Saturday, July 11, 2009

Studded Tires and Dogs

This is a cautionary tale. With time to spare and the sun smiling onto a 35 degree day, I decided to ride today. Because I knew I'd be on back roads, and some may still be iced and snowy, I took Zeke my commuter bike. I figured his studded tires would be just the thing for a February ride. Before leaving, I switched out the platform pedals with toe clips I usually use with work boots, for the Speedplay Zero pedals I use with my road shoes. Leaving my rear panniers home, I headed out to enjoy the warm (after the January we've had it seemed relatively warm) day.
On Sulphur Springs road, near Creal Springs, I encountered several long patches which had not felt the warmth of the February sun. Cautiously I slowed and chose what seemed to be the best line, trusting that my studded tires would keep me safe. One long ice covered patch had a good line on the wrong side of the road. It would not have been a problem if a pickup truck had not come over the hill at that moment. With precious little distance between us, and the pavement too slick for quick stopping, the driver decided to let me move and held his line. Angling across the ice I focused on staying upright. Unfortunately, my rear tire hit a rut and began to move out from underneath me.
I tried to slip my right foot out of the toe clip in case I needed to use it to stabilize my position, and when I pulled back, it seemed stuck. The movement, however, did accelerate the pace at which my rear tire was moving out from underneath me. With the top tube moving down, I steered into the skid and moved my weight up over the main triangle just as the truck blew past me ten inches away. Fortunately, Zeke found some dry pavement, and the bike righted itself again. I was fully awake at the moment.
I looked down to see why I had not been able to pull my foot off of the pedal and realized that I was wearing my road shoes and I was clipped in to my Zeros. Well, that explained that. Good thing I filed that information away, because a mile or so down the road I passed a house with a sleeping Rottweiler mix dog. Remember that I told you that my studded tires sound like a brush fire in full blaze when they're rolling? Well that dog didn't stay sleeping for long. He came barrelling out intent on eating me. I nailed both brakes and twisted my foot to unclip and step down. I've trained myself to unclip in any position just in case. (When I remember that I have clipless pedals on the bike.) I shouted, "NO!" The beast stopped in mid attack and stood still, clearly confused.
His dinosaur brain was on prey catching mode. But his pet trained brain had heard a command. He moved toward me again. "NO!," I shouted. "GO HOME! HURRY UP!" He turned toward the house and walking a few steps stopped and turned back towards me. I repeated the commands. He repeated the start/stop movement. It took us a full three minutes of this before he decided to return to his previous place beside his house. I returned to my ride.
I imagine that about thirty minutes later, he sat up suddenly and thought, "Wait a minute! He's not the boss of me! I should have ate him! Damn."
The moral of the story is this:
1. Always know which pedals you are riding, so if you need to twist instead of pull, you will get it right.
2. Studded tires are great, but won't save your butt if you're an idiot and ignore the above.
3. Speak to dogs, children and your wife as if you expect to be obeyed. (Well, maybe not your wife. Speak to her as if you hope to have sex at least one more time in your life.)
4. When you can - ride your bike!

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