Newsletter - 2002 Archive

BC Randonneurs logo BC Randonneurs logo

BC Randonneurs
Cycling Club
BC Randonneurs logo BC Randonneurs logo


Record Breaking

Harold Bridge


The development of the pedal cycle, both bicycle and tricycle, carried with it the urge by some of the riders to see how quickly they could get from A to B. As a result some far sighted 19th century administrators of British cycling set up the "Road Records Association" (RRA).

The RRA function was to verify and audit claims. For a record claim to have any credence the rider had to submit a schedule to the RRA, with a fee of course. Then the RRA would have its "spies" out on the chosen route at the appointed time as well as provide observers and timekeepers.

As well as the fixed distance: 50,100, 1,000 mile, and fixed time: 12 and 24 hour records, there were all the place to place records. The shortest of the latter is "London-Brighton and Back" at 104 miles (although that got extended by the building of Gatwick Airport creating a detour). The longest of these, and perhaps the most revered, is "Land's End to John O'Groats". In the early days the distance was approaching 900 miles and the first record claim in 1886 was with a time of 5 days, 1 hour and 45 minutes. And for that G.P. Mills was paced by a team of riders also riding "Ordinarys" (Penny Farthings). The records are now unpaced.

Over the years road straightening and new bridges have reduced the distance. The ride covers no more than 847 miles now (1363 km). Record breaking at any distance can be a bit of a gamble and the longer they go on the greater the chance of failure. As a result it is common for claimants to put in schedules for other distances as well.

Thus it was that on Thursday, 2001-September-26 at 10:00 Gethin Butler set off from Land's End under good conditions with the 24 hour, End to End and 1,000 mile records as his objectives.

What a difference a day makes!? Just 26 hours earlier Lynne Taylor had set out to attack Pauline Strong's Women's End to End record of 2 days 06:49:45. Lynne encountered 45 hours of rain but nonetheless cut 1 hour, 1 minute and 24 seconds off the record.

Gethin was luckier. His tail wind start is indicated by a 100-mile time of 3 hours 53 minutes! At 24 hours he approximately equaled his competition best with 509.3 miles thus achieving the first of his aims. He arrived at John O'Groats 1 day 20 hours 4 minutes and 19 seconds after leaving Land's End thus knocking 58 minutes off the existing record and was greeted by a rested Lynne Taylor who suggested they ride home together!

He declined the offer, as he was about to embark upon the last of his objectives with the final 150+ miles of the 1,000-mile record. That had stood at 2 days 10:19 since 1960 but fell to Gethin with a time of 2 days 07:53:07.

One of the sporting aspects of this record-breaking business is the common practice of the current record holder coming out to help in some way by marshalling or handing up a feed. The previous men's record holder, Andy Wilkinson, was part of Lynne Taylor's support team, and as such was on hand at John O'Groats to congratulate his successor. Andy and Lynne set, in April 2000, a mixed tandem record for the End to End of 2 days 3 hours.

Those BC riders who rode LEL from the Thorne start in July will remember Gethin. He was the guy training for this endeavour by covering the 834 km from Thorne to Dalkeith and back in 33 hours. The weekend following LEL he claimed the first of his 5 2001 objectives; the 24 hour title with 485.88 miles (Lynne Taylor was in 8th place with 423.13 miles). His 5th objective was his first ever Super Randonneur qualification and of course he got that too!