Duo set world record for longest cycle trip

Bengaluru cyclists Bhagyashree Sawant and MJ Pavan covered 18 states and five union territories to complete 19,400 km in six months.

Two years ago, Bengalureans Bhagyashree Sawant and MJ Pavan decided to take cycle tour across the country to spread awareness to end polio.

In the six months of their travel, they went to 18 states, five union territories and earned themselves a name in the Guinness World Records for the longest journey by bicycle in a single country. They started the journey in October 2017 and ended in April 2018, covering a total of 19,400.83 km. 

Titled ‘Officially Amazing’, the duo spoke to Anila Kurian about their exciting journey. 

Let’s start with how you tackled this plan mentally.

Bhagyashree: We are both cyclists and colleagues at the Rotaract Club. Since cycling is our strength, we decided to put it for a good cause and help society. That’s when we decided to cycle through the country. But when we heard there’s a record for the longest distance cycling within a country, we extended the distance we had initially planned to cover. 

Pavan: There was a lot of micro-planning that took place before we actually started the ride. Everything from where to halt, at what time of the day and to get everything approved by the Guinness team, it took us about six months to sort everything out. 

What were the routes you took? 

Bhagyashree: We started on October 2 from Himachal Pradesh. We then went to Punjab, Chandigarh, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Assam. We then travelled back to West Bengal, covered Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Maharashtra, Andra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, the southern part of Maharashtra and finally to Bengaluru. 

Why did you want to do this trip? 

Pavan: We wanted to criss-cross the country to talk about end polio campaign. Though we are a polio-free country, we want to make sure that it remains that way. We visited over 350 government schools and educated them on how to avoid polio and maintain cleanliness and hygiene. 

How did you manage expenses and accommodation? 

Pavan: In the six months of planning, we had decided where, when and how long we would stay in each place. Since we are part of the Rotary, the member from each state accommodated us. Since we were also doing this to break a record, Garmin sponsored GPS tracker watches. We also received help from many others to make this experience and smooth one. 

What were your major challenges? 

Bhagyashree: A lot of punctures! We would have about four to five punctures in a day. Sometimes the weather would also be a challenge but that wasn’t too bad as we planned our timing accordingly.

And language wasn’t a barrier?

Pavan: Thankfully, we could get by speaking in English and Hindi. And whenever we didn’t know what to say, there was always someone to translate. 

Bhagyashree: We also made an attempt to learn a few important words before we entered each place.  

What were some of the things you discovered about government schools in the country? 

Bhagyashree: We realised that most of the kids were sent to school because they would be provided with at least one meal. Our biking gears and the fancy costume was an easy talking point wherever we went. So we tried to tell them that if they want to go on trips like this and see the world, they should study hard. 

And the infrastructure? 

Pavan: There were some really good ones and bad ones. There were villages that wanted to improve but they didn’t have the resources to do that. In a school in Bihar, there were 4,000 students and about 10 teachers. 

Tell us about how you broke the record. 

Bhagyashree: The record that we had to break was 13,000 km. When we completed the trip and submitted all the relevant documents, two months before we received our certificate, we heard that an Australian broke the earlier record by cycling 18,900 km. However, we broke that too by completing 19,400.83 km.

Pavan: We had actually covered more than that but Guinness has certain rules and regulations that you cannot travel the same path again. Since we did a criss-cross trip, we had to take the same routes multiple times. Our target was 20,000 km. 

Why did it take more than a year to receive your certification? 

Pavan: Yes, the verification process took about 9 to 10 months. We had to provide a lot of data and everything will be verified by their team. Garmin watches really helped us with that as it recorded the time we travelled, our heartbeats and had a GPS tracker. 

What was the first thing you did when you came back to Bengaluru? 

Pavan: I went to CTR and had a hearty meal. 

Bhagyashree: I had a good 12-hour sleep. 

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