Asphalt in Gö – February 20 2021 Road/gravel Ride

Stone, concrete, brick, glass, and asphalt denote the ´Built Environment´ and it is the latter we mostly played upon on this day.

The intention was to hit the asphalt only, but when it became apparent that the glorious spring like weather had melted away almost all of the recent snow we eventually rode nine (benign) gravel trails. I seem to spend most of my cycling riding on gravel linked by asphalt and on this ride, it was visa versa.

Over 100 million tonnes of asphalt are used each year and it is created by mixing aggregates with petroleum Bitumen.

Natural Bitumen is a black viscous mixture of hydrocarbons and was utilised by the Ancients for all sorts of things such as waterproofing homes and canoes. In Albania there exists Europe´s last commercial mine.

In the modern World most asphalt (and tarmac) is a product of the petroleum industry.

Roads prior to asphalt or tarmac (the latter uses larger aggregate and tar was the original binding agent) find their origins in old Drovers roads, pilgrim and trade routes or military roads (think Romans), that have in time been sanitised from mud, stone, cobbled or gravel surfaces. Apart from merchants or government officials in the past it was rare for people to travel away from home and for many movement was determined by how far a person could walk in available daylight hours (full moons were extremely popular before electricity).

The introduction of the bicycle in the late 1800´s unlocked mobility and many older cycling clubs’ history will have mention of long jaunts far and wide by members. They cycled on mostly gravel or dirt roads, the former is now ironically a surface which is in fashion for cycling. The Paris Roubaix cycle road race is infamous for being held on stretches of cobbled farm roads, and these cobbles are now protected from the march of modernity lest they be asphalted over. So many roads were ´civilised´ in concert with the rise of car use and on this ride, we can often peek through worn asphalt to see cobbles.

There are few cool cobbled roads in my area of Germany although I have found several old stone roads some of which are now being consumed by gravel (it´s cheaper to lay).

Links: Gutingi STEIN PRBX – Hainberg Befestigter Waldweg (hunting for stone roads)

The Ride
47 km with 9 gravel sectors

We chose to ride asphalt on this ride because to be frank I am a bit tired of cleaning bikes. At this time, a lot of the gravel is very muddy, and water is streaming off the fields from the thawing snow which blanketed the area recently. Nonetheless whimsy overcame us and despite our best intentions we did venture away from the ´black stuff´ eventually riding nine incredibly dry gravel sectors.

To ride this mostly asphalt tour we simply pumped up the tyres on our gravel machines and rode beneath a sunny sky with a temperature well into double figures.

I rode with no overshoes and I took off my gloves! – next time I may use my spring/summer bike.

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