Thursday, 16 December 2010

Road slime

I got caught out this week on a ride home from work. I've cycled to work for many years and, although the location has changed over the years, much of my route has remained the same. I don't know how many times I've crossed over the mini-roundabouts on Whalley Old Road in Little Harwood but it must be in excess of ten thousand commutes. That's all year every year, even during snow, ice and heavy rain. For any readers unaware of what mini-roundabouts are (I know roundabouts are uncommon in the USA as a four-way stop is more the norm), it is a smaller version of a conventional roundabout but where the island, around which traffic circulates, is much smaller. The normal traffic rules of a roundabout apply even though the mini-roundabout may just be a painted circle in a regular road junction. That is what the ones in Whalley Old Road are, painted circles on what is an old road.

I know road paint provides less friction than tarmac and so usually make allowance when turning on it. Everything was going well with little traffic around and the ride was flowing nicely. When I got the the junction, the line I took was over the roundabout circle as there were no cars around and it makes the turn less sharp but does mean going across the paint. I misjudged the conditions contributing to a lack of traction and got caught out when my front wheel went from under me and both my bike and myself ended up sliding sideways across the road. Luckily I only suffered a bashed arm and bruised shoulder as I hit the road and a jacket that instantly went from day-glow yellow to black on the right side.

The weather had been dry for a few days but the roads, which were been covered with a concentration of road salt and were still damp. As it had dissolved, the salt instead of drying out had turned into a greasy, slimy damp black film. This is quite common in our damp north-west climate. Even tarmac becomes slippery when covered with this film as was demonstrated the next morning by a car skidding as it set off from a side road. I'm normally wary of this salt slime as there are one or two places where the tarmac is quite smooth and I've felt a loss of traction when turning. I allow for it and take the turn slowly, keeping as upright as possible. Now I'm even more wary and there's a lot of winter still to get through.

Safe (winter) cycling...

Monday, 6 December 2010

Never mind cling film Mr Wiggins

Snow boots for me for this morning's commute - absolutely necessary for the first and last few metres which were sheet ice. Some of the main roads weren't much better.
Saw 3 other cyclists braving the conditions. Minus 8 Celcius again already matching last winter's coldest mornings. Low temperature grease is looking a must have item for the Christmas stocking.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Rough and smooth

Conditions in this bridleway near Dinas Powys, South Wales were interesting when recently, I looked for a bit of rough-stuff cycling and found the cold early winter conditions provided some smooth going. I'd thrown the folder into the car on a recent visit in the hope of doing a little exercise. I wasn't sure what to expect but once off the tarmac, it coped amazingly well. This lane receives a lot of run-off water draining from the neighbouring fields. It had created a thick layer of ice along most of its length, which made progress slow but interesting - I was glad I was going uphill. I got some strange looks, perhaps because onlookers were amazed anyone would ride what is essentially a shopping bike on a bridleway, also because I don't think many cyclists explore bridleways around this part of South Wales.

The Vale of Glamorgan Rights Of Way Improvement Plan acknowledges that there are limited opportunities for cycling. It has only 27km of bridleways in its 550 km network of public rights of way and many are still poorly signposted or maintained. Their Local Access Forum represents all types of users of rights of way including the Cyclist Touring Club. In their survey they concur that signposting and maintenance is a problem. I didn't have to go far to find an example. This bridleway on Pen-y-turnpike road isn't signposted and has a locked gate.

View Larger Map

The Public Spending Review is likely to have an adverse effect on the future of public rights of way with maintenance and signposting receiving less funding as local authorities try to balance their books in the face of reduced budgets. I do hope it won't become a case of 'use 'em or lose 'em as there are many ancient ways that have been lost in the past and not all authorities treat them with equal priority.

Keep exploring - on two wheels.