That’s black ice. Ask me how I know. It took me and my 3 inch fat tires down. What a spectacle! The bike went to the right and I was dropped to the sides of my knees. My legs were in an “M” and I couldn’t get up. First car to stop was an SUV and the nice man came over to see if I was okay, plus he grabbed the polka dot water bottle that was freed from its cage. My feet couldn’t get any traction so I did a strange modern dance interpretation and crawled, clawed to a patch of pavement and then back up to the snow. As the kind man drove past his wife waved. Of course, I should mention that the family was from my school so the whole thing was witnessed by a 7th grader, his little sister, mom and dad, and will likely be told a few more times and embellished a bit. I carefully walked up to the car window and talked with the student for a moment. “You’ve seen me take quite a fall… and get right back up again.” I heard myself saying because cussing profusely is uncouth in front of the kids.
I sat like a cartoon character on the sidelines of the parking lot and cursed myself for taking this route to the store. I never do, but I was looking for a USPS box to drop off a package and I forgot that the North side of the lot gets zero sunlight so the shade had created an ice skating rink. That explains why that car was going so slow. It had nothing to do with being nice to the biker. I didn’t find a USPS box and I didn’t bother stopping for groceries. I wanted to leave the scene and get home.
The fact of the matter is that I got cocky. We’ve had more than the normal allotment of snow and my fatty bike and I have been enjoying the conditions. It’s exhilerating to plow through the terrain and hear the sounds of the snow moving under the tires. Breath billows puff, puff, puffing like a stream engine out of my lungs. There’s hardly a car in sight because in the Northwest everything stops for snow. We aren’t equipped to deal with it. Schools close and business open later because the snow usually means there’s black ice. That’s how it works. There’s usually rain first and that provides a deadly coating of ice but because it’s the color of the roads it is undetected until you’re sliding. Then the snow falls and it’s pretty and you forget all about that deadly layer. Plus it takes awhle for it to melt. It looks clear, but it might not be. Usually you can tell, but there are times where it could go either way and look like it’s a layer of packed snow but parts have given way to black ice underneath. It’s a tough call.
Last Tuesday we had our first snowstorm which really doesn’t look like much but at higher elevations means six or more inches. The snow was the perfect consistency and I got out early and biked 5 miles. I didn’t even feel that cold. Gorgeous! My tires didn’t slip once and I made tracks all over my neighborhood and the nearby cemetary. No wind, just a great ride. The second storm came through on Friday and again seemed like nothing much until the morning when the white blanket (more like an Ikea comforter) left several inches. I went out for a ride each time and got more and more confident riding in, on and around the snow. “I wonder if people go pro doing this kind of riding.” I remember thinking. Do people look for this skill on LinkedIn? That’s just how cocky I was feeling.
Life is not like that for me. I can’t even feign that sort of confidence without the gods taking me down a notch or ten. The thing to respect about a fall on a bike is just how out of control it feels. In a fraction of a second you go from the mountain tops to gravel bits. I felt these gigantic tires swing to the right as if I was in Dancing With the Stars and my partner flung me too far, let go and I ended up kissing a wall with little birdies circling my head. I felt muscles contract and loosen as waves of gravity took over. A fall on a bike is momentous and humbling. Especially when it’s you and only you.
I’ll do some Zwifting today and pretend I’m in Greece in July sweating it out.
Whatever your weather, I hope you take it nice and easy and enjoy some ride time. I’ll be back in the saddle and behind the bars but inside for a day or two.
How’s your winter riding?
Be safe out there,