New Highest Annual Mileage Record holder Kurt Searvogel's achievement has been questioned on social media

When we posted the news on Monday that Kurt Searvogel had broken Tommy Godwin’s 1939 mark to set a new highest annual mileage record for a cyclist, there was a surprising number of people who were less than charitable about his amazing feat.

At the time of writing, the 53-year-old American still has four days left in which to accumulate mileage, and has totalled 75,437 to beat Godwin’s 77-year-old record of 75,065 miles. That’s an astounding 209 miles per day. [update: he finished his year on 76,076 miles]

Naturally, anyone clocking up that sort of mileage day in, day out, without a break deserves respect, whether they did it for a week, a month or a whole year. Searvogel is also currently achieving this at an average speed of over 19mph. Some days over 20mph.

>>> American Kurt Searvogel breaks cycling highest annual mileage record

I know that personally I would struggle to ride 50 miles at 19mph, let alone four times that distance having also done it the day before. And the day before that. And the day before that…

“Wow. Must be awsome [sic] to be able to ride your bike for 12 hours a day everyday on lovely, sunny, flat roads on a lovely new hi tech bike. This ‘record’ doesn’t come close to the 1939 feat,” wrote one Facebook user.

“I agree with comments, Tommy had snow to contend with, adapted butchers steel bike. Kurt rides in Florida weather on a fairy bike,” said another.

And most strangely: “Doesn’t count, for me this has to be in one calendar year, starting and ending on Jan 1.”

Although these comments give a lot of respect to Godwin’s original record – ridden on a bike of the era and on roads of the era – they give little respect to Searvogel’s achievement. It’s the sort of thinking that saw the UCI Hour Record die a miserable and lonely death before the ridiculous rules about using out-dated equipment were scrapped.

Do you have to make things as hard as possible for yourself, otherwise the record isn’t ‘real’ or ‘worthy’? Imagine if that was applied to every journey made in everyday life. “I’m walking into work today, backwards, with no shoes on, over broken glass and with a full sack of squirming eels on my back, otherwise I don’t deserve to be employed.”

I should point out that it was this magazine (then known simply as Cycling) that created the record in 1911, though that was slightly before I started working for it.

The record’s rules, clearly stated on the UltraMarathon Cycling Association website, say that you can ride any bike you like as long as it’s not a recumbent with a fairing (though there’s no mention of fairy bikes). You have to ride solo rather than as a team, but drafting is permitted as it’s a distance record not a speed record. Literally, you just have to get on a bike and ride as far as possible in a year.

Watch: How to be more aero on a road bike

Of course, Godwin’s 1939 record was a gargantuan achievement, and its 77-year unbroken run proves that. But Searvogel’s record is equally as worthy, showing just as much effort, sacrifice and commitment as Godwin’s. And, of course, he has ridden further.

Searvogel rode in all weathers, and through injury and saddle sores – and even managed to get married in October (and then ride 175 miles directly afterwards) which also dispels the comment that “He must be single or is now,” as a Facebook user said.

Part of the spectacle of Searvogel’s record was the competition with British rider Steve Abraham, who is also undertaking the record attempt. Abraham had to reset his attempt in August after breaking his ankle in the spring as a result of being hit by a moped: Godwin certainly didn’t have to contend with the same level of traffic as any modern rider on the open road.

Nor did Godwin have to contend with having every facet of his achievement questioned and mocked on social media. In that respect: bring back 1939.

  • Michael

    Not at all. You lied by firstly claiming I’d abused this guy and then by claiming that I’d been abusive in this thread.

    Neither are true.

    Now you’ve lied again by denying what you said – even though it’s still on the page.

    You’re such a weasel and pathetically small worm of a man that you cannot tell the truth. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  • IndependentThinker

    Yet again you show you’re a fantasist. I think your comments relate to the replies you imagine I’ve given, rather than what I actually typed. And you further emphasise that abusive attitude you cling to.

  • Michael

    I make you out to be a liar because you said I’d posted abuse to someone and then said I was abusive here twice.

    Both were lies – one, at least, that you’ve admitted was a lie.

    Having a different opinion about something is fine, but posting deliberate falsehoods as you have is pathetic and low.

    You should feel ashamed that you cannot post about a subject without resorting to lies and ad hominem attacks. Is that what you believe “independent thinking” is? i.e independent from reality.

  • IndependentThinker

    Not sure how you make me out as a liar. I said you have an abusive attitude and you do – simple as.

    You are also a fantasist.

  • Michael

    Sheesh, if you could back pedal IRL as well as you have here you’d be half way to your first 200 miles.

    Suggesting that going without money is somehow part of this challenge is ridiculous. If being skint for a year is a challenge then there are umpteen people more deserving of our respect.

    Not sure how you equate this with “not earning money for a long time” – it’s 365 days, which is about a year.

    As I said, put up or shut up. You made big claims in your post that I couldn’t do something. Well I accepted the challenge. Are you going to back down? If you were so confident of what you said earlier (and you claimed to be 100% confident) then you would have made £140k for doing nothing.

    There’s nothing abusive in my posts at all. You’re an abject liar.

  • IndependentThinker

    As it happens, I’m a bald middle aged guy. And I have thought a lot about this. I couldn’t do it because as you noticed, to complete the challenge isn’t just about riding a bike for 12 hours a day. It’s about being willing to make a huge number of sacrifices – being unable to do anything else including earn money for a long time. And I’m not prepared to make those sacrifices – I have commitments to other people and I can’t afford to take a year or more likely two away from work to do it.

    So I repeat my challenge: do it all including raising the money and giving your life up for a year and then you’ll have my respect. Merely saying “if you paid me I’d do it” is not enough. To coin a phrase, talk is cheap.

    And whilst I’ll never you know whether you directly abused this guy, your attitude is demonstrably abusive.

  • Michael

    You’re not thinking at all.

    Just look at the people who are doing these records. Balding, middle aged guys.

    You must be in a pretty poor state of health if you *don’t* believe you can match their performance.

    Really. If you pay me for those 365 days I’ll gladly do it.

    How about this, let’s say £200 a day for 365 days. If I do 70000 miles, we’re quits. If I don’t then I’ll give you double the money back.

    I’ll put my legs where my mouth is – I never made any monetary claims. But the money – that has to be someone else’s because, frankly, I have better things to do with my time than cycling slowly all day.

    So, are you going to put your money where your mouth is?

    Lastly don’t make wild claims that anyone was subject to “abuse” from me – that is not true. I’ve never communicated with this guy in my life.

  • IndependentThinker

    Put your money where your mouth is and do this for yourself. 209 miles everyday for 365 days. Yes, being motor paced, or chasing tailwinds makes it physically less demanding. But it doesn’t making it undemanding, trivial or unworthy of praise.

    If you manage to do it (and I am 100% confident you can’t), then you will rightly have earned my respect. Merely stating that you could do it earns you nothing but contempt.

    The mental and emotional commitment to do this is vastly impressive, especially when he was subject to abuse from people like you who having never attempted anything like this.

  • Michael

    19mph on a mixed terrain could be tough. On hilly terrain could be world class. On flat terrain could be trivial.

    There’s nothing about the number “19mph” that gives you enough information to determine which.

    Although the suggestion he’s picking tailwinds, if true, does make it significantly easier to do.

    More key of course is simply looking at his heart rate during these rides. From what I gather of Abrahams he’s not pushing hard at all.

    Do you need to be a cycling god to not push hard at all for 10-12 hours? No, you don’t. Would you do 200 miles in 10-12 hours? Eventually yes. Even if you were slower to start with.

    How would you train to ride without putting in any effort for 10-12 hours? You simply ride without putting in any effort for lots of hours.

    So, no, it’s not difficult or impressive. There are no “cycling gods” here. This is a record 50+ year olds can do.

    When a 50 year old breaks the hour record then post about a cycling god. Even that is moot really. Go and ride for an hour as fast as you can. You won’t beat Wiggins, but you’ll suffer and it’ll hurt just as much. That is 60 minutes effort that is worthy of praise – regardless of whether you break a record or not. Far more worthy of praise than months of sedate riding where you barely get out of breath.

  • Michael

    “Imagine if that was applied to every journey made in everyday life. “I’m walking into work today, backwards, with no shoes on, over broken glass and with a full sack of squirming eels on my back”

    The point here is, if you then say “I walked to work every day for a year!” as though that’s an amazing achievement.

    You note some of the facebook comments would be impressed if you walked to work in snow or ice. I think this just finds people who don’t like the cold – I’m one of them.

    Given the weather we had in the UK in October – which was extremely mild and dry, without either the extremes of hot or cold – perfect for cycling in – I would do it.

    But yeah, inadvertently with your sarcasm you managed to write in this article why this record is no big deal – because anyone who can be bothered to do it, can do it and, I don’t think “being bothered to do it” is sufficient enough to elevate this into an amazing record.

    I’m significantly more impressed watching cycle racing. Even the last 500m of a flat stage or the last 20-30 minutes of a mountain top finish shows more athleticism and requires significantly more training than 12 months of riding slowly does.

    But yes, you note some of the difficulties are “weather” and “saddle sores” – these are things you may “endure”, but they are not signs of athleticism. It doesn’t take skill, talent or training to put up with a sore arse. If you go to Canada or Norway I’m sure you’ll find people coping with bad weather every day for months. These are not reasons to be amazed.

    It would be amazing if and only if the actual cycling itself demonstrated some athleticism – and, unfortunately it really doesn’t. 70000 sounds a lot, but it’s 70000 miles ridden at a slow pace. A slow pace precisely so that you can ride day after day after day. That’s the whole premise of ‘base training’ after all.

    But yeah, you’ll get fatigued, bored, a sore arse, cold, wet and miserable doing this – but the winner of the Tour de France has probably got all of those – and he won the tour de France – riding up big mountains at 450w, doing 30mph time trials and so on. That’s impressive.

  • Dave Toman

    Pat B. first off is that short for Patrick or Patricia? Never mind. Any way sorry for not commenting earlier. Went for a bike ride to clear my head and think about how I wanted to respond. You might try it some time.
    Are you aware that if you click on the person’s name it shows when they joined and other topics they have commented on. I joined Jan. 6, 2016 and this is the only topic I have been on. You on the other hand joined Jan. 27, 2014 and have been involved in several discussions. You do the math.
    What I have discovered is you appear to be a very bitter and maybe lonely person who instead of encouraging others you look for faults. When confronted with a question you never really answer. So I will ask again. What have you done that would make us believe anything you have to say? You can make all the quotes about things that happened in the past yet you have no real proof. As we are all well aware things we were taught in school is not always accurate as more information comes available. So to believe 100% of what we have read is foolhardy. You have made several inflammatory remarks yet I among others have yet to see your proof.
    Is it really that hard to give a person praise for what they are doing or have accomplished? Tommy was 27 when he broke the record and Kurt started at age 52. That right there is amazing.
    I am serious if you don’t ride a bike you might want to. It will give you a whole different outlook, not to mention the health benefits. If you wish to continue on the path you have taken then I am reminded of a quote my father use to tell us.
    “It is better to be thought a fool, then to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” It is as simple as that.

  • Pat B

    You’ve never commented one time in your life about the Tour de France? Bullshit and you know it.

  • Pat B

    Dave, you are another example of being so defeated in debate all you have left is “you can’t do what he did”. That is like saying no one can debate about Michael Jordan achievements unless they are on the same level of athlete as Michael Jordan.

    Bottom line.

    Did Kurt break Tommy Godwin’s one year cycling record?

    Did Kurt break Tommy Godwin’s 365 day cycling record?

    You can choose to believe in you want. Rather it be Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, or this broke either of Godwin’s records.

  • IndependentThinker

    This article is entitled “Why I think Kurt Searvogel’s annual cycling record deserves our respect” – it is intended to point out to nit picking curmudgeons such as you demonstrate yourself to be, that irrespective of whether or not Godwin’s record has been broken, Searvogel’s achievement is considerable.

    I think maybe you missed this point. Personally, I think it impossible to make any meaningful comparison between the two “records” and so I’m not wasting time trying to. Instead, I have profound respect, admiration and dare I say envy for both men. Your comments suggest that that Searvogel’s efforts are worthless and meaningless. I couldn’t disagree with you more.

  • Dave Toman

    Pat B. You sure like to criticize what others have done. So the question to you is what have you accomplished that would make us really care what you have to say. You can state all the facts but unless you were actually there how do you know what the real numbers are? Quoting from a know it all. “It really is that simple.” Now go out and ride. Let us see if you can break either guys record.

  • Pat B

    No one is saying what Kurt did was amazing. But the bottom line, he did not break any of Tommy Godwin’s records. It really is that simple.

  • Pat B

    No, no one said he wasn’t deserving or praise. But he broke none of Godwin’s records

    Did Kurt break Godwin’s one year calendar record?
    Did Kurt break Godwin’s 365 day record from May 16, 1939 to May 14, 1940

    Argue as you wish.

  • Maximus

    So what? Kurt had the sense to make use of what is available now and within the rules to achieve the distance he thought he could.
    The fact that Godwin did over 75k in 1939 is not a reflection on Kurt’s incredible ride at all – the fact that Kurt has done this and will beat it by ‘only’ 1000 miles or so is a testament to what an amazing athlete Tommy Godwin was. Surely it’s possible to recognise the astounding achievements of both.

    No matter how much drafting I had, no matter how much support I had, no matter which roads I chose to ride on, no matter what bike I used, I definitely could not ride an average of 210 miles EVERY DAY for a year.

    Could you?

  • Dave Toman

    I so agree Ian on the last part. Some on here could use a few miles(some cases hundred miles) to release all that pent up stress and frustration. Cycling is cycling whether you are on a road bike, tandem, recumbent or a trike. Let’s just embrace what people have done and enjoy being out pedaling.

  • IndependentThinker

    So you’re saying riding 209 miles per day at an average speed of 19mph is not worthy of praise? You must be some kind of cycling god as you could obviously do better?

  • ian fardoe

    Godwin also used to choose his routes to take advantage of prevailing trailwinds and there have been reports of him catching a train a couple of times to pick up the best weather to ride back in.
    His feat was legendary, there’s no denying it, but that’s no reason to put others down.

    Rather than belittling other people’s gargantuan achievements, a few people need to spend less time bitching in front of a computer screen and more time riding! 😀

  • James L

    Er, no he didn’t have the RV drafting him. Godwin had the luxury of sponsorship from Raleigh and was drafted for a considerable part of his ride by other riders.

  • Dave Toman

    Pat B. Ha, Ha. I have never commented on the Tour de France. Taking nothing away from Tommy Goodwin and what he did. If you read it again I was just saying that to compare him to what Kurt and others are attempting in not fair. You can not duplicate the same scenario. Since you wish to make the comparison to track and baseball the variables are not as dramatic. As for the Tour I read Latuarne Rouge and what these guys accomplished on 70lb plus single speed bikes in the old days. It makes me appreciate that we have many different option not to mention lighter bikes to chose from. The main point is how we think we have the right to criticize what a person has accomplished when we can never come close to doing what they did. So either be happy with what they have done or get out and break the record yourself. As a cyclist who happens to be a Clydesdale I enjoy riding and love seeing more people of out discovering the benefits of pedaling.

  • Pat B

    Dave, so I guess you have ridden in the Tour de France? Because I have seen you many times comment on it. Have you ever one time commented on a baseball games? Or Usian Bolt? Or ANYTHING else? Kurt didn’t break Tommy Godwin’s 365 day record of 76,800 miles nor his calendar year of 75,065 miles. Simple math my friend.

  • Dave Toman

    John I totally agree. All this bickering is unneeded. To some the only way to have a valid record is if you rode the same bike Goodwin rode. Wear the same clothes, eat the same food and somehow replicate the same weather. Oh, and let’s not forget you have to be the same age and size. It is not going to happen. What Kurt has accomplished and what the others are attempting is amazing and something to cheer about. Any naysayers should go and attempt this before they try and give us their so-called expert advice.

  • John

    Oh dearie me, there’s a bit of resentment and bitterness knocking around here below the line. Strikes me that Tommy declared 1st Jan – 31st Dec 1939 in advance, so that’s what counts as his record: Kurt’s declared 10th Jan 2015 – 9th Jan 2016, so that’s what’ll count for him.

    If Tommy had declared May 16th as a restart, great, he’d have reset the clock – but he didn’t. Hindsight may be a wonderful thing, but you don’t fire the starting pistol in retrospect.

    (Oh, and he was motor-paced, supported on the road, for his highest mileage days over the summer. Don’t see either Kurt or Steve having that help.)

    As for the original question, does Kurt deserve respect for his cycling achievement? Hell yeah – first, it’s the new record, second, it’s a magnificent ride.

  • Pat B

    I disagree. Godwin had to contend with more traffic, even in 1939, when a lot of roads in England weren’t even paved. Kurt often chose roads that had no traffic at all and perfectly smooth roads. He often had his support RV draft for him plus you can look at his logs, he would ride with the wind going at a slight downhill, then shuttled back to top to do the same thing again. The UMCA has proven to be a shady organization who is more interested in press coverage and money then actual records. And when it rained, Kurt just shuttled a few hundred miles away to ride away from it. Godwin had no luxury of that.

  • Pat B

    Tommy Godwin’s 100,000 miles in 500 days in even more amazing. Only reason Godwin had to stop is he had to fight in the war.

  • Pat B

    Julian, it’s all shady. The UMCA, which didn’t exist for many decades after Tommy Godwin, shouldn’t recognize the record at all.

  • Pat B

    I should also add UMCA changed the rule from one calendar year to consecutive 365 days in Feb 2015, one month after Tarzan started ten days late. But like I pointed out below, Godwin’s 365 day best is 76,800. So did Kurt beat Godwin’s single year record? No. Did Kurt beat Godwin’s 365 day record (May 16, 1939-May 14, 1940). No.

  • Pat B

    You also fail to mention that Tommy Godwin actually rode around 76,800 miles from May 16, 1939 to May 14, 1940. So in either case, Kurt did not break any of Godwin’s records. And yes, Kurt did get rides to the top of gradients, would ride down, then get shuttled back to the top of them.

  • ridein

    There are just a few cyclists who could ride 208 miles in a day. There is a much smaller subset who could average 208 miles per day for a week long. So if somebody can ride that far in a year and dedicate themselves without any just reward is more than commendable.


    Regardless of who and how the record is broken, barely any of us would have known who Tommy Godwin was if it wasn’t for the athletes struggling to match his mark today. So we should celebrate his historical achievement which has been brought to light by the current crop of riders and also applaud anyone willing to give up a year of their life to suffer for this record however they go about trying to succeed.

  • Julian Dean

    J1, you’d better look into Steve Abraham as he’s asking for car rides back home after one-way tailwind days. I guess the UK has had some windy days recently.

  • J1

    Apparently he was using a recumbent for some of it and was being driven up gradients to ride back down, then on top of that also had a car to block headwinds, then after turned round to take advantage of the tailwind the other way.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if it was an electric bike too.

    0% respect if that’s the case.

  • IndependentThinker

    Well said