On a recent 65 mile bike ride through southern Elkhart County and northern Kosciusko County, I was reminded again to the deplorable condition of our country roads. I’m not the first to say it, but I think it’s true: their condition is a disgrace. As I rode, I mentally graded the roads and calculate how much of the ride was on each surface:
- Excellent — Smooth surface with few if any patches or cracks — 10%
- Good — Smooth surface with a few patches and cracks — 20%
- Poor — Rough surface from patches, cracks, crumbling edge — 40%
- Terrible — Very rough surface from patches, cracks, general disrepair — 30 %
My calculations are very unscientific, but I feel certain that over half the roads I rode on were poor or terrible.
At the same time, I wonder to what degree the poor county roads encourages cyclists to ride the trails where they do not encounter the constant bumps, patches, cracked pavement and the dreaded chip-sealed surfaces so common on our county roads. I know that when I planned my birthday ride last year, I decided to do the entire ride on the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail and MapleHeart just so that I could avoid the rough roads. My birthday ride is supposed to be a celebration and a thing to enjoy, so why spoil it by spending the day of a 70-mile ride dodging patches and cracks. Why not instead enjoy the smoother ride of these trails, while not without occasional bumps, is infinitely smoother than most county roads.