Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Early morning....

I was out early again this morning, setting off in inky darkness and wrapped up to the hilt to shield myself from what looked like a freezing start. It is the end of January and noticeable that the light is returning. It is the light that turns the countryside into a great work of art - the natural tool to give landscape its depth - establishing foreground and distance - and accentuating the geometry imposed by cultivation. And, because all of this is in a state of perpetual flux the masterpiece is never quite finished - never quite the same. Rivers and streams are animated by the coming and going of light, the water sparkles or appears dense and mysterious. Each shaft of light catches a different detail, each dawn illuminates an otherwise hidden beauty.

As I ride the gloomy greyness is pierced by a spear of glowing gold light, the morning mist flows like a stream in the air, there are a thousand dew covered spiders webs and a jumble of warbled notes tumble down through the bare branches. The land seems strangely still. There is a sultriness that lies over everything. As the light gets stronger I notice the grass in pastures looks thick and rich with an almost spring greeness and the trees stand proud with a delicacy of colour against the light grey sky; fresh skeleton shapes of black, red, grey and the softest brown. The land seems in suspense now. Nothing is happening, but it as though something is about to happen. There is suspense and mystery and expectation. there is no sound, no wind, no rain, and the light grows ever stronger. I pause to take a photograph on my phone - the tree trunks look blurred and seem to bleed into the background like a wet painting. It is a beautiful view of a new day beginning and I feel warm and content despite the cold.


Monday, 30 January 2012

2012 Projects....

At last I think we have formulated our cycling projects for the year ahead - and you dear reader are the first to hear our plans.

The big one for this year is a trip to France - we are heading for the south, Provence, and an attempt at Mont Ventoux and possibly Alpe d'Huez - although realistically i think we'll settle just for the Ventoux.

A few facts then:

Mont Ventoux is probably the second most famous climb in the world after the Alpe d'Huez, it is a magnet for cyclists throughout the summer.
Named the windy mountain, the Mont Ventoux stands over 1,600 metres or a vertical mile above the Provence countryside. The most famous ascent is from Bedoin, a quiet town on the south side of the mountain. This is the side the Tour de France and Dauphine Libere use when riding the mountain.
The mountain became famous on the 13th July 1967 when the British cyclist Tom Simpson rode himself to exhaustion on the slopes and died. There is a memorial to Tom Simpson on the southern side of the mountain, just over one kilometre from the summit. The climb can be incredibly hot at the bottom. The gradient is steep and there are no hairpins on which to recover. Once the Chalet Reynard has been passed with six kilometres to the summit, the Mistral wind, which helps gives the mountain it's name can come into play and can buffet a cyclist all over the road. The seven percent gradient can feel more like 15 percent.

Next will be The Dunwich Dynamo - this is an annual semi-organised event that has been running for the past 20 years, we will ride through the night from London Fields in Hackney, London to Dunwich on the Suffolk coast. It's 120 miles by moonlight!

Also we plan to ride to Southwold in Suffolk from here in the Midlands - 186 miles door to door and we intend completing it in one day. We rode to Southwold in 2009 but took a couple of days so this will be out of our comfort zone.

Possibly we might attempt a ride from here to Skegness.... and back again in a single day - that would be in excess of 200 miles - could we do that? - Don't know? - We rode to Skeggie in 2009 and back the following day - it was tough enough over 2 days so not sure I want to suffer that much.

There might be a Sportive or two to attempt and we are certainly going to need some climbing practise as the France trip gets closer - but it's exciting and I like a target/challenge - something to aim at.

I'll keep you informed of progress.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Books....

I seem to remember mentioning I would post a list of cycling books that are worth a read... so here it is.

Tour de Force - Daniel Coyle
This is a favourite - it gives an in-depth view of Lance Armstrong, what makes him tick, his relationships, his obssesive training regimes etc, its a warts and all story of the complex sport of cycling and the most gruelling race in the world. EXCELLENT!!!

Sex Lies & Handlebar Tape - Paul Howard
The story of 5 time tour winner Jaques Anquetil - wine, women, women and... more women.

The Flying Scotsman - Graeme Obree
A moving but sometimes difficult book that takes us into the troubled world of one of a cycling genius

The Escape Artist - Matt Seaton
Excellent writing on a lifelong obsession with cycling that many will relate to.

The Beautiful Machine - Graeme Fife
Excellent to begin with - maybe tails off in the last third - but beautiful writing from this ex classics schoolmaster.

Fallen Angel - William Fotherigham
Tells the tragic story of Fausto Coppi's life and death - of how a man who became the symbol of a nation's rebirth after the disasters of war died reviled and heartbroken. Told with insight and intelligence, this is a unique portrait of Italy and Italian sport at a time of tumultuous change.

It's all about the Bike - Robert Penn
A joyful read - written with a Brysonesque facility for concentrating a lot of information and research into an easy-to-read format.

The Agony and the Ecstasy - Stephen Roche
I think this is the first cycling book I ever bought - back in 1988 - first edition - might be worth a few quid? It's the story of the making of a cycling champion. It follows Roche's growth from home-town Dublin boy into a young European, famous in every city where cycling is a major sport, and the astonishing series of wins in 1987 that were to make him a sporting legend. "The Agony and the Ecstasy" takes us behind the scenes of triumph and into the mysterious world of cycling, showing us what life for top professionals is really like. It covers the roads, the races and the riders themselves - how they live and train, their battles with the elements on great marathons, the crowds and their role in morale, the dangers of the sport, and the elation or despair when the finish line is reached.

In Search of Robert Millar - Richard Moore
A classic bird-like climber, light and wiry in build, Millar was the best British cyclist, all round, since Tom Simpson - This book is a fine portrait of Britain's most successful Tour de France cyclist. (until Cav!) The author's meticulous and lively book traces Millar's journey from Glasgow's tenements to the Alps and the Pyrenees, in whose company he had few peers.

Racing Through the Dark - David Millar
I haven't read this book - in fact i don't have it yet - but it's on my radar. I've seen Millar on TV and read some of his stuff in various mags and newspapers - he is intelligent and articulate - I'm sure it will be one worth reading

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The way to go......

When it comes to it, this would be the ideal send off.....

Although this novel idea has been popular among cycling enthusiasts and the environmentally friendly, Rev Sinclair and his wife Marian are just not up to long bike rides anymore and have struggled to find locals willing to take up their job.

'We're simply not fit enough to ride it,' he said.

'It's seen some lovely funerals but we're always wrecked afterwards.
'We beg people who book it not to go too far - we even have to ask if the cemetery is at the top or bottom of a hill.'

The tandem was developed by a sidecar racing engineer and cost £2,250 to build, according to reports. It is being sold as a going concern and the reverend is inviting offers in excess of its cost price.
The tandem hearse will go on view as part of the Return to Sender display at the Christian Resources Exhibition in Exeter, Devon.


... and I've been thinking about a career change.



Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Cycling miscellany - part 3

The Amphibicycle

Sadly no pictures remain of the remarkable tricycle designed by WilliamTerry which could be dismantled and re-assembled as a boat. The wheel and frame formed the hull; a wooden keel made it stable while air bags on either side gave it buoyancy.

In 1883, he travelled from London to Paris using this unique machine for the entire journey; riding as far as Dover, he re-configured it as a boat, rowed over the Channel and was promptly arrested by the French authorities on suspicion of smuggling. Having convinced them of his true intention he continued to Paris by road.... and canal.

What about it Gaz???

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Early.....

I must be especially mad this morning. I woke around 3.45am - I lay for a while but I knew I wasn't going back to sleep - I felt warm, hot almost. I got up and looked out at the weather - it seemed calm, - I decided I'd go out on the bike. The Sunday ride left me feeling disheartened - I need to get back on and reconnect.  I decided on a three layer kit approach along with No. 2 gloves. I changed the batteries in my back light and pretty soon I was outside and in the garage. The bike needs cleaning, it looks more like a mountain bike, covered in mud. I get the lights working and I'm away. Straight away I notice how cold it is. I should have gone for four layers and definitely number 3 gloves - after only a mile my hands are freezing. Then the hail starts. I stop and pull on a stretchy bandana thing that i have in my pocket. I think this came free with one of the cycling magazines I buy - it's been a useful bit of kit - today I pull it into a balaclava type arrangement - now my ears are warm. I also slip on my raincoat and I'm ready to go again. I feel the benefit of the bandana/balaclava immediately - and the effect seems to pass through to my hands. It's more like sleet now but I'm well enough protected. I see a fox up ahead - he dashes across the road, pauses then goes back across and through the hedge. I seem to be moving quickly - not sure of the speed it's too dark to see the speedo - but I feel okay. I'm riding one of my usual routes, around 15 miles, I know it well, but the darkness brings a sense of mystery and danger. I am aware of where I am but strangely unsure of what lies ahead - my immediate cone of vision extends maybe 15-20 metres - beyond that is dark, black and unknown - where was that pothole? - was there mud here, glass maybe? The darkness wraps around me but offers no comfort, the world is monotone, I can see no colour just earthy grey and black.

The sleet is now rain and falling heavier. I'm over halfway round my route now - I haven't seen anything; no people no cars, nothing - it feels slightly surreal; like the opening shots to an episode of The Avengers. That thought and the harsh black and white view in front reminds me of the new wave British films from the late 50's early 60's - I half expect to see Albert Finney waiting at the bus stop.

The last uphill section of the ride goes better than I expected - I feel comfortable, I'm warm now and breathing more heavily as I climb towards home. Still no traffic - even as I pass over the busy main road there's no need to pause. The world is still asleep - I have all this to myself.

I get home, change, shower and make a coffee - it's 5.45am

Monday, 23 January 2012

Reliability trial - torture!

Gary texted me early on Sunday morning - his message read "what's the plan".

I got out of bed and drew back the curtains - it looked okay - there was no rain, the sky looked clear - I texted back "I'll be with you by 9.30"....

On the way to Netherseal I didn't notice the wind at all - you tend not to when driving a car - but once I'd arrived and got the bike ready I heard it snarling and felt it biting at me. We rode steadily into Burton on Trent to join The Mercia Cycling Club 50km Reliability trial - the poor sods who were riding 100k had already set off. All the way the wind whipped our faces and held us back - we were pedalling at about 10mph and it required real effort - it was if giant hands were holding us back. As we got close to the clubhouse the wind seemed to get even more aggressive, now it was spitting grit and dust at us and each pedal turn made my thigh muscles burn.

When we reached the club house and went in to sign on for the ride, I said to Gary that i felt as though I'd just finished the ride - the effort to cover just 10 miles or so to get this far had really sapped my energy. We stood around for a while waiting for the 10.30am start - I walked along the street and leaned my bike against some railings - I wanted to film the riders leaving on my phone - as I got into position the wind blew my bike into the road. I picked it up and propped it against the fence again, this time at more of an angle - no good - same again, the bike went clattering down. Finally I filmed the cyclists whilst holding the bike at the same time - the omens weren't good.

Out onto the road and it was an immediate long climb up Henhurst Hill towards the turn for Anslow and Hanbury - straight, head-on into the gale - it made the climb doubly painful and the only thing to do was to get as low as possible and grind slowly, slowly upwards. The right hand turn offered a slight respite but soon we'd swung round again into the full force of it. The route was lumpy; many ups and downs through Hanbury and then out to Marchington. At one point I found myself halted by a particularly savage gust that reduced my speed from about 12mph down to less than walking pace within a couple of metres. I've never ridden in weather like this - we've all been out on windy days but this was more than that - this was torture.

We edged on towards Loxley and Kingstone - more exhausting climbs . We felt the route had to turn soon - with the wind behind us surely things would be a lot easier. We turned towards Newton, Admaston and Blithfield Reservoir and at last the weather felt kinder. Gary checked his GPS - we had averaged no more than 10mph so far. We picked up speed on this second half of the trial - up and over the reservoir into Abbots Bromley we were flying for a while - my speedometer recorded 38mph on one stretch. Now we were heading for Hoar Cross and the dreaded Jackson's Bank - our energy levels were so depleted that everything became a chore - After the sharp descent to The Meynall Ingram Arms at Hoar Cross it was Jackson's Bank next - looming ahead, a seriously steep climb. We dropped into the lowest gears possible and climbed slowly but steadily - it wasn't so bad, but then we were travelling no faster than walking pace. After that it was the rollercoaster of The Scotch Hills - a section of road that could be transplanted straight into Alton Towers - up/down/up/down/up - at breakneck speed, this would be fun on a normal day.

A couple more climbs and we're at Dunstall and the road through to Tatenhill and then onto the Sustrans Route 54 to take us back into Burton and the clubhouse. We finished the course in 3hours 5minutes - last year we did it in 2 hours 40mins. I was hoping we would have been quicker this year; after a year of hard training and LeJog in our legs. But today we were beaten, battered, pummeled by the weather. We had ridden in total almost 60 miles and climbed 1200metres - it felt much further and lots higher. As we enjoyed hot tea and some delicious home-made cakes I heard someone say "I'd like to say I enjoyed that - but I didn't". That about summed up the day. No smiling faces, no laughter or friendly banter, everyone looked tired, beaten and morose. I felt like I needed sleep - but instead we had another 10 mile ride home. Ugh.

Here's the video clip from the start - You might spot gary towards the back of the group... and you should be able to hear the wind!


video








Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Cycling miscellany - part 2

Continuing an occasional series of interesting snippets...

Marshall 'Major' Taylor (1878-1932) was one of the fastest cyclists of his day and one of the world's biggest sporting stars. While he was racing he was the most prominent African-American in the world. With his trainer he devised an innovative conditioning regime that avoided 'overtraining' - this enabled him to race hundreds of times in a season and defeat riders with much more powerful physiques.

You can try it too....

1. For the first week of training, cycle 5 miles each morning and afternoon at an average speed of 15mph

2. For the second week, up the distances to 10 miles twice a day at an average of 15mph

3. During the third week start upping the pace each day by 0.5mph. So that after 3 days you will be riding at 16.5phm average. As this becomes more challenging only raise your speed every other day.

4. After about a month you will be cycling 20 miles a day at an average of 22.5mph - and your basic training is complete.

See - it's easy really!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Preparation....

This coming weekend will see Gary and I enter our cycling club's annual reliability trial. A reliability trial is something of a throwback, a historic term dating back to the early years of the 20th century when cycling equipment was less reliable, roads were rougher, routes were more poorly signposted and mobile phones had yet to be invented. The challenge is to complete a course within a preset time limit, riders need to be self-sufficient, able to deal with any mechanical problems and fit enough to complete the course. These days much of the function of reliability trials as a test of fitness, reliability and the ability to ride long distances has passed to the closely similar 'Audax' events. However a few cycling clubs still hold them, usually in the wintry opening months of the year and club cyclists use them as a training ride.

Last year we rode the event, 50 or 100km (we opted for 50), in cold and wet conditions - we completed the course in 2 hrs 40mins which is pathetically slow by racing standards - but it was a tough course with some formidable climbs. The course this year will be the same - we know what's coming - whether we manage a quicker time is doubtful.

So it was that we decided a longish ride would put us in good stead for the forthcoming event. I met up with Gary and another Paul at the usual meeting place. It was a bright day, fresh and clear, the sun was trying hard to raise the gauge but the temperature was unwavering in its refusal to move much above freezing point. We were riding early afternoon and there was still much evidence of the overnight frost. The verges and trees looked sugar coated and the roads that were shielded from the sun by hedges retained an icy slipperiness. We rode gently through quiet familiar lanes, the fields eerily empty and barren. But then this is the time of renewal, the land is dormant, resting, building up its resources for the rebirth of spring - the ritual reaffirmation of life to come in the longer, lighter days. A vision of fire pops into my mind and the phoenix rising from the ashes.

Soon we have to climb the hill up to Market Bosworth - we take a steady approach but it still hurts - the after effects of a new year cold are noticeable now - my lungs are burning by the time we reach the top. I feel slightly uncomfortable and realise I am still not fully recovered. The riding is flatter and easier for a few miles now as we head into Cadeby and the short, fast road to the outskirts of Sutton Cheney. This is a route that Gary and I rode many times last year as part of our LeJog training - but not so early in the year and at such low temperature. We manage a fair turn of speed along the road to the Upton turn-off, we stay together, a small tight group encouraging each other to keep pedaling.

Where the farmland hedges have not been cut, tall saplings are growing out of them and standing like flagpoles. They have smooth bark and already have small, black leaf buds emerging. I notice a weeping willow with some leaves still clinging on although the sudden cold spell seems to have encouraged a fall and there is a neat pile of yellowing leaves around the base. We have another burst of speed on the long but gentle climb up to Upton village. We are visiting 'the bench' our traditional stop and the chance for a rest, a drink and, thanks to Gary, a bite to eat. It is noticeable when out on the bike how much better food tastes. I suspect a combination of fresh air and physical exercise sharpens the appetite. We sit for a few minutes and enjoy a couple of excellent biscuits whilst pondering whether or not a letter to Upton Parish Council might encourage them to move the bench into a sunnier position for the winter months.

As we set off again it suddenly feels much cooler - of course the brief respite means we ourselves have cooled down and there is certainly a marked difference. We head to Shenton at a reasonable pace before making the turn up towards Far Coton. Last time we passed this way there was a collection of gypsy travellers camped on the verges - we were impressed at how tidy their entourage was. They've gone now and there is no signs that they were ever there.

We pass back through Congerstone as the light begins to fade and the temperature drops. I leave Gary and Paul before the last big climb up to Barton in the Beans and then home. Someone has lit a bonfire under a crack willow tree just beyond the canal bridge. It smoulders and glows gently with just a feint plume of smoke drifting over the field towards the canal beyond.

Soon I'm home - 35 miles covered, I feel tired but satisfied. Tonight I will sleep well.



Monday, 16 January 2012

Some interesting notes....

I have a little book - 'The cycling miscellany' - it contains snippets of interesting facts and information - I'll post a few to give you the idea....

Training.....

Jacques Anquetil (5 time winner of The Tour de France)
Jacques would plan a route of around 75 miles taking in as few hills as possible. he would send out someone in a car driving at a steady 34mph - then he would keep pace with it - no slowing down, if he got bored he would take the lead! Most of his teammates would be unable to keep up the pace after about 15 miles - Anquetil was said to lose 6.5lb on each ride.
On his race preparation Jacques said "A few whiskies, a few cigarettes and a woman"

Eddy Merckx (the greatest racing cyclist of all time)
"If the training is hard the racing is easy"

Fausto Coppi - Italian champion
"Ride your bike, ride your bike, ride your bike"


Hydration.....

"It was so hot that the tar was melting under our tyres. I was completely dehydrated. I ended up stopping beside a farm and I lapped up the dirty water from a cattle trough. And that's how I got foot and mouth disease. It's usually only cows who get that"
Raphael Geminiani (Tour de France stage winner)

Pain....

To be a cyclist is to be a student of pain... at cycling's core lies pain, hard and bitter as the pit inside a juicy peach. It doesn't matter if you're sprinting for an Olympic medal or a town sign - if you never confront pain you're missing the essence of the sport. Without pain there is no adversity. Without adversity, no challenge. Without challenge, no improvement. No improvement, no sense of accomplishment - and no deep down joy. Might as well be playing tiddlywinks" - Scott Martin

Love life...

" A real professional concentrates exclusively on his job. When I was winning, I permitted myself one sexual encounter a year" Alfredo Binda (5 times Giro d'Italia winner)

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Early ride...

I woke early today - 5.00am to be precise, but before you groan with disdain at the idea of me pedaling away whilst you were still tucked up in the land of nod, I should quickly add that I went straight back to sleep. I woke an hour or so later and after a squinty view from the window decided that an early morning ride would be a good start to the day.

The waxing moon was still visible as I set off, the roads were a shiny silvery grey as the day spluttered into life. As I make my way along familiar roads I think how this is like boring a geological sample through the strata of local life. I encounter a dog walker who returns a surprised 'Good Morning' - clearly caught off guard by my salutation.  I pass an old boy in a car who slows down for me and we exchange waves - his is more a signal than a wave; a lingering forefinger raised as if for the peak of a cap. Then I pass another cyclist coming the opposite way. I shout 'Good Morning' and he just keeps looking straight ahead with no sign of acknowledgement. I feel like remonstrating.

Now it is light and the sun is already bright above the horizon. Not at all what you might expect in early January - it's mild, almost warm - I think I am perspiring slightly. There is a mass of low cloud in the distance, violet-grey and peaked like a range of mountains but the sky above is blue with just a few single clouds hanging like balloons. I approach a flock of partridges gathered in the middle of the lane pecking away at the grit - as I get close they scamper away in all directions, some into the hedgerow while others take flight and follow the lane just ahead of me before veering off over the hedge and into a field. There's a team of road repairmen up ahead - their machinery gurgles and coughs and their bright yellow jackets mixed with flashing lights reminds me of a pinball machine. As I pass, one of the workers shouts out a hearty 'Morning mate' - I reply and try to remember if any workmen had ever acknowledged me before - I don't think so.

As I move on through villages and into more open countryside I notice something only a few feet away along a track, I stop and push myself back to take a closer look - it is a sparrowhawk, fiercely elegant, with long yellow legs ending in curving talons. It is perched on top of its prey - I'm unsure what, maybe a starling it has just brought down. As if buffeted by the wind, the sparrowhawk momentarily loses its balance, but then, regaining its poise, it quickly plucks a single billful of feathers from its prey. The wind snatches away most of the feathers, which drift briefly before falling in a scatter to the damp ground. The bird checks its surroundings and then plucks another billful of feathers. Suddenly there is an explosion of desperate wing-flapping as the prey, which I had thought dead, struggles valiantly to throw off its attacker's weight. I instinctively make a move towards them but then realise both the futility and the wrongness of my action. I stop but the movement alone has been enough to attract the sparrowhawk's attention. We stare at each other, I with regret at the probable consequences of my reflex response, the bird with the fierce burning intensity of a predator caught between hunger and survival instinct. It lifts off, flying low over the field into the growing light, leaving me with the impact of its glare and also leaving behind its prey. I move on hoping the bird will return to find its breakfast - and wishing I hadn't stopped in the first place.


Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Cold.....

No, not the weather - it's unseasonably mild at the moment - nothing at all like this time last year when we were riding in temperatures around freezing point and sliding around on the ice. No, the cold I refer to is my first ailment of the new year. I think I became afflicted on new years eve - at least i started sneezing then. But now I've got full blown man-flu and that means no cycling for probably a week or so.

In the latest issue of Cycling plus there's a feature on winter gloves - I have been thinking of investing in a new pair of winter gloves recently so this article was useful. My hands are probably my weakest link at this time of year. The saying is that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing and I think there is an element of truth in that. In the main I am okay out in the cold or wet but it is certainly my hands that cause the most problems when it gets really cold. I have three or four different types of gloves - quite a few mitt type road gloves which are great in the summer but when the weather gets cooler I need protection. I have a pair of full finger lightweight gloves which are fine for slightly chilly days. They offer protection from the wind and are showerproof to a point. When the temperature gets below 5 degrees I have a thicker pair with a thermal lining - these are reasonable and keep me warm until it gets to between 3 and zero. Then I have an even thicker pair with a secondary pair of lining/base layer gloves - The problem with these is that because of the thickness I have restricted feeling in my fingers for operating the gears. And I still get cold with them. As I said, this area is my weak point and I need to get it sorted - but because the weather has been so mild, so far, I haven't felt the need to don my 'thickest' gloves - let alone splash out the 40 or so hard earned pounds needed to secure one of the recommended high performance pairs. We'll see how it goes - maybe we'll be lucky this year and get to spring with very few extended freeze periods.

On another note, here is a link to one of my other pastimes - namely playing and singing in a band. This dates back to the village I used to live in, there were a few of us who had played music in the past and we decided to get together for a bit of fun. We were going to be The Village People - but that name was taken, Then we thought about The Grateful Dads - except there is a girl in the band - we settled for Simply Crap - which sums us up nicely.
http://youtu.be/nB1xvsZ_SXU

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Year - revolutions....

Happy New Year everyone.

Let's hope all your wishes/dreams/hopes/aspirations come to fruition during the coming months.

I have decided on a 'no resolution' policy this year - that's not to say i don't have plans, it's just that I'm not bothering with the usual ones that drift away after a week or so. As for cycling - it's simple - more revolutions - more miles!!

For those interested in numbers my total mileage for 2011 was 5846.67 - I had expected more?? considering the Lands End to John O'Groats ride in June - and my monthly figures were okay up to and including June - but then I came off my bike in July and had three weeks in plaster which kind of slowed things down, and from then on I never quite got back up to high mileages. So lets see what 2012 brings.

Interestingly Gary and I were talking about mileage and wondering what the world record was for miles accumulated in a year. I've done some research and have been quite startled by what I've found.

The world record for miles on a bicycle in a year is held by an Englishman - Tommy Godwin. Amazingly the record was set in 1939 on a bike weighing over 30lbs and with only 4 gears - but the really astonishing fact is that he managed 75,065 miles - that's right! - Just think about that for a minute - Think how many miles you drive in a year in your car - then try to imagine 75,065 miles on a push-bike.

Here's the story:

Imagine cycling three times around the world in a single year. Imagine getting up at 3am and spending every day in the saddle for eighteen hours covering over two hundred miles. Imagine riding from Lands End to John O’Groats and back every week, whatever the weather for nearly a year without a break. Imagine riding this on a heavy steel bike with only four gears, having to pick yourself up after injury, crashes or mechanical failures and then ride even further the next day.

In 1939, Tommy Godwin turned this into reality and entered the golden book of cycling as the greatest long distance rider in the world. He rode 75,065 miles in a single year to set an endurance riding record that will never be beaten.

Tommy Godwin, was born in 1912. To help support his family, he took the position of delivery boy for a greengrocer's shop. With the job came a heavy iron bike, complete with metal basket. Tommy loved that bike and rode it like a demon on his daily round. The basket was hacked off and at the tender age of fourteen Tommy entered his first twenty-five mile time trial. He flew round in 65 minutes winning the race and setting a standard that would define the rest of his cycling career.

Tommy grew quickly as a cyclist and was soon spotted. He left his amateur status at Potteries CC to join Rickmansworth Cycling Club as a professional rider. After more than two hundred road and time trial wins Tommy sought a new challenge and the year mileage record beckoned.

In 1937 the Australian Ossie Nicholson had regained his year record from Briton Walter Greaves by covering a verified annual mileage of 62,657.6 miles. At 5am on January 1st 1939 Tommy set out to bring the record back home. He wasn't alone in his attempt; two other British riders started that day, Edward Swann and Bernard Bennett. Swann crashed out after 939.6 miles, but Bennett fought it out with Tommy for the rest of the year.

The details that surround Tommy Godwin's record belittle the modern cyclist. His bike weighed well over 30lb. As war came he rode through blackouts, his lights taped to the merest of glows. He had none of the modern cycling comforts. Silk knickers were substituted for chamois inserts and Tommy maintained his strict vegetarian diet throughout.  For the first two months Tommy's mileage lagged 922 miles behind Nicholson's record-breaking schedule. Fighting back Tommy increased his daily average beyond 200 miles per day, and on Wednesday June 21st 1939 he completed a staggering 361 miles in eighteen hours, his longest ride of the record.

On October 26th 1939, Tommy rode into Trafalgar Square, having completed 62,658 miles, gaining the record with two months to spare. That wasn’t enough. He rode on through the winter to complete an astounding 75,065 miles in the year. Still that was not enough; in May 1940 after five hundred days of riding he secured the 100,000 mile record as well. Tommy dismounted his bike and spent weeks learning how to walk again before going off to war.

Tommy returned in 1945, keen to race again as an amateur. However, despite a huge petition signed by hundreds of fellow cyclists, the cycling governing bodies ruled that having ridden as a professional he was forever barred from amateur status, Undeterred, Tommy focused his efforts on others. He became team trainer and mentor to the Stone Wheelers, instilling his own steely brand of enthusiasm and determination to riders old and young alike.
Tommy died aged 63, returning from a ride to Tutbury Castle with friends. Recently a civic reception at Fenton Manor Sports Centre unveiled a plaque in his memory. Generations recount tales of the tough, dedicated cyclist whose generosity knew no bounds. Tommy had a fantastic story, yet his modesty prevailed. He had neither the time nor inclination to tell it himself.

Tommy’s record is staggering, he deserves to be known and remembered as possibly the greatest endurance rider the world has seen. Any individual that has thrown leg over bike will understand that 75,065 miles in a year is simply unrepeatable. The Guinness Book of Records having deemed a repeat too dangerous. His record will stand in perpetuity


Why is the record not currently in the Guinness Book of Records?

The record was initially struck from the book after the entry added for Ken Webb in 1972 was discredited. Following Tommy’s death in 1975 his family campaigned for his achievement to be re-instated which it was, appearing in the book until at least 1995. Current editions of the book do not show his record though, the reason is unclear.
It has been stated that the Guinness Book of Record deemed any future attempt to be to dangerous. However, this may not actually be the case as the book is littered with records in other sports that are far more hazardous.

What clothes did he wear?

Tommy rode a portion of the record bearing a jersey with “World Mileage Record” written upon it making him instantly recognisable on the road. Other times, his cycling apparell would have been typical of the age; woollen  tights,  cotton garmets, a cap and leather shoes. His only concession to comfort was the use of silk underwear, apparently recommended to him by a female cyclist. When it snowed, he wore wellington boots to keep his feet dry during the frequent occassions that he would need to put them to the floor to keep himself upright.
Understandably he quickly wore out shorts and shirts as the record went on. Luckily he had his sponsorship deal with Raleigh who supplied him with replacements as they were needed.

How Was Godwin’s Mileage Verified? 

Tommy’s daily mileages were verified using a number of mechanisms. His mileometer was sealed at the start of the record and witnessed by a third party. He then used mileage cards each day that were signed by witnesses who would verify his mileage against his mileometer along with his location. Cards would usually be signed and verified by those in public service and deemed trustworthy, such as postmasters, police officers or wardens. Thee cards were posted daily to Cycling magazine who would then cross check each of the entries and distances to ensure that they were valid.
The RAC along with Cycling magazine also carried out spot checks, following Tommy, to ensure that he was riding the distances and the speeds he claimed. Finally, Tommy’s attempt was very public and he was always under the scrutiny of club cyclists  and the general public.

What Were Tommy’s Record Riding Statistics?

  • Total mileage year record (Jan 1st 1939-December 31st 1939): 75,056 miles
  • Time to 100,000 miles record (Jan 1st 1939-14th May 1940): 500 days
  • Daily Average, year record: 205.6 miles
  • Daily Average, 100,000 mile record: 200 miles
  • Greatest mileage in a day: 361 (June  21st 1939)
  • Least mileage in a day:  59 (December 25th 1939 - Christmas Day)
  • Days not riding at all: 1 (28th October 1939)
The above information on Tommy Godwin is primarily taken from Dave Barter's web site: www.phased.co.uk - there's lots more on there so check it out for yourselves!