Guinness

My world ride was a pipedream long before I became aware of a world record for this lunacy. I was already (and still am) planning a six-month ride - around 180 days.  So when Scotsman Mark Beaumont set a new record of 195 days (excluding transits by air between continents) in 2007, I decided to register with Guinness and chase after it. Trouble is, thanks to a BBC documentary and a book, Mark's record came to the attention of a lot of other riders who got the same idea... and it turns out that some of them can ride their bikes a lot faster than me.  The record has been broken a number of times since, and now stands at just 127 days - including air transits (GWR changed the rules).  Anyone wanting to beat that will have to ride an average of well over 200 miles per day and good luck to them!

So I am no longer going for the record.  Frankly it will be a relief not to have to compile the detailed proofs that Guinness require, and I will get to stop over here and there for a bit longer... perhaps dinner and a stopover with my brothers in Perth and Auckland rather than just a quick tinnie!

This Wikipedia page lists the current and previous record holders and also summarises the GWR rules.  I'm still planning to ride by the rules which in a nutshell are:
  • start and finish points must be the same location - London
  • journey should be continual and in one direction - west to east
  • minimum distance travelled should be 18,000 miles (28,970 km) - mine will probably exceed 30,000km
  • rider must pass through two approximate antipodal points - mine are Wellington (NZ) and Valladolid (Spain) see useful antipodes mapping tool
  • rule 5 (this is not a Guinness rule)
Some bizarre correspondence with Guinness World Records - when is a bike not a bike?
I registered my intended attempt with GWR in August 2008.  Then I emailed to check that it would be acceptable to ride a recumbent bike.  Between September and December 2008 the following correspondence ensued...
GWR: A recumbent bicycle is not acceptable for this attempt.
RE: This comes as a great disappointment, and begs the question: how do you define a bicycle?  My bike is purely human-powered.  It is simply a different shape.  Please therefore reconsider your decision.  If after reconsideration you still consider that A recumbent bicycle is not acceptable for this attempt, then I would like to establish a new world record category - Fastest circumnavigation by recumbent bicycle
GWR: One of the difficulties of this record is the physical demand imposed by using a regular bicycle. A recumbent bicycle removes some of that difficulty. Furthermore, accepting a recumbent bicycle would be unfair to our current and previous record holders who have already achieved this record. We will not be opening a new category for a recumbent bicycle.
RE: Thanks for your response.  I can understand, and with some difficulty accept, the point you make "One of the difficulties of this record is the physical demand imposed by using a regular bicycle. A recumbent bicycle removes some of that difficulty. 
Furthermore, accepting a recumbent bicycle would be unfair to our current and previous record holders who have already achieved this record."   Although of course there will always be improvements made to "normal" bikes which will remove some of the difficulties that the current record holder had to face on his successful attempt.  If you exclude my bike, what other bikes might not be acceptable, now or in the future? Where do you draw the line? Tricky business!  Bikes come in all shapes and sizes... Human-powered should in my view be the one and only defining characteristic.  
My preference therefore remains that you reconsider and permit me to attempt the existing record on my recumbent. Assuming pessimistically that you stick by your decision that "A recumbent bicycle is not acceptable for this attempt", I am very disappointed that you will not be opening a new category for a recumbent bicycle.  Please reconsider this.  
I have read through all the documents you emailed me on 5th September and would be happy to be governed by similar guidelines.  Therefore it should be relatively straightforward for you to open a new category. I am particularly keen to try this on a recumbent because indeed such a bike is more efficient, and I would like, if I succeed, to help achieve greater notoriety for these bikes among the wider population.  It is partly because we recumbent enthusiasts are excluded from large numbers of amateur and professional events, and it now appears, GWR, that we remain sidelined and very low-profile in more than one sense!  This appears from our perspective to be a matter of prejudice.  I am sure GWR does not intend to be prejudiced against any minority community, simply on the grounds of the shape of their bike.  Therefore please reconsider this decision.  It would be a rather colourful record to achieve, and should result in very good publicity both for GWR as well for recumbent bicycles, judging by the significant and hugely positive press interest and coverage obtained by the current record holder Mark Beaumont.  
I should add here that I have no commercial or vested interest whatever in the promotion of recumbents or any other types of bikes.  I hope you will be sympathetic, and take your time to consider this request with colleagues, and look forward to your response.
GWR: After having discussed your proposal with the rest of the Records Management Team, our decision still stands regarding recumbent bicycles. If any changes are made in the future regarding this, we will inform you of these.
RE:  Thank you for having discussed my proposal with the rest of the Records Management Team.  Obviously I am very disappointed that your decision still stands regarding recumbent bicycles.  Your emails to me are very brief... it would be good to know the reasoning behind your objection to my proposal.   It strikes me that GWR accepts all kinds of bizarre record categories, and my proposal, compared to some you accept, looks pretty normal.  Is there any kind of appeals procedure open to me?  Could I come up to your offices to make my case and hear your objections to my proposal please? 
GWR: As mentioned in one of the previous emails: "One of the difficulties of this record is the physical demand imposed by using a regular bicycle. A recumbent bicycle removes some of that difficulty. Furthermore, accepting a recumbent bicycle would be unfair to our current and previous record holders who have already achieved this record."  If you would like to submit a rejection appeal you must do this via the website. We hope this solves your query.
RE: I am afraid this does not solve my query.  I have already responded to the above point, in my message to you via the GWR website dated 16th September.
The two specific points which I feel you have not addressed are:
1. Why you will not consider setting up a new category for recumbent bicycle.
2. Can we not discuss this face to face please?  Because having now sent several appeal messages via the website, I do not feel that I am getting a full or fair hearing.  
GWR: We will not be opening a separate category for any other type of bicycle. In accepting a recumbent bicycle we would have to accept all other modifications - which we will not do. Unfortunately, due to the high volume of claims we deal with on an every day basis, we are unable to invite any of our claimants to our offices.
RE: Please excuse delayed response, I have been away.  You just made one of my points for me.  You said: "In accepting a recumbent bicycle we would have to accept all other modifications - which we will not do."   
But you do accept other modifications!
In an earlier query I put to you that bikes obviously over time evolve, eg are made of newer improved lighter and stronger materials, such as carbon fibre, aluminium and titanium replacing steel.  These are modifications which improve bikes and make them easier to ride around the world, or anywhere else.
Did you check that the current GWR holder Mark Beaumont's bike was exactly identical to the first person's bike used to set this record?  Of course you did not!  Of course Mark's bike was different, for example it had a relatively recently invented 14-speed Rohloff hub gear which gave him a significant advantage over any previous record holders who did not have this gearing system available to them.
Begging the question: where do you draw the line?  Why can you not accept that a bike is an exclusively human-powered two-wheeled vehicle?  Any other attempt to define it opens a vast can of worms.  Would you for instance accept a semi-recumbent?
I have previously asked about your appeals procedure.  You said "If you would like to submit a rejection appeal you must do this via the website."  So in fact you are saying that the correspondence between us, ongoing since 9th September, is my only channel of appeal - I send a message to you via the website and you reply very briefly by email.  This is not a fair appeals procedure, because I cannot make my case to anyone other than you, or by any other means (eg a meeting at your offices, which you refused in your email dated 30th September).  Please therefore let me have the details of the Managing Director so I can write in to him or her with my appeal. 
GWR: As you have mentioned yourself, these modifications are the result of the evolution of the bicycle. They are performance modifications.  A recumbent bicycle does not fall under these modifications as it is a completely different category - for which we will not be opening a category for. I have passed on your details to our Director of Records. We hope this solves your query.
RE: I am afraid the query is not solved, however we are going round in circles now.  I am most dissatisfied and surprised frankly at GWR response to this matter.  The strangest aspect to me is the fact the you will not consider opening an new category, and give no explanation for that refusal.  GWR lists hundreds of more bizarre exploits as records.
In an earlier message (17 September) you wrote "If any changes are made in the future regarding this, we will inform you of these."  Please do inform me if/when the time comes that you take a more enlightened view.  I am planning my attempt for 2014 so you have plenty of time to think again!  I will be using all methods I can muster to sponsor and publicise my attempt, and I will follow to the letter the regulations that you have kindly provided me with - so you would even be able to change your mind during or after the attempt if you feel so inclined.
Please forward this message to the Director of Records.
RE: I'd be grateful if you could please acknowledge receipt of my message on 27 November (copy below) and confirm that you passed it onto the Director of Records as requested
GWR: We did receive your message and passed it on to our director of records as requested.

6 comments:

  1. Are GWR missing the point here? In that the way I see things, a Recumbent bicycle is not a modification of an upright (standard) bicycle but an entirely different design. Much the same way as a bus is not a modification of a large car but a different design altogether.

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    1. It's all academic now as far as I'm concerned, I can never beat the current record (127 days including transits). I hope one day a lot faster 'bent rider arrives on the scene to take up the dual challenge of convincing GWR that a 'bent is a bike, and then to go on and set a new record. The LEJoG record is 3 hours faster by recumbent.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land%27s_End_to_John_o%27_Groats

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  2. I'd be keen for such a world record as well. Even though I have never ridden a recumbent, I came across your blog searching for what the record was.

    If GWR won't take it, maybe we could just make a Wikipedia page?

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  3. Just as an aside, I organised an attempt on what was the 'long distance relay running' record in May 2012. At the time, it was a team from Romania completing 1900 miles in 13 days and we blitzed this to 2760 miles in 18 days running marathon distance relays around Great Britain. (www.relaygb.com)

    Over 6 months after the event I finally had to give up with GWR. I'd provided photographs, signed addavits from almost all of the 465 runners who took part, plus newspaper articles and signed witness statements from 'persons of good standing independent from the event'.

    The stumbling block? The final straw was that the 'independents' (i.e. unknown people at the start and finish) had to write the statements in their own words. How, 6 months after the event, was I supposed to track these people down? I lost the will at that point.

    The record has since been broken by some team running around a running track. Records are not built to last but GWR seems to have demonstrated through your blog that they are only interested in the weird and wacky such as eating a tin of baked beans whilst standing on your head, especially if that gets them a lot of coverage.

    Good luck with the ride. Let us know how you get on.

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  4. thanks for comments, interesting to read your GWR experience. see the twitter page on this blog for my updates

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  5. Thank u so much for having such a nice and entertaing stuff for us. I really enjoy your blog and the way you have describe your content.I also have some amazing and wonderful stuff and i wana to share it with you.
    World Records List

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