Matlock teacher aims to break Victorian LEJOG record on penny farthing
A teaching assistant at a Matlock school is gearing up to try and break a 133-year-old record for riding the length of Britain on a penny farthing.
Richard Thoday, who works at Highfields School, will spend the first week of his summer holidays attempting to ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats in under five days, one hour and 45 minutes.
A veteran racer of regular bikes, Richard, 55, has also been riding penny farthings for the past decade, but this will be the furthest distance he has ever attempted.
He said: “I’m doing it to raise money for Children in Need, but it’s also about curiosity as much as anything.
“The record was set in 1886 by a teenager called GP Mills. He was the cycling superstar of his day and it’s such an incredible feat that it would almost be a shame to break it.”
Richard added: “We’ve worked out that GP must have had about six hours’ sleep during his ride, but I will definitely need more than that.
“The Victorians used all sorts of substances to keep themselves awake that we would not be allowed today.”
Many riders have attempted to break the record in the years since, but Richard hopes that modern technology will give him an advantage on a bike he has designed himself.
However, the ride will still be fraught with danger and enormous physical difficulty.
Richard said: “On a bike this high, even coming off at walking pace can mean serious injury. It also has solid tyres, so there are all the added vibrations in your arms, and no gears or time to freewheel.”
“It’s a full body workout on all sorts of road conditions, and the tiredness and monotony has been known to make riders start hallucinating.”
He added: “I’m working with a sports psychologist from the University of Derby to prepare for moments when I will just want to give up.”
Richard is training intensively and will be carrying out test rides over Easter.
He is currently seeking businesses which could sponsor his cycling shirt to help fund his support team this summer, with a promise of eye-catching photo opportunities all over Derbyshire.