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Gonna ride like the wind

February 20, 2007
Ballard Bridge

The Ballard Bridge (Wikimedia Commons)

I’m heading south on 15th, approaching the Ballard Bridge. It’s windy. No, it’s windy. How windy is it?

It’s windy enough that I have the throttle cranked almost all the way open in 4th gear, and I’m slowing down. I am slowing down because I am riding straight into a headwind that is so strong, it is overcoming the PX’s 8 horsepower. Okay, I suppose I present a fairly large surface area, but still…

And here I thought I was being really clever by trying to bypass the open Fremont Bridge. Yes, there were some pretty strong gusts on Leary Way, but nothing like what I was riding into.

I’m approaching the grating.

Okay, a look in the mirror shows a white car, well back of me and holding position. Maybe this is someone who knows that a 2-wheeled vehicle could fall over under the right (wrong?) circumstances.

At least it’s not raining. Coming back from seeing Dreamgirls yesterday (Jennifer Hudson had better win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress), the heavy mist at Oak Tree Cinemas had become a driving rain by the time I reached 85th & Aurora. Crossing the Aurora Bridge to get home was more and more looking like a bad idea, so I took a right at 85th and headed for Greenwood.

Wind and rain are not the end of the world. In fact, this is where your braking and shifting skills are put to the test. Smooth application of brakes (luckily, the rear one didn’t turn grabby) and precise matching of RPM on downshifts keep you upright, and if I do say so myself, my technique was awesome. As for the wind, I’ve been in enough wind with the PX to have a good idea how it behaves, and to not panic if it gets twitchy.

Once again, the M65 fishtail parka has proven to be a smart investment. It protects the parts of my body not behind the legshield beautifully. I have found that putting on rain gear once you get wet is actually less comfortable than just being wet, so I decided to press on home. My jeans needed to go into the wash, anyway, but they actually stayed pretty dry.

Today, if my jeans get wet, it won’t be due to rain.

Okay, take a deep breath, swallow hard, here comes the grating. On the Ballard Bridge, the transition from asphalt to grate is not particularly smooth, so it’s really important to make sure you’re going absolutely straight on your approach.

On the grating, the wind is still blowing hard. Where back in the day the preferred method of negotiating bridge grating was to do a lazy slalom, these days the best approach is considered a straight shot, or at least as straight your bike will do. Try to relax, and don’t panic if your bike twitches a bit. Or if the wind feels like it’s going to blow you over.

Okay, here I go! Made it!! I’m still upright, but the headwind is even stronger. Again, my mirror shows the white car holding station a good distance behind. Maybe the driver rides, too.

Time to make the turn onto Emerson Street. The wind is stronger still, and I’m really worried about getting down into 2nd gear without falling. Somehow I manage, hugging the high curb on my right so anyone following will have some room to get around me without making contact.

A quick stop, a left, over the ramp, and I’m on Nickerson. Whew!

I suppose today’s lesson is not to panic when conditions get hairy. If you feel like you’re in over your head, pull over safely and wait out whatever is making your trip difficult. If pulling over is not an option, don’t go 3 mph on a busy street… the herd could trample you.

I always tell people driving race cars is one of those things that shows you what you’re made of. I suppose riding an old-skool scooter on a windy day could fall into that category as well. Favicon

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