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 our 13 favourite records shows.
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 in on 7th June 2015 Sir Bradley Wiggins set the new record at 54.526km (33.88 miles), following renewed interest in the record after the UCI governing body relaxed its rules on bike and equipment. Neither of the two attempts since Wiggins set his record have been successful.
The women’s Hour Record is held by Evelyn Stevens with a distance of 47.980km (29.81 miles).
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 set by Gethin Butler in 2001 at 44 hours 4 minutes 19 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 has averaged an astonishing 228 miles per day since starting her attempt on the mileage record in May 2016. She smashed the women's record in just a few months and went on to beat Searvogel's record with 40 days to spare. Her final tally after a year was 86,573.2 miles, and last we heard she was still going, aiming to be the fastest rider ever to clock up 100,000 miles.
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. Lee Fancourt cycled the 4,200 miles from the top of Norway to the bottom of Spain in 21 days, 14 hours and 23 minutes from 13 June to 5 July 2015, knocking 24 hours off the previous record.
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.
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. 7,000 miles in a month
How far can you cycle in a month? If you’re Milton Keynes-based cyclist Steve Abraham, the answer is over 7,000 miles, or 11,000km in new money. Most people wouldn’t be able to find enough spare time to ride anything near that distance, but Steve achieved an incredible distance of 7,104.3 miles (11,433.3km) in September 2016. For an encore he's having another go at the Year Record after his previous attempt was scuppered by a broken ankle sustained in a collision with a moped.
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.
The current record recognised by Guinness World Records is 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, sadly doesn't stand. More recently Lee Fancourt completed a circumnavigation in 103 days, 24 hours, 15 minutes, but his record doesn’t stand 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).
13. Zwift non-stop distance record
It's indicative of the popularity of online racing and training platform Zwift that this one keeps falling. In 2016 Chris Hopkinson rode 1,625km to take the record off Derek Boocock. Just a couple of months later, on February 22 2017, Jasmijn Muller finished a three-day stint that pushed the record out to an astonishing 1,828km.
But you don't get to hang on for long to a turbo record that Hoppo wants to keep. On March 23, 2017, Hopkinson completed a 2,500km ride in under 100 hours.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. 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.