July 21st, Day 33: La Crosse, WI to Mauston, WI: 79 miles, 2614 ft. ascent

The last 50 miles of today’s ride was in the sort of constant rain that makes one think of England (not necessarily in a homesick sort of way). But at least it wasn’t cold and the winds weren’t fierce.

The combination of the rain and the short, sharp hills reminded me of my regular Sunday rides with Bath CTC, and in particular a recent conversation with Michael Perryman.  

As Michael is an astronomy professor, he is great to cycle with if you ever feel like a mental workout to match the physical one. Like me, he is a fan of numerical elegance and introduced me to the concept of the Eddington Number.

Eddington numbers are perhaps best explained by an example: if you have an Eddington number of 95 then you have ridden at least 95 rides that are at least 95 miles long. For algebra fans: your Eddington Number is the largest integer E such that you have ridden at least E miles on at least E days.

The challenge with Eddington numbers is that once you reach your target (e.g. 95) and then decide to go for a new target (e.g. 110) then all the rides that less than 110 become useless and you need to start over, doing rides that are greater than 110 miles.

My own Eddington Number is, I am guessing, a rather pathetic 80 or so. Because James is only 27 and already has over 20 centuries under his belt, he is very confident of getting an Eddington Number of at least 100 and may even achieve that in his early thirties (he's tempted to go for it before he's 30 - junior subed).

Our conversation on Eddington Numbers led very naturally into a discussion of one of James and Alastair’s heroes – Tommy Godwin. Godwin’s record for total miles cycled in one year was set in 1939 at 75,065 miles. Amazingly, that record stood until last year. He also set the record for cycling 100,000 miles at exactly 500 days. This record, even more remarkably, stood until ten days ago, when it was finally broken comprehensively by Amanda Coker.

Another long held long distance record of which I am personally in awe is the tandem record for Lands End to John o’Groats, set by Pete Swinden and John Withers in 1966 which stood for almost 50 years. They covered the circa 840 miles on a tandem they bought for £12 in a time of just over 50 hours, fueled by bread pudding and sweetened milk.

Chris and Judge Ted refuel at a SAG stop. There are cheese curds amongst other sweets and fruit on the table.
Swinden and Withers style retro energy food - Chris stocks up on Cheese Curds, a Wisconsin delicacy (on right of table)