A fortnight ago I had no idea I’d be ticking “Guinness World Record holder” off my bucket list.
But as we rolled over the starting line, I was confident that a childhood dream of mine was within reach.
Just less than 33 minutes later, legs on fire, lungs burning, we pounded across the finish line with exhausted relief and certainty that we’d smashed the record by more than 10 minutes.
We’ve all got those friends who plan fun and wild shenanigans. For me, that’s Julian O’Shea – engineer, sustainability advocate and out-of-the-box adventurer with science at the heart of everything he does.
So when he asked if I wanted to get involved in a world record attempt, I knew I was in for a unique experience.
His pitch: break the record for the fastest 10km on a quadricycle, and he wanted to do it on World Bike Day.
For the uninitiated, a quadricycle is a four-wheel, pedal-powered vehicle. In our case, it was essentially two tandem bicycles bolted together to create a four-person contraption.
Our version is hefty, with no gears, and it handles like a fridge — not exactly a machine built for speed or manoeuvrability.
But that’s part of the charm for Julian, who affectionately calls it “clunky”.
“It’s a heavy bike, so a lot of the effort was actually keeping it on the track more than it was the pedalling.”
Shenanigans for change
Julian is no stranger to attempting, and achieving, Guinness World Records. He holds the record for the highest altitude skateboarding (with Sam Newstead, who joined us on the quadricycle alongside record-less Glen Anderson) and he equalled the record for the longest day (a whopping 49 hours).
It’s not all about gathering records, though – for Julian, it’s an opportunity to advocate for some important things.
“Cities are busy, they’re full, it’s really important that we have clean air, and as we fight climate change, finding more sustainable ways to move around is really important.”
For him, it’s also about transport for people who might have mobility issues.
“It’s so accessible, you don’t have to be able to cycle to be one of the team members.”
Which I took full advantage of a few times as my legs started to tire, stopping for a few seconds to gather strength while the others took the load.
When it comes to finding ways to spread the word about important causes, we’re in good company. There’s a long history of attempting Guinness World Records to help raise awareness for your cause.
In fact, a couple of days after Julian got in touch, Australian sailor Lisa Blair smashed the record for circumnavigating Antarctica solo, in order to bring attention to climate change and climate action.
It’s not even the first time our record had been used for a cause. We were taking it from Corinne Hutton from the UK charity Finding Your Feet, which supports those who have been affected by a life changing physical trauma.
A Guinness World Record can wear many hats
By setting the record on World Bicycle Day, Julian wanted to raise awareness about sustainable, carbon-free transport.
For him, pedal power is just part of the sustainable transport story – he’s also very keen on electric vehicles, but he puts his own unique twist on the idea.
In the past, Julian spearheaded SolarTuk — a solar powered tuktuk expedition that he drove across Australia, then around the world.
He’s even taken to the Yarra River in a kayak made from discarded plastic water bottles.
When it comes to the quadricycle, there’s a certain whimsy and humour. On a test ride the day before our attempt, Julian and I literally turned heads.
I chuckled when two people on electric scooters exclaimed that our transport was cool.
“People look at it, and they love it – the number of [bell] dings and smiles you get is incredible.”
When I ask Julian what’s next, he’s got another Guinness World Record in his sights.
“There’s a 12-hour quadricycling record we could try…”
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