Thursday, October 27, 2005

The killer pothole… avoided

The normal problem with New York City roads is all the minor bumps and divots. But there are the occasional killer potholes. The kind that must be avoided because it will simply will eat up your bike.

I was biking back home tonight just after midnight, cruising on 56th Street on a mild downhill at around 18-20 miles per hour. That might not sound fast if you’re not a biker, but if you’re not a biker you’re probably not reading this. It’s pretty fast, when you’re zipping along on two wheels.

I see in my front headlight a killer pothole. The worst pothole when you’re biking is about 5 inches or deeper and 18 or so inches long. Shallower than that you can just take it. Shorter than that and you can cruise over it. Longer than that and you hit bottom and then can pop over the far end ). Eighteen inches or so is just long enough to let your front wheel drop too far and then hit the far edge of the hole head-on. At best, it’s an easy way to bend a rim. At worst, well I don’t like to think of it.

So I see this hole. It was only about 18 inches wide (strangely square, this hole was), but I was too close to swerve. I had just enough time to react and jump right over it. I cleared it completely, both my front and rear wheel, and continued smoothly right on. It will certainly make the highlight reels!

It’s also a good reason to wear bike shoes. With flat peddles, you can always jump your front wheel, but you can’t control the height of your rear wheel. Jumping your front wheel is better than nothing. The rear wheel hits bumps smoother, for some reason. Maybe because the rear wheel is being dragged and there’s less weight on it if you lean forward. But the front wheel hits these holes full on. With bike shoes, you can hop the hole bike over an obstacle, at least if you’re going fast enough. Of course, I could always bike slower, but… well, yeah right.


AV said...

Potholes=The Enemy.

Also: Grates just wider than my tires=Also The Enemy.

Glad you cleared it!

Fotaq said...

Grates just wider than my tire with the long gap going with the road (why can't they just be rotated 90 degrees!?)... I call them "death grates." Luckily, New York doesn't have them.

Anonymous said...

Must add that you dont need bike shoes/spds to be able to lift the rear wheel off the ground, it just makes it easier. Think about bmxers, most of whom use flat pedals and some of them can bunnyhop several feet verticaly

Fotaq said...

How do those BMXers do that? No matter, I certainly can't raise the rear wheel without bike shoes or toe clips.

Anonymous said...

check this

Fotaq said...

So, if you can bunny hop, can you bunny hop on a road bike? Or do you need the smaller dimensions and tricked-out geometry of a BMX bike?

Fotaq said...

Despite my previous comment, New York does have "death grates." There are two at 58th and Lex (SW corner). And seeing them made me realize that there are others out there. But most grates in NYC aren't "death grates." And these NYC "death grates" are downright cute compared to the massive get-up-and- chase-your-bike-down-the-street death grates of Baltimore I learned to avoid when I lived there.