Cally pedals for the pennies

THE strangely elegant sight of a gentleman gliding around the country lanes on a penny farthing cycle may bring a smile to the faces of those he sweeps past.

THE strangely elegant sight of a gentleman gliding around the country lanes on a penny farthing cycle may bring a smile to the faces of those he sweeps past.

But behind that graceful veneer lies a strength and grit of a man preparing to embark on a gruelling 1,000-mile journey under his own pedal-power.

Next week, Count Martindt Cally Von Callomon will take to the saddle of his 1885 Grafton Ordinary in a bid to raise sponsorship money.

It will be his biggest challenge yet since his love affair with the penny farthing began 15 years ago, when he bought his first to add to his collection of old bicycles.

“Cally”, 54, who is a familiar sight on the rural lanes around his home in Walpole, is looking forward to the challenge to cycle from Land's End to John O' Groats in just 18 days.

But he is not alone - as well as a fellow seasoned rider from Essex, he will be joined by his daughter Astrid, 21, and her friend Tom Marshall-Potter, 22, from Halesworth, who will both be on reproduction Dursley Pedersens, which were designed in about 1900.

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Cally is hoping stunning scenery en route will offer some compensation for the tough physical challenges that lie ahead.

Quite apart from the tricky technique of mounting and dismounting on the move, cycling on a penny farthing is hard on not only on legs but also arms, but affords an exhilarating experience.

“When they were made they were the fastest form of transport - they were faster than a horse,” he said. “It was the Formula One of its day.”

Likening the technique to riding a horse, he said: “It's beautiful. It's like low-level flying - you see far more from them than from a modern bicycle.”

He added: “You can see over hedges and into people's windows - it's better than Google Street View.”

But the unusual sight of a penny farthing can also attract negative attention, which can lead to some unpleasant consequences.

“People still chuck stuff at you,” he said. “They think it's great fun.”

His remarkable challenge will raise funds for Alanon, which supports the families of people with an addiction.

And the quartet will be collecting cash on the way, as well as raising sponsor money.

Cally said the potential dangers include horses, that are known to react badly, motorists beeping their horns, and steep declines because of the difficulty in braking.

He said he believed no-one had attempted the feat in recent years, adding: “I wanted to do something that was difficult and that I didn't know if I could do.”

The most challenging part will be the keeping on target to complete an average of 50 miles a day, without a rest day.

On completion, instead of taking a well-earned rest, the two men on “ordinaries” will need to summon any energy they have left to go straight to a three-hour race in Knutsford that will bring together 80 penny farthing enthusiasts from across the world.

Cally said he was also looking forward to the race, which only takes place every 10 years, adding: “I will either be completely exhausted or I will be in fine condition.”

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