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.