See you in Leeuwarden

Edwin Gulickx

I was recently reminded of a story about Pim Kiderlen, which I found in a cycling literature compilation. After some research on the Internet, I discovered that it was a story written for De Kampioen in December 1885. So the story bridged a period of 132 years, a period in which Kiderlen and his performance have not been forgotten. For me, this is the heart of cycling: it gives us stories that are still worth retelling even after such a long time.

Kiderlen was a Rotterdam cyclist who amassed an impressive list of honors between 1880 and 1890. In 1885 he made a bet that he could complete the distance between Rotterdam and Leeuwaarden within 24 hours. The journey took him to Gouda, Utrecht, Apeldoorn, Zwolle (where he took a long break of 2 hours and 5 minutes), Steenwijk and Heerenveen. The journey avoided a shorter route through Oldenbroek, because the citizens feared the bike and seized all bicycles.

Ultimately, Kiderlen covered a distance of 346 km in a riding time of 16 hours and 16 minutes (the total rest period of 5 hours and 49 minutes not included), for an average of more than 21km/h. The bike on which he completed this journey? A penny-farthing, a bike with a high front wheel (54 inches!) and a small rear wheel.

With his courageous journey, Kiderlen did something that captured the imagination, and, more importantly, he did something no one had done before. How many people would have told Kiderlen it was crazy, that it was simply impossible? Yet there must also have been plenty of cyclists who encouraged him and who thought it was a mighty fine adventure.

In 2016 we started BEAT Cycling Club, our own Rotterdam-Leeuwarden, as it were. We also want to do something that has not been done before in the world of cycling, and we are told that it is crazy, that it simply cannot be done and will not work. And we also meet cyclists who encourage us, who want to participate and who find it a mighty fine adventure.

The next time someone tells me BEAT Cycling Club is not going to happen, I’ll think of Pim Kiderlen and his penny-farthing, and I’ll smile kindly and say that we’ll see each other in Leeuwarden!