On 18 March 2020, Tandem Wow crossed the finish line and broke the cycling around the world record, having ridden 18,263 miles in 263 days on their trusty tandem.
Once their data is verified by Guinness, they will have totally smashed the current men's record of 281 days!
To date they have raised almost £37,000 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association and Oxfam.
We caught up with Catherine Dixon and Rachael Marsden (or Cat and Raz as they like to be called) to get the lowdown. Having followed their wonderful TandemWow Facebook group updates for the past (nearly) year, we'd got a sense for their incredible journey. Here we get the inside story.
We ran a Q&A with Tandem Wow in June last year, before Tandem Wow left for their record attempt. If you want to check out how they were feeling before their mammoth record attempt, read our June 2019 Q&A here.
Part 1: Cycling around the world by tandem
1. Remind us about your challenge - what, where and why?!
The challenge was to beat the world record and become the fastest women to cycle around the world on a tandem.
We rode 18,263 miles (29,392km) in a time of 263 days, 7 hours and 7 minutes. This time has yet to be verified by Guinness, but assuming it is, it will be a new world record (in fact it is faster than the current men’s record by over two weeks).
We rode to raise money for two charities - the MND Association and Oxfam. To date we have raised over £31,000 (before gift aid). We targeted £18,000 and are so grateful that people have been so generous.
We cycled through 25 countries, in 5 continents.
2. Give us an overview of your route
We cycled across France, Monaco, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, North Macedonia, Greece and Turkey to Georgia.
From Georgia, we flew to India, cycling from Mumbai to Kolkata (around the edge of India).
We flew from Kolkata to Mandalay (Myanmar) and cycled through Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia to Singapore.
We flew from Singapore to Perth and cycled from Perth to Brisbane. The Perth to Adelaide section was 1,700 miles across the Nullabore desert. We then cycled from Adelaide to Melbourne, including a welcome stretch along the Great Ocean road, past the twelve apostles, and on to Brisbane.
We flew from Brisbane to Queenstown and cycled through New Zealand from Queenstown to Auckland
From Auckland we flew to San Francisco on the west coast, and from there cycled across the country to Miami on the east coast.
From Miami we flew to Casablanca in Morocco and cycled from Casablanca to Tangier.
We got the boat from Tangier and cycled home to the UK via Spain, Gibraltar and France!
We had to change our plans and catch one of the last ferries back from Caen in France to Portsmouth on March 17, due to the borders closing as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Thankfully we'd already banked enough miles for the record!
You can check Tandem Wow's full cycle route around the world on FollowMyChallenge- TandemWoW.
3. Give us an idea of your usual daily routine
"Eat, sleep, cycle" pretty much sums it up!
We usually cycled around 80 miles each day. The routine looked a bit like this:
Get up, pack the bike, get breakfast (and lots of coffee), ride for 25 miles, stop for more coffee, ride 35-40 miles, have lunch.
Ride on after lunch to the 60 mile mark, stop for an afternoon break, before pedalling on for around another 20 miles, eat some food, find somewhere to stay.
We’d then write our daily blog, plan the next day’s ride, and sleep!
4. Did you enjoy it?!
It was amazing. Every day was a new adventure. We didn’t know what we would see and who we would meet.
We ended up meeting some fantastic people who were incredibly kind and generous.
It was hard going at times as we had very few days off, so not much downtime, but we supported each other and laughed a lot. Normally at each other.
And, in case you're wondering, we are still great friends - better than ever!
5. Which was your favourite country/region to ride through - and why?
Every country was a different cycling experience and we have highlights from each.
We loved Italy – particularly cycling over the causeway to Venice.
The Croatian sunsets were simply beautiful.
India was a sensory overload- we were surrounded by people (men) all the time and had around 25 selfie requests each day, so it was lovely to get to Myanmar! There the people are so calm and courteous - and there's tea available everywhere!
Australia was hard. Crossing the Nullarbor desert, where the temperatures got up to more than 45 degrees, was particularly tough, but it felt like an amazing achievement. We had to change our route to avoid the bush fires - this took us through an area of drought where it hadn’t rained since 2016. We were covered in flies, but the people were so supportive and helpful, often stopping to give us water (which was just as well)!
Cycling down the California coastline was simply stunning - some of the best scenery we saw on the whole trip.
We both loved riding across Spain through the high mountains. Highlights included riding through the Sierra de las Nieves to Ronda, through the Sierra de Hornachuelos, Cuenca Alta Manzanares, and then the Pyrenees.
6. What's a) the best b) the worst and c) the most poignant thing that happened to you on the road?
The best part was the freedom and that every day was different.
The worst bit was the saddle-sore!
We had lots of poignant experiences. I recall on our last day in Myanmar a female monk ran up to us to give us her last bit of food and drink. People where incredibly generous and supportive - it was very humbling.
7. How did your kit perform? Was there anything you took you wish you hadn't taken (and vice versa)?
We rode in Stolen Goat kit and it was fantastic. Unfortunately, we were due some new shorts in Turkey and Georgia but they got stuck in customs. We therefore carried on with the same kit into India and through South East Asia. After about 5,000 miles, and riding through monsoon season in India, the shorts started to have seen better days and by the time we got new shorts in Australia, they had worn through (as you can imagine, they had taken a total hammering by then)! New shorts were a big relief (in every way)!
Overall we were very happy with our kit decisions. It was important to keep the weight on the bike down - although that wasn’t always possible. For example, in Australia we had to carry up to 12 litres of water and food which was extremely heavy (the bike with us on it and all our kit weighed 200kg)!
We initially took some warm weather gear - but shipped it back from Cannes as we set off in a heat wave. We bought what we needed when we needed it - so, we purchased down jackets in New Zealand and they were essential in the USA as it was very cold in the desert at night.
8. How does it feel to have finished?
We have returned at a very surreal and worrying time. It’s a massive adjustment to be inside, in Covid-19 lockdown, all day after cycling all day and everyday - although I’m sure our bodies need the rest.
We had planned a big celebration which we had to cancel because of the virus. We are rescheduling it, but it did feel like a bit of an anti-climax. That said the important thing is that people stay safe and at home - we can party later.
9. Would you do anything like it again?
We would love to do another cycling adventure and have something in mind - so watch this space!
We pressed Tandem Wow for more clues, but they weren't giving anything away. When they're ready to go they'll spill the beans - and we hope to share details of their next challenge here!
10. If you took on a new long-distance cycling challenge, what would you do differently?
I’m not sure that we would do anything differently - although a few more days off would be welcome! The important thing is to enjoy each day and, despite being tired, we did.
Part 2: Charity
11. Which charities were you riding for?
We rode for the Motor Neurone Disease Association and Oxfam. We have raised over £31,400 (£37,265 with gift aid) – smashing our £18,000 target.
Both charities do fantastic work and were very supportive with many of their supporters following us on social media sending messages which kept us going. It was incredibly inspiring and we thank everyone for their amazing support.
12. How can people donate?
People can donate at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/tandemwow
A massive congratulations to Cat and Raz from us at Epic Road Rides! It's been a pleasure to follow their journey via their Facebook group, and we can't wait to hear about the next new challenge they've got up their sleeve!
Want more inspiration for your next cycling trip?!
Check out our blog for interviews with people completing incredible cycling feats all over the world.
And finally - our destination guides are also stuffed full of inspiration, from tropical islands to classic cycling meccas.
Take care and happy riding!
(A sneak peak at three of the toughest hills)
route info, preparation and more
Q&A with Fritz Dittmann
tips + insights on how to ride across the USA