Chance encounter with kangaroo nearly derails attempt
A recumbent cyclist from British Columbia is submitting paperwork soon to document his bid as the new Guinness around-the-world record-holder.
Bruce Gordon completed the bicycle trip on Sept. 23 in 153 days, 10 days faster than current record-holder Vin Cox of Great Britain.
If Guinness World Records accepts his submission, Bruce points out that he'll establish a number of firsts among the small group of globe-girdling record holders:
He'll be the first to break the record on a recumbent; the first to break the record going in a East-to-West direction; and, at 48 years old when he started, he'll be the oldest cyclist to break the record.
And even though he's only been back a month, the 'bent rider from Half Moon Bay, BC, says he'd give it another try if he could get a sponsor. In exchanging some emails, Bruce told me:
“It was an amazing journey. One you would think would quiet that wanderlust for awhile at least. However, I fell so far short of my own personal goal that I'd really love to give it another go. Only one problem… $$$.”
I'm currently reading previous record-holder Mark Beaumont's book (“The Man Who Cycled the World”), in which he writes at length about terrible problems with saddle sores and numb hands in the weeks he spent on his bike. I asked Bruce how the recumbent worked for him.
“The recumbent (Bacchetta Corsa) was the perfect bike for such a long ride. Very comfortable, no saddle sores and no upper body fatigue whatsoever. Matter of fact, within a week of getting home, I was back to normal. … I had no issues with stressed tendons, sore back, knees, butt or feet.”
Further, Bruce said the Bacchetta was easy to pack up for flights, and it didn't incur any overweight charges on airlines.
Amazingly, he rode the entire 29,100km (18,042 miles) on the drivetrain that came with the bike. He never had to replace the rim brake pads or any spokes.
Although he used to tour on an upright bicycle, a friend talked him into trying a recumbent a while ago. He says that he's glad he did.
“Part of my decision to challenge the world record was to show the lion's share of the touring community what they're missing. Not only is the Bacchetta a tour capable, comfortable ride, but it's also able to knock 10 days off the current record.”
Of course, Bruce emphasizes that the world-record designation is in the hands of the Guinness World Records folks. They require that 18,000 miles be bicycled and two points on opposite sides of the Earth be crossed. The total length of the tour should exceed the length of the Equator.
The map above is his ride data from TrackMyTour.com. He admits to sticking to countries that are most like his own, culturally speaking. For comparison, check out current record-holder Cox's website for his own and a few other possible around-the-world bicycle routes. None travel a direct route, avoiding continents and wide areas where bicycle racing might be difficult.
Bruce is currently waiting for GPS data from SPOT to submit his ride to Guinness, after he didn't learn until after he finished that they only published the past 30 days of waypoints. SPOT has stored the data and is retrieving it.
Although his recumbent didn't give him problems, that isn't to say that his trip was trouble-free. The biggest problem occurred April 27 in Australia, just a few weeks after he started. He was shooting for a 300km day on the isolated roads of Australia.
As the day wore on, he writes, “the amount of roadkill was amazing. I started seeing dead wild bore in abundance, as well as kangaroo, emu, goat, snakes, dingo, uncountable varieties of birds, and a horse.”
Bruce sped along the road after sunset but before true darkness set in when suddenly a kangaroo appeared in front of him.
“I didn't have time to brake. I hit him head on. The bike fell hard and fast to the right. the kangaroo being pushed along by me acted as a break and we only slid for maybe 10 feet. He scrambled up and hopped away with me cursing him from the ground. I knew before assessing anything that this wasn't going to be good.
“Right away I saw that my pinky was pointing off an a very unnatural angle and bleeding badly. … Suddenly, I started wondering what nocturnal animals might be attracted to the smell of fresh blood and decided to get riding.”
He met a couple of passing cars that couldn't help, but someone notified police in the town he was headed toward and a police car came out to meet him and give him a lift to a clinic.
As it turned out, the finger was only dislocated, and could be set at the clinic. Anything more serious might have required a trip to hospital in a faraway city, thus ending his adventure. [You can read the entire story at the GlobeBent blog; see "St. George to Cunnumulla ..."]
Other than the kangaroo crash, Bruce said he didn't run into too many problems. Apparently he got lost a few times in southern Europe, which slowed his progress.
Bruce says he traveled light, without camping gear. Now he says that he wishes he had carried a tent. He passed many places that would have been pleasant for camping, and some days he had to abandon early because the next town was too far away.
Maybe he'll get take that tent if he gets another opportunity to ride his recumbent around the world.
The current world record holder Vin Cox is organizing a Global Bicycle Race that is scheduled to leave London on Feb. 18, 2012. Some 20 bicyclists have expressed their intentions to give it a try.
Although they're figuring how to break Cox's record, Bruce Gordon's 153 days might be the mark they'll have to break.