At 19 years old, OE Tom Davies became the youngest person ever to cycle around the world. Averaging 100 miles per day for over six months, Tom rode solo all the way. His soon-to-be-released book, Emu Racing and Record Chasing, takes a humorous look at his experiences during the 18,000-mile journey and aims to inspire others to achieve their personal goals.
Tom wrote the book while studying for his degree and training hard for competitive cycling. He’s currently preparing for an Ironman later this year and is a competitive triathlete.
What are your best memories of Emanuel?
I think just being with friends every day. I’m still close with a lot of people I went to school with and I’d say that’s probably what I miss the most.
What activities did you get involved in at school? Were you always interested in sport?
I’ve always loved sport and I’d like to think I was fairly active at Emanuel. I started cycling out-of-school when I was about 15, but I played rugby for all of my school years – even if I don’t look like it now! I used to do a bit of running and swimming too. This is something I stopped as I moved out of middle school, but I’ve recently picked both of those up again in the last 6 months.
Did any particular teachers at Emanuel influence you?
I would say that all the teachers I had during my years in sixth form had a significant impact on me. Mr Ball and Mr Price in the DT department had a particular influence and the route I’ve chosen to go down with my degree (Product Design Engineering) furthers a lot of what I learnt with them. I would also say Mr McKerchar had a large influence on me from a sporting perspective.
Congratulations on being the youngest person ever to cycle around the world in 2015. What inspired you to take on this massive challenge in your gap year?
That’s one of the big questions and a main theme in my book… so I guess you’ll have to read it to find out!
What were some of the highlights and lowlights of your world cycle?
Experiencing new countries and cultures – for the most part – was definitely a highlight. India and Southeast Asia were incredible, even if they did pose a few more challenges with the cycling. There were quite a few lowlights if I’m being honest; getting chased by dogs was never fun – Albania was the worst for that.
All the teachers I had during my years in sixth form had a significant impact on me.
Did any of your family or friends accompany you on your trip?
No, I was on my own. My family occasionally came out to meet me when I reached an airport at the end of a leg, but I was riding solo.
How did you plan your route?
This was a fairly long process and my route was still changing even whilst I was riding. It was based around the guidelines Guinness World Records set out for cycling around the world. This meant I had to do 18,000 miles in one general direction (east) and travel through two opposite points on the globe.
Tom takes on the 90 mile straight - Australia's longest straight road
What did you learn from completing such a difficult challenge? Has it made you want to undertake new challenges?
I learnt a huge amount, and too much to cover in a short paragraph. Hopefully I’ve done a good job of elaborating on this in my book! I spent many hours on my own though, so I got very good at fighting off boredom.
I’ve taken on a number of challenges since then, but nothing quite on the same scale. Last summer I took part in a world record attempt with Rolls Royce; we broke the record for the most distance travelled in 12-hours in a pedal-powered boat… that was a strange day out!
I’m currently training for an Ironman later this year where I aim to be competitive.
Which country(ies) did you cycle through that you really wanted to revisit at a later date and why?
I’d love to go back to Croatia and New Zealand in summer – I travelled through both of them in their respective winter months. Because I was on a bike, I think I generally saw a different side to the countries I visited than I otherwise would have.
What made you decide to write a book about your experiences?
After writing a daily blog during my trip, a number of people asked me to follow it up with a book. I went back and forth on the idea for a while before I committed. I’m so glad I decided to go through with it. It’s been extremely rewarding but required a huge amount of work – especially when I was writing it around my degree and training for competitive cycling. It made for a very full-on 18 plus months.
The publishing process has also taken far longer than I expected. I actually finished the first draft over a year ago. It’s been a great experience though and there’s a lot I’ll take from it into my future endeavours.
Cycling around the world was a reasonably big challenge, but I’ve tried to put a humorous spin on my account of the journey; so I just hope that anyone who reads my book enjoys it. I try not to take myself too seriously!
What do you plan to do next?
My main focus is still competitive sport. I’m currently on a placement year so I’m working full-time at the moment too.
What’s something you might say to your former self if you came across yourself in the playground at Emanuel?
”Work harder – you’re in school anyway, so you may as well put some effort in”. Not that I slacked off in school, but writing this book around my degree and my training has shown me how hard I can work. I’ve always been good at pushing myself from a sporting perspective, but it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve learnt to apply that work ethic to other areas of my life… my former self would probably tell me to shut up.
Tom's book, 'Emu Racing & Record Chasing - A Teenager's Ride Around the World', will be published on 28th March 2019.