South Salem Cycleworks, 4071 Liberty Road South
Salem, OR 97302-5752
(503) 399-9848
Hours: Monday - Saturday 10 AM to 6 PM; Closed Sunday

An Icy Ride - Highest Point in Salem, December 12, 2011

Why did I decide to ride over the highest point in West Salem after last weekend’s escapade on ice? Somehow I reasoned that because the road runs nearly East/West, and is a fairly wide road, that it would be dry. I rode my Italian road bike thinking that I’d be in less danger of crashing than last weekend, and going downtown and over the Center St. bridge was just your dry, cold, winter day.

Wallace Road, and Orchard Hts. was dry until shortly after West Salem high school. When I say dry, I mean free of ice as the temperature was 29 degrees. Shortly after that climb, the road appeared to periodically have the de-icer lines on the pavement, but as I was not having any problems, I continued on. I did un-clip one shoe after finding my rear wheel doing little zip, zip, zip’s of losing traction on a small incline. And I left it un-clipped as I rounded a corner that looked suspicious. On the next to last climb, I remained seated where I normally would have been out of the saddle because it looked like it might be ice as well. By the time I reached the summit, frost had landed on everything, turning the landscape into glimmering white. I stopped and took some pic’s, and then began the descent.

icy road

I was pretty sure that it would be similar to what I had traveled so far, and was going to ride the brakes to ensure that I didn’t suddenly find myself riding into a patch of ice unexpectedly, and at speed. What greeted me was continuous shiny pavement for as far as I could see. Now the better part of valor, would have been to turn around and ride the way I came, but in my eagerness to complete the ride, it never crossed my mind!

It sure looked slick, and I was riding my brakes gingerly, not wanting to cause my wheels to slide out from under me, but not wanting to increase my speed, and the possible increase in impact should they do so! I felt the rear tire slip a couple of times, and I reasoned that I should ride where the pavement surface was more bumpy, to give my tires more traction. I immediately noticed my mistake as they slipped almost instantly and in attempting to turn back to the smoother portion, they slid once more, and in attempting to correct that, slid out from under me. You might know you’re about to hit the pavement on ice, but betwixt that moment and the impact, is the smallest amount of time one could attempt to measure!

I was trying to get back up, and both get off the road and assess the damage to me and my bike, but it was slick and the bike kept sliding away from me whenever I put weight on it for balance. My saddle was askew, and I could hear my rear tire scraping against my fender. I could also hear an approaching vehicle from behind and didn’t wish to be in a spot where he’d have to use his brakes unexpectedly! He came to a halt as I was pulling my bike onto the crunchy shoulder of the road, and offered me a ride. It didn’t take me long to respond that I’d like that, but maybe a little further down the road where someone wouldn’t come over the hill and catch us loading the bike in the back of the pickup. He didn’t pull into a driveway, and it made me nervous. A truck coming up the hill forced me back onto the shoulder before I caught up with my ride. I heard the other truck’s tires spin as they reached the summit of the climb.

My ride offered to take me home if I wished, but I told him I only needed a ride off the hill. It was foggy on this side of the climb and that explained the icy conditions on this side. My driver lived somewhere on the north end of Oak Grove and told me tales of having left road twice in this vicinity, and once doing a 180 as well! I still felt he was taking the corners way tooo fast, almost feeling like the truck was drifting thru the corners! I told him of my decision to seek the rougher surface of the road, and he thought that was where the de-icer hadn’t been applied, that I should have stuck with the tire wear in the pavement. I’m not sure I care to test this theory!

Initially, I thought that I’d get out when we hit the intersection of Oak Grove, as I wished to travel south and he north. But when I spied the surface of Oak Grove, I asked him to take me to where it leveled out. He asked if I was sure, as my shirt had holes in it — but I replied that they were merely skid marks and I was fine. I waved him off as he drove south, expecting to see him turn around somewhere, but he never returned. My attention was focused on getting my rear wheel to turn without rubbing my fender. I opened the quick-release on my rear brake, but still had fender rub. I found my mini-tool in my seatbag and adjusted the fender stays to clear the tire. It took a while standing at the side of the road, waiting for someone else to come along and explain that I was fine. I reflected that fenders weren’t the best option to have on slick roads where you might have a crash, but on the other hand, if it had turned warm enough to create slush, they’d be a blessing.

I finally got them adjusted and rode slowly down the now-even-more questionable road! It was probably just fine, but I sure didn’t want to risk crashing again, even at 5mph! I was getting cold from not working hard, and my left arm felt the cold even more. I thought that I’d melted the ice on the sleeve of the jacket and as it wasn’t waterproof, just wind-proof, it was the dampness that was draining my heat.

I was relieved to get on Hwy 22, it was dry and dusty. I’d thought about riding it directly into town, thinking that the fog off the river on Independence Hwy would create some dicey conditions. I turned off on the triangle that would allow me to turn back onto 22 if Independence Hwy turned out to be a nightmare. It didn’t, though my mind was suspicious of every dark patch of surface! I reached Independence, but really felt the need to exert some energy to warm up, and hoped that River Rd. S would be dry and allow me to warm up. Independence bridge was wet, and shiny. I remained seated, keeping my weight on my rear wheel, hoping that the ridges running sideways on the bridge would allow my tire traction. There were puddles of water in the gutter next to the sidewalk — and I’d thought of walking, but worried about getting too cold — so I felt some confidence that the travel lane was thawed as well. Nonetheless, I was nearly exhuberant to get off the bridge and find the pavement dry enough to stand up and push myself into a semblance of warmth!

torn jacket

The pavement on River Rd. S was nice enough that I decided to go up Hall’s Ferry and get on Riverdale — a little climbing, but much more pleasing route with less cars. If it had been wet, I’d have been worried about the piles of slippery leaves, but they were all dry and crunchy. I felt great, and really was appreciative that I hadn’t taken Hwy 22 straight back into town earlier. By the time I got to Madronna, I was warm and toasty, and it was only in the hairpin turn that I was anxious about the slickness of the pavement.

When I got back to the shop, it was pointed out that, indeed, I did have a hole in the shoulder of my jacket, big enough that justified feeling my left arm was getting cold!

Other than that, I felt unscathed. It was only that evening that my body began to tell me I’d suffered some bruises that required the attention of Ibuprofin!

Looks like this coming Saturday will be sunny, and hopefully not as cold!

Michael