Jack Wills: You’re about to set the Guinness World Record for circumnavigating the world by tandem. How does that feel?
George: Gratifying. It’s been almost 3 years in the making and there have certainly been times where it looked like we wouldn’t start, let alone finish, but in the end I think the record will come second to the experiences and memories. You certainly learn a lot about yourself when you push yourself out of your comfort zone every day. Guinness is very meticulous with its records, so we’ve got a lot of paperwork to look forward to on our return before we get the certificate!
John: It’s difficult to pinpoint one emotion right now; it’s been such a long time in the making and we’ve both put so much work into the project over the past 3 years. A feeling of relief is certainly present but I’m really proud of what we’ve (nearly) achieved. Not many people can say they’ve cycled around the world and to have put in a competitive time is great.
JW: What made you decide to attempt this record?
G: Jeez, like most people I wanted to travel but then I reckon several evenings in the pub during our third year at Uni, combined with a desire to avoid grad schemes, had an influence in us choosing such a ridiculous way of travelling the world.
J: It was born out of a desire to avoid the desk and it really was just a small idea that got ridiculously out of hand! It’s one of those things that I’m just so glad we went through with and put in the hard work in to make it happen. At so many stages we could have just bailed and done something easier or quit altogether. This trip is proof that with hard work and determination, anything is possible.
JW: What charities are you supporting and why?
G: We’re supporting 3 charities, one local, one national and one international.
Porchlight – a local charity in Canterbury where we both went to university. It deals with homelessness, which is an issue that is very apparent in the city. We often passed and spoke to many of the folk who live on the streets of Canterbury and who are helped by Porchlight so we were really keen to do our bit for the charity.
Great Ormond Street Hospital – our national charity. Both my sister and a good friend of ours went to the hospital when they were younger; my family has always supported the hospital, so it was natural choice.
WaterAid – our international charity; 3 billion people don’t have access to clean water and as our record is dependent on what we take for granted, we felt we should try everything we can to help.
J: The charity element of the trip has been unbelievably rewarding. To see our friends, family, people we meet and even complete strangers donating to three amazing charities on our behalf… Boy, it keeps you going on those tough days!
JW: What has been the most challenging part of the experience?
G: There have been a few. One that stands out was a night soaked through sleeping in the trolley shelter of an Austrian supermarket; the rain was so hard we couldn’t see and there was no place better than getting under the trolleys and trying to nap. I reckon I got 45 minutes sleep that night.
J: Probably the most challenging aspect of the trip has been maintaining a solid friendship throughout. A trip like this, where you spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week together, literally in each other’s pockets, would put a strain on any relationship. Same tent or hotel room, same food, same bike! It’s all about just staying focused on the task ahead and making sure we looked after ourselves when it came to food and sleep. When either of those are lacking is when we both get grouchy.
JW: What has been the highlight of the trip so far?
G: Finishing the Nullarbor (a big stretch of Aussie Outback as long as the UK), rolling into the first town we’d seen in 700 miles and finding out it was Melbourne Cup day (the Aussie equivalent of the Grand National). All the shops were closed but the bar was open, meaning we HAD to enjoy a well earned beer!
J: Finishing the Nullarbor was a great day, but finishing our Australian leg in Brisbane has to be up there too. After 7 weeks of solid cycling and nearly 4,000 miles in a single country we had finally conquered the beast. We’d experienced all four seasons in that crossing too. Oz threw everything it had at us… and we survived! We also then had New Zealand’s South Island to look forward to, which was epic.
JW: When did you both first start working at Jack and what were your roles here?
G: I started at Jack Wills Canterbury in my second year of University whilst I was studying Physics. I was a temp for Xmas ’12. Those were the days. Then I was upgraded to Sales Assistant and never looked back.
J: I started at Jack Canterbury as a Sales Assistant in my first year of uni back in 2012 and then transferred back to my home store in Burnham Market in Norfolk for summers and Christmas breaks throughout the next three years.
JW: What is the one memory of Jack that you look back on most fondly?
G: Anyone who has worked the shops at Jack will have fond memories of changeover, pizza, spooking each other in the shop windows and hours dressing mannequins, not to mention the folding. The one night we all loved to dread, but secretly craved to work.
J: Changeover was always good craic, but I loved some of the student shopping nights we used to put on in Canterbury. We’d get a DJ down from the SU, close the store for an hour to set up, then re-open with a big table of beers and wine and the queues would be out the door!
JW: What does the future hold for the Tandem Men? More record attempts or retiring the Lycra and saddle?
G: My Lycra will be hung up for a while, at least until the saddle sores heal, anyway! I’d love to start my own business so I guess we’ll just have to watch this space…
J: The tandem will be going into retirement but I’m hoping the sores heal up pretty quick cause I’m keen to jump straight back on the bike. There are a couple of ultra-distance, solo, unsupported races I’d love to have a crack at. Namely, the Transcontinental: a single stage, unsupported bicycle race across Europe (usually from northern France or Belgium all the way to Greece or Turkey). After that, who knows? There’s a big world left out there to cycle and explore, as well as some solo world records that I think are very beatable. Let’s just say, I’m not eyeing up a desk job anytime soon…