Dave Preece is planning on cycling the length of the country for charity. Nothing unusual in that, except that the 41-year-old Cheltenham man is planning on undertaking the journey on a penny farthing.
Preece is aiming for about 70 miles a day on average and anticipates 14 days cycling in all. However, speaking to the Gloucestershire Echo, he admits that the hillier days will see him covering less ground.
“Anything over a six or seven per cent hill for more than half a mile is a struggle. You just have to get off and push.”
But at least he gets the downhills, right? Apparently not.
“The really annoying thing is that you can’t ride it down a steep hill. It’s too dangerous to ride down at 30mph on a big hill so you have to get off and walk anyway. That’s the most annoying thing. Going up you’d only be going a little more than walking pace but you don’t get any benefit in speed going downhill.”
Earlier this year, Preece won the British Open Penny Farthing national championships, which took place at Thoresby Hall near Nottingham, and he has also raced on the bike at London Nocturne. Despite his obvious skill on the penny farthing, he is actually training on a fixed wheel road bike, reasoning “it is a similar sort of experience but is a bit safer.”
However, it seems that there are some advantages to what is sometimes referred to as a ‘high wheel’.
“It’s funny, drivers treat you a bit better on this than a normal bike, and everyone likes to see it – little kids are always excited.”
Preece’s wife Ann is deaf and had a lot of help from the National Deaf Children’s Society as a girl. He is therefore hoping to raise at least £1,500 for the charity through his efforts. If you’d like to donate, visit justgiving.com/Dave-Preece3.
One man who will have a better idea than most what Preece is in store for is Joff Summerfield. In 2006, Summerfield set off for what was to prove a two-and-a-half year trip around the world on a penny farthing. “It feels unsafe like being on a cliff edge all the time – but you get used to it,” he explains.
Earlier this year, Summerfield tackled parts of the courses of three of the spring classics on a penny farthing he built himself. You’d think that might have been enough to put him off such escapades for life, but apparently not. He is currently travelling around the world by penny farthing for a second time – this time heading westward.