Cat and Raz are attempting to break the women’s world record for circumnavigating the globe on a tandem bicycle. And they’re helping beat poverty by raising money for Oxfam (hooray!).

Ideally, they’ll break the men’s record of 283 days too.  Pretty good going for two women Raz describes as, “50-something, 50-plus, 50-ish… in our 50s.”

 

What made you decide to go round the world on a tandem bicycle? 

Raz: Um.. seemed like a good idea at the time?
And Cat has always wanted to go round the world cycling. Going solo is one thing and I think it’s been done… but this is kind of unusual and unique and has never been done before by women – particularly of a certain age as we are – it’s my gap year really.”

When did you decide?

Raz: We had the bike handmade and got that for Christmas, but actually made an absolute decision on 1 January because Cat had to hand in her notice and I needed to arrange a sabbatical from the NHS.

Had you ridden them before you had this one?

Raz: No, Cat has.
Cat: I haven’t ridden round the world before – I’ve done Land’s End John O’Groats and rides with days back-to-back but nothing on this scale. The longest I’ve done is 280 miles and that was London to Paris and back.

And you still want to do this?

Raz: Yes, yeah.

Who made the bike?

Raz: J. D. Tandems up north – they designed and built it for us.

How long will it take?

Raz: The Guinness Book of World Records said we had to do it in 320 days. But two guys have just done it in 283 days, so we’re aiming to beat them.

Does the distance covered by the plane count?

Raz: It’s ultimately 18,000 miles and it doesn’t matter where or how. The route has been agreed by Guinness but you have to do the 18,000 in 320 days. The flights and things don’t count toward the total but are okay. With flights it comes up to about 24,000 miles but the cycling is 18,000.

Who’s on the front? 

Cat: I’m on the front, I’m a much better biker. (Cat laughs)
Raz: Plus, she is less good at being on the back, that’s the truth isn’t it. If you were better at being on the back we’d be able to swap more often.

What distance are you hoping to cover a day?

Cat: We hope to cover between 80 and 100 miles a day. We’ve worked out that the record is about 80 a day so if we do more than 80 it’s kind of a bonus. We want to do it in 282 days because that’s the new men’s record.
If you did 100 miles a day it would be 233 and that’s still with a day off a week. We have a day off a week and then when we fly we take three days.
The route I’ve tried to do is a route that will be a really nice route as well. The woman who set the solo world record went kinda north. She went through the ‘stans and then into Russia and then into China and just said it was a nightmare… 
Raz: Because the lorries VROOMED past and they were just relentless. There’s a video of her on the side of the road crying just saying, ‘I’m going to die, they’re going to kill me.’ She ended up sleeping in the day and cycling in the dark because it was safer in the dark with a lamp then during the day when people could actually see her. 
Cat: And she was sleeping in drainpipes…
Raz: When she asked us where we were going, we said, ‘Well…we’re going down the French Riviera…’ (they both laugh)

Are you camping?

Cat: We’ll do a bit of a mix – we have something called Warmshowers, which is people who take you in who are interested in cycling and will offer you a bed for the night. They’re all over the world.

What made you want to do it for Oxfam?

Cat: Because of the work you do. Your emergency stuff is fantastic but I’m really interested in women’s rights work and law stuff. I used to run the Law Society and was one of the first members of the Lawyers Against Poverty with Oxfam’s General Counsel, Joss.

What are you most excited about?

Cat: Well, I want to make sure we live in the moment. Then all you’ve got to think about when you get on your bike is where you are going and enjoying what you’re seeing.
I think all of it is going to be really different and seeing the different countries from a bike and the contrast.

What made you want to go?

Cat: The last three jobs I’ve done I’ve been a CEO, so I was fortunate enough to be a leader in my profession.
In my career I feel that I’ve done some really interesting things. So I kind of also wanted to do something physically – I’ve always done lots of sport and I’m ex-army – I used to run for the army and county.
I had a bit of an ambition to do something, I don’t want to say something remarkable, but something different.
And hopefully something that is also inspiring to women cyclists and inspiring to women of a certain age – a bit older that actually will give it a go because you know we’re both over 50. 

Image: Tom Skipp/ Oxfam

Cat and Raz leave Oxford 29 June. Follow their adventure on their site, tandemwow.com

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