Relax Folks, Cycling Accidents Are Not Worse than Ever and Hate Towards Cyclists is not “at a Fever’s Pitch”… There is a Simple Explanation.
Every summer hundreds of thousands of people hit the road with a new bike. Bike accidents spike for a minute, news reports increase and always highlight the tragic details. It happens every June:
A four and eight year-old girl will never know what it’s like to grow up with their mother. They will no longer have their mother’s shoulder to cry on or have her to help plan their wedding. They’ll never see her cheer when they graduate from high school or college… Those girls will get along. They will struggle greatly to replace their mom, for a long time.
Because a young woman wanted to read a text on her phone rather than wait a few minutes till she’d stopped her car.
It’s senseless, tragic and it sucks and I’m not writing this post to diminish the fact that it is tragic and does suck.
You’ll have the idiots: People who complain that cyclists aren’t using a litter, gravel and broken glass strewn shoulder to cycle on, or worse, the 3″ shoulder… All the way down to the simply stupid, “why don’t they use the dirt shoulder?” And yes, if you think a person on a road bike should use a dirt shoulder, you are either ignorant or stupid. Sorry. They don’t work on gravel or dirt.
And the cycling idiots: Photos surface of solo cyclists riding on the road rather than a dedicated, marked cycling path, empty and wide enough to take a revolving double pace line. I’d give my left nut for a cycle path like that. Hell, my wife would give my left nut for a path like that. Sorry Lance. Don’t poke an angry tiger that happens to be driving a 4,000 pound missile that can render you mush.
And more idiots: Cyclists completely disregarding traffic lights and some stop signs at exactly the wrong time, almost daring a motorist to run them down. Some, to be fair, are mistakes. Others, not so much. However, it’s also not best for a cyclist to stop at every stop sign either, especially a large group of cyclists. You think motorists are pissed now, could you imagine a 20 deep double pace line going through a stop sign two at a time… Stop, unclip, push off, go. Stop, unclip, push off, go. It would literally take a group of cyclists five minutes to clear an intersection, then we’d have to wait up for each other, clogging the road further. Irate is not a strong enough word to describe a motorist stuck behind that.
Then there’s the mistaken cyclist and motorist… The noob cyclist who thinks you have to be on the gas every minute, head down hammering out every ride or you’re wasting time, that you should be using every minute to get fitter, instead of strolling through a small town sitting up with your head on a swivel, paying attention before rolling out again once you get out of town (guilty as charged, though reformed). Or the motorist who thinks a cyclist will stop riding on the roads because they gun their engine, yell something, or they try to “buzz” a cyclist when passing (a felony in most States in the U.S.).
Hot season is upon us. And this same thing happens every year. Cyclist’s knees start knocking at club meetings. Much is made of social media comments coming from the dimmest bulbs in the box… Folks, this is as easy to predict as California’s public knee-knocking about drought while they’re all still watering their lawns (my sister lives in California, just last week she said everyone in the south waters, farther north it’s a little more strict). Fear not Californians, the rain is on the way, lest we already forgot that come August or September they’re going to be complaining about mudslides and all of the rain.
Every year. Like clockwork.
Cycling accidents and reports of outrage are the June thing. Then July hits, the fervor dies down and everyone is okay again.
With the onslaught of new Social Media users, including blogs like this one, normal folks have an outlet for everything from their angst to their outrage. News, a lot of it well intentioned but woefully misinformed, travels faster than a California brush fire (which should be popping up around July, if I’m not mistaken – guaranteed, it’ll be global warming’s fault which is surprising because I was alive when they blamed those on global cooling too, rather than the truth: Dude, it’s what happens in California). The point is, folks, as people try to outdo brash statements or try to prove just how stupid they are by attempting to convince anyone who will take a minute to read their rant that a bicycle belongs on the sidewalk (again, if you think bikes belong on sidewalks you are simply wrong). Again, sorry for pointing it out. The sidewalk is the worst place for a cyclist, which is why it is illegal in most places to ride a bike on the sidewalk – it’s dangerous for the cyclist, pedestrians and in many cases, impossible for motorists to see coming when they cross driveways or alleyways. You have to have a death wish to ride a bike on a sidewalk). This is the trick to being heard, to be loud, obnoxious or say something stupid, loudly and obnoxiously. The same happens in Academia. How many professors are publishing papers every year? Well, the only way to be published is to come up with something new. This is specifically how they come up with a new report on coffee that shows it’s good for you one week and bad two weeks later. The truth is, it’s just coffee. It’s got its pluses and minuses.
Getting into the real cycling numbers, not the cooked “statistics”, less than 5% of all bike accidents happen with the cyclist on the road, in the proper lane, riding with traffic. Something like 67% occur with cyclists on the wrong side of the road and the rest occur on sidewalks. I’ll take the odds on less than 5%, thank you. That said, I’ll get back on point. June is the month that everyone in the northern hemisphere is heading outside. It’s summertime, and we’re all looking forward to barbecues and noodle salad… Cycling outrage is simply a part of the news cycle. It hits every year, between the last week of may and the first week of June and it will taper off in a few weeks and we’ll only hear about the seriously egregious accidents, like the old-timer who “accidently” plowed through an entire peloton of cyclists. The world is not coming to an end for cyclists. Motorists will get used to having to take an extra 4.287 seconds (on average) to get around us, new cyclists will realize just how “naked” they are on the road and we seasoned cyclists will calm down. Balance will be restored and we’ll all get along again. Kind of. To wrap this post up, while there is a lot of stupidity out there, ask any seasoned cyclist, virtually anywhere (except Nebraska), and they’ll tell you it’s not as bad today as it was 20 or 30 years ago.
The truly sad thing is that if they simply put a 2′ wide paved shoulder on roads instead of that silly 3″, motorists would never have to worry about that extra 4.287 seconds (on average) again, with the exception of large club rides and left hand turns, of course. Cycling accidents would slow to a trickle.
This is a photo of a cyclist who is okay with the notion that you may not like cyclists. We can all get along though. Just look at it this way: I know we’re a pain in the ass. I drive a vehicle myself. Honestly though, if the biggest thing you have to worry about today is passing a cyclist or two, your life is pretty good, no? Indeed #firstworldproblems.
If you’re wondering why I picked on Nebraska, click here.
My rain bike, a 1999 Trek 5200 T, is a fantastic bike. The only thing wrong with it (besides needing a new paint job really bad) is that it’s not my Venge. Other than that, it’s been a reliable steed and it protects my Venge from wet weather. After two or three rather long slogs in some nasty conditions I brought it into the office to clean it up and prep it for my next gnarly day. Not much, wipe down the frame, clean and lube the cable guides under the bottom bracket, clean the brakes and the wheels, clean the cassette… You know, simple maintenance stuff. Nothing to difficult.
After substantially completing the cleanup on the bike, I moved to the wheels to true any minor wobbles. The front wheel took about three minutes and I moved to the back. Straight as an arrow. I pinched the brake track on the rim to stop it spinning as I was going to finishing cleaning the chain to reinstall it. I felt a bump, just a small one on one side of the wheel. Over the last two rides it had picked up a weird thud on heavy braking at speed so I guessed my fingers had just gone over the culprit. I spun the wheel again and pinched the center mount brakes tight so they were just barely touching the rim and waited for the thud… Nothing. I squeezed a little harder and “thud”… I let the wheel go around again and found the source area and marked it with a magic marker:
Not much to see right? This is what it looked like from the top (and why I never noticed anything)… Let’s look at that from a different angle:
Look at the crack in that wheel! Also, notice no damage to the leading edge of the rim… In other words, I didn’t run over something to cause this. I cleaned the chain but didn’t even bother putting it back on because I knew I’d be changing wheels once I got home.
Fortunately I had the original wheels from the Venge on my Cannondale which hasn’t seen the pavement in probably seven or eight months. The rain bike is more important so I took to removing the 7 sp. cassette from the DT Swiss wheels and installing the 5200’s 9 sp. cassette on it… It was only then that I noticed this on the other side of the wheel, about eight inches from the crack I’d marked:
So this morning, rather than use the old tires that were on the Cannondale (the original tires from 1991 they’re still in excellent shape but lack decent flat protection), I loaded the bike into the truck and brought the old wheels to the office and took ten minutes to change everything out before I started work at 7 (yes, four tires removed and reinstall two plus cleaned the cobwebs and dust off of the old wheels, in ten minutes)…
Also, those Rolf Vector Comps are, from what I understand, the best wheels Rolf has ever made because that was the last year before they got into the weight game… Those wheels have exceptionally thick side walls. They’re said to be “bomb proof”. Keep in mind, those wheels are sixteen years-old and I’ve got more than 10,000 miles on them myself in just three of those years. The brake track had actually started to dish a little bit because of the intense braking those things had seen over the years. While it may be odd for a wheel to fail like that, or maybe rare, those wheels have been through a lot of tough miles. I’m not surprised at all. Point is, watch your wheels. If you feel a weird pulsation in your brakes that you can’t pinpoint to a loose spoke or a truing issue, check your brake surface for cracks like those shown in the pictures – and not just standing above the wheels as I did after two rides… Obviously, the view from down below is a lot worse. It’s scary to think what could have happened if I’d had that bike in Georgia on those wheels, cruising down a mountain road at 50 mph and they failed the rest of the way…
Finally, the good news in all of this is that the bearings in the rear wheel were on their last leg. The dealio that holds the cassette was worn out so the cassette was loose and had the tiniest niggle to it and those Rolf wheels are substantially heavier than the DT Swiss wheels that I replaced on the Venge because they were too heavy… In other words, bonus! No cash outlay and I’d be willing to bet I dropped at least a half-pound by switching the wheels. Excellent! The Trek, at home, lubed up and good to go with a new, faster set of wheels (Btw, that bike is soon to be black):
[ED: I use the word “thud” in the post… It wasn’t a thud, it was something smaller, barely perceptible… I couldn’t hear it over the wind as much as I could feel it, once every revolution of the rear wheel when I was braking. I’d assumed I took a small rock off of the brake surface which caused a minor raised imperfection where it hit. I figured I was just going to have to file it down. Imagine my surprise when I saw that. I was amazed that I couldn’t feel that while I was riding, let alone hear it when I applied the brakes! It’s a lot worse than it felt or sounded.]