My Bicycle Commute: New Rubber vs. Sand



A few days ago I put new tires on my road bike. The slick tires it came with when I bought it last year have always scared me a bit while descending hills or negotiating traffic circles, especially in wet weather. So, I went looking for a tire with a bit of tread and more “grippiness.” After reading a lot of reviews online, I decided on the Continental Grand Prix 4000 with “black chili” compound, designed to stick to the road. These are not cheap tires, but I justified the nearly $150 USD spent by weighing the expense against my peace of mind on the road.
Yesterday, I set off for work at daybreak with a messenger bag on my back containing a pair of boots, a couple notebooks, a Kindle device, and my trusty Macbook Pro. The load probably weighed in the neighborhood of twenty pounds. I felt so good about my new tires and remember thinking, “hey, these feel pretty good.”
I made it to the first intersection on my street–about 200 meters from the gate. I turned right, moving about fifteen miles per hour. The next thing I knew, I was rolling across the asphalt. Some of the words that leapt off my lips made me glad most of my neighbors speak so little English. After picking up the yard sale that was me in the street, I saw the road was covered in a thin layer of sand and grit that must have been applied during the last snowfall. Lesson: no fancy black chili tires are going to save you from sand or gravel with weight on your back. You’re going down, soldier.
Damage report: brake/shifter boot torn, derailleur scratched, seat scuffed, and handlebar end cap not to be found. (probably shot off into the cornfield) My body impacted from ankle, to knee, to hip, to shoulder, to chin. I’m pretty certain my pride got scuffed up along with my clothes.
Praise is due for the Timbuk2 messenger bag containing my non-organic valuables (Thankfully, the organic valuables escaped damage.) The nylon sustained an asphalt scuff, but despite smacking into the pavement, neither the Kindle nor the Mac were damaged. Overall, I feel lucky there was no traffic at the time, and that at 44 years of age I can still take a hit and walk away.

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