MadTV: The journal

Learning from friends
The weather people have been making dire predictions over the last few days. Apparently England's about to have a weeklong ice age etc etc yada yada. But I don't believe 'em. Why? Well Spring starts soon and when it arrives I will have ridden through two complete winters. That's two winters where we've been told we are about to experience the coldest season in years, where Siberia is arriving to stay but what actually happens? It rains a bit... Just like it normally does in England in the winter. It's just the weather people hedging their bets. Now don't get me wrong I'm sure this will be a cold week, we might even seen a dusting of snow, in fact this morning there was a good frost. But it isn't going to be feet deep in snow anytime that the gulf stream continues to head this way.

On top of my cynicism about the coming weather I have another reason to scoff in old man winters face. My new job is a mere three miles from my house. My commute is now a ten minute run of cutting up the rush hour traffic. This means I'm actually riding with my Kevlar lined jeans on instead of full textile gear just because I don't get cold in those ten minutes. What luxury that is!

So why's this post called "Learning from friends"? Well, a while ago Gary posted about how he'd ridden off his drive onto what turned out to be sheet ice. This morning as I headed down the drive I remembered what had happened to Gary and I stopped to look at the road's surface just because it was a very frosty day... and what do you know? In the shadow of the houses behind me the road was icy! So cheers to Gary, his post may well have kept me upright. :D


Steve Williams
I've gleaned some technique from Gary too. I always walk out to the road to check the surface for adhesion. Good habit to get into. I'm planning to always ride through the winter. It's just fun to do.

So, do you split lanes on the run to work? Not allow to do that in Pennsylvania but I've seen bikes do it on the autobahn at frightening speeds. I'm a chicken. I wait in line. But I've thought about hows nice it would be to just slip through that space.....
Date Added: 01/03/2006

Gary Charpentier
Well then, it looks like I'm doing something useful after all. Mad, was this on your little Bandit?

Steve, waiting in line can be construed as respecting the other drivers around you, and that is an honorable position to take. I still remember the whole zen thing I was writing about at the start of my blog. Obviously, I have all but given that up now, but it seemed to be an acceptable way to travel at the time.

But if you ever find yourself in-extremis, needing to get somewhere in a hurry, it always helps to have some practice behind you. Consider it a form of motorized martial arts. Whatever you do, don't ride over your head. Bones take a lot longer to heal at our age...

Ride well,
Date Added: 01/03/2006

Steve: I split lanes (filtering) the whole three miles to work if I go the back road way. It's one of the things I get a real kick out off as a biker. I love to fight my way to the front of the queue using all the techniques at my disposal. I do have a set of rules though. I only filter when the traffic is moving slowly or completely stopped. I've seen plenty of riders filter through fast moving traffic - if the traffic's doing fifty they filter at seventy - but I think the risk outweighs the benefits. When I filter I watch the wheels of the cars to either side of me waiting for them to change lane without warning and gaps in the queues are very dangerous simply because other vehicles will want to get into the gaps and will pull bike killing stunts to get there. If you do try it be very cautious and make sure your lights are on (I know some riders who filter with high beam on).

Gary: Yeah this is on my little Bandit; she's ideal for the cut and thrust of heavy city traffic. Of course you're doing something useful! I don't know if you've noticed but a community has grown up around your blog.

Date Added: 01/03/2006

I'm a filterer(?) myself. Like Mad though I keep that particlar trick to slow moving traffic. Interestingly, (or it may be for our American friends) in the UK filtering is expected on your test if you're in a situation that allows it. To sit in traffic could earn you a failure.

A couple more cold weather hints: Keep out of the shadows (trees, houses, cars etc) where possible. Tarmac on bridges (especially ones over rivers) stay colder than normal roads so will take longer to thaw out. Extreme cold affects you the same way as Alcohol. If you get caught in snow try to ride in the unbroken stuff in the middle of the lane, not in tyre tracks. A lot of motorists don't clean their windows of snow & ice in the mornings apart from a small letterbox right in front of them, give cars a lot more room first thing in the morning. If you don't have snow where you are but start to see cars covered in it coming in the other direction then there's probably some ahead.

Err, sorry. Went on a bit there. Flashback to a class of sixteen year old for a sec. Instructor head is off now so I'll just say Ride Safe!
Date Added: 01/03/2006

Gone Away
Nice to see some good news for a change. Can't stay - I'm off to read all about Zen and the Art of Motorbike Riding on Gary's blog... ;)
Date Added: 01/03/2006

Cheers Sparx, that's all sound advice. My mate Simbo and me have come to the conclusion that another danger area is roads under bridges and flyovers. Road crud, oil and diesel accumulates there as the rain can't wash it away.

Dad go have a browse through some of Gary's other writing here and here for a bit of his Zen.
Date Added: 01/03/2006

Another piece of good advice for this time of year is
"don't eat yellow snow"

I filter for a lot of my 13 mile daily ride and I also stick to slow moving traffic. The one thing I do aswell is that I treat each car individually so I take it one car at a time. Some riders I see just maintain a constant speed and rythmn swinging like a pendulam through the traffic, in my opinion this is very dangerous as it is hard to break the rythmn when a myopic twat changes lane right in front of you.
Date Added: 02/03/2006

But the yellow snow has more flavour?
Date Added: 02/03/2006

sparx says that filtering is expected on your test. I always knew Europeans were smarter than Yanks about what works in traffic and how to drive!

agree with you on the weather prognosticators. You heard what they said about the "weatherman"? He had to move because the weather didn't agree with him. :)
Date Added: 03/03/2006

Irondad In our bike test over here you are expected to "make progress", what that means essentially is you musn't be timid and when the opportunity to use a bike's natural advantages occur you must take them.

Maybe we should call them weather soothsayers?
Date Added: 03/03/2006

Are you coming to the states to see your father this year? I believe that is what I read. I only started reading Garys blog in the last couple weeks or so and just read yours for first time today. Are you going to be riding bikes?
If you need a place to spend the night I am sure my wife and I could lend you and a friend a room and hot bath or shower. I live in northwest arkansas, a little town called Centerton. Four miles west of Bentonville, Ar. There are some beautiful roads to ride on in this area of the USA.
The only catch is I will need to know date you might visit because we have four boys and not sure what time they might need rooms. Email if your interested.

Date Added: 05/03/2006

Wow, Jim that's very generous of you! I am thinking about riding over to Arkansas, an American friend of mine recommended riding in the Ozarks. That is currently as far advanced as my plans are. I don't have a date or even know what my route would be - except that I would start from Lawton Ok (where my Dad is) and that it will be in the summer. I'll give you a shout if I think I'll be in your neck of the woods when my plans are a bit more developed. Once again thank you, I'm touched by your hospitality.
Date Added: 06/03/2006

No problem, just let me know as soon as you can so we will be sure to have rooms if you need them.
You can get my email from this blog right? If not let me know and I will post it here.
Date Added: 06/03/2006

Just click the "contact" link in the navigation for my email address Jim. Thanks again :D
Date Added: 07/03/2006

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