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Jenny Graham holds the record for fastest circumnavigation by bicycle (female)

On 16 June 2018, Jenny Graham set off on the trip of a lifetime from Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.

Four months later on 18 October she returned to complete her successful attempt of the fastest circumnavigation by bicycle (female)

In the intervening 124 days 11 hours she cycled 18,000 miles, travelling across Europe, Asia, Oceania and North America to break the previous record by 20 days.

Her achievement has not only earned her a place in Guinness World Records 2020, but she also helped launch this year's Guinness World Records Day which encourages people to go on an adventure and potentially become a record-breaker.

"When I told my friends and family about this, I think a lot of them thought I was crazy for taking it on," she said.

"But they were really supporting and encouraging from the start when they realised I meant it."

Jenny spent a year preparing for her trip which involved cycling 20 hours a week, but also other fitness work and numerous visa applications for her round-the-world trip. This, all on top of her full-time job as a Children’s Service Worker for Highland Council in Scotland.

Fastest circumnavigation bicycle Jenny Graham

"I think getting to the start line was the hardest part because you were juggling all those things. Once I started all I was doing was riding my bike and that’s the part I enjoyed doing."

Jenny's route from Berlin took her east across Europe (including Poland, Lithuania, Latvia), into Russia then through Mongolia and into China. Once she'd cycled across China she flew down to Perth in Western Australia before riding the width of Australia and flying over to New Zealand which she traversed from south to north. 

After covering New Zealand she then flew to Anchorage in Alaska, USA. From there her journey took her across Canada to Halifax.

The final leg was through Europe, starting at Lisbon, Portugal, and up through Spain, France, Belgium, The Netherlands and back to Germany and Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.

Being on such a journey, Jenny came across numerous challenges, with one of the biggest being the weather.

In Russia

"I had every weather imaginable; the dead of summer in the Gobi Desert so hydration issues there, when I got to Australia/New Zealand it was the middle of winter and really cold. 

"I thought as I’m from Scotland that it wouldn’t affect me too much but dealing with the wet and the cold when you’re sleeping out every night, I found that wore me down quite a bit. They were the two extremes. I also had some tornadoes crossing Canada."

Jenny recalled cycling along the busy Trans-Siberian Highway, east of Moscow in Russia, as one of her most nerve-wracking moments where trucks were "flying past".

"It was so dangerous but there was no way to re-route, so I decided to cycle at night, it was the safest thing to do. Ride until 8 a.m., find somewhere to sleep on the road then get back on at about 3 p.m.. I did that for about 1,200 miles just to get out of the really busy section. It was the only bit that could have significantly stopped me from going further."

Australia

But despite that hair-raising stint, nothing was stopping her. 

"There wasn’t ever a day I felt like giving up. Once I started I was on it, I was always going to carry on in this journey."

It's this spirit and determination that has gained her a place in Guinness World Records 2020, and as a featured ambassador for the GWR Day 2019 announcement.

GWR Day

What makes Jenny's achievement even more celebrated is that her journey was unsupported. Her journey was completed with no team to help with spares, carry food or help with logistics.

"It's the way I like to travel. I do that because I love it. It's not just about the riding, it's about the living in the wild and looking after yourself but equally pushing yourself as hard as you can on the bike."

New Zealand's Lake Hawea

But this meant carrying out her own bike repairs - such as re-greasing the chain with sunscreen or replacing pleats with elastic bands to keep her feet on the pedals - and visiting cycle shops en-route. 

"My gear shifter went on New Zealand North island so I just rolled until I found the next bike shop which was in Alaska.

"If you can keep riding it you have to keep going with it. A lot of bike bodging going on just to keep the wheels turning."

Bike repairs in Mongolia

Jenny decided not to take a stove to prepare meals when she stopped during her epic voyage.

"Food would be a resting time, I would find somewhere inside to eat. It would be a time to recharge my batteries, plug things in," though convenience stores were "raided" for snacks to keep her going for the day ahead.

Top tip: As well as eating high-calorie food, vary the textures. "If you're riding for 15 hours a day and only got the same texture, that's never going to work."

During this unofficial tour of the world's convenience stores, Jenny discovered two things which are pretty much universal. Cheese puffs and chocolate milkshake. Jenny consumed a lot of both.

A warning not to feed bears while crossing Canada

Despite being on the road for four months, Jenny only fell ill once when she caught a flu bug in New Zealand which left her sick and feeling dizzy.

The bug severely hampered her ride north to Auckland – where she had a flight to take her north to Alaska.

"I knew I had to make it and rode 60 km that day, got another big sleep then felt much better and had to ride for 30 hours straight to make my plane. It did me no good!"

After four months on the road, which included unplanned encounters with kangaroos in Australia and black bears in Canada, Jenny was on the approach to Berlin.

Nova Scotia, Canada

The reason for Berlin being her start and finishing point was because of her son.

"When I was planning the route, I was showing my son, and we were thinking 'where can we have a nice time at the end?'. If I made it to the end we'd have a really nice family holiday and he was desperate to go to Berlin because it was the biggest party city on my route.

"It ended up being brilliant because it’s a bike-friendly city. I’m so glad I chose Berlin."

Jenny Graham fastest circumnavigation finishing point

During the last hours of her journey Jenny was joined by other cyclists, all willing her on until she returned to the Brandenburg Gate.

"I could see the gates and I knew all the people I love in the world were underneath that gate. I'd thought about it so many times. I rode through them to the other side and all I could hear was cheers and see Scotland flags."

She'd done it. 

Jenny Graham Brandenburg Gate

Now Jenny is a director of the Adventure Syndicate, a group of female cyclists who aim to encourage and inspire people to push themselves to see what they're capable of.

And of course, if anyone has some useful advice for anyone setting off on a record-breaking journey, it's her.

"Stick with it. The beginning part was the hardest, getting it off the ground, getting sponsorship, juggling your life. Giving up most of your social life and focusing on one thing. Once you do that you’re just doing the thing you really love doing for a really long time."

Fastest circumnavigation Jenny Graham certificate

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.