Cyclo-cross champion and all-round outdoors type Vin Cox returned home at the start of August following a mammoth 6-month ride around the globe in a bid to break the world record for circumnavigating the planet on a bike.
Safely home in Cornwall – and with some recent good news – the 34-year-old here gives an insight into his incredible adventure, which spanned more than 18,000 miles (29,000-plus km) and took in some of the most testing conditions to be found on two wheels.
With a love for cycle racing, international travel, self reliance and travelling light, I secretly planned to cycle around the world. Route, equipment, climates and costs all had to be considered. After a couple of months, excuses for not seeming to do anything productive with my spare time were wearing thin and I admitted to my wife what I’d been doing.
Over a year later my plans were as complete as they could ever get and I was stood outside the Royal Observatory at Greenwich ready to cross the Prime Meridian and head east around the world. A policeman was my first in a chain of witnesses who’d sign my book as part of the evidence I’d collect for a possible world record. I set off at 08:02 on February 7th 2010.
Balancing many issues, needs, rules and whims, my route took me across the Channel into France, then south to the warmth of the Mediterranean as directly as possible. February was a cold time of year to choose to start – I rode through snow and temperatures as low as -7C, some 50C lower than conditions I’d face just a month or two later. But enduring the cold at this stage helped me reach the North African coast, and India, before their very hottest seasons.
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The experiences were wonderful; sunrises, sunsets, mountains, deserts, architecture, and several World Heritage sites. Early challenges included sandstorms wrecking bearings, indecipherable road signs, filthy accommodation, and dysentery. People in Arab countries were incredibly welcoming, but the driving was scary. In India it was even worse.
In Thailand, I booked too early a flight from Singapore and to catch the plane I had to stick in regular 150-mile days. Smooth roads, good food, and efficient roadside retail – together with increased effort – allowed me to scrape through just in time. It’s a lovely place to tour by bike; friendly, cheap, safe, yet still very foreign in culture, wildlife, climate, and scenery.
I refined my answers to the usual questions as I progressed. The main question was “Why?”, and the answer; “In search of adventure, in aid of charity, and in pursuit of a Guinness World Record”.
Australians told me their country was boring to travel through, but by bike I could hear and see the amazing wildlife; snakes, lizards, spiders, wallabies, kangaroos, and wonderful birds. More problematic were tough headwinds and rough roads.
Moving to New Zealand, I discovered what a ‘weather bomb’ is: a hurricane-force storm formed from two big storms combining!
Crossing the USA from San Francisco to Washington D.C. was a varied and beautiful journey. I experienced Death Valley in a way which no visitor in an air-conditioned vehicle will ever understand, then moved on through deserts towards snowy mountain passes. East of the Rockies, deserts gave way to the fertile Great Plains of the mid-West. But enduring rain and humidity while knocking out endless 130-mile plus days into headwinds started to rot my sore skin, so I was pleased the last thousand miles were in Europe. And anyway, I was really tired of burgers.
Portugal and Spain welcomed me with avenues of cork oaks, olive groves, vineyards, and a surprising amount of hills. Fatigue got the better of me, and I slowed for treatment with pizza and sleep before the Pyrenees. Crossing into France I got emotional riding the first road in over 17,000 miles which I’d actually pedalled before.
South West France has a gorgeous coast, which I whizzed north along. Just four days effort took me to the ferry for Plymouth where friends and family welcomed me home. Then two days later I was cruising through London on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Fashionably late for the scheduled 3pm finish, I met the press and crossed the line in Greenwich at 15:21 on 1 August. A moment later I found my wife for our first hug in nearly six months.
Guinness World Records were satisfied with evidence I submitted and I’m now the holder of the record for ‘Circumnavigation by bicycle, male (true)’ with a time (transfers deducted) of 163 days 6 hours and 58 minutes for 18,225.7 miles.
I’m not going to go away for so long a trip ever again, but I hope to have other adventures on and off the bike; with my wife another time. My big project now is to organise a race around the world in 2012.