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Thursday, April 18, 2024
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T32 World Record: 13 countries in (less than) one day

Thierry Sarasyn has broken the world record ‘number of countries in one day’. On Saturday 18 June, he rode from the Czech Republic to Belgium and visited 11 other countries along the way.

The Belgian journalist rode through the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium. It took him less than 20 hours to cover those 13 countries. This raises the question of why he didn’t visit 14 countries. After all, you can ride to the Netherlands from any point in Belgium in less than 4 hours. “Because I rode into Belgium before midnight, I set this record on the same day,” he explains. “I still had four hours and fifteen minutes left to ride to Holland and make it 14. But my aim was to break the recognised record of Italian Valerio Boni, not to set a record that cannot be broken again. To do that, I think you have to do 15. That was no longer feasible. On the other hand, with the lessons I learned along the way, I am sure it is possible to do 15 countries in a day. I was also tired and I didn’t think it was necessary to take this risk to reach 14. The record was mine once I reached Luxembourg.”

“I’ve been driving in Austria far too long. I think it took me about eight hours to get through. Damned big country though.”

Preparation is key

To ride through more than a dozen countries in 24 hours, you need to be well prepared. Plotting the route was one of the essential parts. Still, Sarasyn smiles when talking about the preparation. “If it is true that good preparation is half the battle, I would have ended up somewhere between six and seven countries,” he laughs. “In the months before the record attempt, I was incredibly busy with work. Physical preparation was out of the question, as was setting up the bike properly.

The MV Agusta is an excellent sport-touring bike, but in this test the touring part is more important than the sporting qualities. No doubt some bikes are more comfortable than this Italian beauty. So it was a matter of making the seat a bit more comfortable and add more wind protection. “Just one day before leaving, I found the time to go and get a raiser for the windshield at a shop nearby. With the opportunities I have as a motorcycle media editor, I could even have made a comparison test between twenty of these things. But time was lacking. At the eleventh hour, I also ordered a gel seat and even a pair of gel pants. The latter I simply forgot at home in the frenzy before my departure. Just to say: the preparation could have been slightly better.” (laughs)

The perfect route? 

And I could have done with some more rest. I was tired before I left. And then to drive the route in the opposite direction to the starting point requires quite some effort. You’re on the road three days in a row for about 10 hours. Normally there should have been a rest day between the arrival in the Czech Republic and the departure. I eventually dropped this option because heavy local thunderstorms were predicted in the Alps. So, I started the record attempt without resting in temperatures that rose to 40°C.. Smart? Well, this is open to debate…”.

The route, on the other hand, was well thought out. Earlier ideas to start from Greece and use the patchwork of countries in the Balkan, were eventually discarded. Sarasyn also decided not to follow the route taken by the Italian who set the record last year, but to take another route that runs roughly from east to west Europe. This is the direction taken by more motorcyclists who want to do many countries in one day. And there is another advantage: the sun rises earlier in the east and sets later in the West. Which made for an extra half hour of daylight.

“If you want a record that is recognised, you have to do more than drive it and say you did it. You have to be able to prove it in black and white and remove any doubt.”

Most countries ever?

There is also the question whether in the past there haven’t been other bikers who visited more than thirteen countries. “I suppose so,” says Thierry Sarasyn, “but none of what I find on the internet or in the media is documented by today’s standards. I found 15 countries in “just over 24 hours”. That is not within 24 hours. Or 14. Even 16. But all of these things are difficult to verify. I have no reason to doubt it, but if you want a record that is recognised, you have to do more than ride like hell, collect petrol receipts and say you did it. You just have to show beyond any doubt that you have been to those countries.

“Sixteen is even possible – if they ever officially recognize Disneyland as a country.”

After all, you don’t fill up in every country you visit, so those receipts don’t mean anything. That’s why I used a official tracking system by Legendstracking. This system is also used to record the performances of ultra runners and triathletes. The entire route and the time it took are recorded in detail. Everything is checked by a bailiff and on that basis the national motorcycle federation recognised the record. That is the best I could do and this was based on Valerio Boni’s recognised record from last year. And we took the officialising one step further. So the story made the press worldwide. I have focused on what is generally accepted as the record and broken it.

Safety first?

Safety was important in this world record attempt. Sarasyn clarifies: “I obeyed the traffic rules as much as possible. And I also rested at least every two hours. That was not always to refuel. As the journey progressed, I even started to rest more often. Just to keep it safe. I only averaged over 87 km per hour. If you ride like a madman and rest less often, that average could be a lot higher. 1750 km in just under 20 hours… this is more an achievement in perseverance and endurance than in speed. And that is what this was all about. Setting up a 21st century version of the Canonball run didn’t interest me. I don’t look anything like Burt Reynolds, anyway…”


Mentally and physical

The big word is out. Perseverance. “I think that is one of the essentials to bring this type of challenge to a successful conclusion. On the other hand, you don’t have much choice. What is the alternative? Stopping on a Swiss Alp? And then what? But, yes, it is quite hard. First I felt some pain in the neck, halfway through I felt something everywhere and the last few hours there was not a spot on my body that didn’t hurt. Even changing my riding position was painful. And despite the use of good earplugs, my ears still buzzed for days as if I stood too close to the speakers at a Guns n’ Roses concert.

“Those last hours were tough. Also mentally, because you suddenly feel very alone. Not illogical, because you are indeed alone. I sang ‘Turn the page’ by Metallica in my helmet about a hundred times and when that also started to get to me, I switched to ‘Another 45 miles’ by Golden Earring. But I didn’t know the lyrics to that one very well. If you can only repeat two sentences, you go completely crazy. So I went back to Metallica.”


“This wasn’t exactly cheap. Although the speeding fines were lower than expected. “Before I left, some on social media wished me lots of traffic checks. I made it a point of honour not to get caught. And also because being stopped not only costs money, but also a lot of time. For the rest, I used about 130 litres of fuel for the trip and about the same amount to drive to the Czech Republic in three days. Add to that overnight stays, motorway tolls, food, drink, a gel saddle that didn’t help much, the gel trousers that were still at home, some accessories to make the MV more travel-friendly, two GPS holders, the tracking systems … it wasn’t cheap. Neither was it error-free.”

“I spent way too much time in Austria. I think it took me about eight hours to get through. It’s a big country though, but I had chosen secondary roads in Austria, which didn’t work out very well. Heavy traffic and traffic jams made it even more difficult and, as the icing on the cake, the navigation also failed a couple of times and I missed an exit once. In Slovenia I had to queue for 20 minutes before I could fill up. And in Hungary, two pumps I stopped at simply ran out of fuel. When I finally did find one, as a foreigner I had to pay more than 50 per cent more for my fuel. All these things cost time. But it is part of the adventure.”

Just do it (again)?

“The things I learned along the way and the experience I gained have convinced me that with better preparation I can do 15 countries. And it will be less difficult than these 13. Starting in Poland and driving on to the Netherlands will be enough. Sixteen is even possible if they ever officially recognise Disneyland as a country… The question is whether I want to do this again at all. I suspect that the attention generated last year by Valerio Boni and now by me again, will ensure that other attempts will soon follow. And that’s a good thing. If anyone is feeling that Top Gun  need for speed… I wish you a lot of success, Maverick!”

How about those tyres?

In terms of mileage with the Bridgestone T32, meanwhile, things are looking up. We drove to Gijon to do the Ruta De La Plata, did over 1000 km on the Ruta, then drove from the Netherlands to the Czech Republic and returned 2000 km. In total there are already more than 6000 km on the tyre and it is still in good condition. We still have to think whether we are going to do another day at the Estoril racetrack with it and that drag race in Glemseck or not. We’ll let our track guy, none other than Jeremy McWilliams, decide.”


The 13

  1. Czech Republic – Lanzhot
  2. Slovakia
  3. Hungary
  4. Croatia
  5. Slovenia
  6. Italy
  7. Austria
  8. Liechtenstein
  9. Switzerland
  10. France
  11. Germany
  12. Luxembourg
  13. Belgium – Arlon


19 hours 43 minutes

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