Ever since the bicycle was invented, cyclists have been obsessed with breaking records. From the Hour Record to cycling around the world, going faster and further than any other cyclist has driven many to physical and mental limits. It's produced some extraordinary achievements, as this list of 14 of our favourite records shows.
It's worth noting that different organisations ratify different records and there's some overlap, so please let us know if there's a record we haven't heard about that beats one of these.
1. The Hour Record
Often put forward as the ultimate and most prestigious cycling challenge, it’s simply a record for the farthest distance cycled on a velodrome in one hour. The first record was set in 1876 with a distance of 26.508km (16.471 miles), and on 16 April 2019 Victor Campenaerts set the current record at 55.089km (34.23 miles), following renewed interest in the record after the UCI governing body relaxed its rules on bike and equipment.
There's only been one attempt at the UCI since, by Martin Toft Madsen who came up over a kilometre short at 53.975km. Dan Bigham did ride 54.723km for a new British record in October 2021, but wasn't eligible for the UCI testing pool. Before Bigham's ride we'd have said that any serious tilt at the UCI record would almost certainly have to take place at altitude to be on a level playing field with Campenaerts' Aguascalientes, Mexico venue at almost 2,000m above sea level; but recent advancements in aero technology (and quite a lot of power) allowed Bigham to get fairly close despite his British Record being set at the Velodrome Suisse in Grenchen, Switzerland, which is 'just' 450m above sea level.
2. How far can you cycle on a turbo trainer in one minute?
Who thought this would be a record? But it is. In 2009, Miguel Angel Castro, on a static trainer, cycled a distance of 1.27 miles (2,040 metres). That's an astonishing 76 mph! Try that the next time you're on your turbo trainer and see how far you manage.
He then broke his own record in 2015, riding 3,060 m (10,039.4 ft). That jumped his average up to 114.0837 mph!
3. Fastest journey from Land's End to John O'Groats
The trip from the most southerly to the most northerly point in Great Britain is one of the most popular distance rides in the UK; there's probably someone cycling it right now. The fastest journey by a man on a conventional bicycle was by Michael Broadwith in 2018 at 43 hours 25 minutes and 13 seconds. The equivalent woman's record is 2 days 4 hours 45 minutes 11 seconds, set by Lynne Taylor in 2002. However, the fastest anyone has pedalled the end to end is Andy Wilkinson, who did it in 41 hours, 4 minutes and 22 seconds on a Windcheetah recumbent trike.
4. Most distance cycled in a year
This was quite the challenge to do back in the 1930s. Tommy Godwin’s 1939 record, a mighty 75,065 miles, stood until January 2016 when US rider, Kurt Searvogel, rode 122,432.7 km (76,076 miles). Averaging 208 miles per day doesn't bear thinking about, but 23-year-old Amanda Coker averaged an astonishing 237.19 miles per day when she set out to beat Searvogel's record in May 2016. She smashed the women's record in just a few months and went on to pass Searvogel's mark with 40 days to spare. Her final tally after a year was 86,573.2 miles, but instead of taking a well-earned rest for a month or ten, she carried on to set a record for the fastest 100,000 miles ever, finishing the distance in 423 days.
5. The fastest crossing of Europe from north to south
With most of the obvious distance cycle challenges taken, endurance athletes have had to dream up new challenges. In the last few years this trip has become a popular target (insofar as the madness of riding as fast as possible across ten countries can ever be popular). Bath University academic and occasional road.cc contributor Ian Walker rode the 4,200 miles from the top of Norway to the bottom of Spain in 16 days, 20 hours, 59 minutes, finishing on July 8, 2019.
6. Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling
Bog snorkelling sounds ridiculous enough, but to do it on a bicycle? It’s one of the more unusual records this one, and only an event that could really take place in the UK. The fastest time on the course in Llanwrtyd Wells is 51 minutes 37 seconds and was set by a very brave Graham Robinson in 2010. And our very own Dave Atkinson won this event the first two years it was held!
7. The most vertical metres climbed in 48 hours
Everesting (climbing the height of Everest in 24 hours) has become popular in recent years, mainly because of the increased use of Strava. The most vertical metres climbed in 48 hours, however, is a knee-bending 29,623.3 m (97,189 ft 9.24 in) more than Box Hill 73 times. The brave cyclist who managed this extraordinary feat of endurance was Craig Cannon (USA) in Berkeley, California, USA, between 7 and 9 August 2015.
8. The fastest ride across America
The Race Across America (RAAM) is widely considered to be one of the toughest cycling endurance events, with a 3,000-mile course that is longer than the Tour de France. In 2014, Christoph Strasser managed the coast to coast ride in 7 days 15 hours 56 minutes. Since the RAAM course varies from year to year, some RAAM fans contend the record should be assigned to the rider with the fastest average speed, but that's also Strasser in 2014 with 16.42 mph (26.43 km/h). Strasser also holds the record for the most RAAM victories with six.
Seana Hogan holds the women's record, averaging 13.23 mph (21.29 km/h) over 2,912 miles (4,686 km) in the 1995 event.
9. Farthest distance cycled underwater
Cycling into a strong headwind is hard work, try doing it underwater. There’s a record for that, of course. In 2013 German cyclist, Jens Stotzner managed to cycle 6,708m, completing 78 laps of a swimming pool. Hope he gave the bike a good service afterwards.
10. 8,000 miles in a month
How far can you cycle in a month? On her way to setting records for the greatest distance ridden in a year, and the fastest 100,000 miles, Amanda Coker smashed Steve Abraham's previous mark of 7,104.3 miles (11,433.3km) in a single month by riding 8,012.5 miles (12,894.87 km) between 1 and 30 April 2017. However, Tommy Godwin rode 8,583 miles (13,813 km) in July 1939 on the way to his year record, but that feat has not been ratified by either Guinness or the Ultramarathon Cycling Association.
11. Around the world cycling record
This is the biggie, a full lap of the globe on a bicycle. Many cyclists (judging by the number of books available) are content to take a leisurely approaching to cycling around the world, but some dedicated cyclists like to do it as fast as possible.
In September 2017, Mark Beaumont unequivocally smashed all previous records with a circumnavigation under Guinness rules in an incredible 79 days. It takes nothing away from Beaumont's incredible feat that he had a support vehicle, but many people would like to see Guinness recognise both supported and unsupported records.
Until recently, the record recognised by Guinness World Records was held by Andrew Nicholson (New Zealand) who rode for 123 days and 43 minutes. Guinness have changed the rules a few times, and now state that a minimum distance of 29,000km must be cycled and the clock doesn't stop for any waiting time for flights or ferries.
That means that Mike Hall's 2012 record, 91 days 18 hours, was never ratified. More recently Lee Fancourt completed a circumnavigation in 103 days, 24 hours, 15 minutes, but his record didn't count either because, after taking a taxi to help his support crew, he didn’t return to the same point to continue his ride.
12. The fastest wheelie
Peter Sagan likes his wheelies, usually at the finish line of a long road race, but could he beat this world record? We'd love to see him attempt it one day. The fastest wheelie is an impressive 86.1mph, set by mountain bike legend Bobby Root in 2001. No, he didn’t pedal up to that speed first, he slipstreamed a car before reaching the necessary speed to pop a wheelie, lasting 9.75m (32ft).
The four-time winner of the Race Across America completed 3,767 laps of the 250 metre track in Grenchen, Switzerland, starting at 1pm on Saturday 14 October. His average speed was 39.42 kilometres an hour.
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David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.
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