Meet the teacher planning a world record 850-mile journey on a penny-farthing

Richard Thoday poses with his penny farthing in Fakenham, passing through on 29th May PICTURE: Socia

Richard Thoday poses with his penny farthing in Fakenham, passing through on 29th May PICTURE: Social Monkey - Credit: Social Monkey (Mel Harriss)

The bizarre sight of a penny farthing being ridden through Fakenham has been turning a few heads.

Secondary school Richard Thoday has passed through the town while training to set the world record for the fastest journey from Land's End to John O'Groats on a penny farthing.

Mr Thoday, who lives in Matlock, Debryshire, returned to Fakenham, where he was born, testing the motorhome and support team accompanying him on the 850-mile journey.

He has been using his half-term holiday to cycle up to 200 miles a day.

He said: "It's nice to get a change of scenery from the same old routes.

"The end-to-end journey is sort of a rite of passage for club cyclists. Once, I was supporting a record attempt on a modern bike, where the record stands at 42 hours. I saw this leaflet saying that the record could not be attempted on a penny farthing and thought 'Hmm, ok, what's that record then?'".

The penny farthing record was set in 1886 by George P Mills, who took five days, one hour and forty-five minutes. According to some sources, he only slept for six hours in that time.

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Tiredness is risky on top of a tall bike. "Imagine someone grabbing you by the ankles and holding you over their head," said Mr Thoday. "If I hit a pothole, most of the time you go straight over the handlebars. The bike that succeeded the penny farthing was called the safety bike for a reason."

Three months ago, a fall from the bike left him with a broken rib and a fractured wrist. His bike has no gears and no brakes, since penny farthings do not need either to be road legal.

It may seem impractical, but Mr Thoday says it is easy to learn.

"Traffic is normally very courteous, and you get a good view over the top of it. It's very freeing."

His bike is a reproduction of the 130-year-old victorian cycles he started riding in 2010. Modern designs owe their pedal grips and metal tube forks to Fakenham engineer John Cousins Garrood, born in 1851. "Thank you very much to him", said Mr Thoday, who was not aware of the connection until he passed through.

Mr Thoday's record attempt sets off at the start of the school holidays. To donate or track his progress, visit

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