Lonely Planet Writer

Meet the woman who broke a world record circumnavigating the globe by bike

It’s hard to believe that some people’s lives aren’t the product of some writer’s overly active imagination, and that’s exactly the case with Juliana Buhring.

Juliana Buhring
Juliana Buhring Image by julianabuhring.com

At 34 Juliana Buhring is a Guinness World Record holder, the author of two books, an endurance athlete, a grieving partner, and a one-time member of a religious cult. The recent publication of her new book, “This Road I Ride”, has brought to the world her unbelievable story as it details her extraordinary circumnavigation of the world, as well as her complicated past and heart-breaking loss she experienced.

Juliana Buhring
Juliana Buhring Image by julianabuhring.com

In 2010 Juliana’s adventurer boyfriend, Hendri Coetzee, was killed by a crocodile while kayaking in the Lukuga River in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Distraught with grief Juliana went in search of a mission to give her life some meaning. She stumbled upon the idea of cycling the world after overhearing another grieving woman mention it at a funeral she attended and decided to do it, in spite of the fact that she was a novice cyclist. Starting in Naples on 23 July 2012, Juliana embarked on her great adventure with little to no experience with cross-country cycling or bikes.

After 18,000 miles, 152 days, four continents, 19 countries, 29 punctures, six mountains, one desert and a cyclone Juliana made the Guinness World Record as the fastest woman to ever circumnavigate the world! Speaking to BBC Woman’s Hour, she spoke about how the adventure came about, the places she cycled through, and the almost fatal experiences she endured. “I read books about men who’d cycled around the world, and thereby came upon the fact that no woman had done this yet,” she said.

Juliana is the world record holder as the fastest woman to circumnavigate the earth by bike
Juliana is the world record holder as the fastest woman to circumnavigate the earth by bike Image by julinabuhring.com

She started the tour with a highly unsuitable bike and soon found out she would have to change its parts continually, and the bike broke down repeatedly along her way. “New Zealand is a beautiful Island, but it’s buffeted terribly by winds in every direction, so I had some of the toughest wind I’ve ever experienced… to the point that I couldn’t even cycle and had to walk the bike,” she told WH, when asked about one of the toughest places she went to. She also mentioned ‘kamikaze magpies’ in Australia that attacked her! The place she described enjoying the most is Turkey, whose terrain and landscape she adored, as well as the cooking which she relished.

Born to a German mother and Welsh father, Juliana’s family travelled the world but also became involved with the Children of God religious sect. Elements of her leaving the sect (which forms the subject of her first book) come into “This Road I Ride”, as she explains she found a community of ex-sect members who shared her experience while on her travels. Juliana is an inspiration in being one of the few women to have carried out this type of trans-national trip by bike, and she continues to race now.