Saturday, December 28, 2013

In Which a Braking Spill Doesn’t Break Me

Winter biking can be a bit dicey. On Facebook, my friend Jenifer up in the Twin Cities posted a photo of a Huffy she has purchased as a “winter beater,” and she notes she was out riding with a friend today.

This morning was the first time I had time during my Christmas hiatus, and when the weather would allow, for me to take a winter ride. I got Francis out. Since he’s been in the garage for a couple of weeks, I first checked tire pressure and had to inflate both tires a bit. And I used some chain lube my wife got me as a stocking stuffer.

About 20 minutes had thus elapsed, and I had only a limited time for a ride, since my wife’s family had a lunch planned today.
Bridge over Indian Creek near south end of Boyson Trail.

Off I went, intending to ride the Lindale-Boyson-Krumboltz trail complex that is near my home. Except for one minor spill, it was a glorious day for a ride, as you can see from the video. Sorry for the audio quality, by the way—my microphone is terrible and I was almost whispering anyway, since tired grandchildren are sleeping in a bedroom adjacent to my home office.

Anyway, back to my ride. The western half of the Lindale Trail has been paved, and the black asphalt was largely clear of snow. There was an icy patch right where the trail crosses Lindale in Marion, but I was careful, and made it to the limestone trail.

Although it has been “cleared,” the lighter limestone doesn’t promote melting like asphalt does, and there was plenty of snow and ice on this surface. I slowed down, intending to be careful and avoid spills—an effort that largely, but not completely, successful.
Looking north, back at the rail bridge, shortly after I started riding on the Boyson Trail. As you can see, plenty of snow on the trail, but I do appreciate that Marion has made the effort to clear the trail.

I was a bit concerned about the hill by the old rail bridge where the Lindale Trail terminates in a T with the Boyson trail. But I took it slowly and managed the descent with no trouble, then turned south to head down the Boyson trail.

I snapped a few photos after reaching the Boyson trail. It was a crystal clear morning, the air already feeling a bit warm—the temperature was in the low 30s, but that’s much warmer than we’ve had for some time. I planned a morning ride because I figured it would be pleasant, but still cold enough that the limestone trails would not be mush, as they may have been this afternoon when the temperature reached the 40s.

Anyway, I rode slowly, pausing now and then to snap a photo. It was a picture perfect winter day. It would have been pretty even if it had been cold, but it was doubly pleasant for being unusually warm.

When I turned down the Krumboltz trail, I decided to record a video of part of the trip down to the bridge that is near the end of the trail. As you can see, that’s the bulk of the video I posted on YouTube.

Shortly after pausing on the bridge, I started to cycle through the woody, curvy end of the trail. I saw some interesting shadows on the trail, and thought it was a good time to pause once again to snap a photo.

So I gently applied my brakes.

And instantly was on the ground. A slip on ice when biking is an impressively fast event. One second you’re riding, the next you’ve landed. In this case, I landed on my left knee, and felt an “ouch.”

A spill! But not much harm done.
But, the news is good. The knee was only slightly banged. As I type this, some hours later, it seems fully recovered. Luckily, I was going quite slowly when I spilled, and the landing on the limestone surface was not all that hard. Several years ago, I took a much nastier spill on F Avenue in Cedar Rapids that left my right knee painfully sore for months.

Today’s spill was much less consequential. My front basket popped off, but was apparently unbent and unharmed. There was no damage to my bike, and only a very little to me.

So, I picked myself up and rode carefully on. I didn’t complete the whole trail circuit—I turned around at the bridge near the south end of the Boyson Trail and didn’t go as far as the north end, either.

But I rode most of the trails. It was a bit of a risk, as I proved with the spill, but I think it was also worth it. A winter ride is much more serene than a summer ride. There is a sense of wonder in the quiet winter countryside, where you hear only a few birds and the sounds of your bike beyond the distant sound of car traffic on unseen streets.

True, I prefer the summer rides. The warmer weather and the green and the lack of ice on the road more than make up for the slightly lower serenity level during summer. But it’s still very nice to be out, even if it’s only once and only for an hour, on a winter’s bike ride.

We’re going to cool down and get more snow. May we have a January thaw early in the month. I would like to ride again!

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