The Smiths Popular Speedometer was the same model used by Tommy Godwin in 1939 to validate his Endurance record. Naturally these were totally mechanical and weighed nearly 1 1b (400 grams) together with the sensor fitted to the front wheel. They would also have caused an appreciable frictional drag - not quite what a record-breaker would appreciated having.
Tommy's speedometer was sealed to prevent tampering and water ingress. There were very many makes and models of Speedo's made, but very few for bicycles. They cost the equivalent of a servant's weekly wage (if they were lucky enough to have a job).
Another oddity is that the speedometer used by Tommy had five numbered wheels and was without the red-lettered 1/10th of a mile wheel. This must have been a "special". Tommy would otherwise have "run the clock round" 75 times! (and more when he went onto 100000 miles). Record-keeping had to be carefully done for verification purposes by Cycling magazine scrutineers. Extra verification was achieved by the posting of cards. Local dignitaries and officials who would sign for his presence and quote the mileage attained.
The speedometer shown has a 6 digit capacity - this one is a "Photoshop" fiddle. Steve could possibly exceed 99999 miles. I will update this display about twice a week, including also keep the other stats current-ish. Steve is carrying two satellite-based systems Strava and Trackleader. Both are mercifully friction free and the satellites don't need towing!!!!


Steve's original record attempt Jan 1st to 7th Aug
Steve's revised record attempt 8th Aug to 31st Dec 2016



Steve calls it a day

The inevitable but still sad decision by Steve was made public on 16th January to call off his attempt. He sites the main reason being that he has lost faith in his ability to up his mileage. As he admits, his roadspeed of about 15mph has meant that the length of the days ride has been unsustainable. Probably going for more than a year on his plan B has been mentally too tough. A man can only do so much! He should cherish his 66,000 miles+ calendar year ride as a very great achievement. The places him third in the calender year list - I can't see anyone overtaking that for quite a while. Kurt Searvogel's 1st in the list, with some questionable aids, does not impress all. Finally the 1939 record by Tommy Godwin is seen by many as still the "proper record". As Steve has suggested going at 18-19 mph is ideal if you can do it. So, an era has ended. 2 British heroes can be proud indeed. Kurt has the "record" and he definitely has won a wife.
The end



Most miles in a year record - End of the year report

What started as a "boys own" heroes tale of stoicism, stamina and bloody-mindedness has declined into awe and thunder. The original challenge was to do a distance in a calendar year to surpass the 80 years-old record of Tommy Godwin (of Stoke). Whilst there hasn't been recrimination nor much contact between the two combatants there has been a lot of what nowadays is called "noise". American Kurt Searvogel has happily taken draughts from vehicles, has done one-way rides ahead of a good wind, been "paced" by other riders, has ridden bikes such as a recumbant and has been served hand and foot. He even got married latterly (I assume to his managager / soignier - the service must have been good).

Briton Steve Abraham, meanwhile has been an independant spirit. This has been, in part, to do it "Tommy's way". Also it was "just Steve" a determined and self-sufficiant individual.

On the 31st December Kurt had done 74277 miles, 788 miles short of the Godwin calendar year standard. He started on the 7th of January so in his terms he ended up with 76076 miles and holder of the HAMR world record. Steve had done
63568.2 miles in 2015. He has continued on his revised year to August (and allowed by HAMR). At this point he has to average 226 miles a day. The whole saga has been muddied a bit by a New Zealander Bruce Berkeley. He has coughed up 300 American dollars to register with HAMR to make a new attempt. He has declined to give them another 30 dollars so they have banned him. He is also unwillingly to shell out on the tracking device (Garmin I think) because he doesn't want folk to know where he is. I assume he believes this will give him unwanted attention and cause him hassles . However "knowing where he is" is rather much the idea of the HAMR's validation methods. Bruce has opined that his record will be under the Guinness Book of Records regulation (as all the long past attempts have been). A few years back that organisation said that they considered the pursuit to be too dangerous, unhealthy and extreme. (So that was where HAMR came in) It does seem curious that an organisation (Guinness) which recognises Guinea-pig jumping has expressed a renewed interest in cycling.
Bruce has knocked out 4475 pan-flat Australian miles in the first 21 days, at an average speed which would just crack Tommy's record.
It's soon going to be like boxing with multiple "World Champions". For my part I have recorded the year, with updates.
My own view, admittedly not very important nor binding, is that the legitimate target was to ride the most number of miles in a Calendar year. Both Steve and Kurt commenced in early January. Different reasons, injury and indifference respectively, meant that on the 31st of December neither had surpassed Tommy Godwins' record. To my mind the Tommy Godwin record is intact.


Weekly milage record Steve (red) and Kurt (blue)



Audax-man extraordinary

In 2012 I sought to do the Cheshire Cat Audax ride. It was 209km from the Trent valley to Macclesfield and back, via the toughest routes the Peak District could offer, and passing the notorious (and now completely spoilt) Cat and fiddle Inn. It was pouring with rain and I was standing around in the village hall contemplating whether to go ahead. A very damp, stocky, red and white clad chap came in. When I enquired he told me he had been bivvying behind the hall. From where had you come, I ventured. Milton Keynes, left at tea-time, go here at 1am. I recall a discussion about the Endurance record and I told him I had a great fascination with it also (but wasn't intending to attempting it!). I mentioned snipits of my research into Walter Greaves, which he didn't know. He was, I could detect, very informed as to what it involved and said he was keen to do it. I remember the quote "better than working".
I put off doing the Cat to the immense relief of the organiser Mr.Chambers, who could then re-schedule his evening rather than wait for cut-off time or my return (whichever was later). I contacted a fellow Cat and Fiddler (who had actually finished it) to ask how he had got on. When I mentioned about Steve I learned he had finished about tea-time and had set off home to Milton Keynes. I estimated he was riding over 300 miles in about 30 hours minus a 5 hour bivvy. I knew then that I had met a "man possessed".




Steve's First (big) effort

Steve Abraham, Audax man supreme, started out on January 1st 2015 to beat the record set by Potteries man Tommy Godwin in 1939. The record was to do the most miles in a calendar year. It has been known as the "World Endurance record for a single year" or less formally the "Cycling Year Record". As was utterly necessary Steve got a support team performing many of the things which he can't do. This means Steve is left with what he really can do - ride his bike (but not uphill and down-dale too much). Also "on call", at short notice, are others who serve as hosts when Steve is on his mini-tours. Those helpers perform all his needs as far as possible eg providing bed, food, washing his togs and, most importantly, uploading Strava and Trailmaster data from his Garmin satnavs. This is the basis of verifying the record. I can only assume that, for some reason, the ride cannot be verified by a British organisation eg Cycling magazine, CTC, the Audax association etc. I certainly think it should be. The verification is done through an American body called the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association (UMCA).
For the first three months Steve defied odds and kept up with the schedule set out for him. The schedule varies for each month and maps onto the length of daylight. (but still many winter darkness hours though).
April spelt some trouble as he was getting behind the more punishing daily target. Then came the crash.



Steve on the "comeback" trail

As most followers know he had a collision with a moped in April, breaking two bones in his ankle. After a few days in hospital, and resting up, he decided to get back on the road. He was loaned a 3 wheel trike. It is / was quite heavy, but it enabled Steve to keep up with some mileage and, importantly to him, promoted bloodflow to assist healing. The theory of this has virtue and with due care, Steve has got into the metaphorical harness and is banging out big miles once more.
Whither the record prospects?? I only wish to give some details of the thoughts of various parties. Steve rejects the suggestion that his attempt has foundered. Logic suggests that it isn't feasible within 2015 and if it "spills over" in any way,then his magnificent efforts cannot accord him the record. The record is Jan 1st to Dec 31st in a calendar year. It has been suggested that this favours Antipodean folk in that their winter is in the middle of their ride. Further, Europeans might be unlucky and, in effect, get 2 winters. Additionally, if close to the record, the final "sprint" would involve very considerable dark, cold miles for those northern hemisphere heroes. Perhaps it doesn't really matter but a calendar year has a simple logic. In any event it is fairly easy nowadays for riders to move in order to benefit from seasonal climate differences.
There are other slight imperfections (or worse for some) in the "rules" of engagement. It seems OK to amass miles going round a track, cheered on, supported, fed, tended to and floodlit. Nicholson, of Australia did it this way in 1935. Pacing is another issue. We have a blurred concensus here, rather than rules. Walter Greaves (1936) and Tommy Godwin (1939) maintained that they didn't ride with anyone in any sense, at any time. The former, certainly, would have given a flee in the ear of anyone who tried. He didn't want for company and he didn't like to have it. He made this very clear to offerers. It is said that Tommy was also self-sufficient and single-minded, but nobody could have kept up with him anyway. Time trialists are disqualified for drafting / tail-gating, if observed. Is the Year Endurance Record a time trial?? 24 hours races (not so popular now) are time-trials of sorts in that the important, definitive result is distance travelled within a specified time period. Most time trials are the "other way round" ie time to do a distance. In all the above some "crafty" drafting might occur. Steve is of another era entirely. Strava, Garmin Connect, Trackleaders and other electronic logging systems mean that anyone can locate Steve and ride with him*. He's not going to tell them to shove off and admits that he sometimes likes riding with others some of the time and has innocently admitted to some "lead sharing". He's still "doing the miles" and isn't paced as such. He is being helped financially by many supporters. Some expect / hope to to be able to ride with him a little.
But there we go. Families of Walter Greaves and Tommy Godwin are strident in their views of how it should be, not least with the calender year aspect of it, as well as drafting. Meanwhile Steve is popping out daily mileages of 120 to 220 miles at the rate of 10 miles per beloved sausage.



Kurt Searvogel

More will be written about 52-year old American Kurt who looks favourite to get the record (whatever it's called). Now that Steve has formally stopped chasing the 2015 year record and is re-starting, Kurt has more than a "short head" advantage. The signs are Kurt will surpass the Godwin target. He has a very strict but charming manager, Alicia Snyder. She curbs Kurt's maveric nature and fanatical excesses. Sybil to Basil. They cruise around in a camper-van and hunt for good new terrain, suitable weather and favourable winds. He has a recumbent bike and a couple of racing bikes. He uses the latter when he is being drafted (he has observed that drafting only works in the normal / upright position). He seems to be a very interesting, charming man and has the sort of "madman" quality which is surely requisite for such an undertaking. He and Alicia appear to be resisting sponsorship and mass-publicity.
Kurt and Steve have respect for each other, which is commendable. The main difference is that Kurt rides at about 17 mph and Steve at 14 - 15 mph.


It doesn't pay to be a long-distance cyclist

In the cruel, tough, lonely world of the long distance cyclist there are many issues on the downside. Walter and Tommy were both declared professional. Walter was loaned a heavy Coventry Three Spears bike. Both this "gift" and the miserly income from published adverts meant he was deemed professional. Similarly, Tommy had breached the code by having helpers raise money for him but had taken monitary rewards for winning races. All Walter and Tommy gained was being fed and accomodated for a 12 months. At the end of the year they had earned nothing but pride and a richly deserved sense of achievement. Walter became a powerful man in cycle-race circles and somehow avoided being prohibited for long. Tommy, cruelly, wasn't even allowed to coach youngsters from his beloved "home" club of Stoke Wheelers for a while. He couldn't ride many of the races his mates were allowed to do, and by the time the climate had eased a little, he was only able to ride in pain. The pain was due to his hands which were arthriticly set in the position they were in during the covering of 100000 miles.(he went on from "his" year to add another 24000+ miles, despite the war being in progress)
In a world where some look for sponsors before performing bodily functions, it is at least something that Steve Abrahams is still an amateur and can emerge from a fish and chip shop without risking meeting someone with a form to sign admitting professional status.

* To possibly ride with Steve please visit his website to OK it with his team of helpers, do not actually hunt him down! There are times when he just wants to be alone - he deserves this, and a lot more.


About change : Steve "switches horses" : 8th August 2015

The not-best-kept-secret is out. In view of his accident and recuperation period Steve has embarked upon another phase of his life. He has performed a reverse ferret (not his words) or relaunching (his words) and has commenced another year-long effort to ride the most miles in a year finishing on 7th August 2016. He had been 15000 miles behind his schedule. 205 miles a day, throughout the year, is a harsh taskmaster. After a few rides in UK He went over to France, and must have a good sleep on the boat going over. He started riding at 1am on the 17th of August and did an amazing 417km (260 miles). His chosen terrain has been on the route of the Paris - Brest - Paris (PBP) the renown and terrifying 4-yearly Audax challenge of 1200 miles in 4 days. The slightly bad news is that according to his support team schedule it should be 260 miles every day in August. He has to sort out which saussison he needs for that extra boost. However this is a kick-start to his new campaign.

The record he is going for is the Highest Annual Mileage Record (HAM'R). As suggested by the word mileage (not distance) this is masterminded by an American body The Ultra Marathon Cycling Association (UMCA). They have been very prominent in monitoring Cross America and Round the World Rides
Two significant HAM'R rules are :-
  • Attempt may start on any day of the year and will run for 365 consecutive days.
  • There is no prohibition on drafting during this record attempt. (This is a mileage record, not a speed record.)
The bracket bit amuses / bemuses me somewhat. mileage has two components, distance and time. your mileage. Drafting will enhance your speed also. More speed can enhance your distance. Given the types of drafting possible, and the lack of detail, there seems to be no fairness, consensus or rationale. I am not alone in thinking that these "rules" mean that this challenge is not the same as the nine previous record-holders achieved.
I assume that the drafting relates just to riding behind other bikes, it seems dubious enough to me. If it is achieved behind Dernies, cars, vans or specialised vehicles, if makes for a mockery. If I could draft Mr Wiggins would I deserve anything?? OK, a pint of draught beer, but I expect Bradley would grab that and point out that he had done all the work!
The stated holy grail of the HAM'R is the 75000 (sic) record set by Tommy Godwin. However the rubric puts it this way
"Note: The record by Godwin was never officially certified by any sanctioning body, though Guinness Book of World Records did offer belated recognition of Godwin's remarkable achievement."
The UMCA website also mentions "a cycling magazine" setting the challenge in 1911. This would have been the Cycling which has been very happy with (and very good at) ratifying the record, thanks very much. The Golden Book of Cycling has given a place to Walter Greaves and to Tommy Godwin of Stoke. It wouldn't have done so without stringent verification of their singular achievements. They both had sealed Speedometers which were examined regularly, and without notice. They posted cards. They sent telegrams. They carried a log book, They met with Mayors and dignitaries and were followed by media and witnessed by many. Walter and Tommy were both very keen to do anything and everything to avoid their achievement and reputation being questioned. All of this seems not to satisfy the "Johny-come-lately" USA, those blind trusters of technology, distrusters of non-American humans and spawners of the drug-riddled U.S. Postal cycling team.

Walter brought the concept of distance riding and records to the fore. Tommy's exploits garnered public awareness and thus, much scrutiny and coverage. Furthermore, they were both immensely proud men and would have known that any cheating would have devalued their massive efforts.
Clearly the tool of these new-style challenges and records is the satnav. The UMCA issues convoluted rules relating to satnav use. Do this, do that, all very laudable and sensible, but not "watertight". A colleague could "borrow" your satnav and make an impressive contribution to your record, whilst the record breaker sleeps! Finally, the UMCA website delivers some more perverse offerings :-
"So any rider making an attempt per the rules below can get a record certified at a mileage below that recorded by Godwin, but we all know that Godwin's mark is the target". What??

Though the above makes no sense it seems to cast aspersions upon Tommy's ride almost because satnavs, TV coverage, the internet and America's interest in cycling was still to come. I rode across the States in 1982 and noted not a glimmer of interest in the bicycle. It was a tool of an English madman (without a dog). The very wonderful Greg Lamond inspired the US cycling boom. The eccentric and recently deceased Sheldon Brown championed the magic of the bike and cycling. In the American way, they relish world domination of a sport of their choosing, even though they largely eschewed cycling for a long time. It all smacks of adoption of sports few other countries play, eg baseball, American "football" and hamburger eating.
Amongst the UCMA rules you discover (by default) that you can ride a bike made of anything, including recumbent or with a fairing (but not both). Sails aren't prohibited, nor winged riding suits. Motors don't get a mention. Tommy would have been so pleased that his real record will remain intact (probably forever).
The UMCA announced that it will certify attempts for a new category of Highest Annual Mileage per the rules below. [ The record isn't new since it has been 114 years in existance. What may be new is the Americans taking charge, even before their first rider has completed the year.]


"Game on" for the UMCA Highest Annual Mile Record

Steve is going to be riding British steel - and he is British steel. Doing it properly. On a proper bike. Just like his heroes and forebears. Good on him. But what record would he get? It's in the title and the word World does not appear.
As has been much mentioned in the cycling press, Steve is not the only one who is attempting "Tommy Godwin's record" though he was the only one who started on January 1st.
Kurt Searvogel is using a lightweight recumbent, riding from bases, doing daily "out and backs", starting with the highly satisfactory winter climate of Florida whilst Steve was fighting icy roads. His campervan can ride alongside him. Nobody is too sure about it being in front of him and, if so, for how long. Kurt has worked his way north to the great lakes, avoiding hills en route and to more temperate weather. He has been roundly and verbally attacked by some sceptical Brits and others who detect an "easy option" and a "not in the spirit" aspect. Kurt has countered with a "come and ride with me taunt" and a wager of $200. He assures his critics that he would burn them off. I am sure he would, but I don't think he'll be taken up. Not by me anyway. Even though $200 dollars sounds a bargain, by the time you've flown in, located him etc., it might not be worth it.
He counters criticism that Florida is pan flat, by saying it isn't. It is though, all of it. (see below for typical Florida day). The uphill stretch has an average gradient of 1 in 2800. Well OK, not completely flat!? The highest point in Florida is Britton Hill which is 345 ft above sea level and 61 ft above the surrounding landmass. Kurt hasn't gone there.
He has done 19% of the climbing Steve has, but why should he not?
Another American called William Ironox Pruett has adopted a more leisurely approach. He put in the odd intensive session when he felt like it. He even did 80 miles one day. He might have got lost, but anyway, it taught him a lesson. He had amassed 2156 miles (I think even I might have beaten that, going to the pub) when merely 73000 miles short of Tommy's target, when he called a halt in May. Perhaps he is making a late bid using a jet-pack (probably not specifically prohibited by the UMCA). That would be truly "Ironox".

The highest part on Nottinghamshire would be off the scale! As would be parts of London.

Links to follow Steve Abraham (Slow to load)


[The interview is from April and is rare and fascinating reading]

Awaiting update


Steve Abraham's scoreboard - 2015 - 7th August [and abandonment]
Target to beat : 75065 miles : Average each day : 205+
Days gone : 219
-
Days to go : 146
Miles done : 20175.3
Miles to record : 55190
Hours in the saddle : 1444h 30m
Abraham vs Abraham target: 77.4 %
Abraham vs Godwin:
86.72 %
average speed so far: 14.52 MPH
% of time spent riding = 48.8%
Height climbed in Everests = 13.8
Distance cycled = 78% of a world circumnavigation
Closeness to the moon = 5.67%


Steve's website (loads slowly)


Steve's Strava strivings
January 1st | January 31st
Produced as a weedy joke, now overtaken by reality!