May-June 1998 Newsletter
Commuting Adventureby Tom Knight
One of the biggest challenges bicycling commuters face is riding in severe weather. It is easy to give in and take the car on bad days, but you miss out on some fun. I have two foul-weather stories I’d like to share with you.
It was a dark and stormy night (really!). It was March 1, 1997, at 11:00 pm. Louisville had never seen such rain. I was about to leave work at 17th and Breckinridge streets, but I couldn’t even see the street! I saw what looked like shallow creeks with flooded cars in them.
I headed south toward home in the Beechmont neighborhood on my four-day-old mountain bike, where there was little traffic. (I had “borrowed” my wife’s road bike for seven years for commuting and had just returned it.) A few times I had to carry the bike through deep places to keep the hubs and bottom bracket dry.
To get home, I had to get through at least one viaduct and I wondered how to do this as I headed south. The first one I came to at Oak Street was flooded and had the top of a car visible in several feet of water. The next one at Hill Street had two flooded cars in it. At Algonquin Parkway, a police car was parked across the street keeping traffic out. (At this point, I had not seen any moving vehicles yet.)
Unhappily, I turned back and went all the way back to Broadway and out Fourth Street. The water at the viaduct just north of Bernheim Lane stopped me. Several people were standing around looking at a car nearly submerged in the viaduct. Then they looked at me, probably wondering what I was going to do. I was wondering, too!
Suddenly, my rain-soaked brain remembers the obvious, “I’m on a mountain bike! I can go up!” So, I went through the water and mud east of the street. (So that was what these knobby tires are for!! That’s what this tiny chain ring is for!!) On to the gravel, over the tracks, and down the other side. It was fun! Someone was shouting at me, “Hey! Hey! You just cost me ten bucks!” The last few miles were wet but easy and I was smiling and wishing for snow.
About a year later I got my snow—22 inches of it. I couldn’t wait to hit the street—I mean ride to work. The first morning was interesting. The bike did a lot of slipping from side to side but only a few inches each time. I found that I had the most control when I let the bike go and let it slip a bit. I never did feel like I was about to fall.
The next morning was a little more interesting. The last half of my ride was on hard-packed snow. It looked almost like ice. At this point I feared slipping out of control, so I took the entire lane. Motorists were understanding and courteous. One motorist beside me at a stoplight offered me a ride. I decline, telling him that I had been waiting for this snow. He asked where I worked and suggested that I should check myself into the psychiatric unit when I got there. I laughed—I was having fun again.
Consider commuting to work on your bike. Do not let the weather stop you. With the right equipment and the right attitude, you can do it. Bad weather commuting can be fun!
Copyright ©1998 Louisville Wheelmen. All rights reserved.
Web posted: 27 April 1998
last updated: 27 April 1998
by Duc M. Do