Sunday, December 21, 2014
Tommy Godwin and the Unbreakable Record
Pappy Boyington once said, "Show me a hero and I'll show you a bum." In the wake of the Lance Armstrong Scandal it is very difficult to look at bicycle racers and find heroes or role models or even harder, gods. Mine happen to be mostly local bikers that I have known and respected over the years. Yet a Lycra clad stick biker blasting through the trails disrupting everyone's enjoyment makes me question the respect I place on racers. Yet there is one subculture of racer/athlete that I have yet to fault, the endurance racer. Des Moines was bless with the presence of one Dr. Bob Breedlove who set records on RAAM (Race Across America) until his life was tragically extinguished by someone driving a truck. I always considered RAAM the toughest athletic competition of any discipline. After all, it is riding a bicycle from coast to coast. 7 days is the approximate time and record. Then I discovered a new challenge, an unbreakable record set back in 1939.
Back in the early 20th century to the middle a quest to see who could ride the most miles in one year was a feat which a few met and set. In 1939 a man from England set the record. He rode 75, 065 miles in one year! He took only one day off. He exceeded the old record, 62,000 miles, in October and continued. He beat his challenger by 10,000 miles. And if that was not enough he continued into May of the following year to become the fast individual to set out and ride 100,000 miles. And if that were not enough, he took a week off, basically to learn how to walk again, and joined the RAF. As the bitter dark clouds of WWII encompassed Europe, Tommy Godwin rode a bicycle to give Great Britian its endurance record back and to give the nation hope. He probably did it for himself. As an endurance racer he pretty much beat every record and need one great challenge to conquer.
For someone to match the yearly mileage record they would have to average 205 miles per day every day for a year. For the 100,000 mile challenge, 200 miles per day for 500 days straight. And the bicycles were a custom built Reynolds 531 steel road bike with a Sturmey-Archer 3 speed internal hub and later a 4 peed medium ration SA hub a Raleigh Record Ace with the Sturmey-Archer 4 speed hub. Estimated weight, 30 to 35 lb. No fancy high tech clothing. No advanced scientific nutrition. No GPS, mobile phone or lights. To ride at night he used a friction generated light.
His record has sat for over 70 years. maybe because people forgot about it in the aftermath of WWII. Maybe no one has interest in such endurance sports. Maybe nobody has the fortitude to challenge it. Until now. Steven Abraham from the UK and an American (I cannot find his name) have announced that they will attempt to break the unbreakable record in 2015. Steven says that he has been preparing for 2 years. He has researching on the bike he will ride and plans to use disc brakes to save time from replacing traditional brake pads and wheels since disc brakes do not rub off the braking surface on wheels. He is working on getting sponsors since the attempt will require him to take a year off from work, the need for spare parts and food and to be able to pay the UMCA (Ultra marathon Cycling Association) who will govern the event. Guinness Book of World Records will not sanction the challenge since they consider it too dangerous.
One Year Time Trial
Personally, I do not consider the record unbreakable. It just takes time and dedication. Obviously money as well. Find a location devoid of mountains and major hills as well as a temperate weather and a direction to ride 200+ miles with a tailwind. And look at today's bicycles, lighter, stronger, faster, more comfortable. Today's nutrition to fuel the body cannot be ignored. Then again things have changed for the worse since 1939. There are a lot more cars on the road. And maybe our generation and future generations lack the stuff of the Greatest Generation. I wish Steven and the American all the luck in the world and I hope the memory of Tommy Godwin will live on.
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