We started with smiles and high expectations and finished with broken noses, broken bikes, cuts, bruises, grazes, swollen knees -- and smiles. This is the tale of the inaugural Port Elliot to Gawler cycling adventure!
Andrew, Pete, Dave and Jane (Dave's wife who graciously ferried our bags to and from Port Elliot) waited patiently at Jaspers, Evanston, for the ever-so-slightly-late Michael at 7am. Wishing us well as we headed off to pick up Juz at Kersbrook were Frank, Wilson and the other congregating Gawler Wheelers, who were departing on their regular ride from the same point.
Note my (Andrew) thick wooly gloves, supplied by Dave after I discovered my usual winter long-finger gloves were not up to the weekend's task! My wife promises you, Dave, they'll be returned good as new (!)
The first stop was Kersbrook, to pick up Juz. (Dave, Juz, Pete, Michael, Andrew)
Saturday was an absolute dream ride in great weather. 133km, we arrived just after 1.30.
Stop at Hahndorf for a pasty and a pee.
Damn pre-hydration ...
we're there! my GOD we were hungry! Pete ate 2 pies and THIS!
we're not tired ...
The first 40-odd kms to Strathalbyn was wet and miserable, but uneventful. Until Pete and I both crashed on the slippery train lines. My derailleur hanger was fractured, so we thought over what to do over a coffee. I decide to complete the journey (100+kms) without changing gear. I'm in the big ring, second-largest gear on the cassette. This is going to warm me up ...
A few kms later, on the awful Strath->Mt Barker road, Dave crashes. I crash into him. Juz crashes into me, striking the aero spike on the rear of my helmet with the side of her nose. Riders, bikes strewn across the road. Mad dash to pull dazed riders from the approaching traffic.
Juz's nose is obviously broken. Space blanket out.
We flagged down a passing police car, Juz gets in out of the cold and rain and an ambulance is called.
Incredibly, my parents in law - who live 500 metres from us in Gawler - happen to be driving past on the return from Clayton. They stop, and Juz's bike is loaded into the boot. It's going to Gawler. She's going to the RAH in typically good spirits.
That's my father in law Tony in the white jumper. What a bizarre day.
Just before the ambulance door is swung shut, she calls out, "Where's my Garmin? How am I going to download my ride data tonight without my Garmin?"
Somehow, although the bars have to be twisted back into alignment, my bike can still be ridden, even though it has crashed on the broken derailler hanger-side for a second time.
And then there were four. Pete, Michael, Dave and I head disconsolately for Mt Barker in the miserable weather. Downbeat. Right knee starting to hurt.
Of course, this is where Pete gets a puncture. "I ******* give up," I remember saying.
We get to Mt Barker, eat lunch and have a coffee, and plug on. It's a bit of a race against sunset now.
The rest of the ride - for me at least - was pretty horrible, even though the weather cleared. I'm somehow pulling up the hills in a ridiculous gear, and then spinning a ridiculously high cadence to maintain a half-decent flat pace. For 100kms.
When we got to Kersbrook, my right knee totally shot, with 25kms to go, my back muscles gave up as well. No choice. Not giving up. Keep going. Lots of pain.
Pete and I say goodbye to Dave and Michael at the Kentish Rd turn-off on the Gawler->One Tree Hill Road. Handshakes all round. It's been an epic, immensely challenging, friends-for-life kind of experience.
Pete says quite poignantly: "Even with the same outcome, I'd do it again." Tellingly, Juz's text to all of us on Sunday evening was identical: "I'm ok, rather sore and the face-ache is spectacular but I had such a good weekend, I'd do it again even with the same outcome." Hear, hear. Just tell that to my knee right now (and my wife!!!!!!).
One last disaster. On the final few kms to Gawler, the rear derailleur hanger finally cries enough. It swings into the spokes, I wobble, pull over and pull out the phone. Bike unridable, the last few kms are done in the car. "Hi Dad!" "Hi girls." "How was your bike-ride?"
Excuse my ignorance but why are railway lines so likely to result in a fall? Are they not perpendicuar to direction of travel? Is there an avoidable factor? There are none where I ride so dont have any experience from a cycling perspective.
@ Jules, Tracks outside of Lyndoch heading to Williamstown are at a 45 degree angle to the road, similar to that down at Strath for memory, hence more surface area. GW 's only seem to fall on these ones as others at Gawler, Two Wells, etc no issues.
You're right, Mick. The Strath line was exactly like the one outside of Lyndoch. Add the wet weather and tyres with a racing-slick profile, and voila: disaster! And, as Clive and others point out, the activity of cycling seems to be inherently wobbly anyway.
I didn't have any problems with my bog-standard Rubinos, which do have a fair amount of tread on them, and I went over the lines twice. None of us were doing any great speed.
I did have a problem with my Rubinos a little later in the day, though, and it had nothing to do with railway lines...
Not to mention, in Strath there are 2, possibly 3 tracks running alongside each other, so you have to cross multiple tracks at unlovely angles. Trying to ride as perpendicular as possible across all of the tracks puts you right in the middle of the road and it's quite busy through that strip in Strathalbyn.
I'm with Dave though, running Schwalbe Lugano tryes with light tread on them and I crossed the tracks (very cautiously) without issue.
Quite often these rail lines run across the road at an angle, when riding solo it's quite easy to cross them at a straight through angle but a little more difficult to jockey for a good line when you're in a group, personally if I know theres a rail line ahead I will seperate myself from the group and cross solo. Even so it's still quite easy to take a fall, theres another thread going currently about riding through corners where it reminds us that as we ride we are constantly moving on the bike to maintain balance, you only have to be slightly off blance, out of the seat and you will lose the front wheel just the same way as you can on loose gravel when cornering. Tiredness, lack of concentration on the road when in a group, chasing a group can all lead to these mishaps.
I think from reading previous posts that the Strath tracks have more accidents than the tram tracks at Glenelg. In last years 2011 TDU, people were falling everywhere and it was a warm day, no rain in site.
In another post Dean mentions safety jackets and non slip safety tape for slippery stair treads etc. Seems to me that where community bike rides are going to cross rarely used track some application of this tape would be a good measure for the day.
Or just put a piece of carpet over the train line for the day....
Yes I've often thought that these precautions should be made on community rides and wondered abut thin sheets of ply.
Fantastic to see everyone is ok now and bikes and people on the mend. What an event filled weekend. Its made me want to be on your next weekend to Port Elliot !!!
Juz, Welcome to the broken nose club. I propose next time over cooffee at GW, we discuss our injuries LOL
When I lived in the country, crossed big 'rails' of cattle grid but always at 90 degrees.
That question about the railway lines has got me thinking again about how a rider balances. Was reading that thread started by Ian Rawley, about bike balance and 'going around the bend'. That prompted me to develop my own theory. Thanks Ian, very interesting. But I will keep it simple and just apply my 'alternative' theory to straight line riding for now. I think it still works for cornering, and banking the bike. But that's not needed for the railway line problem.
My theory is that we balance by making the momentum of our body carry our combined bike and body C of G back and forward across the line joining the two wheel contact points on the road below. This happens with constant, generally miniscule, adjustments of the steering.
So the two critical requirements to maintain balance is to have a certain useful amount of momentum and the ability to change the direction of the bike under the rider, relative to the direction of the riders momentum. The slower you ride, the more conscious, and larger, are these steering inputs. This means that to maintain balance the rider needs the abilty to steer. Which means the front wheel gripping the road.
As far as railway lines are concerned, the first obvious statement is that the quicker the tyres get over them the better. The slower you go, the more time for the tyres to slip a large distance sideways. And if slipping actually occurs then the normal steering response is useless because a sliding wheel offers no steering effect. This is one of the main principles involved in defensive driving. When the front wheels lose grip the driver loses all steering ability. Same with a bike.
Also, the shortest time in contact with the slippery steel is when the rider crosses at right angles.
The slower you go, the more distance the wheel can slip before finding the bitumen on the other side. So maintain a reasonable speed. No need to go crazy, just don't drop right down to 3 or 4 km/hr. And do try to cross at right angles.
By maintaining some reasonable speed the rider has also maintained momentum. So if there has been a small slippage, then as soon as the wheel reaches the bitumen again, the rider has what is needed to regain balance - momentum.
The other thing that comes to mind is the shape of the curvature on the top of the railway lines. If the bike crosses them diagonally then slippage can occur because the tyre is slipping down a sidewyas slope - down the curvature of the side of the line. Crossing at right angles overcomes this problem - there is no sideways slope, just a fore / aft slope - a bump effect.
I remember my first crossing at the Lyndoch crossing, on a rainy day, where the rails are at 45 degrees to the road. There was a rider just in front. He tried to do the right thing by slowing right down as he attempted to cross. I am not sure if he was actually at right angles to the line. He was rolling very slowly, and then in a flash he was falling. The tyres slid sideways so fast, and he had very little forward momentum. Down he went. Luckily no injuries.
So next time I find a railway I will be putting my theory to the test. I am not going to slow right down. And I am going to cross at right angles. Traffic allowing. If traffic is nearby I reckon I will stop and wait till it is all clear before testing the theory!