During spring, rains bring high water in rivers and creeks. Sometimes, these streams rise above the level of roads and make a wet spot in the bridge area. Because the water is so shallow in these spots, however, it’s tempting for cyclists to ride across them.
My advice? Don’t.
I was on a ride with some acquaintances southwest of Dripping Springs, Texas. I’ve mentioned this area a time or two before. The rural roads are usually devoid of motorized traffic, and they’re hilly enough (and rough enough in places) to be interesting. A number of small creeks run through the area, and after the spring rains, the water runs across the road for weeks. In Texas, we call them “low water crossings,” because the water is quite shallow — maybe just enough to wet the surface, and usually less than a half-inch deep.
Anyhow, one of the cyclists who rides these roads more frequently than the rest of us told us about one spot in particular that was still covered with water. She warned us that we might want to walk our bikes across that bridge. Since it came just before we turn to go up a challenging hill, the temptation was to keep up our momentum and ride through it.
The lead rider shot across the bridge, splashing through the water. I thought I might do the same thing, but stopped just short of the wet part. There was algae on the concrete, and that makes the difference between a wet road surface and a slippery road surface. I dismounted and walked my bike across several feet of wetness.
As I was crossing, the third rider in line decided he would ride across. He got even with me, and I saw his wheel slide out from under him. His momentum carried him across the water, but he went down hard on the dry pavement.
He wasn’t badly hurt, but did have some nasty road rash. “I just rode across that Friday [two days before],” he exclaimed.
We got an early introduction to low water crossings. My wife encountered one on her first organized ride, three years ago. She couldn’t clip out of her pedal fast enough, and went down on her side when her front tire hit the water. We’ve been leery of them ever since.
Even very shallow water, if it’s moving, can knock your tires out of line and cause you to go down. Couple that with algae in the water, and the road surface become as slick as ice. Walk across the wet spots. If you’re concerned about losing time, you can pedal faster on the dry parts.