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29 December 2014 7 comments

Ride, Eat, Sleep. Repeat x 365

Sports Cycling Travel & Adventure Cycling
By Jack Thurston
Ride, Eat, Sleep. Repeat x 365
[caption id="attachment_13984" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Steve's bike room - might need a tidy-up"][/caption] It’s the longest standing record in cycling. Some say it can’t be broken and few have even tried. But on 1 January 2015, a little known British cyclist will begin a year of cycling with the intention of surpassing the 75,065 miles that Tommy Godwin rode way back in 1939. As soon as I enter Steve Abraham’s ground-floor flat on the outskirts of Milton Keynes, it becomes clear that here is man who lives cycling, cycling and nothing but cycling. There are bikes, frames, tyres and components stacked and strewn about all over the place. Pannier racks, mudguards and inner tubes are tangled in a waist-high heap. The sitting room is piled with maps, notebooks and thick wads of brevet cards tied with rubber bands. Trophies jostle for space beside an antique beige desktop computer. The small galley kitchen is home to an indoor trainer, squeezed in among the household appliances and within arm’s reach of the microwave oven. [caption id="attachment_13983" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="An impressive stack of brevet cards"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_13982" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Steve's indoor trainer lives in the kitchen"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_13998" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Does this thing do Strava?"][/caption] Steve is something of a legend in Britain’s small and low-key long distance cycling community. Raised in a cycling family, by the age of 13 he was already doing 100 miles rides and got into the audax scene in the early 1990s. In 2007 Steve set a new Audax UK points record, riding 23,834 miles in a year, mostly on weekends and during holidays as he was working full time. One of the many remarkable rides that year was the “Great Triangle”: from Milton Keynes south to Dover in Kent, then west to Land’s End in Cornwall, then up to the northern tip of Scotland and back to Milton Keynes. A total of 2,100 miles that took Steve just nine and half days. Oh, and he rode it all fixed wheel. [caption id="attachment_13985" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Steve with a giant mug of tea"][/caption] The decades of mile-eating mean Steve knows how his body works, what to eat, when to sleep, and how to push through the bad times. He knows, quite simply, how to keep going. In preparing for the year record he’s been training with a heart rate monitor and will use it to ride at a steady level of effort. A target heart rate of 110 bpm will allow him to ride all day, get a few hours sleep and be sufficiently recovered do it all again the next day, and the next, and the next. “I’m a plodder”, confesses 40-year-old Steve as he explains how setting a new record - riding a daily average greater than 205 miles - is more about going far than going fast. I detect a certain amount of modesty here. How many plodders can ride 450 miles in a 24 hour time trial? Steve’s record schedule has him on the bike for up to 18 hours a day. Just like Tommy Godwin, he’ll start out riding shorter mileages in the cold, dark days of winter, building up through spring to summer where he’ll be riding close to 300 mile days. These daily distances, though eye-watering for most of us, are not uncommon among randonneurs and ultra endurance racers. What makes the year record such a terrifying challenge is stringing hundreds of these big rides together, day after day after day. A single lost day through illness, a crash, bad weather or mechanical trouble means catching up by increasing the mileage for the following days. Fall too far behind schedule and the record will soon slip beyond what’s humanly possible in the time available. To get some idea of what 75,065 looks like, his team has produced some infographics. [caption id="attachment_13975" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="How far?"][/caption] Steve’s choice of bike for the record attempt reflects his cycling roots in touring. It’s is a Raleigh Sojourn, a modest, off-the-peg light tourer in Reynolds 631 steel. Raleigh, who also sponsored Godwin, have supplied three machines for Steve’s record attempt. He’s added tri-bars and swapped out the stock wheels for his own custom-built wheels, opting for tubeless rims and tyres to minimise time lost to punctures. Disc brakes mean his rims will last longer. He’ll sit on a Brooks Professional saddle and carry his kit in a Carradice rack bag. It’s a combination of the old and the new, with a nod to some renowned names in British cycling history. He plans to ride on the network of reasonably fast and flat rural B-roads and the less busy A-roads. He’ll keep away from big hills but will range from the south coast as far north as the Scottish borders and as far west as Bristol and Liverpool. A satellite tracker will show his position online in real time and Steve is encouraging people to come out and ride with him, to provide moral support and a little shelter from the wind. Tommy Godwin’s record ride was paced for several months by a team of elite riders from Raleigh, so any help Steve gets out on the road will be perfectly within the rules. Godwin’s ride became a national event, something that was shared with cyclists up and down the country. Steve wants to do the same on his ride. [caption id="attachment_13981" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Mementoes of a life on two wheels"][/caption] This is not big money professional cycling. Steve has quit his job and cashed in his life savings to better the record of the man he regards as the greatest cyclist of all time. He’s assembled a small team of volunteers who will organise his routes and overnight stays, fix his bike, feed him, wash his clothes and upload his ride data to the Ultra-Marathon Cycling Association which is validating the record attempt. As well as the support of equipment sponsors like Raleigh, Schwalbe and Brooks, Steve’s received many small donations from the public. I’m not surprised. It’s a homespun endeavour that’s as crazy as it is beautiful. It goes beyond extreme physical endurance. It’s an existential quest with shades of mysticism about it. I did Steve why he was doing it and he just said that it just feels like the logical next thing for him to do. As Dave Barter, who's writing a book about the history of the year record, puts it "riding a bike is what Steve Abraham does". Barter, like everyone I’ve spoken to who knows Steve, agrees he is uniquely qualified to take on the record - both mentally and physically. I’d love to see him succeed. Find out more about Steve's record attempt on his website
Comments
To even want to try something like that is an achievement.

Good luck Steve !!
Shane 23 May 2016 at 17:06
Best of luck! I can't even imagine even doing this for a week, let along an year.
Ron 23 May 2016 at 17:06
Incredible! Wishing him the very best.
Grace 23 May 2016 at 17:06
Steve
Just want to wish you the best of luck in reaching your cycling target in 2015.
Going by what I have read you have every chance of achieving it as well.

Ted
ted edwards 23 May 2016 at 17:06
It will be fascinating to watch Steve's Herculean (nay, Sisyphean!) task through 2015.

Don't forget that YOU can be part of this. Help Steve by donating to cover the cost of this amazing endeavour. Visit his web site to find out how.

Best of luck to Mr Abraham!
Wobbly 23 May 2016 at 17:06
Steve,
Greetings from Cornwall, and Happy New Year.
Good luck for tomorrow!

Was it you I was chatting to during the Cotswold Challenge 160k audax from Meriden last May?

I was cycling for a while with a chap not unlike you, hailing from MK. We have a daughter living in Bedford, so we swapped yarns about MK and Bedford.

He told me that he's ridden up from MK that morning (60miles), was doing the 160k, then cycling back to MK. Arithmetic tells me that this is 220miles!

Was this you?

Regards, and the very best of luck for your monumental ride. I shall be following your blog with great interest.

Good luck!
Mick.
Mick Fairhurst 23 May 2016 at 17:06
Steven what's your webiste, I'm presently touring from MK to Singapore but would be great to know how things are going for you.
mark, Crownhill.
mark wallis 23 May 2016 at 17:06