real life cycling

What? Have you never had a Tarmac fetish?


Fetish, it’s fair to say, is quite a ‘loaded’ word.

It brings to mind images far too lurid to describe on this wholesome, family website. But, when it comes to my feelings about smooth Tarmac, I’m not sure what else to say.

I consulted the dictionary, which told me that a fetish is: “any object or non-genital part of the body that causes a habitual erotic response or fixation.”

First of all, this is the only time I’ve considered that parts of the body might be categorised as ‘genital’ or ‘non-genital.’ Secondly, even my feelings toward smooth Tarmac don’t quite stray as far as ‘erotic’.

Not often, anyway.

The dictionary offered a further description of fetish as: “any object, idea, etc., eliciting unquestioning reverence, respect, or devotion.”

Now we’re getting somewhere – if that doesn’t describe the way your average UK cyclist feels about smooth, pristine tarmac, then I don’t know what does.

On my recent trip to Mallorca I was able to indulge my Tarmac based fantasies to my heart’s content.

Every ride – from a thirty-mile leg loosener to a hundred mile epic – is a new entry in your top twenty rides of all time. This is partly because of the weather, the views, the forgiving gradients, and the impossible beauty of the towns and villages, and largely because the Tarmac is just so, unbelievably smooth.

After one particular section of silky hairpin bends, I’m pretty sure I tried to buy one of the road-workers dinner.

It really was a good holiday.

If you told me that a crack team of Spanish road-workers head out at dusk each night and re-lay the Island’s Tarmac in preparation for another day of cycling perfection, I’d believe you without batting an eyelid.

The roads are a deep black, surely just set, with a pungent chemical waft, and decorated with lines as white as a northern cyclist in early May. The bike tires swoosh and swish with each pedal stroke, sucking up the energy from each leg and converting it into pure forward momentum.

Not a kilojoule is wasted.

I find myself dwelling on the British media and their tales of a Spanish economy in meltdown, and I can’t quite tally that with my experience of what is surely the highest of high-grade Tarmac plastered across this sunny Spanish Island.

There was a section of Tarmac laid near my home in Lancashire in 2016, just a few hundred yards worth, on a road popular with cyclists. Within hours, word went out on social media of this grand event.

If someone had spotted Eddy Merckx himself sharing a needle with Lance and heading out for an evening of pheasant and Champagne with Jacques Anquetil, it would have only garnered slightly more attention.

This meagre stretch of what, in Mallorca, is ten-a-penny, was considered a major talking point in the cycling community.

And you wonder why I fetishize the stuff?

(Image: by CFiesta (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons)

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14 comments on “What? Have you never had a Tarmac fetish?

  1. On my last ride came across a lovely smooth fresh wide sustrans cycle path that had recently replaced a stony, bumpy track – sheer delight. I just had to cycle it both ways, even with a strong wind blowing!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. We often talk about newly paved roads but from the sounds of it, we can’t quite complain about bad roads like you can. I’ve seen what you have to deal with and it is gnarly.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So true and you have described it (the absolute joy of smooth tarmac) beautifully! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You are spot on. It was a joy to ride on. In Mallorca you can concentrate on peddling and enjoying the awesome views rather than constantly​ worrying about falling down a pothole. Also it makes all the time in the saddle so much easier to bear because your aforementioned body parts aren’t taking an unpleasant pounding from riding rough surfaces (that’s not meant to have a double meaning!).
    It’s not just the beautiful tarmac though. Everyone there is so tolerant of cyclists it makes the whole experience so amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It does have the effect of making the terrible road surfaces here in the U.K. doubly terrible! For convenience and great cycling it surely can’t be beat?


  5. Great post, you had me sniggering at your lurid relish of the word “fetish”! Yep, it’s all potholes and crumbling roads round here – so much so that I’ve just had to buy yet another set of replacement wheels!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. On my 500km ride from Yellowknife to Hay River in the Northwest Territories, much of the road was chip seal. When a nice smooth section of tarmac would appear it was like a little slice of heaven!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Agree that the roads in Mallorca were far better than expected (and better than I have at home!)

    Liked by 1 person

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