Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Got Me Under Pressure

I just spent the last hour on Sheldon Brown's site reading about bicycle tires. Well, part of the time I was watching videos about how to pick bike locks. Sheldon Brown had posted a video about how to get around a U-lock by just cutting through the wheel of the bike. This got me thinking about bike locks that I sell and how easy it might be to get through one, so I watched a bunch of lock-picking videos and can now probably pick any lock you put in front of me. Have no fear, though, I have way too many other hobbies already to add bicycle theft to the mix. Not to mention the moral dilemma that it may pose for me...

So I was sliding all over the place on my bike last week, even with studs on my tires. I knew that lowering my tire pressure would actually help with this problem because it would cause my tire to better take the shape of the surface that it was on, but I had never tried it. Really I've just been lazy about it. I mean, when I leave my house at 6:30 in the morning, I just want to jump on my bike and go. I don't want to have to worry about changing tire pressure or making sure my seat is straight or making sure my wheels are properly secured to my bicycle. I learned this week, more than once (unfortunately), that attending to these things at least once in awhile can increase my chances of staying on top of my bike. For example, when I was riding to Mother's to volunteer at our CSA, one of my trailer wheels fell off. Kind of a bummer on Reed Market with traffic zipping by at ridiculous speeds (you know, 30ish mph...).   I parked my bike and trailer and went back and got my prodigal wheel. It was in the grass on the side of the road. I found out that the tire fell off because the skewer had somehow loosened up... alot. I tightened it down, traffic was still zipping by, and re-installed it on the grocery-getter. Not a problem. It could have been, though. 

Another example of a time that I should have attended to my equipment happened last week when I fell on the ground when I was trying to turn into my driveway (there was ice involved). In this example, my rear wheel fell off. This is not a good sign. I'm not sure why it fell off, but I can tell you, that anytime your tire is loose enough to come off with a minimal impact crash, something much worse could have happened. It didn't, though, and that's good. 

To tie this all in with bicycle tire pressure: I decided on Sunday, before I left for church that I would try lowering my tire pressure to improve traction. Sheldon Brown has a big long scientific summary of tires on his site if you're interested. My version is going to be much shorter. So, I lowered the pressure and rode to church. I didn't fall down on the treacherously icy roads. That's good. It really made a huge difference, though. I couldn't ride as fast (and maybe that's part of why I felt more stable), but I felt a much greater level of control. Now, confidence doesn't necessarily equal safety, but in this case I think there was certainly a safety improvement. I'll definitely take the time to lower tire pressure on snowy days now...and maybe I'll check and make sure my wheels are actually attached to my bike. We'll see.

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