Wednesday, May 6, 2009

5-3-09 Hills of the West Coast Ride Report

Miles: 50-60, depending on options Climbing: 3000’-3700’ Route: Downtown-Mercer Island-Enatai-Chism-Kirkland-Juanita-Holmes Point (optional)-Perkins-185th through Shoreline-Dayton-8th-Ballard Bridge-Magnolia Loop (optional)-Downtown

Maybe it started with a restless night of sleep and a Saturday evening weather forecast of dubious quality, but for some reason it was just one of those days. When I awoke to sunny skies, I was almost disappointed that we would be riding, and that doesn’t happen very often. For some reason, I just had it in my head that we weren’t going to ride, and I was OK with that. I hate Saturday evening uncertainty. Give me a sunny forecast or give me all day rain so I know what’s up when I go to bed!

When we reached the Mt. Baker tunnel, I made the decision to take the group out to Squak Mountain, and then up and down Cougar a few times. As we rode across the I-90 Bridge, doubts were creeping in as I saw the clouds amassed over the Issaquah Alps area.

Going across the still damp roads of Mercer Island, I somehow managed to knock my bike computer off of its mount and sent it clattering on the ground. No damage…yet.

As we rode through Mercer Slough, I heard the call “chain off” from the back, and we decided to have a wait at the end of the path. While we waited for what seemed an inordinate amount of time, I proposed aborting the ride out to Squak. The skies looked dark, and riding in the rain in May is not fun, but the real concern was safety. The previous night’s windstorm had created a lot of downfall, and the combination of damp roads along with fallen branches and cherry blossoms didn’t sound ideal for steep descending. Little did I know what lurked behind…

So we turned around and rode back toward Enatai. As we started up the short hill west of the slough, I saw Tim walking with a wheel in one hand, and his bike in the other, and I wondered what kind of mechanical caused this. Certainly this was not a dropped chain?

We all stopped to see what was up, and it was then that I noticed that Tim’s bike was in pieces, literally, with both downtube and toptube cracked clean through. Looking at the bike you would have thought Tim would be headed for the hospital, but he didn’t have a mark on him.

From Tim, “I think I'm going to get rid of the race tires with no tread... I was careless on the wet stuff, although obviously at the time I didn't think I was that "hot." I pulled out of the first slide, but knew I was going so I put it into the orange plastic web. Almost made it... I think I hit the handle bars very near the stem on one of the metal posts. The head tube will likely need a critical eye.” Tim has a Serotta Ottrott, and it was odd to see a titanium headtube with just a few inches of top and downtube attached to it. Reg, can you add an eyewitness account of the crash?

We had a good ride, but the karma is always different after a crash. First off, we lost Brad, as his dropped chain morphed into a bent chain, and shortly thereafter, something else happened that confirmed my suspicions of an odd day.

As we started down the steep NE Points Rd in Medina., I was about mid-pack and chatting with Tom. Normally I don’t talk when headed downhill (or up, for that matter), but I didn’t have total focus, and I took my eye off of the ball for just a second. The next thing I knew, the whole group had come to an abrupt halt, and I was making a panic stop on a damp road, my tires at the limit of adhesion. I barely got it stopped, as did Reg and a few others behind me. It turned out that most of the road was blocked by a huge limb that had been blown down.

That was all I needed, and I decided that I was going to be as highly focused as possible on my surroundings for the rest of the ride.

Tim is a skilled and highly experienced cyclist, and if it can happen to him, it can happen to any one of us, at any time. Perhaps a desire to close a momentary gap in front of him contributed to the hazards of a damp surface covered with slick leaves? If so, it was likely a subconscious need to get back on that wheel, and/or a split second lapse in concentration that ultimately sent him down.

I think all of us on the ride took something away from Tim’s fall, and that is why I am sharing it with you.

3 comments:

LB said...

I agree every fall is something to learn (the hard way) from.

I bailed HOWC Sunday as I was up all night with sick kids. Group rides, especially with poor road conditions, are not good after a poor night of sleep.

Cascade Cyclist said...

I think Mercury was retrograde last weekend and the bad karma wasn't limited to HOWC.

I did the 100 mile Ride Around Clark County on Saturday and one guy in my group had a:

1. Flat
2. Snapped derailleur cable
3. Broken spoke, which ended his ride

psorr said...

bad bike karma everywhere last weekend: after a long drive I re-attached my chain for a loosen-up-the-legs ride in northern CA on Friday. After 1/2 mile the chain twisted and took out rear derailleur, hanger, and 3 spokes with it: end of usable bike, end of detachable link experimentation for me. I was able to rent a 'cross bike at a great shop in Napa; given the conditions during Saturday's event (steady rain falling on slick, hilly roads in poor condition) it was probably for the best.

Let's hope the bad luck is behind us for the season; at least there were no broken bones to match the broken gear.