When I first began to bike commute, I rode a totally vanilla Trek road bike with standard drop handlebars. Once I began the inevitable dark descent into the indulgence of micro-niche hobbyist magazines, I got into the idea of improving my aerodynamics. It seemed that aerobars, a handlebar attachment that lets a cyclist lean forward over the front wheel, were the answer

I had them installed at lunch at the bike shop. The bicycle mechanic who was later to become one of my best friends warned me on my way out the door, "You're going to want to tape up those bars before you use them." I tried out the bars in the parking lot. I found I could get a good grip on them, despite the smooth aluminum. I thought to myself, "It's going to be fine." I wanted to use those magic aerobars.

Finally, work was over. It was June, in North Carolina. It was hotter than hell's hinges. I dressed out and began the ride home.

Having only ridden for a month, I felt that cycling gloves were for Fred posers. At around mile 3, the sweat from my brow began to drip onto the aerobars. But look at that speedometer! 25 miles an hour! I was really hauling ass. I pulled off the larger road and onto the two-laner that carried me most of the way back from RTP.

My hands were slick with sweat. The bars were coated with the oil that had been leeched from my hands. My weight was forward, I was really leaning into the bars, trying to get a feel for them.

i hit a pothole

Frictionless, my hands shot forward, as if grabbing for a falling Ming vase. My legs were still ginning, driving the bike at 25 miles an hour. My chest hit the handlebars and slewed them to the left. The bike tumbled. The heels of my hands began planing against the pavement, I was watching the asphalt grind the left corner off the bottom of my chin. Then everything stopped.

I was shocky, bleeding, and filled with the irrational rage of the recently wrecked. I was so pissed I jumped back on my bike and finished the rest of the 20 mile ride. Aerobars are not for the faint of heart.

Folks, cycling gloves are not for freds. Cycling gloves are mission critical. And tape your bars tightly, with good fat tape. Let my misery be your schoolmaster.