The winter rains have come to California, and they have stayed. This is very good news. The drought is over, reservoirs are full or filling and many are releasing water to free up storage and prevent spring flooding.
However, what is great for the state’s water supply isn’t so wonderful for the roads. Potholes are popping up everywhere. On second thought, potholes don’t actually ‘pop up’, do they? They cave in, or collapse, or subside. Whatever they do, potholes are a major irritant for motorists and a potential disaster for cyclists.
I have two friends who hit potholes while riding and crashed. The holes were hiding in the shade of trees on a bright sunny day and were difficult to see, especially wearing cycling sunglasses. Both of them broke their collarbone. I have managed to avoid any crashes, but I did put a dent in a rim when I smashed into one.
I’ve also suffered the common ‘pinch flat’. This type of flat tire occurs when you hit a bump, or a small stone, or a pothole hard. The tire bead separates from the rim enough to allow the tube to push into the gap, usually on both sides of the rim. As the tire snaps back it punctures the tube, usually in two places, producing the telltale ‘snakebite’ puncture pattern.
So potholes are no fun, and there are going to be a lot of them to avoid this cycling season.When I’ve been out riding between downpours this winter I’ve noticed lots of fresh openings. I’m not alone: the pothole problem was a headline story in Calaveras County. And the 3,000 holes are going to have lots of company.
Riding around at cycling speeds, I see signs of pavement deterioration everywhere. The asphalt is saturated in low spots and water is weeping onto the surface. There are small spider web cracks in the pavement, and eventually a small section of road will break loose and leave a tiny hole, which will quickly become a big hole. There are going to be lots of big holes opening in the next few months.
County Public Works Departments will do what they can, and many holes will get patched, but our favorite cycling roads are mostly low traffic byways, and they will be far down the list of priorities for fixing. So cyclists should keep their eyes open and their hands securely on the handlebars. No one likes a trip to the orthopedist.