Monday, June 2, 2008

A (dam) scientific breakthrough

I have made a discovery.

After countless hours of carefully crafted, randomized, placebo-controlled experiments I have been able to determine that crashing your bike does indeed suck. I will be submitting the abstract and executive summary of my findings to the appropriate scientific journals shortly.

My latest observational study took place Saturday morning - dam early. After significant debate with the academic advisory committee inside my head on whether to perform this trial, beginning at frickin' 5:30 a.m., it was determined (to everyone's surprise) that participation would be prudent. I arrived at the lab (DSM City Hall parking lot) at the prescribed time to find other mad scientists (or members of the Des Moines Cycle Club, if you prefer) to be surprisingly chipper given the hour.

The experiment's design called for this group to ride to Saylorville to send off the Dam to Dam runners. The leader of the group stated that the "faster" riders - anyone above 15 mph - should depart first. I didn't think 15+ qualified as "faster", but who was I to quibble? I was happy to take the faster designation and took off - you know, on account of being all-fast-and-stuff - with the first group.

A mere 2-3 miles into the ride we were heading down the sidewalk just north of Birdland park when some low hanging branches necessitated me moving over to the right (here comes the "randomized" part of the methodology). It just so happens that I was merging where there was a vertical seem in the concrete. As physics would have it, a skinny tire will occasionally not want to roll over a ridge and instead skirts along it in a phenomenon sometimes known as "plowing". This occurs when you and your bike are still generally heading in a straight line, while your front tire is offset at - say - a 20 degree angle. So, this begins my 2 hours (or was it 2 seconds?) of trigonometry calculations - you know sines, cosines, tangents and all that funky stuff. As it fate would have it, this researcher sucks at trigonometry because - well, its math. And so, all my calculations having failed me, I succumbed to gravity.....relatively hard. I say "relatively" because I did land in the grassy bit between the sidewalk and the street, which was nice, but not nearly as nice as if I had been - oh I don't know - STILL IN BED. Oh, Gravity, why must you be so cruel? I know it wasn't exactly Sir Isaac Newton's fault, but - ya know - if he'd been there I probably would have kicked him in the apples just the same.

Here's something I have learned about myself from other observational trials on bicycle collision: I enter this sort of autonomic state in which I pop back up, hop back on the bike and leave the scene with minimal damage assessment. Don't ask, don't tell seems to be the policy here. This is usually amid a very half-hearted campaign to convince observers that I am actually constructed of a space-age polymer that exhibits amazing properties of flexibility and shock absorption. Keeping to form I popped up, quickly answered that I am "fine" (another relative term) retrieved my splayed waterbottles and set to peddling off mostly just wishing to minimize the number of witnesses to my experiment. A buh bye.

I rode, with purpose, away from the crash witnesses and rejoined the lead group only to notice, a few miles down the trail, that my sunglasses that were hanging in my jersey collar were no longer with me. Crap, another casualty of science I guess. When we got to the dam I finally stopped to assess myself. Not too bad, my shoulder and thigh hurt a little and there was some minor road rash on my shins (and as I would later discover my thigh). The main insult was to the newly healed wound from Arkansas on my left shin. To the existing vertical gash I have added a horizontal one. I think it really rounds out the piece, giving it a depth and character that were sorely (get it?) lacking. Oh, and of course my eviscerated PRIDE.

A very nice rider approached me cautiously and asked if I was "the guy that crashed". Ah, yeppers that's me, thanks for noticing. "Somebody has your glasses and your phone." I hadn't even missed my phone, so someone picking up my impromptu yard sale was the best news I had since the cognitive committee had met the night before. So, thanks to the kindness of fellow (more upright and stable) cyclists I was spared shelling out money for a new phone and glasses.

After watching the dam runners depart (dam, there was alot of them) most of the riders went back from whence they came. I had always planned on getting some good miles in so I decided to continue on and take the trail out to Big Creek. About 1-2 miles in you come to a nice rollercoaster section of blacktop ending with a little climb into a lefthand hairpin turn. I was taking things easy, still warming back up, and that was a good thing. When I got to the top of the climb there were two bikers heading the opposite direction, one of them completely on my side of the trail. He must have been spacing off or something. Why you would be on the wrong side of a blind downhill curve is a mystery to me. I had to yell "heads up", lock up the brakes and slightly skid the rear wheel before he hopped over to his side of the curve. After the danger had past the my internal advisory committee quickly convened and unanimously determined that if this Dillweed had wrecked me it would have almost certainly been "ON" - I guess even the egghead academic types have their limit.

So anyways, I made it out to Big Creek sans another incident, and I made it in pretty good time too. Not at all surprising given the fact I'm 15+ mph fast like-that. On my way back I stood on the peddles to climb and felt the front wheel flex big time. Whoa, what was that? Running some quick diagnostics I determined that low psi in the front tire might be the culprit even though it didn't really look flat. I was nearing the Visitor's Center and planned on stopping there anyway, so I figured I'd check it there. Shortly thereafter, I arrive at the same hairpin where the near-miss had occurred. I took it slow, figuring a low front tire could cause problems. Sure enough the wheel starting plowing again. Eeek, I backed way off and saved myself the trouble of eating pavement. Back at the Visitor's Center I got off the bike and checked the front tire. I could sink my thumb into it almost to the rim. Superb. I believe I may have identified the key variable in my aforementioned experiment. I had pumped up the tires the night before because I knew it would be so dam early, but I didn't re-check it before leaving the lab. I have been having trouble with pinch flating in the front and I have checked inside the tire, so there must be something with the rim and/or rimstrip. Needless to say, I will be sure to check that out before the next time out.

Anywho, I was able to pump up the tire and I made it back home all-told with 50 miles under my belt and only minus some pride and epidermis.

My conclusions from this experiment are as follows:

1. 5:30 is dam early
2. grass is softer than concrete
3. I should've paid more attention in math class
4. gravity is not to be trifled with
5. even internal academic committees can be provoked
6. proper tire inflation is important
7. I'm kinda stoopid
8. crashing a bike sucks
9. I don't like it
10. It would be better to stay seated and in the upright position at all times


Buckshot77 said...

At least you didn't bleed on the Ireland jersey! Good meeting you on the ride. I too seem to be bound to test the laws of physics and crashes on a regular basis.

Brian said...

Yeah, save the jersey, save the bike sacrifice everything else, including dignity.

I was thinking more about and realized that was actually my first road bike crash - ever. Mountain biking is another story all together.

Good meeting you too.