Year Record Rider Kajsa Tylen: There seems to be this culture of 'we can’t', I say we can - Total Women's Cycling

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Year Record Rider Kajsa Tylen: There seems to be this culture of ‘we can’t’, I say we can

Inspirational record attempt rider is asking people to pledge to complete their own challenges

For many of us, Monday January 4 was the first day returning to routine after a couple of weeks of freedom and festive celebrations. However, for one woman, it was the fourth day of her incredible challenge.

This year Kajsa Tylen will try to set a new world record for most miles cycled in a year, one that has stood unbeaten for 70 years, since Billie Fleming cycled 29,603 miles in 1938 on an old three speed bike. Whilst she’s at at, she’s encouraging people all over the world to make their own “sweat pledges”.

Image: Kajsa Tylén

The 39-year old business analyst and small business owner Tylen needs to cycle 31,069 miles (50,000 kilometres) in total, or nearly one-and-a-half times around the equator, to beat the record. She hopes to ride 100 miles per day – that’s 6.5-8 hours in the saddle day in, day out, for 365 days, if all goes well.

With months of preparation and training behind her, I chatted to Tylen just before she set off. I found her sitting in her Nottingham home with “at least 19” separate lists of tasks to be completed throughout her challenge, no matter how tired she might be. There’s the post-ride checklists reminding her to do everything from charging her three Garmins – she’s taking no chances with possible equipment failure for that world record – and doing her stretching and core exercises, to lists reminding her to clean the fish tank and cancel the milk on those weeks she won’t be home at all.

“Today I have been pretty calm, but yesterday I was a little bit terrified!”

“I keep reminding myself I don’t need to do everything for the entire year by the 1 January”, Tylen tells TWC in a whirlwind of final preparations. “I just need to pick out the important bits before Friday and do them.”

So how does she feel about 2016, now it’s so close? “It comes and goes in waves – today I have been pretty calm, but yesterday I was a little bit terrified!”

“I just don’t know how my body’s going to react to it day after day after day, I won’t know how it’s going to stack up. I think that’s what’s scaring me: not knowing how it’s going to affect it. But really it’s just riding a bike, so in that sense it shouldn’t be scary!”

Each day she’ll need to carefully log her ride, account for any stops as well as using witness logs and GPS data to provide to Guinness. To beat the W0rld Record Tylen needs to ride 85 miles per day, but she is hoping to build up a buffer in case of injury or illness.

“I would like to I think 100 is a nice round number to target initially,” she says.

Targets are a theme for Tylen. At 26 she decided she should be exercising, but realised she hated the gym. She discovered kickboxing, and the joy of working towards a goal – in that case a belt grading (she achieved a black belt) – before she moved on to a series of other target-based challenges, from climbing Kilimanjaro to completing an Ironman triathlon.

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The triathlon brought its own challenges. She says: “I thought: ‘I can ride a bike, how difficult can it be?’ It turns out it’s quite different on a road bike, I fell off a few times.”

“I thought: ‘I can ride a bike, how difficult can it be?’ It turns out it’s quite different on a road bike, I fell off a few times.”

Nonetheless she has been doing triathlons ever since – which isn’t long, only a couple of years.

With friends in training

Having realised the transformative power exercise and achieving a goal had on her life, Tylen is now keen to encourage others to get fit, so rather than donations for charity for her year record attempt, she’s asking for people’s “sweat pledges”. These are promises that people will undertake their own challenges in 2016.

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This seems appropriate as Billie Fleming, too, used her record to promote healthy living, often giving talks after a day’s ride on the health benefits of cycling.

“There just seems to be this culture that says that we can’t do things. People say ‘I can’t possibly do that’ and I think: ‘Yes you can, you have just chosen not to do it’.”

Tylen says: “It has given me so much, setting myself a goal and achieving it. There just seems to be this culture that says that we can’t do things. People say ‘I can’t possibly do that’ and I think: ‘Yes you can, you have just chosen not to do it’.”

“It would be great to get people realising that they can do it. If I can help people realise that, it would be great. I have people saying they have started cycling or just getting fitter generally because of what I’m doing. That’s an amazing feeling. It has just captured people’s imaginations, the way it did with me the whole [World] record”.

The sweat pledges will keep Tylen going through the inevitable tough times as she’ll be out on the bike no matter the weather, no matter how tired she is.

Despite the inevitable nerves, however, Tylen says she’s confident about her ability to keep going when it’s tough. So how will she do it?

“I have learned this from the Ironman – trying to just live so much in the moment that you forget what’s been or what’s coming but just thinking: ‘what am I doing right now?’ Well, I’m cycling. Can I keep doing that? Yes I can. You just keep doing that every second and before you know it you get to where you’re going. Unless it’s really hurting you can keep going.”

Even, apparently, with Jingle Bells playing on repeat in her head for two hours, as happened on a recent ride.

Kajsa won’t be alone, however. Her retired mum (who was busy planning upcoming meals as we spoke) will act as soigneur –she’ll follow Tylen with a caravan, provide breakfasts, lunches – Tylen says “I’m not good at eating and drinking on the bike” – snacks and dinners to help provide the thousands of extra calories she’ll need each day.

The pair will travel around the UK and Europe and each day, according to the Guinness rules, they must start from the same place the previous day’s ride ended. Towards summer they will cycle to the north of Sweden (where Tylen was born) for the shortest day, riding through France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.

Tylen set off from Nottingham on New Year’s day, and is asking people to join her on her rides and keep her company – her routes are planned here. Other ways you can help, from making a sweat pledge, to offering sponsorship, to a caravan pitch, are listed here.

More inspiring stories: 

“Women Can’t Ride the Tour de France”? This Lady Did it Twice – for her Father

Interview with UCI World Hour Record Holder Molly Shaffer Van Houweling

Eat Sleep Cycle: Anna Hughes Tells Us What It’s Like to Cycle the Coast of Britain

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