Guest Article: The Bike Likelihood Equation
Why do we love the cycling equation here? For me, applying equations to deal with the passion we feel for cycling is just always funny. Reducing one’s love to some numbers and square root signs doesn’t work but the attempts to quantify always bring a smile. So sharpen your pencils and break out the slide rulers, we have some homework here. Thanks to @JimBywater for doing the calculations.
How hard is it for a man to ride his bike?
This isn’t a metaphysical or rhetorical interrogation, but a completely serious, straight forward question. Well, it depends where you live, what you do for work and what significant others you have in your life. They provide the all-important variables determining any man’s ability to successfully mount leg over bike.
But let’s take this question one step at a time. How hard is it for any man to ride his bike? Literally.
Well, first you have to learn how to ride a bike. Done. I did that when I was about 5 years old.
Next, you have to own or have access to a bike to ride. Check. 4 of them in the shed. Road, gravel, hybrid or mountain. Take your pick.
So, I have the requisite skills and equipment. Just need to choose a time and away I go.
How about today. Thursday 11th February 2016. Well, I have work between 9 and 5. I could cycle 30 miles to work, but the weather forecast shows it being about 1 degree at the time I’d need to leave, which means there would probably be ice, which is a little dangerous. However it does look like it’ll brighten up in the afternoon, so perhaps I could leave the office early and get a ride in. All my work is up to date, and baring any emergencies this should be possible as I worked late this week on something and am owed some lieu time. Ok, how about 2pm. That gives me 3 hours before I have to get back to the house to help out with the family duties.
11:40 on Thursday and the network in the office has crashed. I’m responsible for the network in the office, so I suppose I better hang around until it’s fixed, which will mean I probably won’t make my 2pm riding appointment. Ok, perhaps if things go well I could go later in the evening, say 7pm. Weather forecast has it at going down to 3 degree, which is a little close to the ice creation limit. Looks like another day with no ride, making it 7 days in a row where I haven’t ridden my bike.
As I think back across the last 6 days, it becomes frustratingly clear to me that there are 6 major forces at work to stop any man from riding his bicycle. You can assign a value to each factor and work out your riding likelihood on any given day. The higher the score, the more unlikely it is that you’ll be riding any time soon. Work out your values, plug them into the below equation and read your score:
W (W+T+R) + Wk + R + I = the Bike Likelihood Equation
The Bike Likelihood Score Table
0 – Definitely, 150km minimum. Big bowl of porridge and enjoy the day!
1 – Very likely, at least 100km. A solid session, probably get some top 10’s on Strava.
2 – Highly probable, should be an 80km day. Keep the pace quick in case you need to get back.
3 – Likely, you’re looking at 2-3 hour window for a ride. Nice local loop early morning, late evening.
4 – Good chance it will happen, keen the bibs on underneath in anticipation.
5 – Possible, be sharp and go as soon as the chance occurs
6 – Not looking great, although things could turn around so keep the Lycra out
7 – Unlikely. You’ll have to be very lucky and very economical with your time
8 – Very unlikely. More chance of Cav beating Kittel in a sprint nowadays.
9 & above – It’s not happening. If you have 7 of these in a row, think about another sport. Maybe computer gaming or something.
How to Score: The 6 Opposing Forces of Cycling
Weather – this can be broken down into 3 major components:
- Wind – I’m not impartial to the odd strong head wind but I call it off when faced with one of the 9 major storms that have hit the country so far this winter, providing winds in excess of 40mph. Wind that strong is both dangerous and impractical as you’ll hardly be moving anyway once riding into it or hardly riding because a tree has fallen on you.
Values – 0 = anything less than 13mph, 1 = 13 – 20 mph, 2 = 20-40mph, 3 = anything above 40mph
- Temperature – I have enough cold weather clothes to comfortably ride as cold as I can before ice is present on the roads. I did go out for a ride around the 2-3 degree last winter which resulted in hitting a patch of ice and crashing hard on my hip and shoulder. Not clever.
Values – 0 = 15 degree or above, 1 = 8 – 14 degree, 2 = 3 – 7 degree, 3 = below 3 degree
- Rain – Whilst, I’m not overly bothered about rain (as I’ve purchased a gravel bike and hundreds of pounds worth of waterproof clothing) it would be dangerous to go out in a torrential thunderstorm. Some people aren’t keen on any wet, or don’t have appropriate equipment so the rain affects them differently and can be scored accordingly.
Values – 0 = not raining, 1 = spitting, 2 = raining, 3 = torrential downpour
- My job has a couple of ‘business critical’ responsibilities meaning if things stop working, it doesn’t matter what time of the day, week or year it is, I have to get them working again otherwise the business will start to struggle to run and we all stop making money. Thankfully these situations don’t occur too often.
Values – 0 = no work impact whatsoever, 1 = occasional but very rare impact, 2 = rarely impacting but can exist with emergencies/special occasions, 3 = constant work impact (seriously demanding position with early mornings and late nights)
- Having a wife and two children aged 2 and 7 mean that I have certain moral obligations imbued upon myself that aren’t particularly flexible. Evening reading, homework, parties, clubs, etc. etc. I have to be around to help out with these things and even show enthusiasm for them sometimes, in the glim optimism that perhaps someday they might want to share a ride with me. Now I know some guys have more/less paternal instinct than others, and feel more/less guilty about leaving for weekends at a time while they venture off around Europe, or you’re just getting into a new relationship with a partner and don’t want to ruin things, so please score yourself accordingly.
Values – 0 = no ties, responsibilities or significant others, 1 = my wife is pretty cool but does draw the line at a romantic weekend in Roubaix around April time, 2 = kids are young enough that I can sneak out every weekend without major issue, 3 = major troubles as kids are into everything, busy evenings & weekends, 4 = Kids at level 3 plus grandparents in the mix at weekends
- Here I’m talking about anything that makes riding the bike more painful, difficult or downright impractical. Colds can be ridden through but are often best left to heal as cycling will only prolong them. Flu, (proper flu with the shivers and fatigue) are common across winter and likely to strike at any moment, and living with others only makes this germination process more likely.
Values – 0 = clean bill of health, 1 = bit of sneezing/tight hammy, 2 = proper cold/sore knee, 3 = crocked with real injury or illness
So, if I assign some values for today and plug them into the formula let’s see what I get:
W – Not windy, very cold only going above 3 for a few hours while at work, no rain = 3
Wk – In the middle of a large, risky project upgrading telephony system in the office = 2
R – At least one child will need some attention and the wife will probably want to leave the house in the evening after spending all day inside it while potty training the 2 year old = 3
I – all good…at the moment = 0
Plug those values into the equation and we get
W (W0+T3+R0) + Wk2 + R3 + I0 = 8. Very Unlikely
If I run this formula on a simulation for myself in April, with some seasonal showers, a change in work situation but with R and I remaining fixed, you can see simply that the likelihood falls into a much more favourable score for my situation.
W (W0+T0+R1) + Wk1 + R3 + I0 = 5
When I look back across the previous 6 days, I can easily see that I’ve been scoring in between 7 and 9 every day, with at least 3 forces combining each time to prevent a cycling session from occurring.
Frustrating, but at least I can see what I need to do now. Change some variables. Move abroad, change jobs or ditch the family. Simple.