This brought back a few memories of when I rode it twice - 2004 and 2005.
It wasn't as big then, maybe just 1000 doing it at a guess over all distances. I was working for one of the Brooks distributors at the time and they were sponsoring the event - sorry guys but it was a freebie trip.
The first year Brooks had promised some retro bikes for the journos to ride the event on (many Euro bike mag journos are not exactly classic cycling shape and did the 40 or 75km distances) . I correctly guessed that they might be lacking in preperation and correct sizing and so took my OCLV which was not in the least bit retro - did fit a Swallow to it though. Did feel a bit of a twat riding it but there were plenty of others on modern bikes as well.
I rode the 135km with an American journo who was riding the bike supplied him where the saddle was about 3cm lower than he should have had it, but he was 6' 4" and it was about a 58cm. His chain broke after 30km so I rigged it in the largest sprocket we could so he at least had two suitable (ish) gears. Feeling sorry for him I followed suit and used only my front mech.
It was a long day but we stuck together - met some real characters on the way. I finished feeling it was all a bit easy on modern equipment. Props to Peter though on a very low saddle to do the 135km.
Rich Hallett (Cyling weekly) had built up a 1935 Raleigh fixed/flip flop for the event which he did in just under 12 hours (major respect) but it nearly killed him.
I built up a Bates for the next years event:
which was far more in keeping. Hallett turned up with a georgeos Roberts from about 1980 that he used to own and had somehow managed to get back. About perfect for it in my book - just retro enough but a nice fast ride.
This year the 200km was the only option to take. I had bought a new pair of £50 tubs so I didn't get any punctures. Well, not for 35km anyway. Was enjoying the desents too mech. Look in the saddlebag to see I had lost one of my two spare tubs with 170km to go. Took it a bit easy after that. Hallet passed me at a food stop (took the picture of me and the bike) early on and I didn't see him till the evening meal - think he did it under 10 hours.
A 50 year old steel frame with what seems like solid seat stays is not the ost forgiving of rides i can tell you. I struggled over the distance and hills (I'm a Devon boy so hills come naturally) OK but my feet (clips+straps for the first time in 15 years coupled with classic carnac shoes) were killing me. The washboard sections riun your wrists and neck and remove any speed and energy you might have. Your backside on a leather saddle is the least of your worries.
I ended up riding with a nice German chap called Marcus for the last 100km - we talked all sorts of crap which kept the miles passing. I was pretty dead by the time we hit the slow rise of 6km or so to the finish. I was tight on time to meet the 12 hour prize and he basically dragged me there with 5mins to spare - top geezer.
I can't recommend this event highly enough. I really want to do the 75km on my Penny Farthing one day, but I don't fancy having to get the thing there.
Just 'cos it's rare, don't make it good (or worth owt).
View my bikes past and present on: