rachael marsden and catherine dixon split image

When Catherine Dixon and Rachael Marsden (both UK) met on a charity bike ride from London to Paris, they could never have imagined what they’d achieve together.

Between June 2019 and March 2020, the incredible women pedalled 18,263 miles (29,391 km) around the world together on a tandem bicycle – and even more amazingly, they were the first women to ever do it.

Together as “Tandem Wow”, they earned the record for fastest circumnavigation by tandem bicycle (female) in a time of 263 days 8 hours 7 minutes.

They’d been inspired by the men’s record - last set in 2019 by Dr Lloyd Edward Collier and Dr Louis Paul Snellgrove (both UK) in 281 days 22 hours 20 minutes.

Cat had always wanted to cycle around the world, and when the pair realized there were no female record holders for the globe-trotting tandem cycle, they decided to take it on.

And they did it faster than any male teams who’ve held the record – by more than two weeks.

They rode through 25 different countries and across five continents, cycling between 80 and 100 miles a day.

Rachael, AKA “Raz”, a consultant nurse for MND said: “I had only cycled 10 miles on a tandem before we agreed to go round the world. 

“A solo bike is far easier to ride. A tandem requires greater bike handling skills and coordination.”

Despite the hard work, the mum-of-three says she only remembers the fun when she looks back on their adventure.

Catherine, left, and Rachael with their certificate

She said: “It’s funny when I look back now it’s hard to remember the toughest moments, because I think we dealt with whatever was thrown at us. We were very organized and very disciplined which helped.

“I can honestly say there are too many [favourite places] to say, but I loved seeing the Tower of Pisa for the first time, I loved the whole of Myanmar, the people are incredibly kind. I really loved the challenge of the Nullarbor desert.”

The ladies raised an incredible £37,265 for charity during their cycle, with Rachael choosing the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) because of her work caring for people with MND, and Cat chose Oxfam because of the work they do to empower women.

The duo completed their entire journey unsupported and said that although they were physically fit as they began their attempt, they got much fitter along the way.

They credited the success of their record-breaking cycle to the kindness of strangers they met in every corner of the world, including a friendly woman who helped them find a safe place to sleep one night in rural Thailand.

rachael marsden and catherine dixon travelled the world on a tandem bicycle

Cat and Raz battled the environment throughout their ride, cycling through soaring temperatures of over 40ºC during a heatwave in Europe, navigating their way through monsoons in Thailand and Malaysia, and bush fires in Australia, all before facing a nail-biting race to get home before the coronavirus lockdown closed borders.

The pair just made it, managing to board the second to last passenger ferry on the day of the travel ban in France to make it back home to the UK.

Raz said: “I was full of mixed emotions. I think it was just brilliant to see our family and friends again and to get back, but equally we got back on a day that we weren’t expecting and people weren’t expecting us.”

Cat added: “It was amazing to get back and it was amazing to break the record, and we just loved every day on the bike.

Every day was a new adventure and it was just fabulous. Though I was looking forward to a rest, I actually missed being on the bike.

rachael marsden and catherine dixon with their tandem bike

Their technique for powering through it all was listening to music, including the favourite songs of lost loved ones of those who donated, and listening to audio books, including the entire Harry Potter series.

They said having this Guinness World Records title is a “dream come true”, with Raz admitting she has to “pinch herself” to believe it.

I’d encourage anyone to try for a world record. It’s about following your dreams and about achieving whatever you really set your mind out to do and if you’ve got something you want to achieve and something you want to do then go for it, what’s the worst that can happen? - Cat

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