Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Photos: Riders in the fog

Posted by on December 5th, 2011 at 12:32 pm

A cold and foggy morning made for interesting conditions this morning — especially if you were on a bike.

Despite my body telling me not to stop moving (and generating much-needed heat) I snapped a few images on the Broadway Bridge this morning. While the frigid temps made me cringe at times, the fog made crossing the bridge eerily beautiful.

For some folks, the morning commute wasn’t all that great. There were several reports of icy spots. Two people reported went down on N. Flint just before Broadway and I also heard about icy spots on the Hawthorne Bridge (bridges are notoriously icy because they have no warm earth beneath them).

How was your ride this morning? I wonder, how does cold compare to rain when it comes to people deciding to leave their bikes at home?

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  • Pat C December 5, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    I saw way too many folks riding around this morning without their lights on. Really need ’em on in this fog to stay safe (front and back, please).

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    • beelnite December 5, 2011 at 1:22 pm

      I’m sorry – I only had the rear light. My front light worked for about 3 minutes and then quit – maybe from the cold. But I rode cautiously reminding myself NOT to have a false sense of security when my light is working again.

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      • wsbob December 5, 2011 at 1:42 pm

        hey beelnite…over at bikeforums ‘lighting and electronic gadgets’ category, I read fairly regularly about people being concerned about light failure…so some of them carry backup lights.

        About excessive brightness of some bike lights, and stress to other road users from bike lights that flash; that’s kind of a valid issue. As some people below have noted, the potential of such lights to cause stress can be reduced somewhat by aiming the lights properly to allow a bike to be seen but not unduly distract other road users.

        For the future, it might be worthwhile to do a little mental exercise; think of hundreds, maybe thousands of bikes together on the road, all with their bright flashing headlights and tail lights going. That much flashing light together could be a lot for everyone to handle, possibly calling for the use of steady bike lights in commute situations like that.

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        • Chris I December 5, 2011 at 2:51 pm

          Remember that auto headlights are around 700 lumens, EACH. There are very few cyclists out there with lights of this level, but our lights typically flash. Provided the lights aren’t angled up, it shouldn’t be a problem, at least compared to the cars driving everywhere.

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          • Greg December 5, 2011 at 7:25 pm

            While auto headlights are much brighter, they are typically mounted lower than bike headlights, and most don’t shine up.
            When walking and cycling, I find most flashing bike lights very distracting in the sense of ruining my vision to see other objects.
            I suspect a fair portion of this is from “more annoying = more better”.

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            • El Biciclero December 7, 2011 at 12:05 pm

              On the road, I find the opposite to be true: car headlights are constantly defeating my own light by blinding me, while the occasional oncoming bike light doesn’t bother me at all. I think this is partly because a) bike commuters are relatively rare where I commute, and b) on the road (not on a path), the cars are closer to me and therefore have a light beam angle that shines more directly at me than any bike lights, which are farther away and therefore at a less acute angle to my line of sight.

              On paths, it is probably a different story, but I don’t have much experience with that.

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      • chelsea December 6, 2011 at 11:32 am

        After all of the rain last week, my headlight has been acting pretty weird.

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    • Kristen December 7, 2011 at 11:16 am

      Lots of drivers not using their headlights either. Very disconcerting.

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  • Chris I December 5, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Left at 5:30am from Hollywood heading towards Gresham. It was foggy and icy nearly the whole way. No problems with traction, just took it very slow around corners and when stopping. Looking forward to an ice-free ride home this afternoon.

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  • Steve B December 5, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Outstanding photos, Jonathan!

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  • Spencer Boomhower December 5, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Beautiful shots!

    “bridges are notoriously icy because they have no warm earth beneath them”

    And from what I understand, the two crashes on N Flint were right around the steep part of the freeway overpass:


    So that’s probably why it was extra slippery.

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    • John Lascurettes December 5, 2011 at 2:15 pm

      I saw a woman almost bite it going down Flint just beyond the overpass. The whole of Flint from the overpass to Broadway was pretty icy before 8:30. There was a car behind her that (thankfully wasn’t trying to pass in those conditions. I was behind the car (and not passing it). I had to hit tap my brakes to avoid getting too close to the car – and since they’re metal-on-metal roller brakes, they squealed a bit in the icy weather. The woman cranked her head around to see where the sound came from and started fishtailing on the ice wildly. She recovered thankfully.

      I was half tempted to whip out the mountain bike with it’s studded tired this morning, but I knew I wouldn’t need it in the afternoon. I just rode nice and slow, especially on corners, at a stop and anywhere I was crossing metal.

      The ice was deceptively worse than it looked. I noted that my rear wheel was ever so slightly tailing to the right on roads with pronounced crowns. It felt really weird.

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  • Adam December 5, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    I was curious if anyone out there had any recommendations for good tires that handle ice a little better? I know that no tire can be failproof. But any success stories with good winter tires with more grip?

    Last year, biking back from something in SE, I hit a patch of ice as I turned a corner, and went down hard. I can’t help thinking, had I had better tires on my bike, I might have fared better! My current tires are just regular Bontrager Hard Case kevlar do-das.

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    • Chris I December 5, 2011 at 12:59 pm

      Lowering tire pressure helps. I’m actually looking for guidance in this area. I usually run 110psi on my road bike, but I’m thinking maybe 80psi for icy conditions? Anyone have advice on this?

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      • Editz December 5, 2011 at 1:10 pm

        Your tires should have minimum and maximum allowed pressures stamped on the sidewalls.

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      • davemess December 5, 2011 at 1:15 pm

        There was a good article on velonews a few months ago about tire pressure. It basically stated that vast majority of people run way too much pressure (and this was oriented to racers). 90 PSI was the mechanic’s recommendation (and he has some legit credentials). And again that’s for a racing tire! For a commuter you could definitely afford to go a little lower. (not too low to avoid pinch flats).

        There really isn’t going to be a “better” tire for ice (maybe studded). You just have to recognize that it’s colder out and you don’t know what will be icy and ride more cautiously. Also having a few bike handling skills will help.

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        • Neighbor Gregg December 5, 2011 at 2:07 pm

          I use my 700 x 25 super smooth tires spring through autumn, and my 700 x 32 with minimum pressure in the winter. The thicker tires= more contact with the surface, and less slippage.
          When I put my fast tires back on in the spring, it’s like taking off my boots and running in my socks.

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        • Chris I December 5, 2011 at 2:54 pm

          I weigh 200lbs, and I was following the manufacturer’s recommended pressure based on my weight.

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        • spare_wheel December 8, 2011 at 4:32 pm

          90 psi on a racing tire? unless you weigh 100 lbs thats absurd advice. also, many racing 700x23s are more like 700x20s.


          >Inflating tires to the maximum pressure recommended by the manufacturer tends to underinflate narrow tires and to over-
          inflate wide tires.

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    • Scoutie December 5, 2011 at 1:43 pm

      Continental Top Contact

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    • Ted Gresh December 5, 2011 at 1:59 pm

      It is my experience that tread on the tire does not help with ice. You just have to slow down and take it easy. I feel that descreasimg tire pressure will help some when it is wet because it increases the amount of rubber touching the road and so increases traction; not so much with ice. If you are turning a bike on ice you will go down.

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    • Greg December 5, 2011 at 7:30 pm

      The best advice is to be smooth and slow. Always practice smooth movements, turns, braking, etc.
      If it’s icy out (or cold enough to be), treat every corner as if it might be icy. Give other folks more room and more distance.
      Advice courtesy of MSF training course.

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  • encephalopath December 5, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Lots of impatient drivers not paying attention this morning on N Vancouver and making stupidly dangerous moves across the bike lane.

    I was fully lit for exactly this eventuality, but it did little to induce better behavior from people behind the wheel.

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  • Anton December 5, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Some drivers are outright hostile to bike lights. To wit: from yesterday’s ‘Rant and Rave’ in the Seattle Times “Rant To the bicyclist whose flashing strobe light reflected for blocks in my mirrors. Those blinding lights should be prohibited.”

    Seems like you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Hopefully it will just be a matter of some drivers getting used to them.

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    • oliver December 5, 2011 at 1:12 pm

      It is exactly the point that you can see my flashing light for blocks. And yet it still doesn’t stop people from pulling out in front of me from side-streets.

      We’ve moved into the season where some people believe that it is time we hang up the ‘toys’ for the year. You’ll hear from this guy again in June when all of a sudden the streets are filled with cyclists.

      Of course he would never be the one to complain about the unlit ninjas creeping around. I’m so past apologizing for inconveniencing motorists with my safety equipment.

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      • bikeyvol December 5, 2011 at 3:28 pm

        Being a commuting cyclist and an auto driver – I fully appreciate when folks are lit up like Xmas trees. I can see you!! I want to see you! (especially driving). On my bike I just don’t look at the oncoming bike lights, blinking or not.

        Please please please be obnoxiously bright so I can see you when driving at night, especially when it’s raining. My driving habits have changed dramatically since moving to Ptown – I know too many people that bike and I keep thinking one of them is riding out there at night and I wouldn’t want to cut them off or hit them. Blink blink blink 🙂

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        • Greg December 5, 2011 at 7:34 pm

          Please Please Please DON’T annoy other road users with your lights. Your too bright, improperly aimed, flashing beacon can make other road users night blind.

          There is a reason cars & trucks have detailed regulations about lights. Cyclists can learn from that

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        • was carless December 5, 2011 at 10:44 pm

          There is a marked difference between lighting YOURSELF up like a christmas tree, and shining blinding spotlights in other people’s eyes.

          Placing a spotlight on top of your helmet when you are 6 feet tall on a bicycle is actually highly obnoxious – nobody is looking 5-6 feet in the air for a headlight. Please mount them at the appropriate height from the ground (18-24 inches) and shine them straight ahead, perhaps slightly downward if they are very bright.

          Reflective jackets are great for “lighting yourself up,” as car headlights reflect off of them from the sides, where your lights do not point.

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    • davemess December 5, 2011 at 1:16 pm

      Or you could point your lights down a little more.

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      • are December 5, 2011 at 1:25 pm

        yeah, point ’em down to where no one can see them.

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      • Neighbor Gregg December 5, 2011 at 2:13 pm

        I have two white lights on the front of my bike and two red on the back. If my batteries die on one set, I’m already using the backup, plus I’m extra visible.

        I dislike when people on bicycles point their extra bright lights too high up. Lights should hit the ground 50 feet in front of a bicycle, not into the eyes of the cyclist riding towards you on the Springwater Cooridor.

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        • Chris W December 5, 2011 at 3:09 pm

          agreed! I always turn off my strobe once I make it to the entrance of the corridor. I even ask friends who I cycle with at night to turn their back red flashers to the solid red so i’m not blinded when i follow them into the pitch black!

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        • Hugh Johnson December 5, 2011 at 7:09 pm

          I love my 600 lumen NiteRider. Not very good lighting out here on the east side of town.

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    • Ted Gresh December 5, 2011 at 2:09 pm

      Having a cyclist with an extraordinarily bright light pointed straight ahead (versus pointed slightly down) feels a lot like a car driving towards me with their high beams on. I have had to avert my eyes when riding towards such bright lights and that does not feel safe to me.

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  • Spiffy December 5, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    I took the scooter this morning… it was slick… had my feet sticking out a few times… only went sideways once… took the long way to avoid a steep downhill…

    I prefer warm rain over cold dry… the cold dry air makes it tough to breathe…

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  • GlowBoy December 5, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Studded tires are one thing that is pretty close to failproof. For our not-really-winter conditions one in front is generally sufficient. I ride with a front studder all winter and no longer have to worry about slipping in the middle of a frosty curve.

    For non-studded tires, I find that (unlike on wet pavement) a tire with a modest “file” tread pattern generally does grab the ice a bit better than a pure slick. Rubber compound should make a big difference, too, but we’ll have to rely on tire-by-tire evidence here. I will say that I’ve found Ritchey SpeedMax cyclocross tires to be pretty decent on frost.

    As for lighting … It’s not just cyclists who don’t have the sense to use lighting on foggy mornings. As is usually the case, it looked like about 1 out of 10 motorists didn’t have the wits to turn on their lights either.

    Anton, it isn’t the brightness of bike lights that is driving people crazy — it’s how they’re aimed. I think this is becoming a serious problem now that powerful bike lights are finally available to the masses. Car low-beam headlights are designed to mostly illuminate the pavement, and have a sharp cutoff across the top to avoid blinding others. The reason high beams blind oncoming traffic isn’t because they’re brighter (they’re only a few percent brighter than low beams in most cases), it’s because of how they are aimed.

    It’s fine to aim a $20 blinkie straight ahead to get attention. It is NOT okay to do that with a 500-1000 lumen light that approaches the brightness of a car headlight. Aim it down! If we don’t do a better job of managing our own lighting, the legislature is going to do it for us! And that will NOT be a good thing — just look at the ridiculous bike-lighting regs in Europe. FWIW, I’ve taken the further step of installing a 4″ long “hood” on the top of my bike light, which reproduces the sharp top cutoff that is common on car headlights.

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    • John Lascurettes December 5, 2011 at 2:21 pm

      If the blinky lights are aimed straight at you, it can really screw with your night vision when you’re trying to read the road around the cyclist between flashes of light. You eye can’t make adjustments back and forth that quickly. I think this is why Germany doesn’t allow for the blinky light (and assumption I’m making since B&M light don’t come with that option).

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      • Doug Smart December 5, 2011 at 3:07 pm

        @John L – I’ll second this. If it’s dark enough that I need help to read the road surface, a steady light gives me that “show me” function. If it’s light enough that I can safely see the road, I’ll go to the blinking (and battery saving) “see me” mode. Even when my Blaze light is angled down to illuminate the road in steady mode, the blink mode gives me a return off reflective signs on traffic signal arms a block or so away.

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    • wsbob December 5, 2011 at 2:28 pm

      I…FWIW, I’ve taken the further step of installing a 4″ long “hood” on the top of my bike light, which reproduces the sharp top cutoff that is common on car headlights. …” GlowBoy

      In stage and photographic lighting, a hood like that is called a snoot. I’ve wondered how well an improvised modifier like this would work for a bike light. Not commuting regularly or in conditions demanding the need for carefully controlled lighting, I’ve never experimented with something like this. Glad to hear you are.

      Definitely important to be more conscious of the need to carefully aim 500-1000 lumen lights. Even a 150 lumen light is bright compared to old style bike lights. A light beam of this lumen level too can be quite uncomfortable and stressful if it happens to fall directly into someone’s eyes.

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    • q`Tzal December 5, 2011 at 3:35 pm

      Re Studded Tires:
      Much as I love mine I remove them ASAP.
      The handling is sloppy like an under-inflated extra wide tire with super soft nobbies.
      It gets really squirrly in even 25% of normal turn radii on bare pavement.

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  • daisy December 5, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    I saw one of those folks go down this morning on N. Flint. She was just pass the overpass, or maybe on the edge of it. People already seemed to be going pretty slow. It was also precipitating there–it was like a very small snow shower. Plus on the Broadway Bridge, I saw a few folks walking their bikes, presumably because it was too icy for them. The roads were less icy in NW and SW than along the Williams/Vancouver area, where there were a lot of frosty leaves.

    I knew it was cool this morning, but I didn’t realize how much colder it would feel than last week. Today I’ll be buying some new gloves, because waterproof isn’t enough for this temperature. I need some insulation.

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  • Matt December 5, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Hardly any fog over here on the West side (Beaverton). Super beautiful ride though with the clear sky as the sun peeked over the hills and made all of the frost and ice come alive.

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  • Ryno Dan December 5, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    it was so beautiful this morning i stopped to snap a few photos too…

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  • SilkySlim December 5, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Fun ride this morning over the Hawthorne bridge. I don’t think I actually “saw” downtown until I was coming down the far side.

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  • Chris W December 5, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    I set out after most of the fog had already cleared around 10am and headed north on the springwater from tideman to downtown and only encountered about 5 people on my way. I almost couldn’t find my gloves and that would have meant that I would have been driving, glad I found them! I got caught on the hawthorne bridge lift around 1030 and was stuck there in the freezing cold for about 10 minutes with a whole crew of other cyclists. Glad to see there were some others out there still on their bikes braving the cold like I was!

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  • Anon December 5, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    I’ve broken bones several times crashing in icy conditions. It doesn’t matter how experienced a rider you are — if your front wheel slips, you’ll go down hard, instantly. Riding slowly also makes no difference — in fact, I was riding slowly and carefully both times I crashed. Unless you’re riding on studded tires, my advice is just forget it. Not worth it.

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    • Chris I December 5, 2011 at 3:31 pm

      Riding slow helps prevent the initial slide. But you are right in that once it slides out, it doesn’t matter how fast you are going, you will go down.

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    • spare_wheel December 5, 2011 at 6:46 pm

      if you *learn* how to balance on a bike you can greatly increase your chances of not going down when your front wheel slips.

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  • A.K. December 5, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    I’m sad I had to work today (well, thankful I have a job, really!) – I would have *loved* to bike to the top of council crest and look out at the city over the fog – the shots on the news this morning were beautiful.

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    • was carless December 6, 2011 at 12:16 am

      The higher you go, the more ice there is. I don’t recommend biking to the top of the West Hills during winter – it gets nasty at 1k foot elevation.

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      • A.K. December 6, 2011 at 9:11 am

        I’ve been going up to council crest almost every weekend recently on my rides so far this fall/winter with no issues, but I haven’t done it yet while it’s been cold “and” wet, because clearly some of those road grades would be pretty dangerous they were frozen. Wet hasn’t been a problem when the temperature has been above freezing.

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  • q`Tzal December 5, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Post title: was I supposed to hear “Riders on the Storm” after reading that?

    Or maybe “Smoke on the Water”?

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    • Paul Johnson December 5, 2011 at 7:10 pm

      REAL rock songs are about smoke and it’s position relative to water!

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  • dan December 5, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    I left home around 8:30 this morning; the fog had lifted and the frost was mainly gone, though there were still a few patches. I was having some nice Cat 6 action with a guy on a single-speed Surly; I think we were about even, but he passed me at every stop by running the stop signs at more or less full speed.

    No biggie, I would catch up after every stop…until we came to Ladd Circle. There was a car stopped at the stop sign, waiting for a woman, her small child, and a dog to cross in front of them (i.e., they were walking along the perimeter of the circle). I stopped behind the car, and my competitor went into the other (oncoming) lane to pass the stopped car, cut off the woman/child/dog, and run the stop sign.

    Dang. The other stops he ran were kind of questions of style – no other road users impacted, but that last one struck me as on the rude side. I would have told him so too, but he got way too far ahead after that maneuver for me to catch up. 🙁

    I’m going to call that one a draw though. Think we were about even if we both observed the stops.

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  • Ryan December 5, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    I’ll take cold and dry over rain any day. My least favorite riding weather is when it’s rainy and just a little above freezing. I find it easy to stay warm so long as it’s dry, it’s just a matter of layering well.

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  • JF December 5, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    I left the house at 8am this morning and had a crash on N. Willamette blvd on the bridge that crosses over the rail tracks by N. Ida.

    There was a “construction workers ahead” sign in the bike lane mid bridge. Looked back for traffic, saw none, crossed the painted white line and then BAM. There was a thick layer of frost on the white line. I felt like an idiot.

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    • Stacey December 6, 2011 at 8:22 am

      I crashed in the same spot. I thought that the construction sign was on the sidewalk until I got close, swerved, and then bam. It was a sheet of ice right there. Hope you are okay. I have some gnarly bruises and roadrash that tore up my pants. There was another person on a bike behind me who helped me get up and out of the street. Many thanks to that person.

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  • JA December 5, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    No problem with the fog/cold, but the air stagnation out east this morning on the I-205 path is something I could have lived without… Looks like we get to look forward to that for the rest of the week, maybe…

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  • e December 5, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    i was one of the unlucky ones who went down on N Flint (youch!) this morning and just wanted to thank the 3 folks or so who were following slowly behind who stopped and asked to see if i was ‘ok’…and you always feel ‘ok’ right afterwards. but as i’ve had my share of slips on slick surfaces, it’s usually later in the day or the next day that you figure out that something isn’t quite right…

    be safe out there!

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  • Lynne December 6, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Second the cold and dry over rain. But I’ll ride in either.

    A few words on lighting – generator (dynamo) hub and light. Especially the LED lights. Never go out, don’t care that it is cold. No worries about batteries EVER. Yes, they cost money, but you can get a decent dynamo hub for less than $100 now. Considerably less.

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  • pdxpaul December 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    I bit it on Killingsworth between Vancouver and Williams yesterday. Sore as hell today. Thinking about getting a motorized scooter.

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    • Paul Johnson December 6, 2011 at 4:14 pm

      Careful with those, they don’t have a substantially larger contact patch, and the smaller wheel size means less gyroscopic force.

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      • El Biciclero December 7, 2011 at 6:12 pm

        “…smaller wheel size means less gyroscopic force.”

        …or does it mean more, since a smaller wheel with likely more mass than a bicycle wheel will be turning faster than a larger bicycle wheel?

        What does gyroscopic force have to do with anything, anyway? Two-wheeled vehicles are inverted pendulums, not gyro systems.

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  • Youdontknowme December 7, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    I rode about as slow as I’m willing to ride and totally ate it twice, sliding 5-10 feet both times on the slick road. So much fun!


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  • Gerald December 12, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    I read this post when it was first published a week ago and since then have been ‘kind of’ careful when riding on Flint just before Broadway (part of my daily commute).

    I’ve been riding pretty slow and steady, trying not to lean into turns – and *still* lost traction on Flint today when my rear tire slipped out from under me while turning from Tillamook onto Flint.

    So – I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus above – and re-state that Flint is for real – and that being ‘kind of careful’ might not be enough when crossing over I-5 – and strongly suggest being *uber* careful when the temp gets down to 32 and below – *esp* if turning on to Flint from Tillamook or Hancock.

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