York's Cat Dixon is attempting to become the fastest woman to cycle around the world on a tandem – and all for charity, reports CATHERINE TURNBULL

FOR the past two months Cat Dixon has been pedalling up to 100 miles a day on a tandem with friend Raz Marsden in an attempt to set a world record to circumnavigate the globe in less than 320 days, while raising funds for charity.

They aim to cross 25 countries, covering five continents, averaging between 80 and 100 miles a day (and burning up to 4,000 calories daily) and are expected to knock up 18,000 miles. The goal of their fundraising mission, called TandemWoW, is to attract a pound per mile and collect £18,000 to be shared between the Motor Neurone Disease Association and Oxfam.

The women waved goodbye to their day-to-day lives at the end of June, climbing on to the saddles of their pink tandem called Alice.

Cat, short for Catherine, aged 53, has given up her job as CEO of Askham Bryan College to fulfil her dream. She said: “I have always wanted to cycle around the world, and I am a keen cyclist. Raz and I talked about it and it morphed into 'shall we ride together', 'maybe on a tandem' ‘shall we go for a world record?’, ‘let’s ride for charity” – and TandemWoW was born. The men’s record is 283 days and the women’s is 320, so of course we are aiming for 282.”

Raz, short for Rachael, a motor neurone disease nurse consultant, said: “Our families have been very understanding and I’ve managed to secure a sabbatical from my job.”

As the women begin the third month of their challenge, they have arrived in India and covered more than 1,000 miles.

They have had a host of set-backs and hold-ups along the way – mostly to do with repairs and equipment for the bike – but they are finding a way through, and as their regular blog posts and Facebook updates show, they are still smiling (despite being very saddle sore).

The adventure really started to take hold in France, with a scary encounter with a wild boar. “Imagining our bodies being found weeks later partially eaten by wild boar, Rachael reached for the rape alarm,” said Cat.

Their route so far has taken them across France to the French Riviera into Italy, Slovenia and Croatia, then Turkey and into Georgia, where they caught a flight to India just last week.

Next, they will pedal on to Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore where they’ll get a flight to Australia. They’ll ride across Australia, New Zealand and the United States before returning to Europe via Morocco, crossing Spain and France to return to Oxford, where Raz lives, sometime next spring.

The duo, who met during a London to Paris cycling challenge, will be carrying all their own equipment and to lighten the load, have pared down their kit to the absolute minimum while allowing themselves just one luxury item each. Cat chose a mini coffee maker while Raz picked on-route entertainment through her handlebar-mounted music speaker.

The ride is likely to test their three-year friendship, but they believe they have the right formula to remain on good terms throughout the ten months they’ll be on the road. Raz said: “I am navigating and fortunately Catherine is very skilled at steering us through towns and cities so will be on the front of the tandem most of the time, but I will be taking a turn on the long straight roads. We’ll be biking along the longest straight road in the world in Australia – that’ll be my turn at the front.”

The biggest navigational challenge Raz faces is Cat’s difficulty with telling left from right. Raz said: “In training we’ve found the best thing is for me to tap Catherine’s shoulder to indicate which way to turn.”

Training for an 18,000-mile challenge was not easy. The pair spent weekends tackling back-to-back 100-mile bike rides but expect the first stage of the ride to provide the training for the rest of the journey. The pair are camping most nights and have scheduled just one day off a week.

As part of the world record attempt the pair must complete a minimum of 18,000 miles on the same bike so they have chosen a steel framed tandem, which although heavy, can be welded should it be damaged. It can also be dismantled for the three flights they are taking.

Cat added: “To meet the Guinness world record rules it can only be the two of us biking and we have to use the same bike. We are unsupported which means that we have to be self-sufficient, fending for ourselves.”

The two charities the women have chosen to support are close to their hearts. Raz has worked with the MND Association for 17 years, delivering the care to people with motor neurone disease. Cat said: “We feel really passionate about both the charities we are supporting. Oxfam’s work in support of women’s rights, enabling women and girls to get an education and have access to healthcare and to alleviate poverty, is inspiring. Oxfam supports people to support themselves which helps them longer term.”

To sponsor Catherine and Rachael’s fundraising efforts visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/tandemwow

Follow their progress around the world on social media and on their website:



Twitter @TandemWoW

Facebook – TandemWoW

Instagram TandemWoW

Message from India

Here is an excerpt from Cat and Raz's recent Facebook post, following their arrival in India...

August 27 - Day 60, Mumbai to south of Pen

Arrived in India with Alice in two boxes, (which was a relief as it was a manual check in at Tbilisi) and spent the evening reassembling her to an audience of the hotel staff and guests.

We decided to take a ferry out of Mumbai which meant we could see the gateway to India and some of the famous colonial buildings including Taj Mahal Palace, the scene of the terrible bombing a few years ago.

We got up early heading into the frenetic traffic. It was exhilarating so much colour, life and rubbish all existing together – somehow it just seems to work!

Four miles into the ride the gear cable snapped. We stopped and soon a crowd gathered. The brother-in-law of one of the spectators was a bike mechanic. We were escorted to Imperial Cycles and the bike mechanic was got out of bed! I don’t think he’d seen shimano shifters before so it took a while. Chai was brought in a plastic bag and we chatted to the mother of the mechanic who spoke good English.

We finally set off again passing all forms of life including the slum made famous in Slum Dog Millionaire.

We arrived at the ferry terminal and were told that there were no ferries. This would have meant cycling back the 20 miles we had come and then out of Mumbai through the outskirts. We decided to have lunch and consider options. We ended up in a very nice restaurant (above the budget) which was freezing as the air conditioning was on overdrive – but the food was great.

We worked out we could get a ferry a few miles up the road. We set off. We had people taking pictures and videoing us as we cycled along. People kept asking where we were from – and where we were going.

We got to the ferry and Alice was man handled on board (there was later a charge for this). We arrived across the water, setting off out of the towns and into paddy fields. It was raining off and on and we got caught in a massive downpour and rode down a street totally submerged in water.

The roads were a challenge; lots of gravel, craters and mud but we survived our first day stopping in a basic hotel on the Karakoram Highway.

India is amazing!