Many 18-wheelers roaring along our highways do so on retreaded truck tires. Far too often that tread gives way. Dodging those shredded circles of rubber unfortunately seems to be a regular part of highway driving. Until Sunday, I had never witnessed a tread blow off a tire. Really, I hope I never see it happen again, especially since I was on my bike when everything got a bit crazy.
While riding eastbound to Lawrence Sunday afternoon along Highway 24, a semi-truck coming westbound blew one of its tires. The eruption spewed a chalky white cloud into the air followed quickly by dust and dirt spitting in all directions – including right at me.
Thankfully, the shredded tread flew straight back. I am sure the driver of the Honda Accord behind the semi was far from thrilled as the car crashed up and over the flying rubber. My joy was that the tread had not coming flying into my lane. Even so, one of those cool high-definition “Go Pro” action video cameras attached to my bike would surely have captured me with a shocked look on my face and probably jumping up off my saddle in shock over the sound – a double-barrelled shotgun in my mind.
Recovering and turning back west to drag the tread off the road since cars were now dodging the remnants, I noticed how little tread remained on the retread. Lincoln’s head on the penny would not have sunk very deep into a tread groove. Hardly an endorsement for high-speed trucking safety.
In the distance, another cyclist closed towards me as I stood waiting for traffic to pass. The rider turned out to be Trudi Rebsamen, a soigneur for the BMC cycling team of Tour de France winner Cadel Evans. Trudi spends much of the off-season in Topeka with Topeka professional cyclist Steve Tilford. She had been riding near Lake Perry with Tilford and other elite area riders before returning to Topeka ahead of the others. To my surprise, Trudi said she had heard the explosion in the distance.
Distance. That is what I hope to keep between me and an exploding tire and flying tread in the future. Especially when I am on a bicycle.