Coffee First, Then The World: Jenny Graham Interview

Scottish cyclist, public speaker, and television presenter Jenny Graham is a true legend of endurance sport. 

In 2018 she smashed the women’s record for cycling round the world on a bicycle, covering 18,000 miles solo and without a support vehicle in an astonishing 124 days and 11 hours, battling (in her own words), “exhaustion, the elements, traffic, and even a fear of bears”. 

Earlier this year she released Coffee First, Then The World - a book based on the audio diaries she kept on her epic journey. To celebrate its release, she went on a promotional tour from Bournemouth to Inverness with events at more than a dozen towns spanning the length of the UK - and, naturally, she travelled by bike! 

women of condor cycles holding chimney fire coffee bags

Thanks to our existing partnership with fellow Certified B Corp™ Alpkit, we helped with Jenny’s logistics and provided pre-ride coffee for participants in her community roll-outs. Our Community Manager Sam had the chance to ask her a few questions about herself, her incredible ride, and of course her coffee preferences…

CFC: Please can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to ride your bike round the world?

JG: I’m Jenny Graham, and I’m an endurance cyclist from the Highlands of Scotland. I got into cycling when I was about 24, when I came across a course at my local college that was an introduction to sports. It was there that I learned about mountain biking, cycling, and what was available in the Highlands. It progressed from there, and I started building up more hill and mountain skills. Before I knew it, I had merged the two and was taking my bike on adventures in the mountains up north. 

I guess I just became really curious about my capabilities on the bike, and how far I could ride - every time I did bigger rides it got me really excited. Eventually, it became the case of wondering how much further I could go - around the world was the ultimate challenge for finding that out. 

cyclists on country lane with mountains in background

CFC: What do you focus on on long rides - how do you manage your mindset?

JG: On long rides you need to have quite a few tools in your kit to keep your mind occupied. Sometimes I’m just really in the flow of it - the hours just pass by, and I couldn’t tell you where they went as I’m just so at one with it. Other times, I think through things about the future and the past - I find it’s a really good place to process the things that have happened or the ideas that I’m having. It gives me a lot of clarity, so I enjoy using the time for that. 

In terms of managing my mindset, if things aren’t going well on a ride and I’m not having a good time, if I need to then I’ll listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks. I’ll try and distract myself if I’m on a really hard ride, or it’s really bad weather, but I try not to do that unless I really have to. I bring myself back into the moment - just thinking about the next pedal stroke rather than the end of the ride - being a bit more mindful about my pedalling and why I’m doing it. 

Particularly since cycling around the world, I’ve been good at recognising the emotion I’m feeling, naming it, and being curious about why it’s coming up. It’s almost like a trick I play on myself - if I’m in a bad mood about something, then I pull it apart and analyse it so much that I almost forget I’m struggling. Because I’ve dissected it, it has become more manageable. Or if I can, I decide to go for coffee, eat, or sleep - I just check in with myself and see what it is I need. 

jenny graham drinking chimney fire coffee

CFC: Can you narrow it down to a favourite moment (or section) of the adventure?

JG: The best bit about it was leading a simple life for such a long period of time, not being weighed down with stuff and things to do, technology, or people. I just had this freedom of riding my bike, with nothing else to do that day but keep going forward. I find that very freeing, not carrying any luxury items - I needed so little to survive, which is lovely because when you live your everyday life it isn’t like that. 

In terms of external factors, there was a 48 hour period going through China on the last part of the journey across Asia, and it was a magical time. The scenery, the smells, the heat, the dusty roads, the culture, and of course my exhaustion… It was getting to the end of the first leg of my ride, and it felt like a monumental moment.

CFC: What about the worst moment or section?

The most terrifying bit was the roads in Russia - really busy, getting run off them all the time. That was the moment I questioned whether I could keep going, because it was so dangerous. There were some pretty low times in Australia too, with the weather in the dead of winter - it was really tough. 

CFC: You must have experienced many different types and preparations of coffee during the ride. Which stands out as the most memorable?

jenny graham talks with chimney fire coffee in the background

JG: Going through Russia there was some really bad coffee - cheap instant which was sugary, black, and bitter. That wasn’t much to look forward to, but I did discover in service stations what it felt like putting another espresso into your cappuccino from the machine - it was a little win! 

I remember the first coffee when I arrived in Australia. Having just come from Asia where language barriers were really difficult and all the food & drinks you are used to weren’t available, I got into the airport and ordered an oat flat white and a lemon drizzle cake. It was such a buzz just being able to order such a w***y coffee. Without language issues, you can just tell somebody what you’d like, and they can give it to you. 

CFC: What makes you tick off the bike?

JG: I absolutely love the outdoors, mountains especially - so I’m often up them. If it’s not on a bike I’ll go running or climbing, skiing or swimming. I love being in wild places at home, and also love hanging out with my family and friends - doing nice things with them, whether it’s picnics, going to see some music, or creating stuff. I’ve got some really creative friends that make jewellery and build things. I love spending time with them and making stuff. 

chimney fire coffee and cup and biscuits

CFC: How do you make your coffee at home?

JG: I have a two and a half cup cafetiere that I make when I get up in the morning… Actually it’s probably a three cup, but I feel better by saying it’s a two and half cup. I try not to have any more for the rest of the day - I get up quite early, so generally my coffee will be finished by 8am. I’m so wired after having three cups straight that I try not to drink more, but I don’t always succeed. 

CFC: How can people read or listen to your Coffee First, Then The World?

JG: You can buy Coffee First, Then The World online and at local independent bookshops, plus it’s available on Audible, Kindle, and on my website There are links to everything there, and on my Instagram!

All photos by the amazing Catherine Dunn 📸

chimney fire coffee sam and jenny graham

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