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View Full Version : slippery when wet... (Custis trail)



vvill
08-10-2011, 08:21 PM
This could go in the commuter forum too but I mostly wanted to ask about/bring to light my experience with a part of the trail last Thurs on the way to work. I was on 700x23 slicks after heavyish overnight (3am) showers doing my regular 8-10 mi commute, leaving a bit before 7am.

In the last 3rd of my commute just north of the intersection of Custis w/ N Scott St (next to N Scott/Lee), on the way to DC, an area I've ridden thru at least 100x this year, I lost traction on my tires on a yellow painted median line which then led into a worn groove between two of the trail pavement blocks. By the time I was in the ped/bike intersection of N Scott St (which was a green signal) I'd lost my balance. I hit the street and cracked my helmet in a few places, my front tire punctured, and I broke my left arm (+ road rash along my left side and two very sore hips). I finished my ride into work thanks to the very welcome help of a friendly ex-bike mechanic named Jason riding behind me (and I did have a mini pump and spare tube in my saddle bag) but I haven't been able to go to work since then. A friend had to deliver my bike back from my office for me as I spent the next few hours getting checked out in hospital. The reason I was on the median is that I had overtaken a rider on the left earlier and was getting back over to the right side after giving her plenty of room.

What I'm wondering is if other people have noticed this, or had a similar experience, or typically ride around/avoid painted medians in wet conditions? Does it count as a legit hazard or am I just being green? (I've commuted every day for a few months until now but this is the first year I've commuted more than 20x in a year in DC.) Was I riding too fast for the conditions? (I'd seen several riders go faster already and I'd already begun braking before I lost traction - because I knew the intersection was coming up.) I was doing about 17-18 mph when I crashed and that's about a 7-8% downhill I'd guestimate. I'd been doing 100-150 mi/wk before this crash took me out.

OneEighth
08-10-2011, 08:32 PM
Really sorry you ended up hurt. Painted surfaces are often more slippery than the asphalt, though an oily patch on asphalt can make you plant, too.
I don't think tire size really plays that much of a role.
Another thought from my days on a motorcycle---cold tires and new tires are treacherous.

eminva
08-10-2011, 08:36 PM
So sorry to hear this! I hope your injuries heal fast and I am amazed that you went on riding with a broken arm. Sorry you can't keep your streak alive.

Yes, yes, this has happened to me twice a bit further down that stretch in wet conditions (same tires as you) and both times I was able to recover and remain upright. It also happened to a neighbor of mine, so I don't think you are alone by any means. I go very slowly through that section for several reasons: Those seams running the same direction as traffic, the large pedestrian volume coming from the apartment buildings and the numerous cross streets with inattentive drivers coming and going. This hasn't prevented me from having it happen twice, although arguably I was able to recover because of the slower speed? I don't know, but it is definitely not my favorite part of the commute.

Get well soon!

Liz

RESTONTODC
08-10-2011, 09:37 PM
I hope you have a quick recovery and ride again soon.

I skated with my bike many times in the areas, especially when it rains and have to stop for cars. For me, it wasn't paint surface. It's concrete surface that I skated on. The asphalt surfaced ends and concrete surface starts about 15 feet before this intersection. Now, I slow down around 12 mph before the down hill turn. Beside, there are too many pedestrians and uphill cyclists on the wrong side.

brendan
08-11-2011, 08:06 AM
1. There are a lot of concrete seams on the custis trail in that section, most filled with a rubbery compound, but often wider than a road bike tire and very easy to get a tire stuck into - seems like a safety issue to me.
2. Painted stripes are notoriously slippery when wet - when sticking to the right on certain roads, I always keep off of the painted white line, for instance.
3. Over the past year, I've slowed my downhill speed in the Veitch through Lynn St. section. Is it the new signals? A couple close calls? Probably both.

Brendan

JeffC
08-11-2011, 08:12 AM
That downhill stretch of the Custis Trail requires extreme caution, it's narrow, bumpy, too fast, loaded with peds from the apartments, and crosses a few intersections where drivers are looking downhill at cars coming up Lee Hwy, not up at bikers roaring down.

I personally have wider tires so have never slipped there but I did one time get a fishtailing like sensation where my tire momentarily got stuck in the grove but not enough to throw me.

I did wipe out once going down the "S Curve of Death" behind the Italian Store parking lot after sliding on the median line which was wet from rain a few hours before. Since then the median has been buffed off so that it is not slick when wet.

Your fall does not surprise me at that location. Please heal fast and ride safe.

txgoonie
08-11-2011, 09:06 AM
May sound silly but I've fallen and had close calls on wet painted surfaces while on foot! I've actually pulled a groin that way. I jump over lane markers when it's wet now.

americancyclo
08-11-2011, 09:42 AM
Hope you heal quickly. I've had issues with the gummy substance between the pavement blocks in that area too, when wet, or particularly hot. Always creeps me out. I used to fly down that stretch, but I've been taking it slow the past year, knowing that I'll most likely get stopped at one of the lights near Lynn St. anyway.

As an aside, a guy passed me, and a slower cyclist I was following this morning, and almost crashed head on into a cyclist coming uphill by that retaining wall between Quinn and Scott. I never pass anyone there in either direction.

CCrew
08-11-2011, 10:10 AM
Hope you heal quickly!!

Painted lines = ice in the wet. Similar experience on the Custis, but at the west end where it goes under 66. Downhill into the tight left under the bridge and hit the line. Next thing I remember was someone trying to help me because I was knocked out cold. Seems I hit my head on the rail going down based on the marks and helmet. They fixed the dent in the rail the next day :)

Road rash and a slight concussion, but it was a lesson.

5555624
08-11-2011, 11:35 AM
I don't think tire size really plays that much of a role.

I commute with a MTB and 26x1.95 tires, not knobby, and rarely have a problem.

Last week, I asked about tires in the discussion about the "boardwalk at the north end of the Mount Vernon Trail. The same day, the September issue of "velo" arrived and in the "Ask a Pro" column mentioned, "If the course is wet, unpaved, or technical, your pressure should go down...."

Wider tires or lower pressure means a larger surface area in contact with the ground, which should mean better traction. (It means more friction, so higher pressure would reduce the surface area and mean you could go faster.)

vvill
08-11-2011, 10:16 PM
Thanks all. I saw my orthopaedic dr. today and am going back to work tomorrow... on public transport :( No doubt I'll cycle slower through there next time, and especially in the wet. That was my first accident (excepting one instance of not clipping out in time) in 6 years, although I never really rode more than a couple hundred miles a year at most.

Are the concrete slab grooves/slippery medians worth "fixing" somehow? I guess it doesn't sound like there have been too many cases of accidents, and most seasoned commuters are aware of their threat as least.


Painted lines = ice in the wet. Similar experience on the Custis, but at the west end where it goes under 66. Downhill into the tight left under the bridge and hit the line. Next thing I remember was someone trying to help me because I was knocked out cold. Seems I hit my head on the rail going down based on the marks and helmet. They fixed the dent in the rail the next day :)

Road rash and a slight concussion, but it was a lesson.

Ouch! Sounds like you almost had it worse off than me.

houstanrojas
08-12-2011, 02:50 AM
I think new or older tires matter not the size of tires

OneEighth
08-12-2011, 08:57 AM
I don't think tire size really plays that much of a role.

Iíll explain.
Most riders arenít pushing the performance limits of their tires. They generally arenít slipping because of sudden changes in power or because they are dragging a knee through the corners.
More likely, they are slipping because they ride over wet leaves, painted surfaces, or wet metal (manhole covers, expansion joints, grates) at an unfortunate angle. Different tread, lower pressures, and/or wider tires wonít really make a difference here.
Now if you are riding through snow, sleet, mud, grass, or on an unpaved surface, thatís an entirely different matter. Wider, lower pressure tires yield noticeable results for pretty much everyone in that case.
Iím not saying that people shouldnít switch tires if it makes them feel safer. By all means. Frankly, if you feel safer, you will probably be a lot less jittery and tight on the bike. And being smooth and relaxed will go a long way to keeping the shiny side up.
Cheers.

eminva
08-12-2011, 09:17 AM
I agree that you can slip in any type of tires, but in this particular stretch, there is that seam or gap between the squares of pavement running the length of the hill, and if you slip on metal or paint and get launched right into that trough, a narrow tire will get caught in it while a wider tire, I assume, would not. Since this has happened to me twice and once to the OP, it is not a far fetched scenario.

In addition to going slowly through this stretch, if I have to pass a pedestrian or swerve around an obstacle, I try to angle my bike in such a way that I am crossing any slippery surfaces (paint, manhole covers, etc.) at an oblique angle.

Be safe everyone!

Liz

vvill
10-11-2011, 09:53 AM
Took me awhile before I rode this stretch again, but I've been back on the bike now for a month. Whenever I approach this spot, I am pretty much always the person being passed, rather than doing the passing, now. It's actually not really that much of a downhill but the median line, as painted, does force you to steer quite a bit. The concrete seam, where I crashed, is not filled with anything (I guess it wore down?).

Anyway, since then I've done a lot of reading about tires, etc. and ridden also on my MTB a fair bit in the wet. I think it's accepted that a wider, lower pressure slick tire generally has more traction on flat paved surfaces. But as mentioned, wet leaves, metal, or painted surfaces can throw off any tire.

That said, I'm a little skeptical that most commutes cover only "flat paved" surfaces. I think some knobs do actually help in the wet for some parts of my commutes. I've lost some rear wheel traction on slicks on steep climbs in the wet and I feel like the riding surface is often uneven enough that small knobs or at least a textured tire would actually grip better on these climbs when wet. At steeper angles the tire-to-road interface is not just a horizontal line. Does anyone else think so?

Greenbelt
10-11-2011, 10:54 AM
That said, I'm a little skeptical that most commutes cover only "flat paved" surfaces. I think some knobs do actually help in the wet for some parts of my commutes. I've lost some rear wheel traction on slicks on steep climbs in the wet and I feel like the riding surface is often uneven enough that small knobs or at least a textured tire would actually grip better on these climbs when wet. At steeper angles the tire-to-road interface is not just a horizontal line. Does anyone else think so?

I'm with you on this. In fact, I had a nice email conversation with a tire guy from Specialized -- trying to persuade them to make one of their knobby CX tires with kevlar Armadillo flat protection for commuters:


I'll give them a heads up. Thanks for your input.

~ Paul

Sent from my iPhone. Meaning, I must not be on my Epic 29er (or am I wearing Wiretap gloves?)

On Oct 7, 2011, at 10:32 AM, " wrote:

> Probably closest to your Tracer model. In 700-35.
>
> ________________________________________
> From: Paul @specialized.com]
> Sent: Friday, October 07, 2011 1:24 PM
> To:
> Subject: Re: This Is My Gear: Cyclocross Tires CUSTOMER REQUEST
>
> ,
>
> I'll forward your request to my tire product managers. Of our current offering, which tread pattern most appeals to you for the type of riding you do?
>
> ~ Paul
>
> Sent from my iPhone. Meaning, I must not be on my Epic 29er (or am I wearing Wiretap gloves?)
>
> On Oct 7, 2011, at 10:23 AM, > wrote:
>
>> Hmmm. Not as knobby as I'd like -- wouldn't work in snow or slush or sand or mud (all of which I occasionally commute through) -- but interesting nonetheless. -
>>
>> ________________________________________
>> From: Paul @specialized.com]
>> Sent: Friday, October 07, 2011 1:15 PM
>> To:
>> Subject: Re: This Is My Gear: Cyclocross Tires CUSTOMER REQUEST
>>
>> ,
>>
>> Thanks for reaching out. I agree with you and would like to offer a potential solution:
>>
>> http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bc/SBCEqProduct.jsp?spid=64129
>>
>> Refer to this link for our Borough CX Armadillo Elite. A great tire for touring, and yet offroad capable, but with the built in Kevlar protection of an Armadillo tire.
>>
>> A possible solution? Happy commuting!
>>
>> Best,
>>
>> ~ Paul
>>
>> On Oct 7, 2011, at 7:24 AM, wrote:
>>
>>> Dear Paul,
>>>
>>> Many long-distance commuters prefer CX bikes and tires. However, we're more concerned with durability and flat resistance than racing performance.
>>>
>>> Why not meld a CX tire setup with one of your Armadillo kevlar casings -- a high-durability CX tread and width tire for commuters who can't abide flats and don't want to change out quickly worn tires all the time?
>>>
>>> You make it, I'll buy it.
>>>
>>> >>> ________________________________
>>> From: Paul @specialized.com]
>>> Sent: Friday, October 07, 2011 3:17 AM
>>> To:>>> Subject: This Is My Gear: Cyclocross Tires
>>>

CCrew
10-11-2011, 12:11 PM
I run those Borough CX's on my Vaya. I really like them.

vvill
10-18-2011, 07:26 AM
I'm with you on this. In fact, I had a nice email conversation with a tire guy from Specialized -- trying to persuade them to make one of their knobby CX tires with kevlar Armadillo flat protection for commuters:

Nice. Cool that they take the time to talk to their customers and get real feedback.