It’s only a matter of time before you cross a set. There is no need to take them for granted. Tracks are everywhere and you should be prepared. Most rail road, street car, light rail tracks use have a standard gauge of 4 feet 8.5 inches. I don’t need to tell you that most wheels fit nicely in that grove.
Why Falls Happen
- Loss of Traction. This is the most common reason riders fall. Bicycle tires on metal, especially wet metal, lose grip and slip. One, maybe even both wheels, are now riding on virtual ice and once that wheel slips past the point of now return, down you go.
- Terrible Pavement. It may not be the tracks themselves, it can be the surrounding pavement. Rail cars are heavy and they can greatly disrupt the surrounding pavement creating choppy, bumpy pavement. This is especially true out in the serene landscape of rides that cross rustic freight train tracks. As you travel with speed and hit nasty bumps on small road wheels, you may be rumbling as you hit the tracks, a little out of control…and down you go.
- The Angle. Not all tracks cross streets completely perpendicularly. They are curved or the street crosses at an angle. The angle means you have more of your wheel on metal.
How to Cross Tracks
- Cross at a 90 degree angle. This is the most effective way to prevent accidents.
- Slow down stay in control and reduce speed.
- Dismount. Standard gauge for the gap is surprisingly large. Do you really want to risk all those great miles over a couple feet and a few extra seconds? We recommend you dismount for any crossing that are particularly disruptive, such as rustic freight train tracks in the middle of nowhere. Play it safe.
- Know your limits. Feeling tired at the end of a ride or is there a large group? Individual circumstances matter and need to be taken into account.
- Lobby for rail improvements. Better rail crossings make for safer cycling.
We all know that tracks are not a cyclist’s best friend, so please, stop, think and take the extra moment to ride safely on them.
In summary, just take it easy.