Check out the moguls on this dirt road. I wonder how this happens. My first journalism job was at a small paper in central Missouri, where I covered the Boone County beat. Yes, that’s right: Boone as in Daniel Boone. One of the hot issues was whether to pave the rural roads in the county. It was a fascinating debate, and I learned so much about road construction and how a new road can change a place. I also grew to appreciate how constructing a proper road is such an impressive engineering feat. Now, I’m more intrigued by how nature breaks down a road.wafflesandsteel | Filed under: bike traps | No Comments »
It’s East vs. West. Who can build a better bike trap? On one side is American ingenuity. On the other is China, the world’s new manufacturing powerhouse.
First up, America. It’s going with something that’s low-tech, easy to create but highly effective. Let’s call it the gravel sprawl. It’s created by taking several shovel loads of gravel – the chunkier the better – and just spreading the rocks across the street. It’s best to do it on the bottom of a downhill or after a sharp curve in the road. The cyclist rips around the blind corner and must find a way through it. This trap’s inspiration is the Hoth asteroid field in “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.” When I encountered the below gravel sprawl on yesterday’s ride, I thought I heard CP-30 say: “Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.” Like Hans Solo, I replied, “Never tell me the odds.” It bounced my bike around. I had to dodge some of the bigger bits that could stop my wheel or throw me to the ground like a well-executed judo move. I got through it safely after uttering a quick prayer to Madonna del Ghisallo.
Here’s a closer look at the trap, found on a four-mile loop around a lake at a gated community outside of Kansas City. Notice the fine design. The smaller rocks are in the front, making you think the trap isn’t that bad. They lure you into the middle, where the big chunks start messing with you, challenging your bike-handling skills, testing your cool head.
I’m not sure China can match the simplicity and effectiveness of the gravel sprawl. But let’s take a look at what’s on offer. Oh no, what do we have here? China is going deep, really deep, into the mountains of a rugged southwestern region. The bike trap documentation comes from intrepid Beijing-based cyclist Anthony Paglino of Ride2Freedom who tells Waffles & Steel:
“I wanted to share one such experience with you about a 150km stretch of road that we did in western Sichuan over 3 days, and countless mountains above 4000 meters. One of the most interesting things I saw, among many, was the manner in which the road authority handled road ‘disrepair.’ If any section of the road faltered, caved in, disappeared, rather than fixing the problem, large concrete cylinders with red stripes where placed around the defunct area. If no cylinders were available then large rocks where placed to quarantine the zone.”
Those pieces of wood in the pot hole are designed to launch you into the air after you ride into the hole. That red paint makes the rocks really easy to see.wafflesandsteel | Filed under: bike traps, China cycling, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
Sometimes some thoughtful soul will try to warn us about a bike trap. The effort is usually feeble but it’s appreciated. Here’s a great example provided by Anthony Paglino from Beijing. (Check out his site: www.ride2freedom.org). The photo shows a battered trash bin being used as a makeshift man hole cover. I guess at night, on this unlit road, the trash bin becomes a different kind of hazard. You slam into it, then drop down the sewer hole. Could that be the real intention? Wait a minute. Is this actually some sort of booby trap?wafflesandsteel | Filed under: bike traps, Uncategorized | No Comments »
Why, why, why? Why would something like this be in a road that gets tons of bike traffic? Why would they use this kind of tic-tac-toe design? What’s underneath it? What the hell is it? These questions always go through my small brain as I pedal by this thing on my Sunday ride.
Notice how the tic-tac-toe thing protrudes just above the road surface. All kinds of bad things can happen to you if you try to run over this during a lapse of attention. It’s in the worst spot, too. It’s positioned on the run-up to the Liede Bridge. You have cars and trucks picking up speed for the bridge ascent. Then there’s a side street on the right that feeds buses and trucks to the road. Then there’s a steady stream of motorcycles and three-wheel bike carts riding against traffic and trying to collide with you head on. With all this going you, you have to be careful to avoid the tic-tac-toe trap.
In most Western countries with functioning legal systems, officials would think twice about installing one of these things because a cyclist could easily slap a lawsuit against the city. The Chinalogical view of this would be: If you think it’s so dangerous, just stay away from it! Don’t be such a Drama King! Jeez oh peez.wafflesandsteel | Filed under: bike traps | No Comments »
Loyal readers of Waffles & Steel will likely still remember this bike trap – the mammoth messed-up sewer grate – from three months ago.
Well, here’s some good news. The bike trap has been fixed! Well, kind of…
They plopped down lumpy concrete around the edges of the grate. The job looks like it was done by a 5-year-old. It has already started to crack and chunk off. I imagine that in a few weeks, it will be a full-blown disaster again. In some ways, the new rough surface makes it just as dangerous as it was before. If someone truly took pride in his work, do you think he would have been satisfied with this effort? Again, as I’ve said many times before, this illustrates a common attitude in China. Back to that popular phrase: “Cha bu duo, jiu haole!” (Good enough is good enough!)wafflesandsteel | Filed under: bike traps | No Comments »
Oh momma, do we have a great bike trap today. I’ve been riding past this one for months. But it wasn’t until last Sunday that I could document it with my camera. It’s on the outskirts of Guangzhou, near the Longdong area where I do my climbing workouts. About a kilometer before the bike trap, I noticed that road crews had patched up a few other hazardous spots. I started to worry that maybe I had arrived too late to shoot this doozy of a trap. Maybe it got fixed. But nope. For some Chinalogical reason, they decided not to touch it.
From the wide shot above, it doesn’t look like much. You need to get up close to truly appreciate all of its wickedness. I call it a a dog’s breakfast bike trap because it has a little bit of everything. Yup, something for everybody! It’s got that nice rectangular swimming pool shape, just like the bike trap that cracked my steel frame last year when I rode into it during a tropical storm.
On one side, there’s a series of thick metal cables sticking out, just perfect for snagging, jabbing or splitting a tire. I don’t know why they’re there. And I don’t understand why they would be allowed to be like this for so long. I first noticed this bike trap a year ago!
The rest of the bike trap is filled up with rocks, broken tiles, bricks and some kind of cermaic pipe – a nice lumpy surface that can knock you off your balance. I guess instead of properly covering the thing, they decided to just fill it up with construction debris. Recall the phrase that I mentioned in an earlier post that could serve as China’s unofficial national slogan. It’s “Cha bu duo, jiu haole!” Maybe the best translation would be, “Not great but good enough!”wafflesandsteel | Filed under: bike traps, cycling in China, Guangzhou cycling | No Comments »
We’re long overdue for a bike trap. This one was found on the 16-kilometer loop in “Unitown” – an extremely popular spot with the expat cycling crowd in Guangzhou. It’s a section of road just after a series of hills, a favorite place to hammer for 10 kilometers or so. I like to think that some kind soul put that rock on the grate as a warning to cyclists.
Here’s what the bike trap looks like as you approach it:wafflesandsteel | Filed under: bike traps, Bikes in China, cycling in China | No Comments »
It’s time for a bike trap – a really crazy one. Imagine riding through a hellish industrial park on rutted roads full of pot holes, chunks of rock and other debris. A convoy of speeding container trucks, delivery vans and creepy black gangster Audis with tinted windows is on your wheel. Everyone is honking, gunning their engines and trying to pass you. You cross a bridge over a river of blackish green water giving off a miasma of fumes that make you nauseous if you’re silly enough to be breathing. Just as you clear the bridge, you notice a shallow trench has been dug across the road. It’s impossible to accurately determine how soft and stable the dirt is, so you decide not to ride through it. There’s no room for error because if you go down, the convoy of traffic will roll over you. But Plan B is riding over the sheets of metal that have been placed over the trench. That’s not a good idea, though, because the metal sheets are slippery and unstable. They’re also noisy. Everytime a vehicle goes over them, they go, “BAHHWHAANGahwhangahwangbahaaa!” The noise makes it hard to think and make the perfect split second decision.
Plan C is going right and riding on the side of the road so you can avoid all the traps. But that’s not smart because the most sinister part of the bike trap awaits you. It’s the shallow shaft!
Yes, it’s only about waist deep but it can screw you up. One reader told me he had a friend who fell into an open manhole while walking in Beijing at night. The guy suffered a severed urethra, which required an emergency flight to California for surgery. I got around this trap by pulling over to the side of the road, unclipping, getting off my bike and walking my rig along a narrow strip on the side of the street.
wafflesandsteel | Filed under: bike traps | No Comments »
How does this happen to a manhole? I guess a crack forms, years of corrosion work on it, relentless traffic wears it down more, battalions of Red Guards parade over it, wet seasons come and go, road crews pretend it’s not there and partially cover it with asphalt (or bitumen, I love saying that word with a British accent) … until it looks like this – a craggy, sinister bike trap.
This one couldn’t be in a worse place. You come upon it after making a hard right turn between these two overpass pillars. You’ll usually have a container truck on your tail or one of those pesky gray micro vans trying to squeeze by you on the left just as you’re threading the pillars and trying to steer clear of the trap on the right.wafflesandsteel | Filed under: bike traps, China bikes, Guangzhou cycling, manhole | 1 Comment »
I came across this wicked little bike trap during a ride over the weekend.
It’s a crumbling drain cover reinforced with rebar. The sinister thing is that there’s a series of these covers in a long line. So when you’re riding along looking at the undamaged covers, you get lulled into complacency, stop paying attention to them, stray a little bit off your line, then “BAM!” you ride over this one and go over your handlebars. OK, this is unlikely because any fool knows that you should never ride over any kind of manhole or grate in China – and probably in most other countries. So many are ill fitted, unstable or just nonexistent.
This bike trap is along a narrow road that goes through a semi-rural area. On the right side of the road, there’s a big banana field. But there’s also a farmer’s market nearby along with a university district and an industrial zone. So there are always trucks, buses and tractors and three-wheel carts that you need to avoid. It’s easy to ride into a bike trap like this while doing an evasive maneuver to miss a swerving container truck.
It will be interesting to see how long it takes to fix this thing. The stretch of road has long been a disaster, but about four months ago, road crews patched up some of the roughest parts. I chalked it up to China’s US$586 billion stimulus plan. But it didn’t take long for the road to become a nightmare again. Maybe I should start riding a cross bike.wafflesandsteel | Filed under: bike traps, rebar | No Comments »