Question: I live in the Midwest and my training roads are criss-crossed with train tracks. The crossings are in terrible shape with the rails sticking up from potholed pavement. And they often angle across the road, too. How can I get over these obstacles safely? — Rod M.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Tracks can cause a nasty crash, derailing your ride in a hurry if you don’t use the correct technique. Here are some tips:
- Choose the smoothest crossing. Many times, the road surface and rail height will be most equal along the right edge of the road where traffic doesn’t travel. Or, it could be in the center of the lane between vehicles’ wheels.
- Approach tracks at a right angle. If the rails run diagonally across the road, check behind for traffic and adjust your approach by swinging out into the road. Crossing at a right angle is essential if the tracks are wet because the metal will be extremely slippery.
- Slow down as you approach. Coast with the crankarms horizontal and stand slightly to put your weight on your hands and feet. Stay back a bit so a slightly greater percentage of your weight is on the rear wheel.
- Unweight the front wheel. Just before your front wheel hits the first rail, lighten it by pulling up on the handlebar. Let your flexed knees cushion the rear-wheel bump, then pull the front wheel over the second rail. Don’t pop up and down so much that you look like a kid on a pogo stick. These are subtle moves.
- Jump with extreme caution. Skilled bike handlers can fly a bike across both rails, but I don’t recommend trying this. It requires considerable speed, and if you misjudge the takeoff, the best you can hope for is a pinch flat as the rear wheel slams into the second rail. The worst? Use your imagination.