Monday, November 8, 2010

Look out below

For some reason, I'm unable to cycle alongside major roads or highways without battling the unreasonable fear that I will be struck by a flying hubcap.  In my imagined calamity, a hubcap comes loose from a fast-moving wheel and flies Frisbee-like at incalculable speed until in makes sudden, fatal contact with my face.

I'm at least half serious about this.  When I lived in New Mexico, I heard of a friend of friends who was nearly decapitated by a cast-off hubcap while riding as a passenger in a car.  The image stuck with me and still creeps me out today.

So, when riding to Davis alongside I-80, I can't shake the feeling that there is a hubcap out there with my name on it, waiting for the ride moment to slice through the Cyclone fence and knock me off my bike.

Crazy, right?  Irrational, ridiculous fear.  Could never happen.

Uh, no.  Not so crazy.  Look at this.  Look what was waiting for me on the bike trail the other day.   That's right, a damn hubcap.  And how do you suppose it got there?  That's Highway 160 in the background, some 40 feet elevated from the ground.

Clearly, somebody in a Taurus hit a pothole and the hubcap went spinning, flying, careening down the highway.  It hit a bump of its own and became airborne, clearing the guardrail and concrete wall and flying onto the bike trail below.

Here is Satan's Frisbee up close. 


  1. Hi Mike,

    I will try to keep this short because I know it is your blog. But I thought that you would appreciate this story.

    My name is Byron and I am the anonymous e-mailer with the info on your Corsaro’s frame chain hanger. I worked for about twelve years as a bicycle mechanic and at this moment own about 25 bikes of all kinds. I enjoy your blog and your friend Velouria's at “Lovely Bicycle” also. You both strike a chord because of the type of cyclists that you are. That was how I found your blog.

    Now to get to my comment. Reading about your hubcap fear triggered thoughts of an incident that I had while on a cross country & back bicycle trip I did with my best friend in 1980. We are from the Philadelphia Pennsylvania area and started our trip from the New Jersey shore, road across to San Francisco, CA, down to LA and then back east to Jacksonville Florida. +/- 6,280 miles in three months of the summer. We were planning on re-riding the trip at age 40, but life got in the way. We actually went through Davis which was great for cyclists at that time. It was the first time I had ever seen a bike lane on a street. The concept was a little hard to grasp. We also tried to take bike paths around Sacramento to avoid traffic only to be stuck going nowhere. That’s another story.

    Now the part that pertains to your hubcaps. When we got to the Salt Flats after Salt Lake City, Utah, we road on Rt. 80. To stay somewhat cool (this was the middle of summer) we pedaled at night. We were told that it would be so dark that we would not know when our forward motion stopped and would fall over. Believe it or not it did almost happen. We only had small, square flashlights that at that time came with a handlebar attachment. At around 10:00 pm in the middle of the salt flats an 18 wheeler passed us going about 100 mph. No Big Deal! Just as it passed us the truck blew a tire. It screamed and screeched and the sound was deafening. Needless to say we were both shaking. What were the odds of that happening right next to us in a 100 km strip of road? We were really nervous and about a half mile later, in the pitch black night, our front wheels hit what felt like 2x4s. We had just run over what was left of the rubber and steel belts of the tire. We road the rest of the night very slowly out of the desert.

    Your hubcap, Satan’s Frisbee! The whole purpose of our trip was to go to LA for the international Frisbee Competition. Can you tell that we were 21 and just out of college?

    I’m sorry I didn’t keep it too short.
    Have fun cycling,

    P.S. I hope to write you, when it applys, about some of my rides. Two ‘60s Raleigh Sports 3 speeds, 71 Raleigh DL-1 Roadster, ‘38 Elgin Cruisers (Men’s and Women’s matching set). Racing bikes, etc. I just don’t know what to work on next.

  2. Byron,

    That's a great story! Post anytime with my compliments and no need to keep it short. There aren't that many folks fighting for space here.

    Better yet, why not email me something on your Raleighs and we'll do a guest post?

    I don't completely get the part about not knowing when your forward motion stopped... intriguing though.

  3. Mike,

    Falling over on your bike in the dark is hard to understand until it actually happens to you. The best way to explain it is that when you are in the Salt Flats at night there is no light except for maybe a few stars and moon. There are no plants or trees growing on the sides of the road. It is just salt (sand) and flat. In other environments you know you are moving forward when you are passing trees, cornstalks, cactus, buildings or parked cars. Everything is so smooth and flat in that desert that with a dim headlight you have nothing to gauge your forward motion against. The other thing that might give a sense of movement is a breeze in your face. We were moving so slowly, and the air was so hot that we did not generate any air movement. Without an optical sense of motion you would pull your brake levers, know that you were slowing down, but not know when you came to a complete stop. Again, you could not see anything to relate motion to. At this point my inner ear would feel the balance change and I would quickly get my foot down as the bike fell over.

    I didn’t mention before that when I went on this trip I was a complete novice. What I learned about touring and bike maintenance I learned on the trip first hand. I rode the whole trip across the country and back wearing running shoes, gym shorts and t-shirts. I just threw all of my backpacking equipment into rear panniers. I then strapped my tent and sleeping bag on the rear rack. Out of necessity, I learned to build wheels and repack hubs. I could change flats in approximately two minutes (averaging maybe two a day). Not bad with a fully loaded bike. Most times I did these things at night on a picnic table without loosing any ball bearings. (That’s the tricky part).


  4. I'm so glad you elaborated on the forward motion idea... it was as interesting as I suspected it'd be. I'm intrigued by the whole idea of how sensory cues guide our perceptions. I once worked alongside a science crew studying "chronobiology" and how a lack of time/dayling cues messes up our perception of time passing. I love that stuff.

    It makes sense that no breeze and no passing trees/cars/buildings would make it impossible to know you're moving forward, or slowing.

  5. Just for the record that is a hub cap off a Ford Crown Vic...

    Around here we don't have bike paths so we dodge the hubcaps in their native environment...attached to cars.


  6. Aaron, you've opened a whole new aspect to this story. If it's a Crown Vic, then chances are great that it's a police car. This can only mean the government is in on the plot to do me in!

  7. I love conspiracy theories :D


  8. Satan's frisbee! That is rich. Thanks for sharing.