“I have always had a passion for cycling,” says David Ferguson (UK) - who, together with his wife and adventure-partner Caroline Soubayroux (France), in 2021 completed the fastest bicycle circumnavigation by a married couple ever.
The couple smashed the record by completing the feat in an incredible time of 204 days 17 hr 25 min, with a starting and ending point located in the heart of London.
The two took off from the rooftop of the Royal London Hospital on 25 September 2021, with preparations taking place in the midst of the global pandemic.
They finally returned to that same starting point after cycling through numerous countries (from Kenya to Australia, crossing the likes of Canada and Europe) on 16 April 2022.
The entire sum raised from their attempt was donated to Barts Health NHS.
Today, the couple comments that they never had any doubt about their charity of choice thanks to David’s job as a surgeon.
Recognizing the immediate need for awareness and support for the NHS workers during the pandemic, the couple wanted to play their part in supporting healthcare in a moment of global emergency.
“It was crystal clear to us,” Caroline says, “[we were] driven by the desire to make a meaningful difference in our community.”
Discovering that they had broken the record left David and Caroline filled with joy, pride and a warm sense of accomplishment.
“Being recognized as record holders on a global scale adds a new dimension to our journey, leaving a lasting impact on our lives,” David commented.
“It was both humbling and exhilarating, and it gave me a deep sense of gratitude,” Caroline says.
We are grateful for the support of our loved ones, the opportunities that came our way, and the ability to inspire others through our story. It is a title we carry with honour, cherishing the lifelong memories and lessons it represents. - Caroline and David
Today, Caroline and David look back at the stunning landscapes and breathtaking natural beauties that they encountered during their journey as one of the best parts of the record-breaking adventure.
However, despite the mind-blowing sceneries and the kindness of the people they met along the journey, they also encountered numerous setbacks and challenges. Difficulties with borders and limitations due to the uncertainty of post-pandemic life also played a major part in the frustrating last-minute changes that unexpectedly slowed down David and Caroline's attempt.
Thankfully, demonstrating preparation, adaptability and quick thinking, the couple managed to overcome all challenges.
From cycling through floods and downpours in Africa during the rainy season to battling Canada's extreme cold, the couple had to grit their teeth and power through.
“One particularly challenging moment stands out in my memory – a bitterly cold and rainy day in Santiago de Compostela, Spain,” David recalls, commenting on how COVID-19 threatened their record.
“It was there that we realized Australia had yet to open its borders, and in our conversations with Guinness World Records, we understood that without reaching Australia our chances of achieving the record would be left in ruins. We found ourselves huddled miserably in a McDonald's, desperately trying to warm up.”
“Then, crossing Argentina was undoubtedly one of the most arduous moments of our trip, as the route was far from cycling-friendly, resulting in significant delays,” David continues.
“In hindsight, if we had known better, we would have stuck to the Andes for a bit longer.”
Looking back, they both agree that having the opportunity to face all the bumps in the road (sometimes quite literally, as some roads weren't optimized for cycling) together, from mechanical setbacks to extreme weather conditions, was a huge plus for them.
Thankfully, our strength derived from being together during those challenging times. - Caroline
David’s passion for cycling started like it does for many other kids all over the world: with rides to school, exploring with his friends and delivering newspapers.
A passion that bloomed when he turned 18, and embarked on his first solo bikepacking adventure, from Land's End to John O'Groats.
During his university years, David and his friends covered extensive routes like London to Morocco, Chamonix to Palermo and crossing the States from Los Angeles to New York.
However, the time that he could dedicate to his hobby thinned out as David's career as a Junior Doctor became increasingly demanding.
“Despite this, my passion for the sport has never waned and I often recommend it as a mode of recovery for patients, especially those recovering from hip and knee surgery.”
Caroline’s story couldn’t be more different, as she took on cycling later in life after a running injury.
Following an accident, she decided to commute to work via cycling and mainly using public bikes. However, that temporary choice became a cornerstone of her present.
“Despite my initial resistance, David, upon seeing my potential on a bike, insisted that I should have my own and give it a proper try. For Christmas, he surprised me with a road bike, and together we embarked on my first 'proper' bike ride in the countryside—a 35km journey.”
After that, she was entirely hooked.
Dreaming big, David always liked the idea of cycling around the world.
After hearing about the previous record during a trip in the United States, he realized that embarking on such an extensive trip was simply the natural progression of his deep love for bikepacking.
“It wasn't solely about breaking records,” he says. “My desire was simply to experience the sheer adventure of travelling the world on two wheels. When I met Caroline I shared my goal of cycling around the world, and to my great delight, the idea immediately resonated with her.”
"I have always found immense inspiration in the intellectual and athletic achievements of others. However, I often felt apprehensive about taking the next step myself,” Caroline confesses after the attempt.
However, having David by her side helped her feel more at ease, as they supported one another during this remarkable feat.
The thought of embarking on such a grand adventure became much less daunting when I realized I would be doing it alongside someone I loved. - David
They finally decided they would tackle the challenge together in 2021.
From the get-go, Caroline recalls that they completely dedicated the little free time they had to training and preparations. Both had to juggle their demanding full-time jobs (David works as a surgeon, Caroline as an investment banker) with the organization of the adventure.
Caroline took on the administrative side of organizing the circumnavigation, although the limitations imposed by the pandemic furtherly complicated the process.
“While physical training posed its challenges during the pandemic, I maintained my usual training routine, heavily relying on indoor cycling,” she says.
“I had to limit long-distance rides outdoors due to restrictions, and I also wanted to avoid the risk of injuries at a time when hospitals were overwhelmed," David recalls. "Consequently, our preparation was notably constrained.”
The couple could only pause their “regular” lives for six months, but having a clear objective still helped them to keep themselves motivated and on track.
“The notion of breaking a world record was initially serendipitous but swiftly transformed into an obsession,” Caroline says.
We wanted to show the world what is possible for ordinary people to achieve with the correct mindset, commitment to a long-term goal and fixation on giving your best. – David
From a personal perspective, David and Caroline commented that they learned a lot during the journey, and that the adventure deeply changed their outlook on life: not only in terms of setting and smashing a goal, but also reminding them about the importance of unity and mutual support.
After experiencing first-hand the kindness of the strangers that they encountered on the road, Caroline and David look back at the circumnavigation as an experience that reminded them of the underlying sense of unity that connects people all over the world, despite the regional differences.
To this day, Caroline and David recall with a smile the kind-hearted people who offered them shelter and warm meals amidst bitter cold and heavy rain, or who eagerly awaited their arrival on the road.
Personally, the adventure has also reinforced my commitment to environmental stewardship – we have witnessed tremendous natural beauty but also terrible pollution and littering, and this has given me the urge to be more engaged and find ways to educate myself on ways to preserve our natural world. - Caroline
The couple, who recently welcomed a baby, continue to keep their eyes on the horizon as they aim for new, ambitious records.
“As we reflect on our journey and the record we have set as a married couple, our thirst for new challenges and adventures continues to grow,” Caroline says, promising that they are eager to push their boundaries individually and as a couple.
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