Legend's 69-year RRA record falls as super-commuter Lee Williams sets new Pembroke-London mark

Welshman's rides to work serve him well as he takes four minutes off Ken Joy's 1953 place to place record

Lee Williams Pembroke London
Lee Williams breathes easy after his record ride
(Image credit: Lee Williams)

Lee Williams became the first rider in almost 70 years to beat the Pembroke to London road record on Monday, setting a provisional mark of 10hr 17min 43sec. It was a narrow beating of road records legend Ken Joy's 1953 time by just 4min 17sec over the 240-mile route.

Williams (North Hampshire RC) wasn't the only rider out to beat the record that day — Kate Bradley of Born to Bike CC made an attempt on the women's record, setting off earlier in the day. She completed the attempt in 13hr 25min, ultimately missing the 12hr 30 standard that had been set.

Both riders had to face a surprise unplanned diversion as they neared Gloucester, with roadworks sending them up a tough climb and down an even tougher descent.

"There was quite a steep hill, which threw me a little bit," says Williams, "and I don't know the gradient but it was a very steep descent and it was only wide enough for one car with moss down the middle, that was a bit tricky."

"I didn't plan for that, but it worked out OK," added Williams, who was sporting a single 56-tooth chainring on the front, with 28 on the back.

Williams originally hails from Llanelli, Wales, and chose the Pembroke-London attempt in part because it chimes neatly with where he comes from and where he now lives. He laid much of the groundwork for his record-breaking ride on his 45-minute Hampshire commute, and had some advice from the current men's Land's End to John o' Groats record holder, Michael Broadwith. "He gave me a lot of advice and helped me get things together," Williams says.

One of Broadwith's key suggestions, says Williams, was not to be afraid to wait if the planned day for the attempt didn't look great weather-wise. "I probably didn't fully take him up on that," laughs Williams, describing how the predicted tailwind for the big day turned into a cross-wind a couple of days beforehand.

Williams brought his ride to a quiet conclusion at the Marble Arch finish at 11 o'clock at night, clapped in only by those in his support vehicle — his sister and Mum, plus Road Records Association (RRA) helper Ralph Dadswell, and the timekeeper. 

"I went home, had a shower, jumped in bed and four hours later I was up for work!" he says.

Unsurprisingly, in that instance, he took the car.

Williams says he is eager to try an attempt at another recordnext year, but he hasn't decided yet exactly where it will be. Watch this space.

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After cutting his teeth on local and national newspapers, James began at Cycling Weekly as a sub-editor in 2000 when the current office was literally all fields. 

Eventually becoming chief sub-editor, in 2016 he switched to the job of full-time writer, and covers news, racing and features.

A lifelong cyclist and cycling fan, James's racing days (and most of his fitness) are now behind him. But he still rides regularly, both on the road and on the gravelly stuff.