Can I have an E please Bob?

by | Mar 15, 2017

I defy you to read the question “can I have an E please Bob?” out loud without laughing.  I cannot do it. Just the name Bob is enough to raise a smile if you think of Lord Blackadder saying it. To be fair Rowan Atkinson could make any name funny but he demonstrates it well here.

Now, don’t get me wrong.. I love a good Bob. Literally. My dad is called Bob and maybe one day, when I grow up, I too will morph into a Bob.  Bob is a name very close to my own heart.

There are also some quality famous Bob’s out there (past and present):

  • Bob Dylan
  • Bob Marley
  • Bob Hope
  • Bob Geldoff
  • Bob Carolgees (also impossible not to laugh about in my opinion)


Bob Carolgees

Bob Carolgees


In fact, and quire bizarrely, there is a whole website dedicated to Bobs. Check out The Bob Club.

But we are not here to talk about Bobs.  No.. we are here to talk about E’s.

(Note to self: “You must stop all of the drugs references. You are a serious athlete. Just say no!”)


Zammo: “Just say no”.


E Numbers

Yes we are here to talk about your E Number and, no, this is not yet another post on nutrition. Enter Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington who was an English astronomer, physicist, and mathematician of the early 20th century.  Obviously Sir Arthur is not a famous Bob.


Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington (Sir “Bob”)


However, he does share an interest in E’s with Bob Holness (and maybe Bob Stephenson for all I know).  In the case of Sir Arthur, however, the E in question refers to the Eddington number.

Wikipedia reliably tells us that:  “In astrophysics, the Eddington numberNEdd, is the number of protons in the observable universe.”

Right then.

It also goes on to say that: “In the 1938 Tarner Lecture at Trinity College, Cambridge, Eddington averred that:

I believe there are 15 747 724 136 275 002 577 605 653 961 181 555 468 044 717 914 527 116 709 366 231 425 076 185 631 031 296 protons in the universe and the same number of electrons.”

Wikipedia further informs us that: “This large number was soon named the “Eddington number”.

Hold on a minute, there are 2 things that are worthy of note here:

  1. The fact that Eddington “averred” that there are a shit load of protons (and the same number of electrons) in the Universe.  I mean when have you ever “averred’ anything?
  2. That Wikipedia feels the need to describe it as a “large number”.  Just in case we were unsure as to what number they were referring to.


The remaining 2 people still reading (I know who you are) will be asking what in Bob’s name has this got to do with riding your bike? Well here comes the good bit.


The Cycling E Number

In addition to being a world renowned astrophysicist, mathematician and averrer of large numbers, Sir Arthur (darn it, lets call him Sir Bob just for sport) was also a keen Rouleur and decided to apply a (very) small portion of his (very) large brain to devising a measure of a cyclist’s long-distance riding achievements.

Quoting once again from the authority that is Wikipedia:

The Eddington number in the context of cycling is defined as the maximum number E such that the cyclist has cycled E miles on E days. For example, an Eddington number of 70 would imply that the cyclist has cycled at least 70 miles in a day on 70 occasions. Achieving a high Eddington number is difficult since moving from, say, 70 to 75 will probably require more than five new long distance rides since any rides shorter than 75 miles will no longer be included in the reckoning. Eddington’s own E-number was 84.

So Sir Bob had found the time to ride 84 Miles on 84 occasions whilst bringing the concept of Einsteins relativity to the English speaking world and having a stand up argument with Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar on the subject of whether Black Holes could theoretically exist or not (he lost that argument by the way) amongst a boat load of other achievements.  What a legend.

The really good thing about the E number is that it gets progressively more difficult to improve.  This alone makes it a decent measure of Unhingedness.


Brian Toone and the E Number

Some of you may already be aware of this phenomenon but I first discovered it recently when looking at a ride from Unhinged Hall of Famer, Brian Toone.  Brian had split up a seriously Unhinged ride of 539km into a 361km ride and a 178km ride in order to “get the Eddington credit”.  This intrigued the Unhinged Tandem Captain who investigated it immediately.

Now your E Number is quite difficult to calculate as you have to list out the mileage of all your rides and group them.  The Unhinged Tandem Captain is a bright guy and worked out how to do it on a spreadsheet.  The Unhinged Cyclist is a lazy bastard and found an online tool that does it for you. Link it to your Strava account and, Sir Bob’s yer uncle, it provides you with your E number as shown below. Mine is 73.  (This is the only time that I will reference myself in ‘old money’ or miles as it seems right for this.. it also works in kms of course.)

My E Number


In addition to your current E number, the tool shows you how it has progressed over the last few years.  It also handily shows you what you need to do to hit a certain E number.

The main number that I am interested in is 100.  I need to ride 65 more centuries to get my E number up to 100.  It also means that I have only done 35 centuries.  This is mildly surprising and somewhat disappointing.  So here is a new goal for me: to get my E number up to 100 before I turn 50 which will mean 13 centuries per year for the next 5 years.  A good goal in my opinion.

Back to Brain Toone:

Brian’s E Number


Yes, Brian is at 143.  He also wants to get this to 200.  And to do 100 centuries this year. Properly Unhinged



So, whilst this is a bit of fun, the E Number can be thought of as a measure of how Unhinged you are as a bike rider.  Admittedly, distance is not the only factor in an Unhinged ride. Far from it. As we have seen this year, it can be something as simple as riding in one’s underpants.  But it will give us a clue.  So, don’t be shy.. why don’t you try the tool and share your Unhinged E Number in the comments below?

I wonder what the E number of Bob Holness is.  Is he even still alive?  Just checked and, nope, he also passed away in 2012.  RIP Bob.  I guess we will never know…



  1. Glen Bowker

    Kudos for managing to get photos of Bob Carolgees and Zammo into the same cycling blog!

    • Neil Owens

      Great article. The excellent site also calculates your eddington in miles, KM and your climbing eddington in meters. 73 is very impressive, as is 35 centuries!

  2. Jeremy Woodruff

    another very entertaining blog rob – not sure what score it should get but consider it a high one – cheers


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