If you’re up to date on cycling world records, then the name Kajsa Tylen might ring a few bells. The 40-year-old business owner turned distance cyclist smashes world records; she also advocates for better exercise habits among adults. Tylen, who also climbed mount Kilimanjaro and completed the Ironman triathlon twice, cemented her name as one of the top female distance cyclists in the world.
Tylen, who only entered the world of cycling two years ago, recently set the world record for furthest distance cycled in a year by a female cyclist, surpassing Billie Fleming 29,603-mile record from 1938 —and she didn’t stop there. Tylen wanted to not just beat the world record, but to dominate it. Though the journey began with riding across the UK, she continued her cycling through Sweden, Finland, and Germany. She ended her “year in the saddle” (as she likes to call it) after racking up an astounding 32,326 miles of riding.
Previous record-holder, Billie Fleming in 1938
Tylen’s Specialized Ruby Comp was notably outfitted with the Redshift Sports Switch Aero System, comprised of quick-release aerobars and a dual-position seatpost. This unique setup allowed her to vary her riding position between a normal road setup and an aero position using aerobars which is important when racking up so many miles. When she battled through turbulent weather, illness, and physical pain, she never worried about her positioning — which allowed her to focus more of her energy on conquering the world record.
We had the honor of asking the business savvy, world-record breaker a few questions about the ambitious year-long adventure. Here’s our discussion:
What made you decide to take on such a huge challenge?
I had got into cycling through triathlon and came across the story of Billie Fleming, who set the record back in 1938. Her story really inspired me, and I’d loved reading about Guinness World Records since I was a child, so I decided to find out if they’d ratify the attempt should I take it on, which they agreed to. It was, of course, a massive decision that I didn’t take lightly, and I made lists and lists of what I would need, how much it would cost, and then I started executing the plan that I’d come up with.
Did you have an extensive cycling or sports background?
I don’t have a particularly sporty background (other than horseback riding up to my late teens) and I didn’t start properly exercising until I was 26, when I took up kickboxing, which I absolutely loved. When I eventually got sick of being hit in the face, I dropped martial arts and took up running. But my real taste for challenge came when I first did a bungee jump (despite being terrified of heights) and then climbing Kilimanjaro, which was a lot tougher than I’d expected. After I came off the mountain, I had a bit of a void and a friend suggested I take on triathlon, which seemed like a good idea, as I already ran and I knew (or thought) I was a decent swimmer.
How did the switch aero system help with your record?
It gave me more position options, which helped with comfort over long distances. I would use the hoods, the drops and the aero bars in rotation to make sure I didn't seize up!
Why did you decide to buy a switch aero system?
I had bought it to use for Ironman, which I did twice, and I just found it a great system that I didn't want to do without!
What preparation did you do both mental and physical?
I just went out there and did hours in the saddle, whatever the weather. I think if you want something enough, you’re a lot tougher than you think, and so I didn’t really need to do that much mentally other than keeping a positive mind. That turned out to be a bit trickier than initially thought as I had quite a lot of criticism before I’d even started, with people posting on cycling forums that they didn’t think I’d succeed. I just had to remember that they didn’t know me and that whatever happened, as long as I didn’t let myself down by giving up, that was the most important thing.
What was the best part of the experience?
Probably the support I received and realising how what I was doing affected others and motivated them to get out there as well. It was a side effect that I wasn’t really expecting when I first decided to take the record on.
How did the whole experience differ from what you were expecting?
To be honest, I didn’t really have any expectations, as I knew there was no way I’d know what it was going to be like on a daily basis, so I decided just to go with the flow and see what happened. I did have a lot of issues with saddles, as well as with leg fatigue, and although I’d been expecting something, I didn’t realise how much a bit of discomfort can make over a longer period of time.
What equipment did you use?
• Bike: Specialized Ruby Comp 2015, groupset Shimano 105
• Wheels: Hope hubs, Mavic rims, Specialized Armadillo tyres; Specialized inner tubes
• Bags: Top tube bag and saddle bag from Apidura
• Saddle: the amazing Infinity Bike Seat
• Shorts: Chapeau! Classic Bib shorts
• Helmet: Kask
• Rain jacket: Haglof hiking jacket
• Gloves: various – Specialized fingerless gloves, mainly.
Support Kajsa on her mission to get more adults exercising and creating new, universal standards of fitness to set an example for the next generation. Kajsa truly believes that cycling, and exercise in general makes the world a more fruitful place. To learn more about her mission, check out this link to her personal blog, or contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org — she’s also on Facebook and Twitter. Big thanks to Kajsa for speaking with us, and so much respect!