Brooklyn Black Ice Feb 16, 2010

I’m “that guy” who refuses to take the train. Regardless of the weather. Everyday, I hop on a bike and truck it into Manhattan. Snow, rain, whatever. Come morning, I’m in my rain gear and on my bike riding to work. Now, I’m not asking for or seeking any kind of credibility, so don’t get it mixed up; I’m just offering some background. The past few weeks, we’ve had shitty weather in NYC. This morning was fine. It was a little slushy but the bridge was manageable.

Read on below…

Tonight was a different story. The streets in Manhattan were fine. Crunchy and salty. Like they should be. The bridge was the same. It was still icy, but I have decent tires (which I let a little air out of) so the trek across it wasn’t an issue. Then I make it to the streets of my neighborhood and what the hell happened to the DOT? There is absolutely no salt on the roads. Anywhere. The entire neighborhood is covered in black ice. The only streets that are ridable are the highway access roads. To boot, the people in NYC do not know how to drive. Period. Add a little ice to the mix and it’s like watching ice pucks sliding around a freshly frozen pond.

I made it over to my friend’s house to pick up a bike part and jokingly said “I haven’t eaten shit yet”. He laughed and said, “you’ve jinxed yourself now”. Sure enough, no less than two blocks away, I ate shit. Hard. Probably the hardest I’ve fallen in a long time. Knocked my helmet sideways and sat there for a second. It wasn’t the fact that I was riding when it happened, it was the foot that I put down to stabilize myself. I literally slipped up, like in Home Alone when Marv slides down the stairs to Kevin’s basement and landed sideways on my shoulder and head. I went to brace myself, and my hand slid out. My head took the brunt of the fall.

Helmets. They’re a good thing. Black ice sucks. Be careful out there guys.

  • ride safe man! that shit looks scary right there. i’ve been running studs and riding all winter and have never seen ice build up that thick on the roads

  • Gordon

    You said it. I think I’ve had pretty great luck weather and safety wise. I’ve never gotten hit (knock on wood) and I’ve never really had any problems with ice (knock on wood, again).

    But, yeah, I’m pretty sure NYC drivers get even worse in shitty weather. On my ride home today, I was riding next to/behind a car on a one-lane street. Out of the complete fuckin blue, he turns and tries to get into a parking space and nearly cut me off. I was luckily able to stop and not throw myself onto this guys car. He stopped after he finally saw me move past him and I slowed to a near stop to yell at the idiot. What really irked me was that while I was asking him what the hell he was doing, he just stared at me like a cow in the headlights of an oncoming train. Seriously, I felt like this guy wasn’t able to even to comprehend the words leaving my mouth. God, I can’t even explain my frustration at not being able to chastise this guy.

    Woah, long comment. Bee tee dubs, Prolly, what kind of rain gear do you use? I’ve never really used anything besides a jacket and everything else on me usually gets pretty soaked.

  • Damn dood. Glad you are OK. Take some ibuprofen and hit the rack!

    Get you some of these joints!

  • Gordon,

    I usually use some EMS (or any) rain pants that go over my jeans. In the summer, I’ll use some slimmer cycling rain pants to go over my shorts.

    Depending on the rain / snow I’ll either tuck them into my shoe covers or over them. I use these:

    Gore Covers

    they’re pricey, but have lasted me over 2 years. They fit over sneakers too and into toe clips perfectly. Very thin, but 100% waterproof and since they’re goretex, they keep your feet warm if you wanna run them over clipless shoes in the winter.

    Kevin, hah. Yeah, I tried making some last year with sheet metal screws. Worked out pretty well, just a pain in the ass to swap out my normal tires to put those on.

  • Dennis

    good write luckily in CA we don’t get those. Oh nice link on the black ice. Now let’s see you incorporate soul food by the goodie mob in your next post. ha

  • ToI

    Studded tries are great, but I haven’t found any I really like for fixedstyle riding. Take your favorite tires and make your own.

    Drive a row of sheet metal screws just off center on the sides of your tires. Trim those suckers down a bit, line the tire and you’re ready to rip it up on that ice.

  • Yep. That’s what I did.

  • weebieks

    sorry to hear your misfortune. Rode this afternoon along the Hudson and it had yet to be plowed or salted but it wasn’t too bad. Usually they’re good about getting it off. Tonight uptown past 110 was black ice and ruts like bklyn. At least your bridge was clear. Da Bronx is so fing lazy about shoveling their side. It took several days for the bronx half to be cleared after last week’s snow.

  • good to hear your ok, I laughed forever over the home alone reference, so goooood

  • good to hear your ok, I laughed forever over the home alone reference, so goooood

  • ez

    You’d think that in Denver, we’d have ready and able road responders, but I often find myself in the same place.

    They don’t plow anything save the main roads, and even then we don’t use salt in Colorado (a state decision by the DOT here) so there are lots of black ice patches. We do get Magnesium Chloride on the road, which is a sort of melter/pre-melter that is supposed to keep the roads clear. Who’s to say if it actually works or not, I do know that it covers my bike with black slime and that a good friend of mine was working one day (as a messenger) and was hit in the face with it by one of the trucks.

    A couple of years ago, I came around a corner and only just managed to kick myself back up before taking a dive. The next night, I was not so lucky. My shoulder was black then blue then green… as is the case with bruises and was very, very stiff all winter.

    There was even a time I went down in our uptown neighborhood, in front of a cop after being herded to a side street by an aggressive driver in an old Explorer and he did nothing.

    (Needless to say, “fuck cops”.)

    No matter how “uncool” it may be, I ride with a helmet (even on a brakeless bike) no matter what Bikesnob or the kids from the suburbs may say.

    (FWIW, my friend who lived in Brighton Beach drove every day and I thought he was nuts. He was also a horrible driver. I have many memories of out of control trips to Jrs Cheesecake.)

  • s

    The streets on my ride to Bushwick looked exactly like your photos. It was one of those strange times when the cars were creeping along the icy streets slower than me. Made me so glad to have a spare wheelset for the winter with knobby 32s that barely clear my chainstays.
    Ride safe out there.

  • i hear you brother. i’m in DC and have been dealing with this for over 2 weeks. i was in NYC last weekend with the wife and got so used to how clean the streets of manhattan were that when we were riding back from the bus stop i ate shit in the parking lot of our apt building… HELMETS!

  • andy

    damn bro that sucks. i slipped today while walking and i fell almost exactly that marv from home alone. but the thought about falling like that was pretty funny. but sorry to hear that you ate shit.

  • Jake Ricker

    This is what happened to me February 08 here in Seattle
    Look out for slippery surfaces!!!

  • lswann

    Don’t feel bad I took it twice today once on the Brooklyn bridge and once trying to make a very slow easy turn on Flatbush I worked all day in the city no problem but BK is a another story if its like that tommorow my aching ass is on the 2 train.

  • Harry

    Skids for dayyyysss!

    heh. Some jerk had to say it. :-)

  • Vas


  • chris

    I’ve been riding pretty much everyday in this weather, and i’m happy i chose not to yesterday.

  • antihero1972

    That sucks prolly, i too ride to work everyday rain or snow, nothing stops me here is SLC. The roads are never clear at the 5am when i am riding in so you have to be real careful when there is snow on the roads. The 1st week of snow fall out here this year i slipped out and hit my head and was thankful for my helmet. I now commute on my single speed cross bike(with risers and v-brakes) and its so much more stable in the snow. Up until this year i always rode my beater fixed gear, but never again. A must,= helmet,head warmer, specialized MTN defroster clipless shoes (I will swear by these never again will i ride in the winter with wet soaked feet because of riding in skate shoes), defelct thermal tights, base layers and a good water/wind proof shell and your set. ride safe out there. Skate shoes, jeans, shorts can wait until spring/summer its a battle out there in the winter and you have to be prepped if your going survive and NOT be miserable.

  • kennykaos

    helmets are crucial, when i was a courier i never wore one but should have, now i havent been one for a couple years but wear one religiously now, good thing you had yours on!

  • wilis

    working in it is awesome… 9 hours here we go. Funny john, i checked your blog today before the weather.

  • fuuuuk John, sometimes you just gotta take the train!

  • Well said! Def. not your responsibility to advocate safety, but I like seeing posts like these! It makes a difference. A good ride should end at home…not the hospital.

  • marston fisher

    We had that black ice here in London a week before Xmas, it stopped the whole city, took me over an hour and a half to get home when it normally takes 25mins.

    In the U.K. they don’t cope with bad weather well at all, we just have to be careful here and wait for it to thaw out.

    And good for you that you had on your helmet.
    Ride Well

  • ***Well, Prolly, you are not alone: If I can’t get there by bike, I don’t go. Man Bdge today was
    all iced, surprised since city is usually really good about that. Road bike passed me, coasting with his foot down to skid along. Hmmmm, maybe there is something to those kinda bikes afterall!
    Home bound later, the Bridge was A-OK.
    And yeah, if you crash, helmets are suddenly way
    cool. Duh.