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: - there's lots more on there so check it out for yourselves!

1 comment:

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