July 6, 2016

Three for two

By Mark Brooking

On Monday 11th July, as part of the 40,000 hours at 40 campaign, I will be having a crack at a long distance place to place road cycling record attempt. The ride in question is the 842.6 mile trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats sometimes known as the End to End (E2E). The category I’m riding in is known as a mixed Tandem Tricycle – a rare beast but a fun machine to ride!

The motivating force on the back seat will be Jane Moore, the first Woman to complete the E2E within the standard time on a solo Tricycle. In 2014 Jane rode her solo trike from Land’s End to John O’Groats in 3 days, 16 hours, 45 minutes, 21 seconds. The first on record in that class and 19 hours faster than the standard set by the Road Records Association [RRA] to be eligible to make a record claim. So a great partner for this attempt!

If we survive the challenge, there will be an option to carry on to complete the 1000-mile distance. Both will be regulated by the RRA who also provide recognised observers and timekeepers.

The Tandem Tricycle – How it all started

My passion for the Tandem Tricycle began back in the 1980’s when I discovered a long distance style of cycling of French origin known as ‘Randonneuring’. It involves riding a set course averaging a speed of between 15 – 30km per hour. Distances start at 200km and go up to 1000km. Every four years there is a flagship event known as the Paris-Brest-Paris which is 1200 km long, with a time limit of 90 hours. I made friends with one of the founding members of Audax in the UK, Barry Parslow, whose eyesight wasn’t that good and he introduced me to a rare beast stored in his shed – a Tandem Tricycle.

He was brave enough to let me try steering it and of course, it’s nothing like a bicycle: it stands up by itself, is influenced by cambers and has to be dragged around roundabouts. Because it can’t be leant into a sharp bend, the crew has to shift their weight and lean out to ensure that it doesn’t tip over.

After much practice, Barry and I became the first Tandem Tricycle to ride the Paris-Brest-Paris. It is a trip of 750 miles in real money, but it was fun and Barry completed his fifth ride sitting behind me.

Eventually, I bought a second hand tandem trike of my own. It was a Jack Taylor, built in the 1970’s for two small people (possibly from the north of England). Once it was refurbished I had a go at racing it in Road Time Trials. It proved remarkably fast and with club mate Simon Doughty it clocked the following: 10 miles – 20:30; 25 miles – 55:41; 50 miles – 1:58:30; 100 miles – 4:08:28. Not bad for the least fast of machines in the tandem category!

Later, I had a bespoke Tandem Tricycle built by George Longstaff, with everything brazed onto the frame to cover all eventualities. Back in the mid-1990’s, my tandem partner at the time, Jane Ramsdale and I, did toy with having a go at the E2E road record but sadly Jane went to Malawi on VSO (was it really that bad riding with me?) and it didn’t happen. We did however set two competition records at 12 & 24 hours of 221 & 401 miles before she went.

The E2E challenge

Now fast forward 20 odd years.

One of my fellow riders got in touch for advice about riding a 24 hour event. I cheekily suggested she do it on a Tricycle and took one that had been hanging in the back of the garage for far too long out for her to try… Jane took to the machine.

We decided to take on the E2E and step one saw us doing the qualifying rides for the Paris-Brest-Paris. We also took part in 12 hours and 24 hours tandem time trials and managed to win the tandem section and the National Veterans Championships on both with 207 and 348 miles.

We then went on to do the French ride which took 83 hours 19 minutes for 770 miles, carrying all of our own kit. It went really well throughout the year so we have assembled a support crew and officials for July and ready for a pop at the big one.

Over the last year we’ve built-up for the challenge, gradually working up through the distances. We have ridden a flat 300km and my 620km Audax route with all of the hills. Our attempt at riding a 100-mile time trial ended prematurely when we had problems with the front wheel and lots of punctures! We redeemed ourselves a week later with a new veterans record of 215 miles in the 12 hour.

So now it’s just a case of keeping the wheels turning and at 03:00 on Monday 11th July we hope to ride 846 miles along the length of the country within the standard to beat time of 79 hours. If that doesn’t finish us off, we have the option of continuing to make it up to 1000 miles!

It is a venture that echoes some of Cundall’s ideals. A Green initiative using sustainable transport to attempt to break new ground and go where none have gone before. If the ride is a success it will be a first on a truly classic machine.

Jane and I will be raising money for Samaritan’s Purse, a charity that brings clean water to families in South Sudan.

To support us please visit our fundraising page.

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Charitable Work, Mark Brooking, Volunteering

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