Freezing on two wheels

29th October 2008 – 8.22 am

I really shouldn't have ridden my motorbike to work this morning. I saw a sprinkling of snow outside when I opened the curtains, unseasonably early, but the road and pavement looked clear. When I got outside the road seemed to be grippy, testing it with my boots, even if there was some icy snow on my bike cover. I told myself to take it easy and that once I get to the main roads everything should be fine.

It didn't seem fine once I got to the main roads, looking a little hazardous. If I could have found a safe place to turn around I would have done so, but there was nowhere to do this safely for a few miles so I cautiously continued. The motorway will be fine, I told myself, with all the traffic and its warm tyres making the road safe, and that seemed to be the case. The motorway seemed clear and grippy and I happily continued my journey.

Unfortunately, there had been an accident further up the motorway and traffic slowed down to a crawl. I'm not sure why the message boards were informing me earlier of the M40 being closed over two junctions when it could have mentioned something about two lanes being closed on the road I was on, but it wouldn't have changed anything. With traffic moving slowly I started filtering between the cars, working my way through the traffic.

I stopped filtering when my bike became really light on the back wheel. A small dab of the back brake confirmed that I was on some black ice! I stuck down both feet and felt them glide across a smooth surface as I edged carefully in to a lane, my feet luckily finding some grip along a track followed by car tyres. I can't remember the last time I was that worried, about anything.

I passed the accident, which involved two cars and I wouldn't be surprised if it had been caused by the ice, and tip-toed my way up the rest of my motorway journey, keeping on a straight line and a car track. I was able to get to work safely, if with a sense of dread and rather more rapid breathing than is normal. I didn't dare riding around to the staff car park, rightly imagining it to be an untended blanket of ice and snow, parking in the visitor's car park instead for today.

I hope the ice clears up by the time I go home. This morning was the most treacherous journey I can remember taking on the bike, several times knowing that I was riding over ice. I need to pay more attention to warning signs and take the car instead, and at least know I am more aware of what constitutes a warning. Frost isn't too bad, just cold, but today's weather posed a significant risk.

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