Wet Train Tracks and Your Bicycle

The other day I was riding in the rain, and came across one of my least favorite obstacles while commuting:

Wet train tracks running at an angle to the street and my direction.

Even though I cross them often, when they are wet, they still deserve respect. I know quite a few people who have learned the hard way that wet tracks can bring you down with the quickness.

Here are a few of my suggestions on how to handle them.

First and foremost, if you find yourself in a situation with a rough crossing or are nervous about a busy crossing near cars. There is no shame in walking your bike. Play it safe until you build up your bike ninja skills and confidence on your wheels. The fall isn’t the worst part. It’s landing in a slush puddle in the winter or having the car tailgating you almost run you over.

That being said, here is how to roll over those slippery suckers.

Come at the tracks at as close to a right angle as possible. The masterpiece below shows what I am talking about. The red lines is the path of the bike.

After you have your path picked out. You need to reduce your speed to your comfort level before getting to the tracks. Be aware the area around the train tracks is also quite slippery. And the road way before them will have oil on the ground from when cars are waiting for the trains to go by. Roads with oil are most slippery with just a light bit of rain on top of them. Keep this in mind when choosing your speed and when to start braking to reduce it.

So you have your approach all ready. Now it is time to roll over them bad dogs. You want your weight distributed evenly over your bike. Meaning not all your weight on your seat. Distribute it evenly over your hands, feet, and booty. Stay loose, but maintain a fir, grip on your bars. Not a death grip, but you want to hold your bars to keep them from spinning if the tire hits something at a funny angle.

When you are crossing the tracks and the crossing matting, you can coast if it makes you feel more comfortable as you roll over to the other side.

Done and done. Easy as pie. Piece of cake.

Somethings to keep in mind are:

The rear wheel tracks on a different path then the front wheel, so give yourself space to get both wheels 90 degrees to the tracks. See below. The blue line is the rear tire.Roughly. And I do mean roughly.

If you don’t have the room to achieve an angle that makes you feel safe, SLOW DOWN, and pedal over the tracks nice and easy.

Walking over them is better than falling on them.

Wear a helmet and gloves. Keep your head safe at all times. Always wear a helmet. And if you do fall, the first thing people tend to do is put their hands out. If you don’t have gloves on, you may end up with a palm full of broken glass and gravel. Ouch.

Check your tires. Keep your pressure maintained and watch for excessive wear. The siping (the tread on road or hybrid tires that is cut into the tire, not knobs that come out of the tire like off-road tires) in the tread of the tire along with the rubber compounds of the tire work to help keep you upright.

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