Around the world motorcycle travellers – za bikers

The Guinness record for the most mileage by a round the world traveller is held by an Argentinian, Emilio Scotto, who over the course of ten years covered 500,000 miles (735,000 k’s). He rode through the Amazon, crossed both Americas (North twice), Europe (including Iceland), Russia, Mongolia, Asia, India, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and Africa. This included crossing the Sahara and traversing the West and East coasts. Congo, Zaire, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, in the rainy season! Ok guys and girls, what bike do you think Emilio rode? What appropriate bikes were around in 1996 when he set out from Agrentinia with 300 US dollars?

Africa Twin? BMW GS? Yamaha XT 600 Tenere? Ok, I’ll tell you, because if you don’t know you will never guess! It was a Honda Gold Wing 1100 Interstate. Photo credit: Sportmotor

In Emilio’s words, “She is my friend, my only travelling partner”. Laden with all his worldly possessions, literally! 4 gallons of fuel strapped on top of each pannier, and 5 gallon of water on the passenger seat, Emilio rode this 1100 pound behemoth everywhere over the course of 10 years. Deserts, swamps, ice and snow, he crossed them all. Kinda screws your bragging rights after riding your purpose built dually through Namibia doesn’t it?

Emilio is not alone in riding inappropriate bikes in inappropriate places. Nick Sanders is a good example. He rode an Enfield Bullet 61,200 k’s around the world. No big deal, he jumped on a Yamaha R1 and rode 32,070k’s in under 32 days. All in all, he has done 7 around the world bike trips (his first RTW trip was by bicycle) ‘Nuffsaid!’. Photo credit: Photo bucket

Seems fellows with the surname Sanders have a penchant for this sort of thing. Kevin Sanders holds the world record for a motorcycle circumnavigation. Alaska to Florida, across Canada, the USA, Europe, Turkey, Iran, Dubai, Australia, New Zealand, and back to America. All in 19 days 8 hours and 25 minutes! Holy cow! Sjaak Lucassen also favours sport bikes for world travel. He did RTW trips on a Honda Fireblade and a Yamaha R1. Photo credit: Motorcycle-diaries

Helgen Pederson put BMW’s venerable GS on the map by travelling across 77 countries over a ten-year period, doing about 400,000 k’s on his R80GS. John Gerber travelled 32,000 k’s on his Vespa Rally 180. Zoltan Zulkowsky and Gyula Bartha covered 170,000 k’s around the world on their Harley back in the day. The day was 1928 to be precise! Photo credit: Amid

Perhaps the best documented travelogue is that by Ted Simon. Ted, a journalist in London, chose a 500cc Triumph Twin as his means of adventure travel. When Ted decided to travel the world he felt the obvious mode of transport was a motorcycle, despite, not at that point owning a bike or possessing a bike licence. His book, “Jupiter’s Travels”, is a must read for any aspirant motorcycle traveller. Photo credit: Motorcycle-diaries

Four years and 126,000k’s later, Ted completed his journey. His account is not just about the bike, but also richly interwoven with the adventures and fluctuating emotions common to almost all long term travellers. He also factually documented the world as he saw it in 1974. The trip, undertaken at the age of 42 was hard yet exciting. Interestingly Ted undertook another trip at the age of 70, retracing his route from 1974. His views on how the world had changed over the span of 24 years is rather sobering to say the least. It certainly makes “Dreaming of Jupiter”, his account of his second trip, tantalizing reading. Photo credit: Motorcycle-diaries

“What if my bike breaks?” is certainly a thought in the back of every long distance riders mind. Ted’s bike ate its first set of pistons after 7,000k’s. Emilio Scotto by comparison had his one and only engine overhaul after an incredible 250,000 odd miles, despite putting his Wing through the most unspeakable torment. In Iceland it took him an hour to cover 150 metres. In the Congo he rode through mud holes big enough to swallow a truck, and Asia in monsoon season. It defies belief that a luxury tourer could survive even a tenth of what was thrown at it! It’s an incredible testimony to Honda build quality and reliability! Photo credit: Sportmotor

Perhaps I should end my telling you about another Guinness World Record holder, Dave Barr. Dave was a career soldier. Helicopter gunship gunner for the last two years of the Vietnam War. Joined the Israeli Defence Force and served for two years as a paratrooper. Seems this wasn’t enough adrenalin for this junkie as he then joined the Rhodesian light Infantry to fight communism in another form. At the end of hostilities he moved south and joined the SA Defence Force, where he served in 32 Battalion as gunner on the legendary Col. Jan Breytenbach’s jeep. Photo credit: Passion-Harley

Daves military career essentially ended when the vehicle hit a landmine. Pulled from the burning wreckage by Col. Jan, Dave lost both his legs. One just above and the other just below the knee. After a lengthy convalescence Dave returned to the States and, fitted with prosthetic limbs, jumped on his 1972 Harley Wide Glide and rode 133,575k’s around the world. He was first motorcyclist to traverse Siberia in the winter. In answer as to why in winter, Dave simply says, “Well, frostbite on my feet wasn’t a problem”. He subsequently rode an 883 Sportster to the four compass extremities of Australia for a second Guinness record. Photo credit: Passion-Harley