Pavement Permutations: A Cyclist’s Guide

For most people, the joy of a bike ride is in the scenery. Yet If you’re a dedicated cyclist, you begin to appreciate the little things — the subtle variations in asphalt and road shoulders, for example. Bike long enough and you can write a book about this kind of thing.

Adventure Cyclist Magazine didn’t write the book on pavement types — but they did write a fantastic essay cataloguing all the permutations of pavement an avid cyclist is likely to encounter.

Let’s take a moment to revisit some of the more memorable pavement types cataloged in their essay.

The Erratic Rumble Strip or the “Rumble Down Under”

Adventure Cyclist says this pavement is best identified by its unpredictability:

“First, it’s on the left, then the right, then the middle, hogging most of the smooth shoulder and forcing you to ride whatever pavement is left over. And just when you think you have it figured out, there it comes veering from the left, sure enough rumbling you right out of your seat and your sanity.”

The Shoulder/No Shoulder

Don’t you hate it when you’re cycling peacefully and the shoulder disappears…then reappears…then disappears? As Adventure Cyclist says, “just when you think you’re stuck straddling the white line to tuck away from a sudden onslaught of traffic, a wide and glorious strip of pavement appears. Don’t be fooled. It won’t last long.”

The Guardrail aka “The Trash Compactor”

Guardrails may provide security in a car, but for cyclists, they can be an utter pain. Adventure Cyclist describes dealing with guardrails like this:

“This pesky devil will try to catch your pedals at every turn and belly-bump you into the next passing car. The pavement is fine and your legs are feeling fresh as you relax on a nice shoulder, and here comes this familiar nuisance, nosing in on your territory and leaving no room for escape. Ride too close to the rail and you may get hung up. Ride too close to traffic and other dangers await.” 


Sometimes known as the Velvet Highway, an endless vista of blacktop is every road cyclist’s dream. Unfortunately, Adventure Cyclist believes it’s a sight that is becoming few and far between.

“Rare and downright extinct in some states, a freshly paved asphalt road will make you think a bike tour was the best idea you ever had. The fresher, the better — the birds will sing and your legs will feel like two well-oiled pistons. Some such roads have yet to be striped, giving the impression of one luxurious mega-shoulder. This is as good as it gets, folks.”

The Double Wide

According to Adventure Cyclist, this type of pavement is kind of like an obstacle course crossed with a treasure hunt.

“As messy as it is wide, this shoulder type will keep you on the edge of your seat. At first glance, it seems you could curlicue your way down the shoulder with all the space you have. Look again and you’ll see a wave of litter has washed up at the pavement’s edge. If you have the energy, play around in this amusement park by steering through the shattered glass and broken TVs, trying to nudge plastic bottles out of your way. The potential for flat tires is high in these areas, as is the potential for a sweet find.”

The Chip Seal

Finally, we have a pavement type that provides the opposite of smooth sailing. As Adventure Cyclists says:

“It’s loud, it’s rough, it’s unforgiving, and it’s a classic and widespread type of pavement. The harsh finish is the telltale sign for this one. It is often accompanied by a smattering of potholes and regular bumps. It’s not uncommon to ride along an edge that is crumbling away into the ditch or gravel swath on the side of the road. Other signs of deterioration such as crocodile cracking, rutting, and frost heaves are commonplace. ”

Finding the Right Bicycle Accident Attorney

Gary Brustin isn’t just an attorney — he’s a dedicated cyclist who strictly specializes in bicycle law. If you need help with injuries and/or property damage arising from a bicycle accident, please reach out to Gary for a complimentary consultation.


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