Thursday, 24 December 2015

Penny farthing LEJOG day 2

After a huge cooked breakfast it was soon time to set off on day two. This was going to be a longer day than our first one, we planned to get as near to the edge of Dartmoor as we could. It would be about 60 miles and as anyone who has cycled in Cornwall knows, its quite hilly.

On the plus side the weather was now great, no rain anyway but we still had a bit of a headwind. We made pretty good progress over the first few hours. I had aimed to cover about 10 miles an hour but we were slightly slower than this at the moment due to the headwind. But all in all we were going well and confidence was returning after the hard start on the first day.

At about midday we pulled over and found somewhere to buy food. At this point in the journey I was almost forcing myself to eat before I was hungry. The massive breakfast had filled me up but when you are exercising all day hunger can suddenly catch you by surprise. In 2003 me and Mickey did LEJOG for the first time. It was a very steep learning curve for both of us as we had never taken on a long cycle tour before. On day 2 in 2003 Mickey found out the hard way what happens when you don't eat enough. In the middle of Dartmoor he completely ran out of energy and could hardly keep moving. From that day on we ate loads, probably far more than we actually needed!

All in all day 2 this time around was an enjoyable day on the bikes, but we were both aware that day 3 would be harder, probably one of the toughest of the whole journey as we were returning to the scene of mickeys worst ever moment on a bike from 2003, we were going straight over Dartmoor.

After almost 8 hours cycling we found a nice b&b that also had storage for our bikes and we went out for yet more food. 

Dartmoor awaits....

Penny farthing LEJOG, day 1.

As I've at long last worked out how to insert pictures into this blog, this seems like a good time to use one..
After a long winter of hard training April the 18th finally arrived and it was time to put my money where my mouth had been for the last year or so. I felt as well prepared as I could be, I'd been training hard and I hadn't picked up any injuries. I was pretty confident that baring accident or mechanical breakdown I was going to complete the journey. I knew it was going to be tough at times but I was trying to focus on one day at a time.

At 4:30am my cycling companion and best friend arrived to pick me and my bike up. the bikes were loaded on to the car and we were underway, this was the easy part.. 70 mph in car trying not to think about how slowly I would be moving in a few hours time!

Every year hundreds of people ride from Lands end to John O'Groats and most of them choose to raise money for charity. Although my choice of bike may have been unusual I was no different to lots of others and I choose a charity to raise money for. There are hundreds of worthy charities but the choice of who to raise money for was an easy one for me. My wife was born deaf and when she was growing up she had a lot of help from the National deaf children's society. It seemed only right to pay them back by raising money for them. I am very proud of my wife and how she copes with everyday situations that most of us take for granted. Ann has a great job and lots of good friends. The combination of a very supportive family and the help and advice from the NDCS ensured that Ann now has a beautifully normal life.

On the way to lands end BBC radio Cornwall had got wind of my planned journey and the phoned me up on my moblie to ask about it. I ended up doing a live interview while we were on our way to the start. They wished me luck and the general consensus of their listeners was that I was going to need it!

When we finally got to lands end the weather was awful, rainning, blowing a gale and to make matters worse the wind was going to be against us all day. But there was no turning back now. A couple of people who had heard the radio interview gave me some sponsorship money and wished me well and with that i signed the start book, did the photo by the signpost and in front of a big group of tourists I climbed up onto the bike and made my way out of the car park.

The head wind was awful! I could hardly keep the bike moving but managed to get out of sight before taking a rest, 1 mile into my planned 1000 mile journey. This wasn't good, not the start I had hoped for! The ride to Penzance was very stop start as the wind just didn't let up. Eventually we found a bus shelter to take a rest and eat some food before moving on.

Being up in the air on a penny farthing is not really suited to windy conditions, on a bike of any kind headwinds are bad news. When you and your bike have the aerodynamics of a block of flats its as bad as it gets. This was so much harder than I had hoped for but we kept plugging away and soon started closing in on our first night accommodation.

As the day went on the weather improved a little, it remained windy but at least it stopped raining. We had booked the first night in advance as we were not sure how the day would pan out with having to travel 250 from home to lands end. We had to cover a reasonable distance on the this first day as both of us had only been able to book a certain amount of time off work. So after a hard 5 hours on the bikes and an early start with the traveling we were glad to get the first bit of the journey done.

Day 2 would be a harder days cycling with more miles covered but at least we could start early to take the pressure off. From now on we would cycle for as long as we could each day and then find somewhere to stay. We weren't going to book any accommodation in advance as we really didn't know how far we could get each day.

Update: Strava users can now make videos of old rides using an app called Relive. Here's day 1!

“Penny farthing LEJOG, day 1 .. Head wind!!” on Relive!

Lands end to John Ogroats by penny farthing, at long last, I've worked out how to blog from my hudl!

It's now over 8 months since I cycled the length of the country on my penny farthing. It's taken me that long to work out how to blog from this device, but here we go.. The full report on my journey starting with.... The next post...

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

George Pilkington Mills, my video tribute.

As promised in my previous post, here is a link to the short film we made when we visited the grave of the penny farthing end to end record holder.

A massive thank you to my friend Mickey for puting the film together in his spare time.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Visiting my cycling hero, George Pilkington Mills.

On Sunday 8 th February I paid a visit to the grave of my cycling hero, George Pilkington Mills. Now I doubt that many modern day cyclists have heard of George as he was cycling many years ago. In fact, in the year 1886 he set the record for being the fastest person to cycle from Lands end to John O'groats on a penny farthing. There are two amazing facts about this record, the first being that he only took 5 days 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete the 900 mile journey! The second point worth mentioning is that this record still stands, 128 years later!

I'm not going to be breaking this record and to be honest I can't see it ever going. Whilst I was at the grave, with the help of my friend Mickey, I made a short film about George, his cycling records ( and there are many) and I also mentioned my fast approaching end to end ride. Once the video is edited I will post a link on here.

Visiting the grave was a great experience, I'd like to thank everyone at the church in Shirley, Croydon for making my visit so enjoyable. Special thanks to Vic who I contacted by email with my initial enquiry, wondering if the grave was in their churchyard and he then went on to help me locate the grave. It was also nice that the vicar turned out to welcome me. I'm not particularly religious but he asked if he could bless me and my bike to wish us good luck on my ride. I welcomed this idea, thinking I might need all the help I can get!

All in all it was a great day and well worth the 320 mile round trip. If you're wondering how I made the journey then here's a photo of my hand made penny farthing roof rack, who needs a big car!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Worcester St. John's cc reliability ride.

Today I rode my penny farthing in the Worcester St. John's cc reliability ride. A reliability ride is basically an organised group ride, traditionally held in the late winter to help riders get fit for the coming season.

Today's ride had two route options and I chose the short route that avoided 20 miles of hills. However, even the short route was over 30 miles and as it was very windy it proved to be quite a work out!

The first group of riders started out at 9.30 am, I started in this group as I was aware that even the 30 mile route would probably take me over 3 hours. The faster riders and those doing the longer, harder ride , started about 10 mins after me.

This photo was taken at the start head quarters. Worcester auto club. A great little venue and I was already looking forward to returning here for my coffee and cake after the ride!

Once the ride got underway it was clear it was going to be a tough morning. The wind was extremely strong and riding towards Droitwich on the A38 was very tough going. For me, sat up in the wind on the penny farthing, it was really slow going. I couldn't wait to turn out of the wind and get some rest bite.

Fortunately for me the route was at least fairly flat, one or two climbs had my heart rate climbing but at least it was all rideable. The headwind did actually help at times, when I was riding down the quite steep road to cross the river bridge the wind held my speed back so I didn't have to get off and walk.

The head wind eased off at the turn in great witley and this was very welcome, the snow that had started to fall was a bit worrying for a while but it soon stopped.

The road back towards Worcester was on I knew very well, having raced my modern time trial bike along it many times in the beacon little mountain time trial. Fortunately this part of the course is the flat bit before the hills so with the help of the tail wind I was flying along... At about 12 mph.

As I got closer to the finish I started to get passed by riders who had done the longer route, it was great to get a few words of encouragement as they passed me. I just hoped they wouldn't eat all the cake at the HQ before I returned!

I needn't have worried, as I finished the ride and walked into the HQ I saw that there were plenty of cakes left. So I got stuck in and started replacing some hard burnt calories!

It turned out to be quite a hard workout, I'm going to have to hope and pray that the wind doesn't blow like this in April as my average heart rate for the 3 hour ride was 160 bpm. That's way to high to maintain for the 7 to 10 hours per day that I will be riding.

Overall it was a great day, thanks to the organisers and cake bakers for all their efforts and thanks to everyone who came along to make it such a popular and successful event.

This final photo is my heart rate data from the ride...

Saturday, 3 January 2015

100 miles in 2 days

I had a few days off over new year so I decided it would be a good idea to try 2 back to back days on the penny farthing. The first day turned out to be a ride of almost 60 miles and took a little longer than planned. This was a bit of a problem, but only as my front light stopped working! The lessons learned from today were, 1 I'm going to need a new front light and 2 I need to avoid hills where ever possible as they really zap my average speed.

The second day was a shorter day of about 40 miles and was on flatter roads. My average speed was much better and I finished the ride in daylight. The only thing to note from today's ride was how difficult it was to ride into a strong headwind . Hopefully I will get a tailwind for the end to end in April!

So all in all, the training is going well, the end to end ride will prove to be a real test but with a bit of luck and fingers crossed for good weather it should also be great fun!