Penny 2 Paris – Matt’s Back in the Saddle After Recovering From Throat Cancer

In recovery from throat cancer, Matt Richardson (pictured right) is taking on another incredible cycle change. This time he will be riding a Penny Farthing from Henley to Paris in June in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

Matt isn’t unfamiliar to big cycle challenges – most of them previously on his Raleigh Chopper. In 2014, Matt he rode up it up Mount Ventoux, in 2015 he set the new hour record distance of 31.87km (19.8mph) and in 2016 he rode to the top of Passo dello Stelvio in Italy and in 2017 up Alpe d’Huez.  All of these challenges were to raise money for Bloodwise, a blood cancer charity, and in memory of his father who died aged just 55.

Seven years ago, Matt’s friend Bill Pollard who will be riding with him to Paris organised a ‘Ride a Penny Farthing’ 50th birthday present for him and six friends with Neil Laughton from the Penny Farthing Club.  Matt said, “I remember we had a great time but there were several steps we had to follow before we were even able to get up on the seat and ride; the first was just scooting along standing on the peg, next sitting and steering with no pedalling, then once up on the seat you have to move the handlebars forwards and backwards and pedal at the same time to keep your balance. It’s definitely an acquired skill. Once we finally got our balance practising around the Noble Road area Neil said we were going to ride straight into town, down New Street and back up to the Town Hall for a photograph.  We were all dressed up in top hats and tweed and because it was the Saturday of Henley Festival, people thought we were part of that.”

After given the all-clear last year after going through intensive treatment in 2022, Matt was considering doing the Mount Ventoux challenge again to mark the 10th anniversary.  Matt said, “The idea was to raise more funds for cancer treatment and, in some way, to mark my recovery. I then realised I wasn’t capable of doing it. I started cycling 75 miles as I had done before but I suffered for a month afterwards.  My oncologist suggested that I ride more slowly and for shorter distances!  In October last year I went to the British Penny Farthing Championships in Hillingdon to see what type of people ride these old bikes; many were eccentric a bit like myself! There was a Penny Farthing for sale which I decided there and then that I wanted to buy. The only trouble was my estate car wasn’t big enough. However, Matthew Trott who makes the bicycles in East Sussex, kindly offered to take a huge detour to bring it my house later that evening. The reaction from my teenage children, Felix and Didi was, “What now?!” As I looked at the huge machine in the dining room, I thought “What have I done and will I remember how to ride it after doing so only once, seven years ago?”

Matt and Bill re-learned to ride the penny farthing behind Leander Club and in the same month Matt took his first road ride to Hambleden along the Marlow Road on a very early Sunday morning.  Matt commented, “It was exhilarating and absolutely terrifying as the bike has no brakes and despite riding this route many times on a road bike, I didn’t remember all the inclines and descents.  I walked back across the weir to the Flower Pot and then rode back to Henley along Remenham Lane.  I had so much fun and talked to so many people along the way and this has continued every time I’ve gone out.  Bill bought a penny farthing in December and now we go out together once or twice a week in preparation for the Paris challenge.”

The duo are planning to leave Henley on 8 June and ride to Newhaven and then board the overnight ferry to Dieppe and ride to Paris from there.  They are planning to ride about 40 miles per day and complete the challenge within a week.  Matt explained, “We wanted to do something meaningful so we decided to ride to Paris to commemorate the first organised bicycle race in Paris in May 1868 when Englishman James Moore was the winner of the race for those with larger wheels. The average speed of a Penny Farthing is about 8mph which accounts for the fact we’ll need to get off and walk on the steep hills.  Riding into headwinds is particularly difficult on a penny farthing. It’s just about the least efficient form of cycling in terms of position as you’re sat upright and so high, so we’ll be taking it a leisurely pace. We’re not planning to set any records.”

The friends plan to dress up for the challenge in tweed or pith helmets and desert jackets depending on the conditions. Their challenge will be well documented and photographed thanks to Matt’s photographer childhood friend Dave Chapman who is coming over from Australia where he now lives and who will also drive the support vehicle.

Matt concludes by saying, “The main aim is to get there safely and raise lots of money for Macmillan Cancer Support.  It’s very exciting and more than a little scary. We just need to get on with the planning now.”

If you would like to donate to the fundraising cause, go to:


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