10 January 2011

Fixed On Ice

After the winter storms we've had, there are patches of ice and encrusted snow on little-used sidewalks and streets.  Fortunately, I did not encounter any of them on my ride to work this morning.  I also didn't find any on my way home, except for some I found along the path in Flushing Meadow-Corona Park.

Sometimes I like to detour through the park, even though it adds to my commute, because the park is both nice and has a lot of resonance for me.  If you saw Men In Black, you'd recognize it as the site of the Unisphere, perhaps the most iconic structure of the 1964-65 World's Fair, which my family attended when I was a child.  

Going through the park also allows me to avoid the area around Main Street in Flushing, where I encounter the heaviest and most chaotic traffic to be found between my apartment and my job.

But at least those streets are kept clear.  Such is not the case for sections of the park, which sees few visitors on weekdays in the midst of winter.  

As you may know, I installed a fixed gear on Marianela last week.  There's a very fine art to riding one on a glazed street or path.   

Of course, you probably won't embark on a ride across a glacier on your fixie, if you're going to ride anything at all.  But when you come upon a frozen puddle in your path, the best thing to do is to keep your line and move ahead.  

As best as I can tell, the way to do that is simply to release all of the tension in your muscles, at least to the degree that you can.  A white-knuckled grip will only make you more likely to skid and fall; so will any sudden attempt to stop or any attempt to accelerate.  

The best way to pedal is to let your legs continue to spin at whatever pace you were riding before you saw the ice.  Not only shouldn't you try to accelerate; you also shouldn't try to dramatically slow down (or stop) your bike.  You just want to let your legs keep up their momentum.  

Any attempt to accelerate or to make a stop will land you on your side, or some place where it will hurt even more.  So, for that matter, will making a turn.  If there's an obstacle on the ice, you're better off trying to ride through than to turn or slow down for it.  

Ironically, I took a minor fall today, but not on ice.  I was about fifteen minutes from home tonight when I somehow jerked my handlebar when pushing down on my left pedal after the traffic signal turned green.  I flipped onto my side, spilling the contents of my baskets.  Fortunately, two very nice young Asian men saw me and helped me to get up and gather the stuff that spilled.    They really must respect their elders in their culture!

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