During her research, Buhring realised, to her astonishment, no woman had done the circumnavigation record by bike.
She thought: “How can that be possible in this day and age that a woman hasn’t done it?’”
Juliana’s thinking was: if she made it, great, and if she did it in a good time, even better. However, it wasn’t an easy ride. After waiting in vain for a sponsor she ended up having to go the ‘wrong way’ around the world, into a headwind, to avoid the monsoon rains.
The ride took her across Australia’s Nullabor desert, literally translated as “no trees”. With water every 200-300 miles she had to carry a lot, and then pay $10 for a single bottle of water.
“It is literally 1000km of nothing, not even a single tree, just ankle high shrubs and nothing. One straight road as far as you can see. You feel like you’re not moving, you keep pedalling and nothing changes. It’s endless.”
Buhring’s refusal to give up, no matter what, is somewhere between extreme asceticism and superhuman endurance, with a strength she attributes to her upbringing.
“I grew up in a Christian fundamentalist cult, and my parents signed me off to the group from the time I was a toddler, so I was just property of the group and shipped around all over Asia and Africa. It’s probably why I’m very independent now.”
Perhaps it’s where her ability to withstand suffering comes from, too. The book tells a harrowing tale of her survival in the face of abuse, and speaks volumes of Buhring’s incredible personal strength, which she exhibits in eye-watering feats on the road.
Three months before the inaugural Trans Am, the race across America in June 2014, she cracked a rib when someone stepped out in front of her bike. She continued to train through painkillers.
During the race Buhring rode for ten days across mountains with the saddle right down on the seat post after the seat post bracket failed. She cycled most days on only two hours’ sleep, and for the final 800km, 36 hour sprint, she didn’t sleep at all. She ran out of food with 200 miles to go and rode the final 100 miles in agony with a pinched nerve, resting one leg on the saddle and pedalling with the other. After the race she boarded her return flight in a wheelchair as she could no longer walk. She came in fourth overall in a field of all men, completing the 4,322 mile race in 20 days and 23 hours.
Her mantra, which she repeats, is “just keep pedalling”.
“I could not live with myself if I quit at that point. When you’ve done so well and gone so far and suffered through so much pain, it would be redundant to just stop then.”
Despite her height – almost six foot, a disadvantage, especially for climbing where weight is absolutely key – nonetheless Buhring is still beating a lot of the men who enter these events, and she gets stronger and faster each year.
She says ultra-endurance cycling is 50% in the mind, and that’s where her advantage lays.
“In endurance cycling, the reason I’ve done so well is because most people give up after a certain pain point. I just keep going, I have a really high tolerance for pain, and I feel the need to just push through where a lot of people would have finished a long time ago.”
She says the solitude is another reason many people give up, something she relishes.
“I love being alone on the bike, that’s my best time. I thrive on solitude… it just appeals to me. Once I get on the bike I become another being, I just lose all sense of identity and even of sex – as in being feminine – I just become an animal, and I just go, it’s like a horse smelling that finish line.