In February, endurance cyclists will set off on their own from London on the Global Bicycle Race. Each participant will be seeking to break the current Guinness World Record of 163 days for a 18,000-mile circumnavigation by bike.
Then, in September, a group of bicyclists will leave London together for a fully supported world tour called the World Cycle Challenge. Their mileage — 18,010 — would qualify for a global bicycle journey, but the 9-month journey isn't designed for a world record.
Two global bicycling world record holders are at the heart of each endeavor.
The Global Bicycle Race is the brainchild of England's Vin Cox. He set the current world record — 163 days, 6 hours, 58 minutes — in August 2010.
One of the co-directors of the World Cycle Challenge is Mark Beaumont. The Scotsman set the world record in 2008 in 194 days, 17 hours, beating the previous record by 81 days.
Although participants in both endeavors will circle the globe, the events couldn't be more different.
Individuals on the Global Bicycle Race will be governed by the rules established by the Guinness Book of World Records. They can choose their own route, but it must exceed 18,000 miles by bicycle in one direction and pass through two antipodal points (two points that line up on either side of the globe).
They're free to travel either east-west or west-east. Organizers ask that they post weekly messages regarding their status and mileage. Cyclists can ride in a supported or unsupported category.
By starting in London on Feb. 18, the winning cyclist should be returning just as the 2012 Summer Olympics begin in London.
At the race website, Cox writes:
“Events which 10 years ago were pure minority madness are quite mainstream now thanks to the boundaries being pushed. The ultimate distance for any endurance race has to be around the world.”
The World Cycle Challenge is a fully supported bicycle tour. Beaumont says it has been put together “to make it possible for people to complete this gargantuan task without having to worry about the huge logistical and safety issues involved.”
The cyclists will be followed by a truck carrying their belongings, such as camping gear and clothing. A bike mechanic will be on hand and a cook will provide breakfast, lunch and dinner. All visas and other travel arrangements will be handled by an office in the UK.
The trip sets off from London on Sept. 16, 2012, and rolls through 7 more stages that start in Istanbul, Lahore, Bangkok, Perth, Christchurch, San Francisco, and Lisbon.
In both events, organizers are suggesting that participants chose a charity and use the ride to gain pledges for that cause.
Many would argue, including myself, that the best way to see the world by bicycle is to travel at your own pace and spend some time in the communities.
At the same time, I'm interested to find out if a new world record emerges from the race. Cox himself gives hints on how to shave 20 days off his record.