Sunday 27 August 2017

Numbers! (LGD -259 Days)
Sunday 27 August 2017, 104 Miles

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With the recent fine weather today seemed like a good opportunity to knock out another century. I've already ridden over 400 miles this week so I was looking forward to crossing the 500-mile threshold. The other goal for me is that I have discovered something called the Eddington Index. Let me explain.

Sir Arthur Eddington (1882-1944) was a distinguished astronomer, physicist and mathematician. Much of his work was focussed on explaining Einstein’s theory of relativity. He also developed the Eddington number. He used a mathematical analysis of the dimensionless ratios of fundamental constants. This combined several fundamental constants to produce a dimensionless number. Still with me? No. Well, I’ll let you into a little secret. I’m not still with me either! In the unlikely event that I’ve whetted your appetite to get deeper into understanding this kind of stuff then I recommend that you shell out £7.99 (not a dimensionless number) and buy the Ladybird Book of Quantum Mechanics. I’ve read it and I’m none the wiser. Jim Al-Khalili who wrote it, says that even he doesn’t understand some of the stuff he’s written about. I guess that’s just how it is. What I have worked out is that if one day quantum physics is fully understood and given a practical application then its impact is likely to be similar to that when humans discovered how to use fire to support life.

Anyway, this blog is meant to be an account of my riding adventures so I better get back to the point – the Eddington Index. You see, in addition to being a scientist working beyond the cutting edge, Sir Arthur Eddington was also a keen cyclist and he devised the means to measure long-distance riding. Briefly, the Eddington Index is defined as the maximum number E such that a cyclist has ridden E miles on E days. In plain English, an Eddington Index of 60 means that a cyclist has ridden at least 60 miles in one day on 60 occasions. Similarly, riding at least 72 miles on at least 72 days gives an Eddington Index of 72.

My Eddington Index currently stands at 101 and I need to ride another two rides of at least 102 miles to raise it to 102. To give you a feel for how progressively harder it gets a sample of my numbers are:

Eddington            Number of Additional
Index                        Rides Required

103                                     29
104                                     40
105                                     55
110                                     84
120                                   112
150                                   148

I’ve worked out that as I usually aim to do one big ride a year I’ll be 208 years old before I achieve an Eddington Index of 150! Cycling in the afterlife – now that’s something to ponder when I want a break from quantum physics. Here endeth the lesson for today.

Today’s ride took me west out to Ely and then north to Denver before I turned east to head over to Watton and then south on the last leg home. The early part of the ride was under hazy cloud but by the time I reached Ely the sun had done its stuff and I was enjoying blue skies and a light breeze as the temperature gradually rose. I was feeling quite soporific in the sun so I decided to take it easy, enjoy the sights, sounds and smells that I passed and forget about average speed, cadence and heart rate. In other words, a lovely long bimble. The Infinito which I was riding seemed quite happy with this too.

The ride parallel to the River Great Ouse was pure pleasure. On one side I could see fields where the harvest was coming to an end and already the farmers were ploughing the soil for their next crop. This is some of the most valuable and most productive land in the country so they can’t afford to let it lie idle for too long. The golden browns of harvested grain fields contrasted with the rich greens of the sugar beet crops which will soon be harvested themselves. My heart sank slightly at the thought of this as it inevitably means muddy roads, and increased puncture risks ahead. On the other side I watched a succession of boats of varying sizes chugging along the river. As this was a bank holiday weekend the amateur navy were out in force. Denver Sluice was heaving with people and the Jenyns Arms was doing a roaring trade.

From Denver I left the flat fenlands behind me and rode on into the gently rolling countryside of south west Norfolk. I stopped briefly in Oxburgh which is best known for its Hall, now owned by the National Trust. It was incredibly busy – all the car parks were full to capacity so I decided not to linger but did have a quick peek at the St. John’s Church. The church is noted for its two elegant terracotta tombs. Its other striking feature is the result of the tower and spire collapsing in 1948 and destroying the south side of the nave. This was apparently due to a combination of the weight of the bells and some high winds. The remaining arched north wall is quite impressive though.

Leaving Oxburgh it was an easy ride back home through Breckland. This is a part of East Anglia that I really enjoy riding in. The combination of gently undulating terrain, heathland and farmed fields framed by Scots Pine hedgerows under blue skies and warm sun is stunning. With temperatures now in the mid-twenties there was the smell of resin and pine oil in the air which just added to the delight of the ride.

What a great day! My average speed (15.3 mph) was quite slow, even by my standards. But I now need only one more ride of 102 miles to raise my Eddington Index to …. Can you guess the number?


Wednesday 23 August 2017

In Which Nairo Has A Click, A Creak and A Doughnut (LGD -263 Days)
Wednesday 24 August 2017, 114 Miles

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Today was a day that had been spoken about for quite a long time. Daren (Nairo) Morgan had noticed my penchant for riding to Orford. He was keen to find out for himself what the attraction of the ride was. And he also wanted to sample one of those doughnuts that I rave about. With the prospect of reasonable weather we were soon off and riding – Nairo on his Intenso and me on my Infinito. Or rather we weren’t quite off and riding because within the first mile came the cry “I’ve forgotten my heart rate monitor” and we had to turn around and return to the start so that Nairo could reclaim this essential item. Suitably equipped we set off again and this time made it out of my village and onto the open road.

I had planned the route to give Nairo the full 5-star experience and had added in a slight deviation to skirt the north and east of Ipswich so that we could cross the River Deben on the ferry to Bawdsey. What I hadn’t anticipated was a steady south easterly wind which meant it was in our faces for most of the outward leg. Nairo is a faster rider than me and also has a tendency to start off much quicker than I do. My approach is to ride at a steady, or even sedate pace that I can sustain for the whole day without fear of blowing-up. Consequently, with Nairo setting the pace into the wind, my legs were gently asking questions about what was up. As much of the route was new to Nairo I played the part of the good tour guide, pointing out places of interest as I rode along behind him. It took me a while to work out that much my commentary was lost to Nairo – the wind blew it away behind me.

We were going quite well as we passed through Debenham and Framsden. Shortly after Framsden Nairo’s bike developed a clicking noise – loud enough for me to hear. Now this is something that happens from time to time. I ride with Look pedals which are well-known for the ‘Look Click’. Another common cause is minor slippage of the rear wheel.  Loosening the quick release, jiggling the wheel and then retightening the quick release sometimes solves the problem. Occasionally it hints at bearing trouble in the bottom bracket which can be more terminal and is not something that can normally be fixed on the road. Nairo doesn’t ride with Look pedals – he favours’ Shimanonos so that ruled cause one out. At this point I should remind you that I have issues with riding an Italian heritage bike with anything other than Italian components. Nairo is much less fussy in that department.

When it comes to noises though it’s the reverse. I am much more forgiving and excel in the art of selective deafness. That’s one of the “benefits” of parenting – my selective deafness reached world championship standards during my children’s teenage years. Nairo on the other hand can’t stand a noise – he’s inherently an adjuster and a tweaker so anything mechanical making noises it shouldn’t is an invitation to stop for an adjustment or a tweak. Or sometimes, an adjustment and a tweak. And that’s exactly what happened as we approached Otley – a roadside pause and a rear wheel tweak. Unfortunately, it made no difference. In fact quite the opposite because following the tweak, or was it an adjustment, Nairo’s Intenso started making a new sound – a short of swish or whoosh, rather like something rubbing together. The click continued unabated. Both sounds only happened when he was pedalling. Freewheel and it was the sound of silence.

We carried on for a while – I was leading now and behind me I could sense Nairo getting a bit wound up. He was not a very happy rider. Leaving Grundisburgh it all got too much for him and so another roadside stop with a tweak and an adjustment was necessary. And the result? No change – click, swoosh, click, swoosh, click swoosh with every pedal revolution. Perhaps fortunately, as we turned to pass between Ipswich and Woodbridge the road surfaces became a lot rougher so that added another level of noise and one which seemed to mask the click and swooshes. And I think Nairo was becoming resigned to a noisy ride.

I soon had my own mini-mechanical to contend with though. Although it was overcast it was also very humid so we were both quite sweaty cyclists. We decided to stop in Trimley St Mary and rehydrate with a can of pop. Suitably quenched I clipped my right foot into the pedal and pushed off. As I clipped my left foot into its pedal, in addition to the usual loud click of contact, the pedal decided it was time to part company with its spindle. As I careered across the road, fighting to avoid bodily injury, Nairo, who was behind me, was in fits of laughter. Poetic justice perhaps for what might have been some of my less than helpful comments earlier about tweaking and adjusting. Fortunately, my mechanical incident wasn’t terminal and I was able to reattach the pedal and get going again – silently!

We made our way down to Felixstowe Ferry and crossed over to Bawdsey Quay before heading on to Orford. With a quick spin down to the Quayside at Orford we then headed back into the village for a late lunch stop at the Pump Street Bakery. I had been bigging-up the quality of the doughnuts to Nairo so I was hoping they hadn’t sold out. Although there were no raspberry ones left there was a nice stack of rhubarb filled ones so our order was placed. This being Nairo’s first visit he went the whole hog and snaffled a sausage roll as well. I was a bit more restrained – for once. I also discovered that this was Nairo’s first ever visit to Orford – by any mode of transport. So that was another first!

With the noticeable headwind most of the way down here we were looking forward to a wind assisted ride on the final 50 miles home. Unfortunately for us, Mother Nature had other ideas and whilst we had been lunching in the shelter of the village, the wind had turned to become a westerly. In other words, it was going to be a headwind home. Drat! The return leg took us back through Snape, Saxmundham, Framlingham, Stradbroke and Eye. This was only Nairo’s second century of the year so he was showing some signs of wear – brought on by a combination of miles, wind and yes, clicks and swooshes!

By the time we arrived back at my house we had ridden 114 miles which for Nairo was another first – the longest distance covered in a single ride. Sitting in my garden I asked him if he had enjoyed it to which he replied “I’ll need to think about that.” Well, that may be. I certainly had a grand day out.