Split image with Laura and Stevie

In December 2022, Derby couple Laura Massey-Pugh and Steven "Stevie" Massey set the record for the fastest circumnavigation by tandem bicycle (mixed)

They completed the admirable feat in a total of 179 days 12 hr 25 min and arrived in Berlin, Germany, on 1 December 2022.

They decided to take on the challenge after seeing the news of the female title for the fastest circumnavigation by tandem bicycle, completed by UK cyclists Cat Dixon and Raz Marsden in celebration of Guinness World Records Day 2020. 

Overall, during their gargantuan adventure, Laura and Stevie cycled through 21 countries: Germany, Czechia, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Türkiye, Georgia, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium and Holland.

During that time, they have raised over £12,000 for UK charities SustransMind and Vetlife

Laura and Stevie next to their bike

Laura and Stevie first met in 2015 during a beer festival in Derby, and married in 2018.

Before the record, Laura had already participated in several cycling events and Stevie had always warmly supported her passion. 

“I've enjoyed participating in solo and tandem ultra-distance cycling events for a number of years and Stevie has always supported me and been my biggest fan,” Laura said. 

“We were both long/ultra-distance cyclists and tandemists,” the couple explained. 

After seeing the women's record, we knew it was something exceptional, but it got us thinking about how long we could sustain a greater distance. That led us to our 100 miles/day target, although it ended up being more than this to account for time off the bike. The clock never stops. - Laura Massey-Pugh

Laura and Stevie on the bike with blue sky

Looking back at the challenge, Laura and Stevie comment that taking on the circumnavigation as a pair had its pros and cons.

Although they could divide roles and tasks between themselves, they were also entirely reliant on the other for support: riding as a pair is not always easier, especially if both cyclists are under severe stress as it may happen during a tour around the world. 

“We are used to spending extended periods together in tough conditions so we know how we each respond to challenges and how to best support each other,” Laura adds.

“You are often out of sync and end up with double the time needed for stops on the road.”

“This challenge was the culmination of many other cycling, walking and running ‘holidays’ and challenges we have set ourselves in the past, but was certainly on a much larger scale.”

Laura and stevie cycling

The guidelines dictated that the circumnavigation should start and end at the same place, and for Laura and Stevie, that was Berlin, Germany.

“This was partly due to the convenience of starting on the continent and partly a nod to Jenny Graham, the female sole world record holder,” Laura explained. 

The journey, although successful, wasn’t free from difficulties and challenges, including a motorcycle collision in Malaysia and freezing temperatures in Canada.

The biggest challenge was getting back on the bicycle after a motorcycle hit us in Malaysia. We were both physically and mentally damaged. - Laura

Looking back, the couple also recalls the continuous physical exercise and the necessity to keep on track with their schedule. “Stevie was beset by atrocious saddle sores and a significant knee injury towards the back end of Canada,” Laura says. 

They also encountered some trafficked roads that added to the risk of the overall journey.

Laura and Stevie with number in the sand

“Several issues resulted in getting behind schedule," Laura recalls, "like the closed land borders to Azerbaijan resulting in a three-day delay waiting for flights, two days off the bike with gastro-intestinal illness in India and the collision in Malaysia were all impactful.”

Their journey was further slowed down by different mechanical problems, to the point that the pair had to fix the back wheel the night before they arrived in Berlin, the very last leg of their journey.

However, they never gave up and remained focused on their 180-day schedule. 

Laura and Stevie with balloons

And, at the end of the road, the Brandenburg Gate waited for them at the finishing line – the most beautiful thing they had ever seen, as Laura recalls. 

Although they didn’t have much time to go sightseeing during the ride, and often didn’t have time to enjoy the culture of the country they were visiting as they were too busy either pedalling or recovering from a difficult day, Laura and Stevie still had the chance to visit some incredible places around the world. 

“The Rocky Mountains in Canada were amazing, but made for very tough riding on a 50 kg+ bicycle,” Laura recalls. 

Now, the couple is delighted to have completed such a challenging record and is rightfully proud of their outstanding achievement. 

The SteLa Tandem (how Laura and Stevie named their team during the circumnavigation) believe that the key to their success is never giving up on their final goal, but also focusing on consistency while working with widely varying conditions: no matter the difficulty, they pushed through and made the impossible possible. 

“It was truly the hardest thing we have ever done and it took months of physical and mental recovery,” Laura said. 

We managed to take almost a third off the other record time by using a technique world record holder Mark Beaumont uses: not aiming to beat previous records and shave time off, but setting ourselves a target of how fast we can think we can go and working up towards that. - Laura

Thanks to their resilience and their goal to complete the feat in 180 days, Laura and Stevie have broken the record with a never-seen-before result.

The female title for the fastest circumnavigation by tandem bicycle was set with a time of 263 days, while the male record was completed in a total of 281 days 22 hours and 20 minutes. 

The record for the fastest circumnavigation by tandem bicycle (male) was achieved in 2019 by doctors Lloyd Edward Collier and Louis Paul Snellgrove (both UK).

“I would love to think another pair would give the record a go, and we would love to cheer them on and give them advice from our experiences," Laura said, "but I fear that world circumnavigations will only get harder - especially given factors like climate change.”

The couple has recently released a book, titled Backseat Rider, that tells the story of their record-breaking trip around the world from Laura's perspective in the "backseat" of the bicycle.

When they are not breaking records, Laura works as a veterinary surgeon and project manager while Stevie worked previously as a train builder and is now a house husband. 

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