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Thread: Chip seal

  1. #1
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Chip seal

    We all ride on seal coated highways. In my experience in states other than Texas, seal coat for the most part, is not a problem relative to rolling resistance. A smooth pebble rock is layered over the asphalt. In Texas, the rock is often a course, faceted, crushed granite(chips)with extreme rolling resistance. For motorist, it is very noisy. For cyclist, it is like pedaling into an 8 mph headwind vs rolling on smooth seal coat. It's pervasive in Texas.

    How about your state? Do you ever, often encounter seal coat with high rolling resistance? When touring, have you delt with much course chip seal in states other than Texas? I haven't.

    The question is asked to see if my Don Quixote like thrust to be aimed at TDOT has basis in fact. I bet they're trembling in anticipation.
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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Chip seal is quite commonly used in parts of Canada and Australia.

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    Chipseal is used here in Sweden to fill the gaping cracks left in roads after the spring thaw. Fairly easy to avoid. What I have a bigger problem with are the roads where much of the bitumen (tar/asphalt whatever you want to call it) has worn away leaving the bigger rocks exposed like mini-cobble stones. Riding those roads feels a lot like dealing with a persistent headwind while climbing a low grade hill.

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    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Chipseal is very common in Washington State. They've been putting it over machine-laid asphalt that was in perfect condition. Maybe it's the asphalt lobby. I just suck it up and work on my pedal stroke.

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    Senior Member Western Flyer's Avatar
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    I estimate only riding 80% the smooth machine laid asphalt distance on chip and seal. One of the problems in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia is they can only lay it down in the prime bike riding times of the year when it's not raining. Sometimes they do a good job at making it smooth, but often the gravel is wavy and is the pits to ride on. Also if they get too generous with the fresh gravel the loose stuff winds up on the shoulder and beyond making next to impossible to see where the edge is. My bike and bike shoes are heavily splattered with the hot oil picked up in September on the Olympic Peninsula. I am going to take my frame in to be powder coated in December and they should have no problem burning all the tar off along with the paint.

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    Quirky Grifter LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    It varies here. Sometimes I swear they'll lay down some 1" aggregate and it rattles your teeth out. Sometimes they use some nice 3/8" gravel and you get a pretty sweet ride. Sometimes they even use slurry seal for smooth runnings.
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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    It is usually done with finer crushed rock here and most places I have ridden as compared to Texas. I rode most of Texas on the ST with 23 mm Gatorskin tires. The ride was pretty bad. The buzz was downright obnoxious, but there was a big improvement when I switched to 25 mm tires.

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    Cyclebum, I ride areas south of San Antonio and they are hitting most all the secondary and backroads with this mess. In my area it is because of the heavy truck traffic that resulted from the huge amount of drilling associated with the Eagle Ford Shale. Lots cheaper than real paving, but sucks for cars and bikes alike. I wish you well in getting Tx Dot to change their ways.
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    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    Chipseal is very common in Washington State. They've been putting it over machine-laid asphalt that was in perfect condition. Maybe it's the asphalt lobby. I just suck it up and work on my pedal stroke.
    Toured south from Tacoma through Oregon a couple of years ago and don't recall any complaints about the road surfaces in either state. I do remember the hundreds of miles of wild blackberries ripe for the picking, and the total absence of roadkill.

    Here is a Washington state primer on asphalt seal coats. No info on how frequently they use the rough stuff.

    BTW, that highway I'm riding in the picture is paved with the rough stuff.
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    Senior Member saddlesores's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
    The question is asked to see if my Don Quixote like thrust to be aimed at TDOT has basis in fact. I bet they're trembling in anticipation.
    good luck with that.....but the most likely outcome, don, is yet another piece of
    legislation introduced to ban bicycle riding on all roads outside of municipalities.

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    Don't see it that often in PA, but when I do it's usually fine enough to make it only a minor issue.

    The '02 edition of Cycle Oregon was the worst. We crossed the entire state from east to west. Had a couple of days that seemed like nothing but chip seal. Butt cream was in high demand. Had some this year, too.

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    I couldn't believe how Washington puts chip seal down on fresh asphalt. Montana seemed to like the stuff as well, but not as much as WA.

    Other places I've ridden use "tar and gravel" as a cheap repair method. In the unusual event they pave the whole road, instead of just a patch it usually lasts 2-3 years before they have to repave the road (with asphalt).

  13. #13
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    When the PanAm games came to Winnipeg, the cycling association and the PanAm association mapped out a Time Trial route for the participants, and then requested that the Manitoba government fix up and repave the shoulders so that they would be nice for the games.

    The Manitoba government did ... with heavy, gravelly chipseal. For whatever reason, the person in charge of the fixing and repaving thought that would be the best surface for the occasion.

    A pre-PanAm games Time Trial was held for all the Manitoba racers ... kind of a dress rehearsal ... and I raced that day. The event was good, but the road surface was awful. I think everyone logged their worst times.

    But it was too late to do anything about it and the PanAm cyclists raced on it. So ... it's even used during significant events.

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    The default sealed road surface on most roads outside of main cities is chip seal here. It's sometimes used in the towns as well. Just when it's worn to a nice smooth ride, they relay it.
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    Senior Member jmccain's Avatar
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    I think it's a conspiracy by the tire manufacturers.

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    Eventually all of the rural roads (less than state highway status) get some type of seal coat here in Wisconsin. Initially the loose material is a real hazzard at the edge of the road and intersections. In my area they often used crushed basalt which can have some very sharp pieces. Historically most of my flats come on relatively fresh coatings of this type. The small rounded pea gravel can be looser to ride on at first but at least it isn't sharp.
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    Here in NH they love what they call skim coating. Not chip and seal, that would be grand. I like to call their technique scab coating. They toss it down whereever it is needed and to say doesn't last worth a crap is an understatement. Typically they use it when they are going to end up repaving in another 2-3 years and want to try to make the road last a little longer. I'll take chip and seal any day over what I have to deal with up here. It may not be the smoothest stuff but chip and seal is far better than what I have to deal with up here.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikenh View Post
    It may not be the smoothest stuff but chip and seal is far better than what I have to deal with up here.
    Yeah? Come on down and ride some fresh Texas chip seal on a road bike with skinny tires. Or drive on it. You need ear plugs. I don't understand why motorist don't rise up in rebellion.

    My steel framed bent with big tires make it tolerable. Barely.
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    We have it on tertiary roads around here. Which are often the prettiest roads to ride. But it's way better than the chip seal I knew as a kid. Provides a pretty decent ride (although I wouldn't want to ride on it exclusively) unless they start running logging trucks on it. They'll tear it up in a week.

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    There are a whole lot of different ways to apply seal coatings, and even chip seal can vary a lot, depending on who does it, and how they do it, and what aggregate they use. Perhaps the biggest factor is what the substrate is. Where I used to live in Indiana many of the county roads (and the ones in nearby Michigan) were not actually asphalt roads. They were well built gravel roads that in the 60s and 70s were chip sealed, directly on the gravel. You grade the road, spray on the asphalt, and put some aggregate on top of it. If you do the rolling and sweeping of it right, you end up with a decent all weather surface, though one that's a lot rougher than is ideal. I'd bet a bunch of the texas roads the original poster is complaining about are done this way, too, especially if they are (or were) low traffic. They also are very flexible, so they're susceptible to gouging and groving and frost heaving. A lot of these got paved with a real top coat of asphalt, and fall apart. A chip coat on real asphaltic concrete road is a lot nicer, particularly if it's rolled with a roller, and not just traffic doing the compaction.

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    the county did a batch of chip seal on paved roads, and while annoying, it actually came out fairly well. Although there is one mountain road that used to be pretty nice and now isn't. Hopefully this is stopgap and they are planning on real pavement next time around. There was one road that doesn't get much traffic that they used 1/2" pea gravel on a couple of years back. You couldn't use road tires on it for quite a while, but it has all worked its way in now. I keep wondering if they are going to let that particular road go back to gravel.

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    Most of the roads around here are on the rough side, with reddish quartzite being the rock most commonly used for chipseal. I can ride about 2 mph faster on a smooth, freshly paved asphalt road than I can on the roads with chipseal. I'd call that a significant difference.

    The crews around here don't usually sweep the roads after laying the chipseal, so with the low volume of traffic we have it can take months before the loose rock disappears.

    When spring comes the maintenance crews will repair the cracks that have developed in the asphalt roads over the winter by forcing hot asphalt into the cracks and then covering the repaired crack with toilet paper. I assume other places use that method, but I don't recall seeing it elsewhere.
    Last edited by Ranger Dan; 11-07-12 at 01:48 AM.

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    Cyclebum,
    Your chip seal is bad enough to keep me away from that little ride you guys call HHH. No telling how many riders they would have if it was on smooth pavement!

  24. #24
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    I've done some touring in Ok reed, from the mountains to the plains. On nice, smooth highways. Ok is a great place to tour. Lots of state parks. My first foray there was around Roman Nose not far from Perkins.

    I swore off touring in Texas due to the pervasive use of rough aggregate. In spite of my resolution, I find myself headed for Big Bend again in January, the allure of the area prevailing over TDOT.
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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
    I've done some touring in Ok reed, from the mountains to the plains. On nice, smooth highways. Ok is a great place to tour. Lots of state parks.
    I only rode across a bit of it, but found the roads to be in really poor shape in OK. The experience was limited to riding Rt 56 across the pan handle though. The comparison in road condition when leaving KS and entering OK was really dramatic. The pot holes in OK were very poorly patched and the shoulders were all cracked and broken up. Additionally, I am pretty sure both the lanes and shoulders were more narrow.

    Based on that experience I figured that I'd avoid OK where possible. Based on your comments, maybe I should give the state a second chance.

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