Thursday, 1 December 2011

Chapeau Tommy Godwin Chapeau !!

Tommy Godwin 2 by CycleSeven
A lot of people might already know about this story as there seems to be quite a bit of interest about this cyclist recently, but like me (until recently), there is probably quite a few that don't know the story specially those outside the UK and it's quite an amazing story for anybody interested in Cycling and especially the endurance side of the sport.

Tommy Godwin (not to be confused with the medal winning Olympic Track cyclist of the same name and era) holds the world record for the most miles ridden in a year which stands at an absolutely staggering 75,065 miles (120,805 km) which still stands to this day.
Tommy was born in 1912 in Stoke-on-Trent which as it happens is my home city. He worked as an errand boy for a local green grocer delivering groceries on an iron framed bike with a basket on the front. When he was 14 he entered 25 mile TT race on said bike and won. He rode amature for local club Potteries cc, It wasn't long before he was attracting sponsorship and rode professional for Rickmonsworth cc, Raleigh & Sturmey Archer.

In 1939 he lined up with Edward Swan and Bernard Bennett to attempt the most miles in a year record which then stood at 62,657 miles (100,837km) set in 1937 by Australian Ossie Nicholson. The record was first set in 1911 by Frenchman Marcel Planes at 34,666 miles(55,790km) on a single gear and was broke another 6 times by 1937.
Edward Swan crashed out just short of a 1000 mile. Tommy and Bernard were paced to 50,000miles(80,000km) but were then left to battle it out. Bernard Bennet reached 65,127miles(104,812km) but Tommy had broke the previous record after only 9 months and by the years end had clocked 75,065miles truly astonishing but for Tommy that wasn't enough because he carried into 1940 through the blackouts at the start of the Second World War to reach the crazy 100,000 miles(160,000km) mark in 500 days ! And when you think he did this sticking to his vegetarian diet while riding a bike weighing 30lbs(14kgs) and with only 3 gears just seems completely mind blowing. It would take him weeks just to walk properly again. This would be an astonishing feat if done today, although the Guinness book of records would not record it as to put people off from attempting it as they deem it to be too dangerous.

After the war the Olympics were held in London in 1948 but Tommy having ridden professional wasn't allowed to take part denying him the chance of real recognition he deserved. Tommy's working class background meant he had to ride professionally . He would finish his career with more than 200 professional  road and TTa wins. Tommy died in 1975 while out riding his bike just the way he probably wanted it.

In 2005 plaque was put on the wall of a sports centre in the Fenton area of Stoke-on-Trent where he was born  commemorating him, as i was living in London at the time it's probably why I hadn't come across him until now.  I am sure you would agree that it seems an injustice that the level of recognition is minimal to say the least, and unfair for the fact that had he stayed amature and been able to ride the 1948 Olympics he would probably be a household name today. This story is crying out for a book and is great material for a film. I really hope that now the story is getting a  more exposure he will get  more than just a plaque on a wall of a sports centre, a statue would be more fitting.

Chapeau Tommy.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. After first reading this I thought about how much that said about how amazing those Sturmey Archer 3-speed hubs are...

    ...and they are, but just kidding...

    ...averaging 200 miles a day on a bicycle for 500 days is pretty mindblowing stuff!

    This story is crying out for a book and is great material for a film. I really hope that now the story is getting a more exposure he will get more than just a plaque on a wall of a sports centre, a statue would be more fitting.

    And some!

  3. Thank you for your lovely comments, he was a truly amazing man !! and deserves to be remembered. I may be biased, he was my dad.
    Barbara Ford nee Godwin

  4. Your welcome Barbara,he definitely needs rembering. As cycling is more popular than ever and more endurance events are springing up every year, i think there is scope for making this story into at least a documentary if not a film and bringing the story to the fore.I was living in London in 2005 so missed the unvailing of the plaque i wished i had been there.I just hope somebody can give justice this story and the recognition it deserve's!