Time to catch up before I forget! Cycling day 46 was the big Vias Verdes day and after the mixed feeling about Via Verde number 1 from Albacete a few days ago I was hoping for someone far better. Did I get it? I suspect that if you’d asked me the question at different points of the day, you would have been given different answers. It all comes down to physics. Yes, physics. The stuff you learnt at school (if you went to school in the days prior to them calling everything ‘science’) about physical things and in this case, their movement. Now Newton came up with three laws of motion which at speeds that are anywhere near the velocities that Reggie is capable of are true (get nearer the speed of light and that’s where Einstein kicks in); for every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction (in other words if you put a piece of bread on the table as I just did in this tapas bar in Seville, the table exerts an upward force to balance the downward force of the bread and it stays in the same place rather than flying off and hitting the waiter in the eye), if an object is moving in a particular direction it will continue to move in that direction until acted upon by some other force (if I throw the bread at the waiter to grab his attention it will either fall to the ground due to the force of gravity and miss him or it will hit him and stop due to the force of his forehead against the bread – I would also experience a force and get kicked out of the bar), and the acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the force that is applied to that object (so if I do get booted out of the tapas bar the speed that I do so will be entirely dependant upon how forcefully the waiter kicks me up the arse). I think that’s it.
Now, what has all this got to do with me cycling? (I’m beginning to wonder myself…) Well, smooth surfaces. They are great and its why the majority of roads upon which you drive your car are smooth. There is a compromise to be had however as a road that is too smooth would have your wheels simply spinning on the ground. So on a micro level they need to generate friction but on a macro level they need to be smooth. If you weren’t able to drive your car on smooth roads then you would see your fuel prices rocket. Why? Well, because every time that your car hits a divet, hole, pimple, undulation… Newton’s laws kick in and the road tries to stop you moving in the horizontal direction you want to move. Your car compensates by applying more force and hence using more fuel to keep you moving horizontally. In a car, although you feel the physical consequences of being on an uneven road, you only notice the extra energy impact when you pay for your fuel. On a bicycle, it’s different. You feel the physical pain in two ways; firstly the physical movement which has you moving up and down like a whore’s drawers (sorry, old joke) but also the extra energy needed to keep moving horizontally is expended there and then. It’s bloody knackering! Which is why, on balance, I cannot recommend the Vias Verdes for long-distance travelling cyclists; the ground you are cycling upon is just too uneven. They are great for photos – see lots of examples below – but for anyone who just wants to enjoy the view and put some distance on the clock, it might be a better option to stick to the relatively smooth roads.
Physics lesson over. I now expect lots of comments correcting my recollections of what I studied at a Level…