To assume it’s just a book for cyclists is to miss the point.
Although if you are a cyclist, you need to read it and re-calibrate your understanding of the word ‘tough’. You’ll also learn a lot, even if it’s only “F*ck me I wouldn’t do that!”.
But to think only cyclists would be interested in reading Jenny Graham’s account of her record breaking pedal around the world would be like assuming only polar explorers would read Aspley Cherry-Gerrard.
‘Coffee First, then the World’ is a true adventure story, in the company of someone who is prepared to push themselves much further than most human beings.
Jenny has told me her story twice before, once in a short film for BBC Scotland’s Adventure Show and once in a newly updated podcast for Always Another Adventure. Yet I still devoured this book in two sittings.
It was 2018 when Jenny took almost three weeks off the 144 day record, clocking 124 days. The Guinness World Records team draws a distinction between a male and female record, but not between supported and unsupported. So at one extreme you have Mark Beaumont’s fully supported record (78 days, 14 hours and 40 minutes) for which he had a support team with motorhomes and bikes waiting for him when he stepped off each aircraft.
At the other you have Jenny, solo, unsupported and determinedly alone. She only used facilities (bike shops, hotels etc) that were available to any other cyclist. No special treatment was allowed under her ethic. Even to the extent of not permitting her friend Lee, who’d come out to visit, to translate a Spanish menu for her. As a result she ended up with a platter of raw fish.
Jenny’s public persona is bubbly and smiley. So when she stands up in public to recount the brutal physical attrition of trying to ride her bike for fifteen hours a day to clock up over two hundred miles, I get the impression she naturally makes light of it. She seems to turn it into a laugh, instinctively minimising her suffering.
In her book she’s shockingly forthright. She bravely chronicles, not only her forward progress, but her downward physical and mental decline. Of course, this being Jenny, she even manages to turn this into a laugh; passages involving kangaroos and grizzly bears (obviously not at the same time!) are as hilarious as they are scary.
If you remain unconvinced, listen to my podcast with her. She has a speaking tour through April and May 2023 with dates on her website. Oh, and buy her book. It’s a best seller you know…