Sidney's World Record

On Friday 5th September 2014 at the Olympic Velodrome in London

Sidney Schuman set an hour world record (age 80 to 84) of 28.388km

This is the story of Sidney's prepartion for his record attempt and the event itself.


Taster session - May 7th

My first time on the track - how was I to know that riding round and round the track at the Olympic Velodrome would be like being on an addictive drug? In the warm-up area where the kit is handed out, I was beset by irrational fears. Borrowed bike, handlebars too low. Borrowed shoes, bound to be uncomfortable. Borrowed helmet, won't fit. Worst of all, how do I actually move this thing? I was paralyzed by anxiety. All this vanished once we were introduced to the handrail. Off we went, slowly at first, one lap at a time on the flat section next to the handrail. Then a bit faster on the blue strip at the bottom of the banking - the cote d'azure. Finally, after more tips from the coach, on to the the banking proper. The fast boys, the trackies from Manchester, were straightaway flying round, zooming up and down the banking like they were on elastic. We were encouraged to stay low, occasionally moving up on the home straight, then down low again. By this time I was enjoying myself and starting to look at the clock to see my lap times. Never mind that I was the slowest rider there, I was in seventh heaven because I was lapping in half a minute. I'd dreamed of this as a possibility and now I was doing it! What next? Get my (250m) lap time down to 28 seconds and establish an over-80 hour record of 20 miles?  Who knows? Mary took some pictures at the same time as keeping Jem amused. Thank you Mary. Started training every other day round a 10-mile circuit (Bromley/Chislehurst) which includes a reasonably hard climb (Summer Hill). After a few weeks switched to the Nash Lane circuit (18 miles) taking care to always go clockwise to avoid the Fox Lane climb. It's short but vicious - went the wrong way round once and had to walk it. Starting to definitely feel fitter; using a higher gear up the drags but not pushing it. The taster session is the first stage of a 4-stage accreditation process. The second stage is an improver session and I booked some as the only way I could see to get more time on the track.

Improver session - June 30th

Before the session Mary and me had a really useful meeting with Natasha Banks (event organiser) and met John Scripps the bike expert. He has some interesting ideas about how to get the bars higher. You can see what I have in mind if you look at the riding position of Robert Marchand. (He's the centenarian that rode nearly 27km in an hour.) On the track, the coach soon realised I wouldn't be riding with the bunch so he let me do my own thing. I was expecting some improvement on the half-minute lap times that I did in the first session but it didn't happen. I know I'm fitter now than I was in April so why couldn't I go any faster? My stated aim of 20 miles is looking pretty remote. At least I managed to actually ride on the boards, above the black line, but on the (hired) bike I still couldn't get down on the drops because the bars were too low. I need to explore ways of making it more comfortable. Getting Chas Roberts to build a track bike for me is just a bit over the top. Now is the summer of my discontent ...I now understand that the first session was driven by adrenalin. It was new, it was exciting, it was the starting point for some pretty crazy dreams. I have to be more serious about this whole undertaking. There's only one way to improve - more training! Mary suugested I ride every day instead of every other day. Along with that I need to keep up my physiotherapy execises and not miss days as I have been doing. Plus I have to make sure my diet is right so I asked Julie for advice on this. I printed this so I can refer to it - I might even frame it. She also suggested Team Sidney meetings so people know what I'm feeling and I can benefit from their suggestions. Ann Sydney suggests a JustGiving page and that we should inform the media. Mary suggested that if we do have a JustGiving page it could be for a cycling charity rather than to defray expenses. Any suggestions? Nearer the time I will send a photo and press release to Tom Bogdanowicz of the London Cycling Campaign so that he can put a blurb in their magazine. As for the rest of the media, I want to keep a low profile as I don't want to raise expectations .... of course in thinking this way I reckoned without Team Dad Operative No 1 (aka Julie) who has just showed me the email she sent to Chris Boardman. Thank you Julie - looks like a re-think may be in order. Ruby said more or less the things I'd been thinking (enjoy the whole thing, the result is irrelevant, good excuse for a party) only they were all mixed up in my mind with lots of other things. Reading what she wrote I felt a tremendous feeling of release, a realisation that I didn't have to try and be anything other than myself. Thank you Ruby. I've had the OK from UCI for higher handlebars so I'll go to Condor Cycles in a couple of days to get bars (double-taped) on a stem riser that raises them 3.5 inches. Hopefully I should be able to use them for the next session at the Velodrome. I will be having 8 more sessions before the event and I intend to relax and not worry about lap times. These are all Stage 2 (Improver)sessions of the accreditation process for serious trackies. Hopefully the coaches will get into the habit of ignoring me so I can gradually extend the uninterrupted time I get on the track. So far the longest time without being called in is 10 minutes. Next session I'll aim for 20 minutes and I won't count the laps.

Improver session - July 8th

This was the first time I was able to use my new handlebars. Matt the mechanic fitted them on one of their Condor bikes in a couple of minutes and put the saddle down level with the top of the bars. I tried it out in the track centre and it felt good. Then I had a good talk with Rob, the chief coach. He agreed to let me go round on the cote d'azure where I would be out of the way of the other riders. So, the session started and I just got on the bike and pedalled for 45 minutes. I could have gone on but I felt I'd done enough for the time being. I did start to count the laps but gave up at lap 20, which I think took 12 minutes After half an hour I tried a lap at 'speed' and again it was 30 seconds. So I know what I have to do in future sessions - improve the cadence while sustaining the effort. Great!  I felt good afterwards and had useful feedback from both Matt and Rob. Matt said he'd keep the bars there and he'll fit them on the bike so it's ready for me next time. Rob suggested I change my future bookings from Improver to Vets. This is 2.30 to 4.30 on Tuesdays and is much more laid back than the improver sessions. But don't you have to be an accredited rider for that, says I. Don't worry about that, said Rob. Yippee! Had a fraught email exchange with Paul West, the British Cycling event organiser. I had noticed that the picture of Robert Marchand showed him riding on th cote d'azure. As his record was UCI ratified, I asked if I would be allowed to do that too. Paul got a bit fed up and explained about the track in words of one syllable (it's the brown bit). Silly me! Natasha Banks (Velodrome Event Organiser) has arranged that from now on (until the big day) I shall have sole use of the track for an hour's training on Friday mornings. Wow!

Training session - July 25th

This was the first time I had the opportunity to do what I needed to do on the track without having to avoid the fast men. Matt the mechanic had my bike ready and Steve the coach was there to help me. A nice touch was not having to pay for the use of their shoes. Steve gave me a standing start, timed me and counted the laps while all I had to do was ride round and round for an hour. I got lots of good advice about staying on the black line, wearing a top that doesn't flap in the wind and getting down on the drops. I felt OK on the ride, doing 18 laps every 10 minutes, except for one period in the middle when I did 17. When the bell rang I had done 107 laps plus 20 metres and couldn't sit down because of the ache in my pelvis/hips. I've asked Matt to move the saddle back as far as it will go and next time I will try to ride on the drops. I'd covered just under 17 miles, which is a bit less than the distance covered by 102-year-old Robert Marchand earlier this year. Must try harder. Matt tells me that he had upped the gear size on the Condor from 86" to 90". I think pushing such a high gear is not my style - could that be why my pelvis/hips complained afterwards? I might ask him to put it down to 81" so I can have a twiddle. Also, next time I won't ride for the whole hour in one go, but try a couple of 20-minute sessions so I have time to try things out. The other thing is I must get a skin-tight top with long sleeves before next Friday.

Training session - August 1st

Got to the velodrome early and found no-one there and no bike! Then Rob (chief coach) turned up, made a phone call and there was the bike. Matt the mechanic was away to watch the road race at the Commonwealth Games, but he'd fixed the bike up exactly as I asked. So, wearing my new skin-tight top and with the saddle right back and an 81" gear to twiddle, off I went for a short session to see how it felt riding on the drops. The air resistance was (predictably) much less and I felt comfortable on the bike but the lap counter wasn't working and I didn't know what Rob was doing, so I stopped after 8 minutes. In fact Rob had got the timer working which displays lap times and speeds on a giant screen which I just hadn't noticed. He informed me that my fastest lap was 24mph and the slowest 18mph. We decided that I should now do a 20-minute session aiming at 40 laps, which is 10km. I got close, riding 30 metres short of 39 laps, which is 9.72km. If I can keep that up for an hour that's 29.1km so it seems reasonable to aim for a 30km record. With another 3 training sessions booked I can try to improve my lap times and my stamina. Talking to Mary about it afterwards, we agreed that I need to have a substantial breakfast before I go off to the Velodrome on Friday mornings. During the 20-minute session my output dropped near the end and this may have been because I had the bonk! Rob took a picture of me riding on the drops, something I haven't done for a while but it seems like a good idea now.

Training sesion - August 8th

This time I was accompanied by Mary and Jem (our grandson) and we all went down to the track centre. Mary took some more pictures while I rode very slowly around the centre. We're sending this picture to the London Cycling Campaign to use in their e-zine. Then Steve propelled me on to the track (he's a very strong guy) and gave me a standing start. I managed to get up enough speed to avoid the cote d'azure on the first bend and rode for 20 minutes. I covered 9.33km, equivalent to a 28km hour. Had a rest, thought about it and realised my saddle was too low (knees between elbows syndrome) so it was raised. This felt better when I did another 15 minutes (with a flying start) covering 7.125km, equivalent to a 28.5km hour. Steve had noted all the lap times and it seems like 31 seconds per lap is achievable, equivalent to a 29km hour. This is 116 laps, and my aim of 30km means 120 laps. To do this I need to do 30-second laps. Can I do it? Well, I can try. Wait a minute though - I'm forgetting what Ruby told me - "enjoy the journey". I need to keep a sense of proportion, remember to have some humility and not take things so seriously that I lose sight of what's happening. What's happening is that I'm learning every time I ride on the track, every time I think about it afterwards and I'll still be learning well after 8pm on 5th September. My enjoyment of the journey is built on that - setting a record is a bonus.

Training session - August 15th

This time I was determined to ride a 'mock' hour to see what I might do on the day. So I did a couple of warm-up laps and at 11am away I went. One hour later the whistle blew and I had covered 50 metres short of 27km. This is the second time I have ridden this distsnce in an hour (the first time was on July 25th) so I think I can forget 30km as a target. Once again I was in some discomfort when I got off the bike, but not as bad as the first time. That time I blamed the 90" gear that I was pushing but now it's down to 81" so it can't be that. Could it be my riding position - it felt an awful long way down to the drops. The saddle height is exactly the same as my road bike, but I normally ride on the tops - level with the saddle. My first hour ride was on the tops, my second was on the drops but the distance was the same. Must find out more about this. Maybe next week I can do short rides (say 10 laps) and check my speed against all the variables (might try my own saddle). A pleasant distraction during the ride was being shouted at by Del Stacey (North London CC) who was there for another track event starting after my session. It was a club event with lots of fast men whizzing round the track. When I asked Del which club it was he said it was The Merchant Bankers. There was music playing while I was riding (most of the time) - Carmina Burana by Carl Orff. Fine when it's loud and I did like having it, but the quiet passages get lost in the velodrome. If I have music again it will be on earphones. Mary was there to help me and give support. I very much appreciate all she does for me - I know I'm a very lucky guy.

Training session - August 22nd

Matt the mechanic gave me the seatpost size on their Condor bikes (27.2mm) and I compared it to the one on my road bike. A miracle - it was the same! So as soon as I got to the velodrome, it was saddle swap time. Why didn't I think of this before? I felt really comfortable and it showed - 10 laps in 4 minutes and 58 seconds. After a rest and a drink, it was time to do see how many laps I could do in 10 minutes. Really chuffed when I finished and Mary told me I'd done 19 laps in 9:41. This is nearly 30km an hour speed, but keeping it up for an hour is another matter. Next week I'll do 15 and 20 minute rides and see how that works out. The important thing for me is that I ride in comfort, because then I can turn the pedals more easily. The event is growing: Yas was there with his camera, filming like mad (here are some stills) and Paul (VeloPark PRO) was there to interview and spread the news in the media. Next day Yas interviewed me for his documentary. Also, Julie has had a response from Cycling Weekly.

Training session - August 28th

My last training session before the big day and I put it to good use. Three 15-minute blocks at a steady speed - the coach timed 3 or 4 lap times in each block. These showed a definite improvement towards an average of 31 seconds per lap. If I keep this up for an hour next Friday the new record will be around 29km. In the first block my legs didn't feel wonderful. Much better in the last block, when I'd warmed up. Also I raised my saddle height by 1/8" which seemed to make quite a difference. Lesson learned - have a good long warm-up before the ride and get the saddle height right. The coach gave me a proper standing start (no pushing) so I know what it will feel like coming out of the gate. I was able comfortably to get round the first bend without sliding down towards the cote d'azure. Again I tried some music from my phone on the PA system - not good. Then another coach said "Why don't you try a CD?". Apparently it's much better, so I bought a CD that runs for over an hour. (Beethoven's 9th)

The big day - September 5th

Arrived at the Velodrome just before 5pm, the time when the meeting room was booked. First there were Peter and Carole Bayliss, the timekeepers. Then a few more people arrived, including my wonderful sister Muriel. At 6pm I was ready to start doing some warm-up laps, but first had to pose on the track for the cameras. There was Nick filming for Yasin's documentary, a journalist from a Newham local paper and a cameraman and interviewer from Associated Press. Did a few laps and felt reasonable. Raised the saddle a few millimetres and did a few more laps, felt better. Checked the music (Beethoven's 9th) and it sounded good. Then I was introduced to the start gate - what a clever little contraption - but I needed help to get round to the right side of the bike. 3-2-1-off! Worked a treat. Did it a couple of times and then more warm-up. As I came off the track at the end of each warm-up session I was able to avoid the track sleepers on the cote d'azure. Trevor Reade, the UCI commissaire, turned up and checked the bike and said "Ready when you are". At five to seven the music was started and at 7pm I started the ride to a great roar of cheering. It sounded like thousands but it seems there were only about 100 people making all that noise. And much to my surprise they kept it up, with family and friends making a helluva din every time I rode past. I had to concentrate on two things - holding my line on the track and following the music. The music was a tremendous help as it gave a structure to the ride. I held my line without any trouble but the cheers of encouragement regularly blotted out Beethoven. Also the quiet passages were inaudible which gave me something to do until the next loud bit. As the music had started 5 minutes early, I knew it was after 10 minutes of the ride that the 2nd movement started, the 3rd after 20 minutes and that great dissonant opening to the last movement 37 minutes into the hour. When the voices started I knew I was into the last 15 minutes. It was great to have the 'Ode to Freedom' playing as I rode the last laps. The bell for the last lap took me by surprise - I thought there was still a few minutes left. I had to keep going to finish the last lap right to the line as that affected the calculation of the distance. This turned out to be 28.388 km, which is 17.74 miles. The cheering on every one of the 114 laps (including "Go grandpa" from an incredibly loud Jem) had driven me to my personal best distance. By this time the result was on the big screen and I was being interviewed by the AP team. Mary and the Velodrome guys joined me in a celebratory champagne and I was ready to go up to the concourse to meet my friends. But they had to wait because of the dope test, which took about 40 minutes. The big cheer I got on the concourse made me realise the encouragement and support I'd had were, to me, complementary to what I felt for all those people I knew. Their love had given me, an ordinary guy, the strength to do something extraordinary and I loved them for that. I had discovered that love makes the wheels go round.


More stuff

About the hour record

Emails before and after

Legacy programme

My certificate (home-made)

Nine months later

Pictures on the day

Publicity before and after

What did I think about?