Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Debut ride on new bike is a tear-jerker

Fiona finally got to take her new cruiser for a proper ride today.  She and I rode downtown to meet Jan and her cousins for lunch.  We were spirited adventurers, blithely ignoring the forecasted rain, the flooded bike trail and other incentives to take the car.

The closed bike trail forced us on to city streets, where Fiona navigated confidently and calmly.  The cruiser has only a coaster brake, and it took a bit of practice to get the hang of braking effectively when it was called for.

Being the cautious and smart dad, I steered us away from the busier streets to K Street, a pedestrian mall of sorts that was opened to bicycles just this year.  As we rolled onto K, I told Fiona the route would keep us free of sharing space with cars, but would also feature light-rail tracks and the dangers associated with them.

Not three minutes later, we found ourselves on a stretch of road where train tracks crossed each other in a pattern of confusion that resembled an angry kindergartner's scribbles.  Navigating this maze would require steely nerves and focus, and I worried that Fiona would panic. As it turns out, I was worrying about the wrong cyclist.

In the time it took to utter a reassuring phrase to Fiona, my front wheel found one of the ruts.  As anyone who has experienced this already knows, I was instantly on my way to the pavement.  Seeing me fall, Fiona veered slightly to avoid being hit and put her own tire into a track.  She and I fell together, with my weight hitting the back of Fiona's bike and helping drive it to the ground.

First, the good news.  We're both sore and bruised, but otherwise OK.  Nothing broken, but we each sport a pair of scrapes and sore spots.

Now the less good news.  The right crank arm on Fiona's bike bent inward, eliminating the clearance between the crank and the line of the chain.  I do not know whether this is something that can simply be bent back into position, or if the crank will have to be replaced.

We walked our bikes the rest of the way to lunch and managed to get on with our lives.  Fiona's bike is waiting at my office; I'll retrieve it tomorrow and get going on the repair job.  No kid should be without her new bike three days after Christmas.

While I'm not one to look for others to blame for these things, I have to say I'm somewhat amazed that this criss-cross of train tracks occupies the entirety of the section cyclists are required to use on this street.  The ordinance requires that cyclists ride between the broad yellow lines that mark the section of street used by light rail cars.  This makes sense as a way to keep bikes from endangering pedestrians, but some exception (or warning?) has to be made when a section of that area is as dangerous as this one is.


  1. OUCH! Sorry to hear about the mishap.

    Is the crank arm bent? Or perhaps the chain rings?. I don't think you can straighten that type of crank arm, but you should be able to straighten the chain rings. Let us know what you work out.

    Only tracks I have to deal with are heavy rail and they are nice enough to mark those with signals. Most crossings around here are bad enough that dismounting and walking is the preferred option.

    Perhaps that is what they are trying to do with your tracks?


  2. Michael: Been there -- done that! Not fun. Beautiful day on the tandem with the Mrs. (sans kids). Go to Treasure Island on the ferry and ride -- car free. While waiting for ferry, a huge downpour. We are staying at fancy hotel in SF. Riding up Market, through puddles and car splashes, we wipe out on streetcar track; just didn't see it in the dark and water. Both land in inches of a puddle. Sore, but alive. Get to hotel, valet park the tandem and then limp through hotel as they are hosting a wine tasting. We six-fist wine cups up to our room, dripping wet. Sat in tub for hours that night. Hope you and yours are well; love the blog and your bikes. Billy

  3. Angel Island -- not Treasure.

  4. Billy,

    trolley tracks obscured by darkness and water is my new biggest fear... it just sounds awful. Glad you came out of your misadventure intact... thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

  5. @Aaron,

    You can be sure next time we will walk that stretch!

    Happy New Year and thanks for reading and commenting!