Week 79: Preparing for Cobblestones

My mind this week was firmly focused on my upcoming trip to France and riding the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix. After work on Monday, I went to one of the cycling shops in Cambridge that focuses more on road cyclists than recreational cyclists. In particular, I knew that I needed to kit my bike out with some slight modifications to ease the pain of riding on 50 km of rough, cobblestone roads. There were three key modifications to make. Firstly, I bought a new roll of handlebar tape, to be installed on top of the current handlebar tape. That would give my wrists a few extra millimetres of cushioning. Secondly, I purchased some 28 mm tyres, up from the 25 mm tyres I was already using. This may not sound like a big difference, but crucially, it allowed me to use a lower tyre pressure without risk of puncturing. Finally, I switched my plastic bottle cages for aluminium ones. Metal could be bent slightly, and would hold my bottles in place without rattling off, which has happened to me on rough roads before. I had a little bit of trouble installing the wider tyres, there was barely a millimetre of clearance left in the forks of the bike.

On Tuesday, I decided to take out my now-modified bike for a test run. I rode around a short loop through Cottenham and Waterbeach, just north of Cambridge. The problem was, it was raining, and I had chosen to ride along some of the dirt roads and byways that I had identified on the route. These roads turned to mud, and filled in the little clearance I had between my tyres and frame, so I had to stop and clear off the mud a couple of times.

The rest of the week was spent at the Cavendish working on a by-hand calculation of the annihilation rates into neutrinos. I had figured that there was something special about the neutrino rates, but I didn’t know what it was. I wanted it to be illuminated through the mathematics, but by the end of the week, nothing jumped out at me as obviously notable about it all.

Friday brought with it the beginning of the Easter weekend. It promised to be a relatively relaxed weekend, following a rush of rather busy weekends through February and March. Friday was also my birthday, so I decided to celebrate by going on a long bike ride. In my mind, I was still thinking about my upcoming trip to France, so I wanted to replicate the experience of riding cobblestones through Cambridgeshire. Unfortunately, the only cobblestones I was aware of was Green Street in central Cambridge. Instead I headed out onto the fens north-west of Cambridge in search of the roughest by-ways and dirt roads to replicate the harsh feeling of hitting cobblestones. I rode a circuit that went out to the lakes around Fenstanton. Some of the dirt roads were rather smooth, as though they used to have a asphalted covering that had since deteriorated, but others were basically cleared mud. All of them were covered in pot-holes that required careful negotiation. Unfortunately, but the end of my ride, the rain and wind started to hit, and it was a rather depressing ride back into Cambridge. I had a rather relaxed birthday afternoon, opting to stay at home and clean up all of the mud I had collected on my ride. Birthday dinner was a small, homecooked affair, followed by heading out to Annalise’s place to play some board games into the evening.

Still wanting to get to know the sensation of riding on cobblestones, I decided to wait until late on Saturday and ride along Green Street in central Cambridge at some kind of speed. So I waited until the crowds died down a little, and went and rode some laps through through the centre of Cambridge. Unfortunately, after a couple of laps, I started to have some problems with my chain, which eventually broke, meaning I had to push my bike all the way home. After fixing it, I still wanted to ride, so headed out and rode an hours worth of laps around Midsummer Common.

The rest of my Easter weekend was spent on the down-low. I had been out of Cambridge almost every weekend of the year so far, and April was also promising to be rather busy. So instead, I stayed in and did some planning and preparation for my upcoming adventures. The same was true on Easter Monday, at least until Council meeting at Clare college in the evening.

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