High Humidity = Slick Roads

Last night was a cool fall evening with 97% humidity. I was riding home from work and had a clear opening through an intersection where I needed to make a left-hand turn. I wasn’t going overly fast, but I was certainly going faster than I normally would since—for the first time that I can remember—I didn’t have to stop at the light or wait for traffic before turning.

As I was making a beautiful sweeping turn both my wheels started sliding on the wet asphalt at the same time. It wasn’t as slick as ice, but the effect was the same. I was not able to recover from the slide like you can do if only your back wheel slides out from under you. I hit the ground and slid on my left side.

Because there was oncoming traffic (though it was more than a block away), I wanted to get to my feet as quickly as I could so they could see me (the accident happened after dark). I had lights on my bike, but I did not pretend to think that the cars would pay attention to small lights in the middle of their road. While collecting my bike I just happened to look over and saw my phone lying in the road. Had I not seen it, I probably would not have noticed it was missing for a couple of blocks. I did a quick scan of the road to make sure there was nothing else lying around.

My bike is mostly fine; I tore the cover on my saddle. The chain was off the chain ring when I first got on, but with a rotation of the pedals it jumped back into place. I was in the big chain ring. The phone works, but it does have some discoloration in the screen. My pants are destroyed; I ripped a big hole down the left thigh. The sleeve on my coat did not get torn. The reason it didn’t was that it slid up my arm which resulted in my arm having a good bit of road rash. Probably less than I would have if I wasn’t wearing the coat though. I have a few other random cuts and scrapes.

This was my first potentially serious wreck since I was a kid. I have always been scared of hitting the ground in this way. While I don’t want to do it again, I am thankful it was not as bad as I always imagined.

Be careful out there when the humidity is high. Those little rocks in the asphalt can get slippery. Don’t cut it close with traffic. I had plenty of room between me and the oncoming cars to gather myself and make my presence known, but I know there are times when I have cut it too close in the past. Maybe this will serve as a warning to not take risks with traffic in the future. It took less than a second to go from a beautiful left turn to sliding through an intersection.

Nite Ize – BikeLit Review

BikeLit packagingLast summer I picked up a couple of red BikeLits for my bikes. These are LED safety lights made by Nite Ize. These have been a great investment since my family and I commute by bike to our regular activities. Almost half of our commuting is after dark. While I have more than a normal amount of reflectors on our bikes, I needed some lights. Previously I bought lights that used AAA batteries which were very bright, but did not have a good mechanism for holding them onto the bike. The batteries made them too heavy and the bracket either folded down so the light wouldn’t show, or the light just popped off the bike. They were all destroyed within 2 weeks of purchase.

That is the reason I was looking for something with a better way to attach to the bike. If the light had smaller batteries that would have been a bonus. When I saw the BikeLit from Nite Ize I was happy with the possibilities.

This light connects via 2 hooks. These are perfect for attaching to the rails underneath the saddle on our bikes. Another thing I like about the way they attach is that they are very easy to put on and take off, yet I never worry about them accidentally falling off. I was concerned that the hooks would weaken over time, however I have had these for almost a year and that has not been an issue. I don’t foresee it becoming one either.

When turned on you have a choice of using a solid or strobe light. The lights use 2 CR2016 batteries and should last 20 to 25 hours depending on which mode you use. The batteries can be bought through Amazon for less than $1 each. If you use the lights regularly, then you may want to consider picking up a few extra batteries. While I bought these lights in the United States, we currently live in Argentina. I recently had to replace the batteries on our lights and paid $2.50 per battery at a local watch store. That is $5 per light! A friend reminded me that $5 is a small price to pay for the extra insurance a rear light will give you when riding at night.

Originally I paid about $8 for the lights. You can buy a two pack (red and white) at Amazon for less than $11. If you look at that Amazon page, you can choose just the red or just the white light. They are under $7 each. I have no experience with the white light, but if I were looking for a light, I would buy the combo pack just for the savings.

These lights are waterproof. They slip on and off the bike easily. The red BikeLit that I have can easily be seen at a distance. Even if you don’t use them for your bike, at this price it is worth having a couple of these around any time you want to be seen.

Handlebar Mounted Bike Mirrors

There are many different types of bicycle mirrors. Some prefer mirrors that mount on the rider’s helmet while others prefer bike mirrors that mount on the bike in some way. There are even some riders who despise bike mirrors completely. Whatever camp you are in, here are some advantages and disadvantages to handlebar mounted mirrors.

There are various types of handlebar mounted bike mirrors. They can be mounted on the bar ends, clamp onto the handlebars or even stow into the bar ends when not in use. Depending on whether you have straight bars or drop handlebars as to which type of mirror works best. One of the most interesting types of bike mirrors for drop handlebars is a mirror that is not much bigger than the diameter of the bars which mount on the end of the drops and allows the rider to look straight down to see the traffic behind him.

Advantages:

  • Always on the bike
  • A stationary position in relationship to the handlebars

Disadvantages:

  • Of necessity, they must be larger than mirrors mounted closer to the rider’s eyes
  • Easy to steal
  • Easy to break in a fall
  • Constantly moving in relationship to the rider’s line of sight

Unlike glasses or helmet mounted mirrors, handlebar mounted mirrors are always on the bike. The rider does not have to remember to grab the mirror before heading out the door for a ride. The bike mirrors are connected to the handlebars; therefore, it is easy to temporarily twist the bars to get a different viewing angle.

However, because the mirrors are further away from the rider, they must be larger to get the same field of view that glasses and helmet mounted mirrors offer. The need to move the handlebars to get a better viewing angle can be dangerous or impossible in certain situations.

The most important thing about having a mirror on your bike is actually using it. Being aware of the cars, and other cyclists, around you will help keep you safe on the road.