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.
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