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Home » Cycling » Wipeout!  Cycling on WetTrain Tracks:  Like Riding on Ice with Banana Peels for Tires. 

Wipeout!  Cycling on WetTrain Tracks:  Like Riding on Ice with Banana Peels for Tires. 


Mrs. Bgddy and I went for a ride on Mother’s Day with Mike, Diane and Adam, 41 miles and we were cruising along at close to a 19 mph average and all was well.  The roads were wet but amazingly, we only got hit with a few actual drops as they fell from the sky – somehow we completely managed to ride around the rain.

Coming into the town of Durand, with maybe ten or twelve miles to go, we were all smiles and high-fives.  We were stopped by a passing  train and patiently waited to cross.  Unfortunately, the Durand track crossing is actually four sets of tracks that cross the road at an acute angle.

On dry days, I know of two people who crashed on that particular set tracks.  One broke his hip, the other his pride.  In order to navigate the tracks perpendicular (as should be done), you have to start all the way in the left (oncoming) lane and work your way to the far right lane.  With the tracks wet and after the train, with traffic in the opposing lane, we should have walked our bikes across.  Oops.  My wife went down first, hard, and her bike swept into mine, taking me out.  After I made sure my wife was okay, I checked for other casualties.  Diane was down, laying awkwardly against a track, off of the road surface.  She did not look good and Adam had a pretty good tear in his shorts, along with a trickle of blood coming from his knee.  I threw my bike down, off the side of the road and started hobbling over to Diane who was just starting to get up.

We fixed cocked hoods, opened brake levers for bent wheels and made sure we’d be able to ride home (no major damage to the bikes and Diane swore she was good to go.  I got away cleanest with only a cocked shifter hood.  I was the only one who went down and wasn’t bleeding.  Five cyclists, four down (Mike miraculously made it across), in the space of five seconds.

With the angle the tracks cross the road and the fact that they were damp, we should have used better sense and walked across.  We’re lucky that crash wasn’t a whole lot worse.

The moral of the story is don’t try to cross acute angled train tracks in the rain.  Walk the bike across unless you can cross them exactly perpendicular.  They’re slick dry…  When they’re wet it’s like cycling on ice with banana peels for tires.

So, today will require a little bit of clean up.  My rain bike, the Trek, is going to need some new bar tape, I’m going to have to realign the hoods and replace the bar tape which was ripped in the crash.  My wife’s bike, her nice one, looks to be in about the same shape.  Realignment of the hoods and aero bars, new bar tape on the bar and aero bars, a clean up and a good once-over.  Her wheels will have to be trued, as they were slightly warbled in the fall.  Other than that, we really lucked out as neither bike has any structural damage.

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22 Comments

  1. OmniRunner says:

    Glad no one was seriously injured. We run across tracks during our club run and I just try not to step on the rails and twist an ankle.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Same idea in practice, except if you get your wheel caught in a track, it can get messy in a hurry. Thanks Andy.

      • OmniRunner says:

        I can imagine. I think it’s easier for a runner to take a fall.
        I’ve gone down a few times. We don’t have the same speed and we’re not up high on a bike.
        When I fall I try to crumple a bit and use my arms to absorb some of the impact before my head, knees or hips slam into the ground. It’s amazing how much can go through your mind as you hurtle towards the ground.

  2. Kecia says:

    OUCH!! So glad everyone was able to walk away and there were no serious injuries!!

  3. That did not sound good. I am sure the four of you will be feeling the effects of the fall over the next couple of days. Glad it was not much more serious than it was. Though it is not biking season unless you fall a couple of times is it? Safe riding.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Actually, I’ve only fallen twice since 2011. Once in a mountain bike trail (my first time) and yesterday. My wife will be sore today. My lower back was stiff yesterday but MUCH better today. Won’t miss a beat. Thanks brother.

  4. Add in the fact that those tracks get oily from cars and even the trains themselves. Not a good surface huh?

  5. my1sttrirace says:

    Glad to hear everyone was ok. Sounds like a gnarly crossing on a dry day.

  6. Sue Slaght says:

    Glad to hear no one was seriously hurt Jim. Train tracks definitely can be challenging even when dry. Definitely for any cyclist but especially those new to cycling , great reverence needs to be given to these tire twisters.

    • bgddyjim says:

      That’s the crazy part Sue, my wife was the only rook there. Adam and Diane have been cycling forever and I’ve got better than 20,000 miles on me… Making it across those tracks, wet, was sheer luck. 😜

      • Sue Slaght says:

        I guess that is a good message Jim. Just always play it safe no matter how experienced one is.

      • bgddyjim says:

        Exactly. Also, this is why we wear melon protectors. Never know when your gonna need it!

      • MJ Ray says:

        Only Snell helmets are tested on anything like a rail shape. CPSC or EN tests don’t cover it.

        Wider tyres help (I’m told that the English roadster and light sports 1 3/8″ and 1 1/2″ widths were so we didn’t fall into rail slots so easily as the 1 1/4″ used on top sports bikes until 700c became popular) but if it’s wet and you’re trying to cross off-square, nothing will save you except maybe if the crossing is built with velostrail tiles. Glad there’s no serious injury and hope everyone mends soon.

      • bgddyjim says:

        You’re reading too much into that statement with your prejudice, MJ. This was a four-wide set of tracks on a major road. The tracks were not raised. It would have, using the law of averages, been more likely that I smacked my head on the wood slats in between the tracks – especially figuring momentum into the equation. In my wife’s case, her wheel slipped on top of the rail, it didn’t get caught. My wheels slipped out on the wood because my wife’s wheel hit mine – I had no chance. Wider tires wouldn’t have made a difference. Now that said, I have thought of going with a 25c wheel, to go with the trend. Now that you bring that up, well, I just may go with it.

      • bgddyjim says:

        Oh, and I almost forgot! If I would have hit my head (I didn’t, I went down in a lump), on the rail or otherwise, I would rather have a helmet between my brain and skull, and the rail, whether or not the dome cover was tested on rails, than not. There is no question that my head is going to fare better in that crash if I have a helmet on.

        No question brother. Now we can play, “if this”, “if that”, and “if the other”, but there you have a perfect example of why I choose to wear a helmet no matter what. I believe in your right to do as you please, but I won’t be following anyone off the cliff. 😉

  7. exmaschine says:

    Whew! Hair ball action!
    Glad you’re all okay Jim! That’s most important for sure…

  8. Sheree says:

    Ouch, train tracks, cattle grids abd metal manhole covers all need to be treated with care. Very skippery when wet.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Indeed! Fortunately all people and bicycles escaped with only minor damage! Never again… News of our crash got through our club quite fast and it turns out, there were dozens of bike crashes on those tracks over the last five or six years.

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