Vedangi Kulkarni (This photo has been downloaded from Vedangi’s website and is being used here for representation purpose only. No copyright violation intended)

A young Indian cyclist seeks to become the fastest woman to go around the world unsupported on a bicycle. She began her journey earlier today, July 17.

Vedangi Kulkarni has commenced her quest to be the fastest woman to circumnavigate the globe unsupported on a bicycle.

News of her upcoming project was in the media since last year. The expedition was slated to commence in June 2018. But owing to delay related to securing visas for some of the countries she would be passing through, the trip started only earlier today, July 17, 2018. Her father, Vivek Kulkarni, who is in Perth – the city that is the start and finish line of her circumnavigation – confirmed to this blog that Vedangi’s expedition has begun. “ She started her trip at midnight,” Vivek said.

As per information available on Vedangi’s website, her journey of 18,000 miles (approximately 29,000 kilometers) will be attempted in four stages. The first stage will see her cycling through Australia and New Zealand. The second stage will see her cycling across Alaska and Canada. The third stage spans Europe, Scandinavia, Russia and Mongolia. The fourth and last stage covers China and the trip back to where she started in Australia. Given the fact that all required visas cannot be applied for and obtained well in advance, the exact route of Vedangi’s expedition has to stay open to adjustments as her journey progresses.

Just before the start of expedition in Perth (Photo: courtesy Vivek Kulkarni)

According to Wikipedia, the rules governing records in circumnavigation by bicycle were changed in 2013. The rules require that the journey should be continuous and in one direction (east to west or west to east); the minimum distance ridden should be 18,000 miles and the total distance covered by rider and bicycle should exceed the length of the Equator. The clock does not stop for any waiting time; for transit flights, ferries and the duration of such transit en route. Going by the Internet, the record Vedangi seeks to improve upon is the one held by Italy’s Paola Gianotti. In 2014, aged 32 and fresh from losing her job, Paola cycled the distance – although not in consecutive stages – in 144 days. She broke Juliana Buhring’s 2012 record of 152 days.

Vedangi, 19, is currently a student at Bournemouth University, UK. She spent some part of her early childhood in Panvel (not far from Mumbai); later she attended Jnan Prabodhini school at Nigdi near Pune. Her family now resides in Kolhapur. The circumnavigation plan assumed shape sometime in September-October 2017, Vivek said. Vedangi’s circumnavigation attempt will take her across 14-15 countries, the final number depending on how the route is affected by visa availability. “ We have to be flexible as regards the route,” Vivek said. She plans to cover close to 200 miles every day. A film is being made on her journey. There will be a film crew meeting her at various points on the way.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai. This article is based on information available on Vedangi Kulkarni’s website, Wikipedia and conversation with her father.)