What?! Family on Bikes Denied World Record

Written by Jenn

Three years ago when we were dreaming of travelling the world with our kids, I hit the internet to search for similar families living our dreams. I found Family on Bikes  and was captivated by their story. They’re a family of four – Nancy and John Vogel and their twin boys Daryl and Davy, who started biking along the Pan-American Highway in 2008 from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina – the southernmost tip of South America. The boys were 10 years old at the time. Their goal as a family was to complete the entire route on bikes and receive the Guinness World Record for the Youngest people to ever cycle the Americas. In March 2011, they accomplished their goal after cycling 17,300 miles through 15 countries, in nearly 3 years.

What an amazing accomplishment for any individual! Yet even more amazing is that their 13 year old boys cycled every mile with them, enduring in-grown toenails and the elements of wind and cold!

What impressed me the most was the empowering trust Nancy and John placed on their children.  By cycling side-by-side with their boys, they were giving them the message that they believed their sons were capable of accomplishing anything they put their minds to – by working hard, persevering, and keeping their eyes on the goal. I was deeply moved by this. Their living example inspired me (one who had helicopter parenting skills handed down from my parents, and who culturally was expected to live with them until I married) to look at my kids in a different way.

From personal experience, I knew what it was like to feel suppressed when I knew with a passion that I was ready and capable to do something “big”. My parents held me back, telling me it was too impossible, expensive, unworthy, crazy, or unsafe. As a result, I grew up anxious, uncertain, looking for approval from others instead of believing myself, and (as my husband teases me from time to time because I’m such a rule follower) square. They passed away when I was in my late 20’s; and although I understand their loving intentions for me and my life, I had always looked back on my younger years wondering what I could have accomplished if I had parents who supported and believed in me every step of the way.

The Vogels are the kind of empowering parents I want to be. They not only dreamed big with their kids, but they took their hands and showed them one pedal at a time. By their example, I felt empowered to place trust in my kids, believe in their capabilities, and not only tell them of their potential, but journey with them in their discoveries.

Bad News

I just read the disappointing news today that Guinness World Records (GWR) decided to deny their claim for the World Record of being the Youngest to Cycle the Americas. They were notified by email this month after following all the requirements that GWR gave them when they began their journey in 2008.

“Unfortunately, we at Guinness World Records, have decided to rest this record, meaning we have decided to no longer recognise the category as a record, due to the fact that the record would reach an age where a person would no longer be able to break it or attempt (i.e. a two-year old attempting to do it) and as it would become limited under these terms, we choose to to no longer recognise it as a category.

The achievement, however, is an amazing one and we hope you and your family enjoyed it.”

I can just imagine the disappointment the entire family is feeling after devoting 3 years of their lives working towards this dream. I like how Jennifer Miller from The Edventure Project  (personal friends of the Vogels) described it when she compared the whole affair to working towards a University degree. Imagine following every requirement asked of you, and then after accomplishing that, the University decides not to issue you your degree.

It doesn’t seem right does it?

Now, I know it’s just a piece of paper. The fact-of-the-matter is that the boys accomplished it, whether or not they get the official recognition from Guinness World Records.

But what would you do if you were their mother?

Just accept it and move on?

I know as a parent, I’d try to fight this. And that’s exactly what Nancy is doing.

This is Nancy’s response:

“This has been a tough decision to make, but I feel I have no choice. All along we’ve taught our sons that you have to fight for what you want – that lesson always came in the form of Mother Nature’s wrath or 15,000-ft passes before. Now it’s coming in taking on a huge corporation. But if I didn’t do this, what message would that give my boys?”

You know what? I admire what Nancy is doing for her boys and I support them in their attempts to reverse the world record denial.

So I am doing my part to help by writing this post and tweeting it, even though I’m not an avid (or very good) tweeter. I’m inviting you to do the same.

Here’s what you can do:

1)      Read about it – Go to the Family on Bikes site and read their posts. I liked what Davy had to say about it. There are other people who are supporting the Vogels and have written some great posts about it:

The Edventure Project

The Fearful Adventurer

Vagabond Family

Raising Miro on the Road of Life

Break out of Bushwick

Teach the Future

And in Nancy own words:

 2)      Blog about it – anybody who has a blog or knows anybody who has a blog, please do a quick write-up about this issue and it’s unfairness. I think we should be grandfathered in and then they should close the category. We understand the record the boys broke no longer exists; we would be happy with some sort of official recognition from Guinness – maybe a certificate stating that they met all the requirements as laid out in the guidelines they gave us? I would be happy to talk with bloggers, but most likely will not consent to interviews with the boys.

3)      Social media is powerful. When I got a letter from the director of Guinness World Records this morning he mentioned all the heat on Twitter, so I know it’s working. They have a facebook page (search Guinness World Records) and their Twitter account is @GWRnews Flood them with messages about this.

4)      Contact the press – if you have a good, trustworthy source. This is one of those stories that could easily go haywire and I don’t want it twisted every which way. If you know someone in radio/TV/newspaper/magazine media, please contact them. But – don’t just throw it out there for all the kooks to pick up.

5)      Sign a Petition – Please click on The Great Family Escape  and at the bottom of the page, click on the link to add your name on the petition.

Update: Please read GWR response here.


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7 Responses to What?! Family on Bikes Denied World Record

  1. intrepidtraveller says:

    What a fascinating and inspiring story! Thanks for sharing. I really hope they can get the decision over-turned and get their world record!

    • Hi Janet!
      Guinness World Records sent them a special certificate in the mail congratulating the boys of their accomplishments. However, the decision still stands that the category remain closed.

  2. I love Nancy’s response to all of this- she’s setting a great example for her boys of how to fight for what is right!

    I also write about the Vogel plight: http://breakoutofbushwick.org/?p=209

    I feel confident Guinness will bend under pressure.

  3. Pingback: Raising Miro on the Road of Life – Travel Podcast » Blog Archive » Family on Bikes – An Uphill Battle?

  4. louiselesley says:

    Surely that same rule denying them this record, could deny many others a record too. Like the “Young person to have research results posted” or “Youngest person to be appointed prime minster” or the very apt one “Youngest Tour de France winner”.

    If they deny this record for those reasons, shouldn’t they get rid of all categories where someone is the ‘youngest’ to do something – surely a two year old can neither research, ride a bike or become prime minister – so why are these still categories?

    • Hi Louise,
      You make a good point!
      GWR is taking off the “youngest” category for everything (as far as I know), because many young people attempt life endangering things, like trying to sail around the world by themselves, then encountering fatal/injurious problems. I can surely understand their thinking behind this, but instead of taking of out the Youngest category, they should perhaps put requirements on it if you’re a minor, like – must be accompanied with parents, especially the potentially dangerous endeavors like flying, sailing around the world.

      The Vogels started off in communication with GRW and both parties were aware of what they were trying to do. Their progress and route were documented and followed according to GRW requirements. PLUS, the boys were accompanied by their parents. So I think in this case they SHOULD get the official World Record for being the Youngest to cycle the entire length of the Americas.

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