If you were surprised to see the track records as one of my favourite ‘Firsts’ here’s another one that’ll come at you like a Junkers JU 87 (Stuka) out of the sun.
Have you ever thought about attempting an RRA record? No? Well neither had I until I joined Raleigh as a Pro in 1990. The primary objective at the time was to beat Ray Booty’s straight out ‘100’ record but along the way Mike Breckon and I decided we should also have a pop at the ‘25’ and ‘50’ mile records too … not in the same attempt as the ‘100’ although, as it turned out, it probably wouldn’t have been a bad idea if there’d been enough road to carry on after our successful ‘25’ and ‘50’ mile attempts … read on if you please?
Actually attempting an RRA record is the easy part. Submitting schedules, getting timekeepers and observers on
board, activating the attempt and then waiting 48 hours to see if the weather turns out as good as forecasted is all
where it gets to be a bit of a headache.
Although the list of officials in the handbook is quick extensive, you try getting hold of them at short notice! You
might be lucky the first time round, but once you’ve postponed a few times, all of a sudden you’ve got a bit of a
reputation for 'crying wolf' and the list dramatically reduces in size.
One or two of the officials we had contact with appeared to be to be a bit too official (for my liking) … one even
complained about the quality of envelope we used to submit our schedules. I believe things have improved since
Before you actually submit any schedules, maybe consider taking out shares in Hewlett Plackard because you’ll
probably need to submit HUNDREDS of photo-copied schedules … read the small print in the handbook for more
There are ‘plusses’ to record breaking though. Take the set distance records for example … they’re ‘straight-out’
which means you can start at the top of a hill, wait for a tailwind … then go! You DON’T have to turn around to
go back up the hill. As long as you cover the distance you’ve submitted your schedule for (within the RRA’s strict
rules and regulations) then the record’s yours.
‘Easy’ you might think … BUT you’ve got to bear in mind that the holder of the record did exactly the same as you.
He / she picked a route which he / she thought would be the fastest possible. They also waited until the wind was
blowing at its strongest in the right direction. So no RRA record is ‘easy’ … ok?
So after looking at a number of different courses from Plynlimon in Wales to the Devil’s Elbow near Braemar in
Scotland (Raleigh flew me up there specially to take a look) and having one or two unsuccessful attempts on other
courses along the way, we decided that the vey best option would be to find a course which used wide-open dual carriageways and just wait for the winds to appear.
Mike got a number of people including Keith Lawton and George Arnott to measure courses up and down the A1, on the A3 and on my favourite stretch of road, the A14.
(A not-very-useful bit of trivia for you here … my mate Adrian Collard told me George made him cry when out training when he was a lad so hard were his sessions … something you wouldn’t believe possible it if you knew George these days!).
Before we actually started getting things right, we made an unsuccessful attempt at the ‘25’
off the Hogg’s Back on the A3 and another abortive attempt, this time at the ‘100’, on the A1
from Blyth Nornay down to St Neots (where I punctured and DNF at Buckden roundabout but
got to meet Dave Duffield who happened to be passing in his car and stopped to see what
was going on).
Eventually, in October 1990 we successfully updated Booty’s long-standing ‘100’ record on a
course which started up at Stamford on the A1 and finished just east of the Orwell Bridge
near Ipswich … all A1 and A14.
We learned a lot from that ride, so the ‘25’ and ‘50’ courses we had measured on there
suddenly became my preferred options.
Both started at the old Megatron Restaurant at the A1 / A14 junction next to USAF Alconbury
airfield. The courses ran due East along the A14 … the ‘25’ finishing just east of Cambridge …
the ‘50’ going on to finish just east of Bury St Edmunds.
After (even) more unsuccessful attempts we finally started getting things right.
The Met Office forecast VERY strong WSW winds for Thursday 17 October 1991 ‘with the possibility of structural damage’ which (rather frustratingly for me) made Mike feel a bit uneasy. Of course I talked him round as this is what we’d been waiting for for months … surely? So the schedules were activated by giving the statutory 48 hours notice to the RRA’s secretary, timekeeper Fred Cooper from Kettering, ‘mechanic’ Tony Cork, the Press and observers George Arnott and Bernard and Eth Thompson were all put on stand-by … and the wait began.
If you read the Track Record pages you’ll be aware that 1991 was a good year win-wise for me. The Sunday before this particular RRA attempt I’d pb’d over 25 miles in the Essex Roads event on the E86 (48-46) which was my 53rd open win of the season. I was obviously ‘going well’ (probably better than I’ve EVER gone) so was hoping for something VERY fast on the day.
On the day of the attempt I took a day’s leave from work, went out for a half hour ride early in the morning then, at 10.30 am left for the Megatron, which was only a 15 minute drive away, with Tony. I warmed up and decided to use my (older) yellow and blue titanium DynaTech lopro bike with gearing of 56, 42 x 11 – 16 for the attempt. I used 18mm Vittoria Crono CS cotton tubulars on 28 spoked Assos rimmed wheels (no disc as that would have been too hard to handle in the wind).
Mike had also activated a schedule the following day for a course up near Colsterworth and with that in mind
suggested that it might be worth considering just going for the ‘25’ record on the Thursday … then try again for
the ‘50’ on Friday. My own view (and that of Tony’s) was that if I got the ‘25’ record it would be such a head start
for the ‘50’ I could virtually freewheel over the second ‘25’ and still get that one too. So that was the plan.
I launched myself off down the slip road on to the A14 and quickly settled down ‘counting revs’ to ensure my
cadence remained at or about 100 rpm. I used mostly 56 x 12 with touches of the 11 and 13 depending on the
Bernard was kind enough to (later) give me a print-out of my split times. The first 5 miles were covered in 8-49.
‘10’ in 16-43. ‘20’ in 33-21. The ‘25’ mile point (and the first target) flew by in 41-21 (a 1-15 beating of Lloyd’s
existing record). I didn’t feel inclined to stop! 30 miles went by in 49-48. ‘40’ in 1-7-19. The last 5 miles took just
9-04 as I reached the 50 mile point in just 1-24-32 … an average speed of 35.489 mph and 5-45 off the existing
I filtered off the A14 and pulled over on the verge where everyone seemed quite happy. We immediately thought
about the 100 record although it wouldn’t have been possible at this stage … as schedules hadn’t been either
submitted or activated … but if they HAD been I wonder how much faster the ‘100’ record would be now? (Another
50 miles along the A14 would have you finishing somewhere in the North Sea I believe! Just in case you were
That was certainly my favourite RRA record attempt. Not sure where it fits in to the ‘Top 5
Firsts’ category … maybe ‘my first double RRA record success’? Thought it was worth
putting something down on paper for the records though
Belated thanks to Mike, Tony, George, Bernard and Eth (I know they’re looking down on us).
Now the easy part!
At the start of one of the successful '100' attempts near Stamford with Keith Robins.
Dealing with the Press.
That's Peter Bryan from The Times on the right ... me from the Testing Times on the left.
Circling the roundabout at The Megatron just before the start.
Soon after the finish.
Mike, Eth, Bernard, me, Tony, George, Fred, A N Other and Judy Polack from the Press