October 19, 2017 - Jennifer Milyko is Adventure Cycling's Routes & Mapping Assistant Director and Laurie Chipps is the Membership Marketing Coordinator.
Traveling cyclists must consider many things when preparing for a stint on the road, and we tend to focus our attention on things related to food, shelter, and routes. However, as loaded touring cyclists, we may need to pay more attention to another item: road hazards.
On unloaded, go-fast bikes, it’s easier to stop or maneuver quickly around hazards. But on our gear-laden, traveling steeds, we could all use advice and warnings about negotiating the following six potential pitfalls. I’ve teamed up with Laurie Chipps, seasoned bicycle traveler and Adventure Cycling’s Membership Marketing Coordinator to bring you the following ...
These grids of metal slats found across the rural West keep cattle and other livestock from crossing and can be a threat to cyclists if not approached with caution. A heartbreaking example occurred just this summer when cyclist Frank Uher, traveling from Missoula to Denver with his brother and friends, approached the Split Rock National Historic Site. Frank’s front wheel was caught in a gap in a cattle guard, causing him to lose control and be thrown from his bike. He landed head first on the pavement and passed away at the scene.
The design of the four panel cattle guards present on these roads makes them particularly hazardous, so the Bureau of Land Management is working with the state of Wyoming to create a safer design and place hazard signs at the cattle guards.
When approaching any cattle guard, cyclists should be aware that the spacing between slats can vary, and there may be other gaps associated with the guard. It’s best to cross slowly, as perpendicular as possible, and when in doubt, walk your bike.
Though Kentucky often gets a bad “rep” for dogs, loose Fidos can be encountered anywhere. While chasing moving objects is an innate behavior for dogs, most canines aren’t out to viciously attack. Patrick Tuttle of Joplin, Missouri penned a guest post for us, Stopping a Charging Dog, on how to deal with them.
Most traveling cyclists will encounter railroad crossings on tour, and will often go out of our way to avoid the worst of them on our commutes and recreational rides. Jan Heine, editor of Bicycle Quarterly, has written a summary of considerations and techniques for handling these common crossings in his post, Crossing Tracks Safely.
Gravel and chip seal can cause instability and difficulties while pedaling down the road. On my recent long-distance trip, I unwittingly routed myself onto a number of Wisconsin “rustic roads” and endured some of the scariest, most difficult riding of my 2000 miles. I frequently felt as though I was about to fall over. Holding a steady line proved nearly impossible. I quickly routed myself over to the parallel highway and breathed a sigh of relief.
Laurie had her own experience with loose chip seal — gravel spread over fresh tar — while on her 4,500-mile TransAmerica Trail journey. While in eastern Oregon, and with only 550 miles to her final destination in Astoria, she inadvertently maneuvered too far right in the shoulder, not realizing how deep the loose chip seal had accumulated. Let’s just say that after a quick tumble and a trip to the ER for four stitches across her ankle, she’s more cautious in the shoulders of chip sealed roads and any road shoulder with accumulated debris. And yes, she did make it to Astoria in the end!
Manhole covers, sewer grates, open grated bridges — all of these have three words in common: slippery when wet. Not only could your wheels slide out from underneath you, metal can be loose or uneven, causing pinch flats, or have gaps, causing your wheels to become trapped. Check out How to Bike Across Metal Road Obstacles written by Bicycling Magazine associate editor and former Adventure Cycling tour leader, Caitlin Giddings, on how to deal with these hazards.
Roads settle and heave, and sometimes the resulting cracks can eat your wheel. It’s best to avoid them if you can and cross them as perpendicularly as possible when you can’t. The flip side of these cracks is when they’ve been repaired and filled with tar: on particularly hot days the tar reheats and turns squishy and slippery. This is a hazard, not only on roads, but paved, multi-use paths.
These are our take on six road hazards and some tips on how to address them. Is there something in your neck of the woods travelers should know about? And how do you deal with them? Leave us a comment with your experiences either here in the comments below or on the Adventure Cycling Facebook page.
GEOPOINTS BULLETIN is written by Jennifer ‘Jenn’ Hamelman, Routes & Mapping Assistant Director, and appears once a month, highlighting curious facts, figures, and persons from the Adventure Cycling Route Network with tips and hints for personal route creation thrown in for good measure. She also wants to remind you that map corrections and comments are always welcome via the online Map Correction Form.