You would think that I had learned a lesson from riding in the winter and that day being caught in a blizzard. The lesson being Don’t Ride in the Winter! But nooooo…sometimes you just can’t help yourself, especially when its so nice out. Even though the temps may be freezing, the sun is shining and your bike is calling to you “Come ride me…take me out for a spin…”
So sometime last March…I couldn’t say no. I donned my many layers of clothing that I wore while riding in the winter. I’ve ridden in temps as low as -15c but today it was a balmy -2c and the sun was shinning. Two pair of long-johns, jeans, two pair of socks (one cotton, one wool), thermal undershirt, two sweaters, riding pants with liner, balaclava, riding jacket…10min later, I was ready to ride. I was all puffed up and looked like a black Michelin Man but I didn’t care. Grabbing my helmet and my snow mobile gloves, I headed out the door to my garage.
The first task was to finesse my bike out of my small garage and over the pile of snow in front of it. I wasn’t even sure it would start and probably should of tested it first before getting all dressed up. Oh well. I turned the key and pressed the start button and vrrrooomm! The lovely and long missed sound of my single cylinder engine firing to life, brought a huge smile to my face.
As I let the bike warm up a little and while putting my balaclava, I noticed people staring at me like I must be daft. I could imagine them thinking “What nutcase rides in the winter?”. I laughed quietly to myself as they walked past me, shaking their heads.
I put on my helmet, pulled on my gloves, hopped on my bike and off I went. My smile must of been from ear to ear as I splashed through the slush of my side street and headed out onto the clear and dry main roads.
I was having such a great ride. I recall thinking to myself that nothing could ruin it. Well…I was wrong again.
Riding in the curb lane, I came upon a section of road where my lane and the one beside was covered in deep slush and water from a broken water main. My curb lane was really bad, so I changed into the next one without incident. No problem I thought to my self. Although as I came up to an intersection 200ft later…I had a problem.
Now lets stop for a moment and think about this. It’s -2 degrees outside and I just rode though a section of road all wet and slushy from a broken water main. Ok…so what? Well…lots of other vehicles drove through it too, carrying the water further down the road. Ya…so? Did anyone think…BLACK ICE???
As I approached the intersection, I moved back into the curb lane so that I could turn right and I did notice that the road did indeed look black. Not that grey colour that indicates dry roads in the winter but black. I figured it was just wet but knowing that I had to corner coming up, I rolled off the throttle, gently downshifted and slowed right down to what I thought to be a rather slow pace. Not slow enough.
Now the intersection that I was entering had one of those islands separating the right turn from the straight through lane. I observed several pedestrians standing on it waiting to cross my lane but all saw me and made no attempt to step in front of me.
As I entered the curve and began to lean my bike to the right…my back wheel did exactly what you are all thinking and slid out…WAY out. I was well on my way for a dramatic low-side crash. As my bike began to fall past the point of no return, I glanced at the pedestrians out of the corner of my eye as they all took several steps backward realizing what was happening to me. They all suddenly looked much like bowling pins and I wondered if I was about to get a Strike.
Knowing I was about to crash but not willing to give up knowing how many people were about to get hurt, my right foot went down and I kicked off the ground as hard as I could in an attempt to bring my bike back to vertical. I snapped my bars to the left, full lock and as the bike became more vertical, I twisted the throttle wide open!
My engine roared, pedestrians scattered for their lives and my foot twisted sideways against the curb as it slid across the black ice beneath me. A sudden pain flashed through my knee as it too twisted but I figured it was just a sample of the further pain I was about to experience.
My back wheel was spinning wildly, my front wheel was turned full to the left, I was drifting way out as I tried to recover this gentle right hand turn. This ordinarily mild corner, one that I’ve taken many times before, had turned into pure hell. Although I refused to give up until I was flat on my back.
As the RPM’s soared and my rear wheel spinning at max speed for the gear I was in, the gyroscopic effects began to make the bike stable and although I was still Motarding through the corner, the bike felt more sure footed. I rounded the corner, much to my relief and I’m sure to the relief of the human bowling pins now left behind me, and my bike became vertical beneath me. I rolled off the throttle just as the black ice ended and the rear wheel once again hooked up on the asphalt.
I screamed a resounding YES!!!! inside my helmet that I’m sure the panicked pedestrians could hear as I pulled off in the distance.
Rule of thumb…if your are riding in the winter and the road looks wet, assume that it’s black ice.
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