The Year – Updated?

On May the 15th 2017 Amanda Coker ended her cycling day with a year’s total of 86,573.2 miles. an incredible achievement for a young lady who has added an additional TEN THOUSAND miles to the total set by Kurt Searvogel the previous year. Amanda continues to ride in pursuit of Tommy Godwin’s record of 100,000 miles in 500 days. It looks like she will beat this easily.

Meanwhile in the UK Steve Abraham continues his own quest for the record, he is two months in with 15,307 miles as of May 11th. Alicia Searvogel has passed 29,000 miles after 340 days of riding and Kajsa Tylen set a new Guinness record of 32,326 miles in the 2016 calendar year. An Australian rider Miles Smith is preparing for his own attempt and no doubt others will be lining up to take on “The Year” inspired by all of these great riders.

It fills me with great joy to see all of this activity as when I first discovered this record in 2005 it was effectively dead. Forgotten by the cycling world, hidden away in the archives and memories of a privileged few. The Year fascinated me and I couldn’t stop digging to try and understand why any rider would take on such a challenge. I wanted to know why they did it, what drove them to this target and how they suffered along the way?

A common theme  began to emerge as I learned more about the early holders. These were riders fighting for their livelihood using the only tool they knew, a bicycle. Marcel Planes rode himself into a job in cycling. Arthur Humbles fought his way out of the depression armed with a note from his MP. Ossi Nicholson moved out from the shadow of  Hubert Opperman to cement his place in a professional team. Walter Greaves cast aside disability and prejudice in search of a professional riding career. Billie Dovey shed a marriage and employment to showcase cycling for women and Tommy Godwin  ignored a war to rechannel a fading racing career into a quest for a professional contract.

Not one of these riders took on the record for the record’s sake. They were all driven by other forces with the record as the enabler to better themselves. Each one made huge personal sacrifice to start their attempt and many rode without any form of support whatsoever. Theirs was an era without the Welfare State and the fiscal risks to each were huge.

The circumstances for our modern riders are somewhat different. And it may be unfair of me, but I consider these attempts to be part of a new era.

Each has set out to get the record as the primary objective with the benefits or mission as secondary. Each has the benefit of a support mechanism varying from crowdfunding to full time support from family. Each has the benefit of new technology in weather forecasting, information gathering, bike improvements, satellite navigation and ride logging. None of them have to track down a postmaster in the pouring rain for a signature. Some use closed roads to rack up their miles others travel in vans to seek good weather. Huge networks of connected individuals urge them on and help out when issues arise.

Don’t get me wrong, they still HAVE to turn the pedals. They still HAVE to motivate themselves every day to park a sore arse on a saddle and bang out some more miles. NOT ONE of them has it easy and each and everyone of them deserves our respect and awe.  But there is no hiding from the fact that this is a modern era of year record riding. Amanda has shown this with a figure that beggars belief. She has shown the world how to do this with modern equipment, logistics and support and I don’t believe it will be long before someone else uses her methods to go further.

I now see two eras of year riding, a classic era and the modern one. Similar to the progression of the hour record when technology and logistics came to the fore. And this leads me on to the purpose of this post. The book I wrote entitled “The Year”.

I am constantly asked whether I will update it and had previously thought I would but now I’ve changed my mind. I wrote that book to document the classic era and pay tribute to the riders who pioneered the challenge in order to seek betterment above all else. I wanted to resurrect a history that had been lost and hope that the book has achieved that aim. But we’re now in the modern era where the record is going to continue to evolve. If I start to update the book I’ll never stop as I genuinely think the record is here to stay. Cyclists know about it now thanks to Steve, Kajsa, Amanda, Kurt, Alicia and of course the internet. I think the record will now document itself online and doesn’t need me to continue chuntering on about it.

More importantly I want The Year to remain as a tribute to the classic era and that’s how I plan to leave it. So no more updates I’m afraid. The book’s done and so I am I. Instead I’m going to stand here clapping away at those out on the road in pursuit of The Year.

Posted in Cycling blog posts