La Parguera is a phosphorescent bay - somewhat touristy - but a unique experience.
Ponce is lovely - the plaza, the beach.

Hwy 1 will also be busy and dangerous - take more rural roads where possible.
You should be able to do El Yunque if you leave early.
Remember that there are crazy drivers - especially publicos.
I used to swim at Boca de Cangrejos - there was nothing there.
How things change.

Have a great trip!
Me encanta, Puerto Rico.
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Old 03-11-13, 01:37 PM   #12
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PS - Lock your bikes.
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Old 03-11-13, 03:21 PM   #13
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My favorite time to ride is very early morning. Give it a try, you might be surprised how beautiful it is, and how low the level of traffic.

If you get to sleep early, you can start riding super early.

3:30 might seem too early for a lot of people; but if you can get to sleep around eight, you can get enough sleep to get up that early.

Some of my best rides have been between three and six in the morning.

Also, if you can adjust a temple-mounted or helmet-mounted mirror so it is close to your eye, it gives you a much better field of view.

Such mirrors are good to have, but avoiding traffic is an even better strategy. Some very experienced riders (including those with mirrors) have been killed by out-of-it drivers. No matter how good a mirror you have, there's nothing you can do if a DUI driver swerves suddenly.

I had someone swerve suddenly and unexpectedly into me. There was no time to respond. The nervous system has certain inevitable, built-in physiological limitations. By the time the brain gets the message and responds, and sends the signals out, and they travel down the nerves to the muscles, and the muscles respond and move the brake levers or the bars, and the response even begins to have some effect -- and this would all take maybe one second, if you're right on the ball -- a fast-moving car has travelled over a hundred feet.

Ian Hibell and Ken Kifer (both extremely experienced long-distance tourers) were both killed when fast-moving motor vehicles swerved into them.

There are a lot of intoxicated, inattentive, distracted, aggressive, irresponsible, not very bright, very young, and very old drivers on the road.

I've been hit by them while in cars, once at freeway speeds when a guy who was stoned suddenly got the bright idea that he could avoid slamming into the car in front of him by swerving out onto the other side of the freeway right in front of us. No time to react. He totalled three cars, including ours. It would have been fatal if we had not been in a very heavy vehicle. (On a bike, it would have been over.)

I have neighbors who are still in physical therapy after a car slammed into them while they were peacefully and law-abidingly sitting at a red light in their car. It's expensive and painful.

You can find numerous youtube videos of motorists running red lights, colliding with cars parked on the side of the road, and doing all kinds of amazingly outside-the-boundaries-of-the-rules things with their motor vehicles.

The best strategy I've come across is to minimize your exposure, and minimize the chances of getting hit by one of these drivers. Quiet roads (along with good paths and trails) are so much more pleasant anyway, in addition to being safer and less polluted.

One other aspect: until you get hit, you don't really have a good, direct, real sense of how much more powerful these vehicles are than you are, as a pedestrian or a bicycle rider.

There is no way I can convey this in words, except to say that it is shocking. Not just the horsepower and the weight -- typically in the tons -- and the steel, but the momentum of all that when it's moving fast.

Last edited by Niles H.; 03-11-13 at 06:13 PM.
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Old 03-11-13, 07:50 PM   #14
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You are getting excellent advice. Heed it all... wear a high-visibility vest, find a mirror that fits your bike (and bring a spare in case it breaks), avoid heavy traffic, ride predictably in single file, and keep your wits about you.

(The Blackburn Road Mirror is perfect for bikes with dropbars. It fits on the brake hood, and is secured with Velcro: http://www.blackburndesign.com/mirro...1#.UT6JNldOnvY

What I like about a mirror is that it allows me to assess the situation behind me without turning my head. As soon as I hear the rumble, I glance in the mirror. If a vehicle is making space for me, I "delete" it from consciousness. I don't have to think about it anymore. If something doesn't look right, I have time to figure out what to do. (Don't hesitate to completely pull off the road if a car is driving erratically.)

I have seen people who mount a fluorescent flag on a tall pole attached to the rear rack. It might make you visible a second earlier, so is probably a good idea on a sketchy road.
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