Sunday, February 4, 2007

Most dangerous organized ride ever

For a lot of reasons, I am pretty safety conscious when I am out riding my bike. I never ride without a helmet, and I try to be as safe on the road as possible. Yesterday's ride up in Kingwood was perhaps the worst-chosen route I have ever ridden.

On these organized rides, one occasionally expects to see poorly-controlled traffic, loose dogs, a route on the feeder road, no shoulders, loose gravel, unmarked potholes, construction and aggressive traffic. One does not expect to see these things all on the same ride. It wasn't just me. Several riders around me were quite upset.

When we were starting, one truck ignored an officer in the intersection and took out two bike riders. One went over the hood, and the second went through a driver-side window. Although I didn't see the accident itself, I know this because I saw the aftermath, and a rider who finished next to me saw the whole thing. Upon hearing this, another rider commented, "My friend turned down the role of safety marshall because he disagreed with the route." For five of the last seven miles, we had ridden together through feeder road construction that put cars (that wanted to go 50 to accelerate to the freeway), construction equipment, and bicycles in the same gravel-strewn lanes. This was a so-called "recommended ride" for the MS 150. I (lamely) joked that the reason it was a "recommended ride" was so that everyone would get very serious about safety very early in the season. I rarely toss out my prerace plan, but yesterday I did in the name of self-preservation. I rode up much faster than I wanted to, just so that I could hang on to a pace line that was moving through the bad area quickly. It was so bad, at the end of the ride I literally thanked God for returning me to my family safely and asked him to look after all the people who probably got hurt that day.

It was pretty cold and a little windy, too. It was about 35° Fahrenheit at the start of the ride and at the end it was 42°. I had systematically packed everything but my tights, but it turns out I really didn't need them with the four layers I had on top and wind stopper mitts. Not that I wanted to, but I found out that your toes can be cold for hours without getting frostbite.

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