I suspect there may be many hundreds, if not thousands, of bicycle riders in the UK who are in their 70s, 80s and 90s. People who have cycled for years and years, out several days a week in all weathers, quietly and anonymously, doing thousands of miles a year. People who are quite capable of riding LEJoG – and may have done it. The current holder of the Guiness World Record for the Oldest Person to Cycle from Lands End to John o Groats is Tony Rathbone of Keswick, who was 81 in 2014, when he was awarded the record.
So why am I doing LEJoG and trying for the record? Having done plenty of touring in the last 15 or 20 years, I know how satisfying and enjoyable it is. The cyclist is in close touch with his environment, can stop and look around, admiring the wonderful sights, sounds and smells. Motor transport isolates the tourer from the surroundings, having to concentrate on roads and other vehicles – even on a motor-bike. It all whizzes by so quickly.
That’s one good reason for doing LEJoG again, but why the record attempt? A valid question with a lot of personal answers. One is it’s about the challenge and searching for boundaries. Inevitably, exploring boundaries invites the possibility of failure. What then? Try again? The Guiness World Record documents include the words “furthest south to furthest north of the UK”. LEJoG doesn’t necessarily include Lizard Point or Dunnet Head, the actual furthest south and north in mainland UK but this time I intend to include them.
Another of my reasons is to explore what we oldies are capable of and maybe persuade (provoke?) them to come into the light and be counted. To confront the stereotype and see how many others there are like Tony Rathbone, John Lee (who has some world record achievements cycling for an hour in a velodrome), Laurence Brophy, Robert Marchant the amazing French centagenarian (or is it centenarian?) and others. I’ve learned quite a lot while looking for supra-seventy and eighty achievements on the bike. But the numbers are difficult to find.
Athletics and mountain running are well served with Masters events. Have a look and marvel at the abilities of older runners, for example. I’m not aware of similar opportunities for cyclists, apart from Audax. Is it time to try to change this?
And then there is the hoary old excuse – because it’s there! Go for it!