I Shoulda Known Better

Today’s title comes from one of John Lennon’s songs in A Hard Days Night. It’s been one of my favorites for a long time. It also describes how I felt about 40 minutes into my ride to work.

On the up side, I didn’t need to use a headlight today. Props to Copernicus.

It was cold. I had a headwind. Most importantly it had rained and sleeted and snowed a bit overnight. My lawn had a dusting of white. The streets were perfectly rideable. So I headed out on The Mule.

The three miles to the Mount Vernon Trail were uneventful, but for the fact that getting warm was a bit of a problem. As most of my readers already know, the National Park Service owns the Mount Vernon Trail. They do not treat it or shovel it in winter. This morning the asphalt parts were fine, but every wooden bridge was icy. The Dyke Marsh bridge is a couple hundred yards long. I didn’t slip at all as I rode across it. There were no signs of crashes in the this white layer that sat on top of its wooded deck. A very short wooden bridge near Belle Haven Park was also not a problem.

I made it to the bricks on the Washington Street deck. I expected to see ice but it was clear.  My next challenge was along the trail near the river just north of Fords Landing. This too was snow and ice covered but I could see tire tracks had made it through this section successfully. I rolled right on through.

My next challenge came from the concrete bridge that skirts the power plant. A cyclists was walking his single speed bike up the hill from the bridge. Not a good sign. I rolled across the bridge and around its tight turn without incident, but I took note of the icy mud in the middle of the turn.

I figured that the farther north I rode, the lower the ambient air temperature and the higher the chance that one of these bridges would be bad news. I figured right.

The next bridge is a wooden deck that skirts the Slaters Lane apartment building. It takes a leftward 90 degree turn midway. The first half was rideable, but I spotted a smear mark in the thin layer of ice and snow on the boards. Someone had crashed. I made it through the turn in good shape despite several more smear marks. Then with out warning my rear tire began to slide sidewards. I gradually tried to steer out of it. Then down I went in a pretty decent imitation of an albatross landing. Somehow I ended up lying flat across the bike’s frame with my upper body and left ribs landing on the downtube (the diagonal one from the handlebars to the pedals) and my legs smacking the top tube (the one from the seat to the handlebars.

Oof! Am I hurt? Nope. Then I untangled myself from The Mule. Ow. Ribs hurt a bit. I stood the bike up. It slid. I was going to take a picture of my smear but the bike would not stay upright. So I walked off the bridge. As I did I could barely get traction. I made it off the bridge, straightened the handlebars and brake hood and rode away thankful that all my personal parts were working. I credit my not getting hurt to the fact that the bike frame cushioned the blow and the bike and I slid on contact.

100 yards further on was the beaver bridge, a similar wood bridge notorious for crashes. I decided to walk this one. Smears were all over the place. A walker was practically skating as she approached. I made it around the curve and went down. Walking! That’s how slippery it was. I carefully got up and pulled The Mule up and we started sliding backwards with the slant of the bridge! I arrested the slide and ever so gradually made my way to the side of the bridge where I grabbed the chain that acts as a sort of guardrail. Just as I grabbed hold I heard a thump. A rider fell 20 yards behind me. “I’m alright. Planned for it!”

He got right up and walked with me to the end of the bridge.

We both mounted our bikes. He sped off into what had become a pretty strong headwind. We’re having fun now!

As I approached the Humpback Bridge a rider coming toward me warned that the wooden Trollheim Bridge (the boardwalk beneath the TR Bridge) was covered in ice. I decided I’d had enough fun for one morning and turned off the MVT and toward Arlington Cemetery. I rode the path around the cemetery to the gate at Fort Myer, banged a right and rolled straight to the office.  While I showered I looked down and saw a pretty impressive imprint of my top tube across my right knee.

Today's crash results. Owie!!!

Funny thing is, last winter at just about this time, I fell riding Little Nellie on the glazed streets near my home. You’d think I’d learn.

8 thoughts on “I Shoulda Known Better

  1. Yep, the beaver bridge/daingerfield island was absolutely horrendous. I was fortunate to see another cyclist slipping and sliding so I slowed way down. Otherwise, I would have approached at probably 10mph given I had only done the one small bridge right before Belle Haven Park and that one wasn’t too bad. Of course, I made it about 10 more feet than this cyclist right where the boards have a slight slant and boom, my bike slid out horizontally underneath me.

    Similarly, no real injury to myself or bike–just to my pride (which is really disguised as ignorance). I also had a really hard time walking it with my bike shoes so I ended up using the chain the whole way across and I still almost feel twice. My issues with that stupid bridge led me to skip Trollheim all together and cross the GWMP, which evidently was a wise decision.

    I feel like we all need a little color scheme thing we can switch at the bridges indicating if they’re okay (green), somewhat slippery (blue), or holy crap immediately dismount and walk with caution (red).

    1. Yep. That’s exactly my experience. I was doing fine. I made the first curve and another 20 yards then my rear wheel started to go. As soon as I shifted my weight the front wheel cut out. I was using toe clips so my feet came off the pedals. The bike went left and I went straight. Thankfully, my panniers acted as an air bag. That’s the worst I’ve seen on those bridges in a long time.

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