Road Rash (USA Day 37)
Having now cycled 1500 miles of Eastern and Midwestern America’s fine roads, I feel I’m in some position of authority to categorise, rank and generally judge their surface. Today, particularly, the roads varied with such rapidity and ferocity that all I can see this evening when I close my eyes is fast approaching gravel. More on that later. Back to the categorisation.
Rhythmic Roads: Don’t be fooled by their smooth surface. These roads have regular, unavoidable chasms every five metres or so that jolt your coccyx and utterly remove the possibility of making any decent speed without also becoming infertile. Why are these so common? What type of weird American weather causes these irritating cracks? Why has baby Jesus not come down to fill them in with nice new tarmac? Science does not yet have the answers to these questions.
Buttery Roads: Oh, yes. These freshly-laid beauties glide by without providing the slightest friction. Even on the uphillls you’re free-wheeling, and you’ve half a mind to lean down and scoop up a delicious handful of the soft tarmac, it’s so inviting.
Pothole Slalom: It takes your entire physical and mental strength to stay upright on this sort of road. You’re dodging holes and riding cracks constantly. If there is also traffic coming up behind you, that adds an extra layer of jeopardy that nobody wants. On the off-chance that you find yourself on this sort of road, seek the nearest exit for a donut and a long, hard think.
The Paint Roller: A relatively new discovery for us at least, these roads have reached a temperature where the tar element of the road’s tarmac has sweated up to the top. First you’ll hear a tacky slurping as your tyre picks up a thick layer of the black stuff, and from then on you’ll feel a friction akin to somebody holding down your rear brake. Not to be ridden alternately with a Gravel Trap, at any cost.
Gravel Trap: Strava’s told you to turn left, but left is basically a long, stony beach. You’ll obey, because your tyres can take it and you’re here for an adventure, but with loose stones spaffing out from under you, killing livestock, and the constant tectonic shake of a bike unsure of its own standing, you’d feel safer in a dark alley with a glow-in-the-dark wallet. If you ride this road type straight after a Paint Roller, be ready to pick handfuls of a delicious chewy treat akin to Rocky Road (how fitting) from your tyres next time you stop. Also, and this is most important, never turn into a Gravel Trap at a funny angle, especially if you’ve just treated your tyres with fresh tar. You’ll go straight to ground, and the gravel will enter your body quite effectively.
This is a long and veiled way to say that I had a really painful fall today, and my left palm and elbow were punctured and grazed by a frightening assortment of gravel pieces. I picked myself up and cycled the final fifteen miles of the day without much impediment, but I’m not looking forward to tomorrow morning.