Teacher targets road cycling record – on his own penny farthing

A teacher is on track to break a world record set more than 130 years ago in Victorian times for the fastest ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats – on a penny farthing.

Richard Thoday has already covered more than 500 miles on his  record bid. PICTURE: SWNS
Richard Thoday has already covered more than 500 miles on his record bid. PICTURE: SWNS

Richard Thoday is aiming to complete the epic journey in less than five days, one hour and 45 minutes, which would beat the existing record set by Lt Colonel George Pilkington Mills in 1886.

The 56-year-old, from Matlock in Derbyshire, is more than halfway through the epic feat, having cycled more than 500 miles. He crossed the Forth Road Bridge in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Thoday has been riding penny farthings for ten years and is well versed in long stints in the saddle, having participated in many 24-hour road cycling events.

The experienced cyclist has peddled around 16 hours a day since starting out his journey on Saturday.

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The father-of-one took off at 6am from Land’s End and aims to arrive in John O’Groats faster than teenager GP Mills.

And Thoday’s wife Dawn, 57, believes her husband is the man to beat the record.

Dawn and daughter Emily, 24, who has just qualified as a doctor, are supporting Thoday on the mammoth journey, meeting him at checkpoints along the way. Dawn said: “The penny farthing he is using has a 52-inch tyre.

“When GP Mills set the record, he had other ‘penny fathers’ with him to pace him, but Richard doesn’t.

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“Richard is riding a similar bike, but his advantage is that when Mills was doing it there was no tarmac, meaning he would have been slower.

“But Richard’s disadvantage is that he has to deal with traffic and traffic lights. But he’s doing well. He rides clipped into his pedals, which is much easier. He is feeling positive and he is over the halfway point. Every time he stops he always asks how we are, which is very nice of him.

“It’s been very windy, which can be dangerous because the wind can blow him away. He has a tracker on him so we use Google locate to track him.”

Thoday has always had a fascination for the penny farthing, even designing his own one ten years ago.

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The learning support teacher spent more than two years training for the adventure.

Thoday consumes around 11,000 calories a day to keep his energy levels up and he even has his own nutritionist.

The penny-farthing used for the more than 800-mile trek was designed by Unicycle and was based on the one Thoday designed himself ten years ago.

Thoday is taking on the challenge for Children in Need.