Stone Cold Swerve

We’re southbound on Rt 376, ticking along at about 15 mph, with fresh string-trimmer debris littering the shoulder:

T – 50 ms

Did you notice the rock? I didn’t.

The fairing ripples as my front tire hits the left side of the rock:

T = 0

I have no memory of the next two seconds.

The offset impact turns the front wheel to the left, so the bike steers out from underneath my weight:

T + 500 ms

Because the bike frame was still aimed straight ahead, the wheel is steering further to the left and putting me even more off-balance. I am somehow trying to lean left far enough to get my weight lined up with the bike:

T + 1.0 s

One second into the event, Mary has no idea what’s going on behind her.

My memory resumes with an image of the yellow midline just beyond my left foot:

T + 2.0 s

Mary heard an odd sound and asks (over the radio) “Are you all right?”

I’m approximately balanced, turning toward the shoulder, and manage to shout “NO!”:

T + 3.0 s

I’m coasting toward the shoulder with my feet off the pedals:

T + 4.0 s

Mary is stopping and I coast past her:

T + 5.0s

Landing gear out:

T + 6.0 s

Back on the shoulder, lining up with the guide rail:

T + 7 s

Dead slow:

T + 8.0 s

Docking adapter deployed:

T + 9.0 s

And stopped:

T + 10.0 s

I sat in that exact position for nearly four minutes.

A slideshow view of the same images so you can watch it unfold:

Doesn’t look like much, does it?

If I could have looked over my shoulder, this is what I would have seen, starting at T = 0 with the rock impact blurring the image:

Surely scared the daylights out of that driver, perhaps confirming all the usual expectations of crazy bicyclist behavior.

Here’s what Mary would have seen over her shoulder, again starting at T = 0 with the fairing bulging from the impact:

Timing is everything.

That Benz is new enough to have automatic emergency braking, as it slowed pretty dramatically while I was busy getting out of the way, but it’s not clear whether AEB knows about small / lightweight targets like pedestrians and bicyclists.

We completed the ride as planned, although I finally realized the front fender bracket had broken a few miles later.

Every adult human male has at least one story beginning “But for that millisecond or inch, I wouldn’t be here.” Now I have one more.

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Frank Herbert, Dune

5 thoughts on “Stone Cold Swerve

  1. Glad you’re safe and sound.
    This is especially timely as I’m planning for today’s ride.
    Did you recover the rock?

    1. Mary kicked it off to the side and I’ve sneered at it a couple of times, but you’re right: I should recover and bury the thing so it doesn’t get another bite at my apple …

  2. Out of the clear blue, going downhill at maybe 30 mph I experienced a “death wobble”
    https://cyclingtips.com/2020/07/bicycle-speed-wobbles-how-they-start-and-how-to-stop-them/
    For an eternity probably ten seconds long, I thought I was to become a red smear on the pavement as I was unaware of the method of dealing with it. I now make a practice of grabbing the center tube of the frame with my knees once each time I go out riding with the new pair of shorts I had to buy.

    1. Yowch!

      Our Tour Easy ‘bents seem immune to shimmy, up to the 47 mph I hit once upon a time before I gently feathered the brakes while trying not to panic. Around here, descents at mid-30 mph speeds work fine. I suppose the stability has something to do with all the stuff hanging on the frames.

      Also: Raspberry Pi FTW!

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