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75,065 miles the target to beat as attempt on 1939 benchmark is launched

One of the leading lights of the Audax UK scene, Steven Abraham, will spend 2015 attempting to break the record for miles cycled during a single year. It’s perhaps cycling’s most enduring record, with the current benchmark of 75,065 miles set by Tommy Godwin in 1939 long considered unbreakable.

In order to do so, Abraham will have to average 205 miles every single day of the year – that’s a tenth more than the longest one-day race on the calendar, Milan-San Remo, and he has to do it for 365 days in a row.

Seasonal factors of course mean that ticking off a set distance a day is impossible, especially given the vagaries of the British weather.

On his website, Abraham has sketched out a schedule that would take him to 82,835 miles in a single year, averaging a lowest monthly daily distance of 170 miles in January and peaking at 285 miles a day in July.

The record attempt has more than two years in the planning. In June last year, someone who had seen a BBC One Show feature on Godwin’s “unbreakable” record posted about it on Yet Another Cycling Forum, asking, “anyone up for it?”

Within a couple of hours Abraham, posting under the name Teethgrinder, confirmed he had already begun making preparations.

“I've built a prototype bike and tested it over the last Christmas by trying to ride 220 miles a day over several days,” he revealed, before explaining some of the challenges he would face, whether physical or in terms of equipment. 

“I never quite managed it,” he said of that target distance.  “A lot of strong wind and heavy rain, so it definitely was a good test for the bike. The bike held up well, but I'd use disc brakes instead of the V brakes I used. The pads only lasted a few days and by my reckoning I'd need new rims every 6-8 weeks.”

Since then that forum thread has become a place where people have given support, advice and encouragement to Abraham, who has now gone public with his plans, launch of a website, One Year Time Trial.

The record attempt will not be sanctioned by Guinness World Records, which considers it too dangerous to undertake. Instead, it will be run under the rules of the Ultramarathon Cycling Association, which also regulates the annual Race Across America.

Besides battling the ghost of Godwin, Abraham will also have some Transatlantic competition, with a rider from the United States also aiming for it in 2015.

To undertake the attempt to beat Godwin’s record of 75,065 miles, Abraham will take a year off work.

Clearly that has financial implications, and while he is financing much of it from his own pocket, he is also looking to raise sponsorship through his website, which explains:

We do not know exactly how much this project will cost. Estimated cost for the practicalities of this attempt is around £13,000 minimum. There will also be a charge from the UMCA who will be verifying and officiating this record, assuming that they do decide to have this as one of their records. The UMCA will be charging in order to cover their expenses though have not come up with a figure. We will probably know in early December. I expect this figure to be in thousands of pounds.

Of course, with commercial sponsors supplying equipment, our costs will go down. We are hoping that we raise more money than is needed and that this becomes a charity fundraiser. Beneficiaries are currently undecided, though cancer and children's charities are being considered.

There are a variety of other ways in which you can help him, outlined on his website. Volunteer support roles, some best suited to people in or near Abraham's home town of Milton Keynes that need filling include hosts for overnight stays, a chief mechanic, home help, and routes and social media managers.

Godwin – not to be confused with 1948 Olympic medallist Tommy Godwin who acted as an ambassador to the London 2012 Games and died shortly afterwards at the age of 91 – was born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1912.

Riding his heavy greengrocer’s delivery bike with the metal basket removed, he clocked 65 minutes to win a 25-mile time trial at the age of just 14.

With the Year record fashionable in the late 1930s, it was natural that Godwin, who had turned professional earlier in the decade amassing more than 200 victories, should have a crack at it.

Sponsored by Sturmey-Archer and Raleigh and riding a bike that weighed 14 kilograms, he spent much of the year vying with fellow Briton Bernard Bennett to set a new record.

By October he had beaten the previous record of 62,657 miles, and by the end of the year, Bennett trailed him by just shy of 10,000 miles.

Remarkably, he carried on going, and in May 1940 finally ended his epic ride as he set a record for the fastest man to reach 100,000 miles on a bike. After spending several weeks getting reacquainted with how to walk, he enlisted in the RAF.

His former professional status meant Godwin was not allowed to take part in amateur races after the war. He died in 1975 at the age of 63 on his way home from a ride with friends.

You can watch the BBC feature looking back at the careers of the two cyclists who shared the name Tommy Godwin here.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

33 comments

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dodgy [224 posts] 2 years ago
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Does it have to be done in the UK? It wouldn't be my first choice if funds allowed. Then again, if he does it in Spain or somewhere, it will never stack up against Godwin's in some people's eyes?

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Simon_MacMichael [2494 posts] 2 years ago
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He's doing it in the UK, sorry, should be clearer now.

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Gkam84 [9100 posts] 2 years ago
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Some of Steve's story as I went round Ireland with him this year were amazing to hear. He mentioned that he was looking to take this on, along with a few other things. All the best to him

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dodgy [224 posts] 2 years ago
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Also, just think what a casual statement that is that the Guinness book of records considers riding long distances to be dangerous.

Sad reality, perhaps.

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ajmarshal1 [417 posts] 2 years ago
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Not sure how I feel about this. Kudos to the guy for taking it on but Tommy Godwin's record is a bit of an institution. I kind of want it to stand forever.

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Chuck [588 posts] 2 years ago
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dodgy wrote:

Also, just think what a casual statement that is that the Guinness book of records considers riding long distances to be dangerous.

Sad reality, perhaps.

They might be saying that trying to beat a record that was set when the roads were very different places might be dangerous, which isn't quite the same thing.

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Gkam84 [9100 posts] 2 years ago
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Guinness won't ratify this record for anyone to break, because they want the record to stand forever. Nothing about it being to dangerous

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Leviathan [2662 posts] 2 years ago
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Guinness need to stick to what they are best at. If someone is crazy enough to attempt it and has the time, money, dedication and fitness to complete it. Equipment will be a big advantage so in effect Godwin's record will still stand alone, either way. It will be interesting to see the record attempt documented in modern style.

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Gkam84 [9100 posts] 2 years ago
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As for it costing thousands with the UMCA, I can't see it being that expensive. A current record attempt costs $65.

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ChairRDRF [357 posts] 2 years ago
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You can't knock anything away from Tommy Godwin's incredible ride, but spare a thought for an earlier record holder, Walter Greaves, who got round on a diet of tomatoes, milk and bread (he was a vegetarian) and surviving a crash and time off with hospitalisation. He also had only one arm.

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ChairRDRF [357 posts] 2 years ago
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More on Greaves:
Greaves completed 45,384 miles in 1936. It was significantly less than Godwin – he took it easy with a mere 130 miles day after breaking the 43,996 existing record - but with more problems to contend with. 1936 had particularly bad weather conditions, and Greaves had minimal sponsorship, often having to sleep outdoors. One report at the time said that “his clothes were little more than rags”. He had numerous crashes – having to take two weeks off after requiring an operation and hospital stay after one particularly severe one. A committed vegetarian, his basic diet was bread, milk, orange juice and tomatoes, with he occasional green salad and sometimes some dates and figs

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Vin Cox [50 posts] 2 years ago
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The email address to volunteer is broken  2
I'd like to put him up for a night; be good for my karma - I owe a bit.

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Vin Cox [50 posts] 2 years ago
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The email address to volunteer is broken  2
I'd like to put him up for a night; be good for my karma - I owe a bit.

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massspike [139 posts] 2 years ago
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I assume these modern attempts will be tracked on Strava/MMR. I am curious as to how Godwin's record was verified?

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Gkam84 [9100 posts] 2 years ago
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Weirdly I've just gotten an email with various details on it from the UMCA. This part is relevant to this article

"We are happy to announce a new MAX MILEAGE program, which will be officially launched prior to the new year. This program will offer awards in many classes of solo riders (no teams) for total mileage ridden in a year. Riders will submit their GPS or other tracking files for 365 days. Some riders have already let us know that they want to go after the World Record set by Tommy Godwin, 75 years ago, of 75,065 miles in one year."

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Malaconotus [104 posts] 2 years ago
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Even with modern equipment, beating this record will be almost impossible. Without drafting, which will presumably not be allowed, at an 18mph average he'll be riding 18 hours a day in summer, 12 in winter. Every single day! I wish him well but I don't think we should be mourning the demise of the institution of the old record yet.

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Al__S [1223 posts] 2 years ago
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Certainly not mourning the current record yet- but celebrating that there's someone mad enough to take it on! Records are there as targets.

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alotronic [519 posts] 2 years ago
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Malaconotus wrote:

Even with modern equipment, beating this record will be almost impossible. Without drafting, which will presumably not be allowed, at an 18mph average he'll be riding 18 hours a day in summer, 12 in winter. Every single day! I wish him well but I don't think we should be mourning the demise of the institution of the old record yet.

It is a stupendous undertaking, the winner of the Audax distance award this year, Mike Lane, clocked in at just over 30,000km, an all time high, this is over triple that.

Steve is an Audax legend. Yes he will be riding 18 hours a day or more, and for an Audax/TCR style rider that's a short day  3 Of course most Audax riders can do that for 'just' 3/4 days in a row...

It's the recovery and mental discipline that's the problem, not sitting on a bike all day. His main challenge, to my mind, it is not getting sick.

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FlatericFan [29 posts] 2 years ago
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+ 1 for that, these people are incredible, i thought i was addicted

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Simon E [3051 posts] 2 years ago
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Godwin was also a vegetarian - http://www.tommygodwin.com/

I too am seriously impressed that Steve wants to attempt the record and wish him all the best... yet the sentimental part of me wants it to stay with Tommy Godwin.

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dassie [114 posts] 2 years ago
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Go Steve! Apparently breaking the record will amount to doing 85-90 LEJOGs; one every 4-5days.

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richdirector [69 posts] 2 years ago
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 41 Amazing and i wish him all the best - I would only attempt if it was on a warm med coast and I was a 5% downhill all day ......

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Oolon Colluphid [44 posts] 2 years ago
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I had a good look through the Godwin website earlier this year after a some of our club members completed a 205 mile-in-a-day tribute ride on 22nd June. His achievement is nothing short of astonishing, made even more amazing by his continuance into 1940 on wartime roads and with rationing in effect.

I did read somewhere, though, that drafting was a standard part of these attempts. Might have been in Wikipedia.

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Sir Wobbly [20 posts] 2 years ago
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bikeboy76 wrote:

Guinness need to stick to what they are best at.

Making beer?

Anyway, I'm in awe of Steve's attempt and shall be helping out a little during the year. I sincerely hope some of you reading this will, at the very least, donate a little cash to help the daft sod out.

Having ridden with him a few times on piffling little rides like London Edinburgh London and Paris Brest Paris I have a bit of an idea how strong Steve is. But 75k miles is truely an insane distance.

The man has big balls.

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james-o [235 posts] 2 years ago
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Nice one Vin, likewise here.

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badbobb [26 posts] 2 years ago
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tommy Godwin, how was it proven he cycled all those miles? any proof?

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LWaB [61 posts] 2 years ago
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A few years back, Steve rode 40,500km of brevets in one Audax UK season, while holding down a full time job. Virtually all of them were ridden on fixed wheel because he couldn't afford to keep a geared bike running in all weathers for that mileage. Additional to that total was commuting and everything else.

I doubt that there is anybody in Britain better able to take the record.

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Kadinkski [682 posts] 2 years ago
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badbobb wrote:

tommy Godwin, how was it proven he cycled all those miles? any proof?

It was before the days of Strava being so ubiquitous; he probably used Map My Ride.

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Gkam84 [9100 posts] 2 years ago
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LWaB wrote:

A few years back, Steve rode 40,500km of brevets in one Audax UK season, while holding down a full time job. Virtually all of them were ridden on fixed wheel because he couldn't afford to keep a geared bike running in all weathers for that mileage. Additional to that total was commuting and everything else.

I doubt that there is anybody in Britain better able to take the record.

Indeed, the article fails to mention that he is only a convert to gears the last few years

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backflipbedlem [1200 posts] 2 years ago
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WoW!!!

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