Jenny and Mark have the records for the fastest circumnavigation by bicycle for female and male respectively, with Jenny taking 124 days 11 hours and Mark completing his trip in 78 days 14 hours 40 minutes.
During the launch of GWR Day, which is themed around the Spirit of Adventure and encouraging people to take on a record, the pair spoke to us about their round-the-world trips. What started out as a quickfire Q&A turned into an interesting and entertaining conversation between Jenny and Mark as they compared their journeys.
What was the prettiest country you rode through?
MB: I would agree, Mongolia.
Which country had the hardest terrain?
JG: Maybe New Zealand, that was quite hilly.
MB: I would say New Zealand was pretty tough, but parts of the Alcan highway, coming through the Rockies. I’d take terrain over a headwind any day though.
Which country had the best weather?
JG: Probably Mongolia.
MB: Weather wise, Europe, flying start, it was like this [bright sunshine] every day, first week to get to Russia was sun sun sun.
And then worst weather? That can include headwinds…
JG: Definitely Australia oh it was horrendous out there.
MB: I got massive tailwind in Australia, so for me, the worst weather was going through the Prairies, the flatlands so … in North Dakota.
Nicest local cuisine?
JG: I didn’t really specialise in the nicest cuisine, but I ate a lot of Tim Hortons in Canada.
MB: I had a performance team with me, so I never ate local
MB: I had my own chef.
JG: You had no Tim Hortons the whole ride! Seriously!
MB: No, I …
JG: He missed out!
The nicest sunrises and sunsets?
JG: Oh, all the way across Russia was gorgeous, like I was riding at night quite a lot there and so I got every sunset, every sunrise and the moon was just spectacular, that’s what kept me going across there, it was tough.
MB: I think southern hemisphere, cause it was winter so it came a lot later, so after six hours of darkness I looked forward to dawn. So New Zealand was pretty, through the Manx and Southern Alps.
Best sleeping location?
JG: What was yours Mark?
MB: Well, I had a comfy RV every night, you Jenny?
JG: Some of the best sleeping places, I slept in a lot of bus shelters, toilet blocks and pipes under the road. It didn’t matter what you found, if it was really bad weather or you were frightened of wildlife then finding anything was a bonus. You can lock a door and you’re inside.
What were the worst sleeping locations?
JG: The worst sleeping location was maybe in a storm one night when the only things I could find was like had about that much cow poo right the way along the bottom and was all sloppy and stuff yeah it was a pipe, just on the road to Mongolia.
MB: A pipe?
JG: A pipe, under the road…
MB: Like a drain?
JG: Like a drain, yeah, yeah quite like a drain
MB: Where the rats live?
JG: They’d all been really clean before that one, that was the only one I could find, and the storm was so bad. Yeah, so that was probably the worst. Oh no! my worst worst one, there’s one worse and that was a toilet block in Australia. I’d been out for like three days, couldn’t find any accommodation and I found this toilet block, and it had poo like all over the seats and it splattered everywhere, all the gutters were full. It was stinking, it was horrible but it was my only option so I just sort of lay in it.
MB: You must have been worried about getting ill.
JG: I was more worried about like at that point my body was, I was just wasn’t resting enough and my feet were in a bad state, but yeah.
MB: I won’t tell you about my duvet.
JG: Yeah, don’t.
Most miles cycled in one day?
JG: That was my last push into Berlin, and it was just under 500km. It took me like 36 hours, I should’ve just slept but I was far too excited.
MB: My biggest day was my final day in Australia, a 280 miler.
JG: What was your average day?
MB: My average was 240 miles
JG: Wow! My average was 156 miles.
Mark: It was the duvet!
JG: Yeah, 100 %, and not eating Tim Hortons.
Who were the friendliest people you encountered?
JG: All the way through Siberia, Mongolia and China were mind-blowing because I had to find a lot of resources so I had to do a lot of chatting or a lot of miming to people. I knew that my mind had been blown by then, but I couldn’t believe how interested in me they were.
MB: The Mongolian Cycling Federation coming out…
JG: No way! Did they come out?
MB: …and started cycling with me so they had like road bikes but then with broke leather shoes and baseball caps, really, really funny get ups and not a word in common, so we’d just start pointing at each other and go "nice bike", but there was no way to communicate. But really friendly.
JG: Canadians were so friendly and so curious. I counted one day, I had 25 people ask me what I was up to. And if you give everybody five minutes of your time, bearing in mind that you have really not got time to even phone home, and then you are talking to 25 strangers. I got to the point and I was like, shutdown, and I would actually lie. "Where are you going" "Nowhere, I’m just going along the road", or just before I went into cafes I would be like 'no eye contact, NO eye contact'. Which is hard for me as I naturally make eye contact with people who want to chat.
MB: I’d find that when people joined you on the road, for them it was super exciting, fire questions at you for two hours. You’d be like ‘yeah I’ve been on the road for 12 hours I don’t want to be an idiot but I’m in the hurt locker here’. One guy streaked, that was his best way to support me, we were out near Toronto and he just took all his clothes off, no he had a beanie hat on and he just took his clothes off and ran down the side of the road.
Jenny, did you have any unique ways of being supported?
Jenny: No streakers no! I had one guy who was lovely. I had quite a few people that came out that had met Mark and they were like, round the world followers you know so they’d come out and met me too. Then one guy, somewhere in Canada, with maps and started showing me the way. I was like ‘this is really cute but I wonder how he thinks I managed to get to here’. I got this mate, it’s fine, but he was clearly just trying to be helpful.
Did either of you encounter any interesting wildlife?
MB: The wood bison and the bears, like big herds of wood bison, cycling through them was quite interesting. You probably saw more stuff, I mean I would say, not on this trip, down in Africa, I saw a lot more interesting slash dangerous animals. But a lot of less wildlife then you would imagine cycling 18,000 miles but there was some cool stuff.
JG: So many kangaroos, everything I came across was quite a surprise for me because I was really frightened of snakes. I put all my energy into worrying about snakes before I left, so everything I came across I was like ‘I have really not thought this through’, like bears at the side of roads, the wood bison like cycling through herds of them at night time…
MB: But they are as scatty as cows, like when the start running, they all run, then you have got a herd of wood bison running alongside you
Jenny: Oh, I didn’t have that, but the bears, that was very scary, that was the point where I was not sure…
Mark: All blacks or some browns as well?
Jenny: All blacks, but everybody you met had a story about a grizzly that had just walked through. I had to stop talking to people again because I was so petrified, because I was sleeping amongst them and I put my, trying to find a bear bin at the end of the night to put my food in and I seriously wanted to climb in the bin with my food, like get me out of here! Possums as well, saw some possums which I had never seen before in New Zealand. At night time I would see them when I was feeling quite sleepy but I would always think I was imagining it, ‘oh my god I am actually losing the plot, hallucinating?’. And then I would speak to locals who asked “have you seen any possums?”. So that was quite a nice relief that I wasn’t losing the plot.
Mark: And in Australia, koalas…
Jenny: Oh, I didn’t see any…
Mark: I quite like koalas because they basically spend their lives stoned, so because they are eating the eucalyptus, and so they are the most chilled out animals in the world, so when you are trying to smash a record, and then you pause by a tree and look up and there’s a stoned little bear just going ‘la la la la la’ it’s quite a nice antidote for you going “I gotta go! I gotta go!”.
What was the toughest moment of your journey?
JG: Just one?
Well top there maybe if there are more than one!
JG: We’d be here all morning! About eight days in the trip, I was on the Trans-Siberian highway and it was just crazy, like the traffic out there was mental.
MB: The lorries in Russia are horrible.
JG: I had like a little mirror on my bike so I could see them coming behind me, and you’d hear a beep and literally you’d literally have to jump off into the side of the road. I was constantly jumping off the road for my life, then seconds later, you’d get a stream of 20-30 trucks, if you didn’t jump you were dead basically. That was awful, that realisation that I can’t go on like this and that I am going to die and that I’ve got another maybe 1,200 miles to get out of it. So I started to ride at night instead of through the day and I started missing quite big chunks out through the day.
MB: I think Russia in general was the hardest but to get through, which is why historically, a lot people had missed big chunks going through Asia. But I was thinking that around the world on a map should look like around the world. You have got to get through Asia somehow rather than flying across it. I had a crash just east of Moscow, going into that section that Jenny was talking about. I put a crack through my elbow and I had some wobbly teeth and chipped some teeth, so that was not a good day. And my experience was similar nine days in going, 'can I keep riding? Can I keep going?'. But because I had a support team, we had a really serious crash in Melbourne where we wrote off two vehicles, but that was pretty awful. The whole race stopped.
JG: Oh, you weren't in it though, you weren’t in that crash?
JG: That toilet block that I was talking about, that was quite a low moment,
MB: That was quite funny.
JG: Funny now, at the time it was quite low. At 4 a.m. my feet, it felt like I was walking on glass, they were just getting so worn away, all blistered and wet from 13-14 hours, day after day and not finding anywhere to get warm again. That was tough, really that was my toughest section actually.
And finally, apart from the finish line maybe, what was the highlight of the trip?
JG: Oh, I reckon, seeing the end of the first leg getting, after five-and-a-half weeks on the bike, I was just like, ‘oh my god, I can do this like I can actually do it’. Maybe I wasn’t that crazy about doing the record, being able to do the record, knowing that anything could go wrong, but actually, I made it there and then the planning stages, that’s like really hard to let yourself believe.
MB: I think it’s relief. It’s exactly the same knowing that the big unknowns; the cultural unknowns, the languages you don’t speak, the border crossings you are nervous about, they are all behind you, I always felt that form Australia onwards, it was a straight bike race, English speaking, better roads, it is going to get simpler, so a disproportionate amount of worry went into stage one. It was just getting that flight in Beijing and going ‘right, that it was going to be easy from now on’. Of course, it’s not.
JG: Every continent I said that and then Australia I was like 'right that’s the bad bit out of the way'.
MB: But North America is so vast, and you sort of think, 'oh I’ll just get across of North America then it’s the final', but that was 5,500 miles.
JG: And it’s remote isn’t it and you don’t have a whole lot of, for me, stops.
MB: It’s Groundhog Day, you go to other continents like Europe and every day is kind of different, whereas you cross a huge slates of North America and it’s just so samey.
JG: I find the stops are so far apart, that there are few food stops and resupplies, and I put so much effort into thinking that Australia and Asia would be like that, but I didn’t realise just how quiet it would be out there.
What will your adventure be?
Feeling inspired to attempt a Guinness World Records title yourself? Discover your Spirit of Adventure by finding out more about GWR Day, including how you can get involved on the day itself (Thursday 14 November). We realise everyone’s adventure is different, so whether it's taking on a new challenge, fulfiling a desire for adrenaline or perfecting your existing skills – there's a record waiting for you.