David Haywood, a 22-year-old from Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey has just been officially confirmed as breaking the Guinness World Record for ‘Most Countries Visited by Bicycle in 7 Days’, supported by Surrey-based bike store Spokes of Bagshot.
He cycled from Belgium to Slovakia from October 12th – 18th 2017. The ride was just shy of 1100 miles, cycling an average of 155 miles a day, visiting the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, and Hungary before finishing in Bratislava, Slovakia after a 204mile (328km) final day’s ride.
Crossing the Austrian Alps on Day 4 was a particular challenge after his gear cable snapped leaving him stuck in an incredibly challenging gear for the next 100miles, even after trying to adjust and bodge the rear derailleur.
Late on Day 5, in the dark of an Austrian valley, he was stopped by the Austrian police for accidentally cycling on the motorway and was told to join a more appropriate path. The path that he was directed to ended up being pitch-black, which yielded a stunning view of the stars. He paused to admire the view when a herd of deer charged passed after he’d startled them by cycling through and pausing in their sleeping grounds. It was hair-raising experience.
A crash with 100miles to go on Day 7, after hitting a patch of sand whilst rounding a corner in Hungary, made for a difficult last few hours as the crash gave him a deep gash to the palm of his hand which streamed with blood, and bent his handlebars. This made piloting the bike difficult and braking was a real challenge. This, combined with the decreasing visibility with a thickening fog in Slovakia put an end to his hopes of riding the remaining 40miles to the Czech Republic border for country number 14. When he finished his ride he had just over seven hours to go before his seven-day deadline was up, but he decided it was the best call to stop at 13 countries in Slovakia.
He says, ‘It was an extremely tough but amazing adventure. Travelling by bike puts you in contact with the surroundings and subtle changes in landscapes of each country. It also exposes you to wonderful people who are often so kind to touring cyclists – it’s a beautiful way to travel, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s looking for an active, adventurous holiday (maybe not the same sort of distances!)’.
He undertook the expedition to challenge himself beyond previous bike-packing tours from London to Rome, to Paris, to Amsterdam, and the length of the UK (Land’s End to John O’Groats). He had been buoyed by achieving his goals in triathlon by qualifying to represent Great Britain at the triathlon Age-Group World Championships in 2017, and wanted to see how far he could push myself.
He attributes part of his success to the higher fat, lower carbohydrate he has been following the last couple of years to help boost his endurance, and using heart-rate training to measuring effort as he prepares for his challenges. He says that bike-packing trips (but perhaps those not to this scale) are a great way of mixing up biking training for triathlon and other races. It can combine holidays with adventure and training! It’s a refreshing change for mind, body and soul.
The record attempt was also acting as a pilot solo adventure as he develop plans for a round-the-world bike trip for his next project. A diary entry of his trip is available on his website along with information about the route and all the kit he used. To keep abreast of future trips and his triathlon endeavours you can find him here.