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Mastering the Cobbles – Why Do Cyclists Like It?

By Jiri Kaloc

Every time bicycle wheels start turning on cobblestones, they echo with history. Riding on pavé is not just cycling, it’s a rite of passage. Skill, adrenaline, history, and fulfilment are all reasons why cyclists are still drawn to this bumpy, unpredictable terrain. Let’s take a closer look at each motivation to get a better understanding.

Test of technique and finesse

As we explored in the previous article of the series, cobblestones were added to cycling races to increase the difficulty. But the thing is, navigating pavé isn’t just about brute strength. More watts will make you faster but without adequate technique and finesse, you are also that much more likely to crash. Succeeding on cobbles requires balance, an acute awareness of your bike, and a deep understanding of how to handle unpredictable surfaces. It’s a test of handling skills, a challenge to your ability to adapt and react. Every ride polishes your skills, turning you into a more adept, responsive cyclist. And that’s what makes cobblestones so appealing to a certain type of cyclist.

The adrenaline factor

Riding on difficult, irregular terrain at high speeds is bound to spike your adrenaline. Unlike the predictable hum of asphalt, cobblestones offer a rollercoaster for the senses. Every second is a new challenge of trying to balance speed with the risk of falling off. For some, it’s thrilling to try and manoeuvre through this chaos. Cyclists looking for extra excitement and rush may be attracted to pavé for these exact reasons.

Cycling on cobblestones
Cobblestones, also known as pavé in French, were originally added as a part of cycling races to increase difficulty for the riders. © Profimedia

Personal accomplishment and community

Conquering cobblestones is a victory not just over terrain but also over self-doubt, it’s a testament to your tenacity. The sense of achievement in mastering these ancient adversaries is enticing. Moreover, cobblestone routes are often communal crucibles where bonds are forged in the shared struggle and triumph. The community comes together in sweat, mud, scraped jerseys, and laughter. You earn the nod of those who’ve gone through the same hardship as you. That’s how many cyclists get pulled in in the first place.

Sense of a historical connection

Cycling is a sport with an incredibly rich history and riding on pavé makes you acutely aware of that. Cobblestones carry the legacy of cycling giants who have battled over these same roads in legendary races like Paris–Roubaix or the Tour of Flanders. To ride there is to pedal in the wheel tracks of history, to connect with a tradition that transcends time. It’s a chance to be part of a narrative that’s larger than any single rider. And even not knowing anything about the significance of cobblestones in cycling, your body will certainly feel what it was like to ride on these surfaces back then.

Cycling on cobblestones means many different things to different cyclists. To some, it’s a test of physical and technical prowess, to others, it’s a way to connect with history and tighten bonds with their community. If you’re looking for a new challenge or adventure, you have to try some serious cobblestones at least once.

Next up in Mastering the Cobbles series