If you put 'adventure motorcycling' into an Amazon book search you might think the concept was invented by BMW; as the book covers featured are all illustrated with big RS models adorned with the requisite metal luggage. And wouldn't you know it, the people featured are all of the male gender.

Sand to the horizon
BMWs were of course the bike of choice for the much vaunted Boorman/McGregor outings. Further adding to the notion that a long distance trip across the planet cannot be undertaken without being astride a BM which you struggle to pick up. There is no doubt that the TV series that followed these rides raised the profile of motorcycling generally, and confirmed what many of us know; that it is possible to traverse the most challenging terrain with two wheels and an engine.

Adventure is within reach
Over the past ten years or so the whole market in motorcycle travel has grown extensively, and in line with air fares, is now within reach of people who are in work with disposable income. Specialist travel companies offer tour selections previously unheard of. Places as far away and 'exotic' as Peru, Africa, Nepal and Borneo, are now within reach. Book through the internet, pack your riding gear, the invaluable plastic currency, T shirts and underwear, and you're away.

A woodland idyll

These tours literally open up a world of riding possibilities to people who only have limited holiday time during the working year. Just like other 'package' tours, all is set up for a motorcyclist to get into the saddle, press the starter button and follow the guide. And you can choose rides that are as difficult or relaxed as you want them to be.

Of course motorcyclists have been striking out to explore lands unknown to them for many, many years. The UK magazine 'Overland' has a good historical section, and they have recorded the first round the world journey as being undertaken in 1912/13 by Carl Stearns Clancy and his companion. Walter Storey who set off on a pair of 934cc four in line cylinder Henderson machines of 7hp. Storey dropped out of the venture in Europe, but Clancy went on to complete 18,000 miles from New York to New York via Nth Africa, India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and Japan.

Have sidecar, will travel
They also detail a whole raft of travel undertaken by riders through the 1920's. Mainly on sidecar outfits. And it's worth a realisation check that all these travels and explorations were unsupported, and with none of the electronica and sophisticated luggage that is now considered 'essential' by many riders's

Beast of burden
Two's company
One of my favourite 'adventure' travel stories recounts the tale of two women, Theresa Wallach and Florence Blenkiron, who took off from central London in 1935 on a 500cc Panther sidecar outfit and towing a trailer. They travelled unsupported to Cape Town via the Sahara Desert, and the account is told from Wallach's diaries in a book called 'The Rugged Road' from Panther Publishing. The difficulties and tribulations they must have encountered would have required a lot of bravery and resilience, but it is narrated in the typically understated fashion that middle class British explorers adopt.

In the predominantly male focused motorcycle world women have to strive to be accepted on anything like an equal level. But in the world of adventure and round the world riding and travel they represent a good proportion of people who are and have been out there in the remotest parts of the globe riding and recounting their experiences through the internet.

Travel the world and the seven seas
Check out the website of the global travellers organisation Horizons Unlimited Here you'll not only be awed and inspired as to the exploits of a whole myriad of motorcyclists on the trails, tracks and dodgy roads of the hinterland. But will find posts from women riders who have ignored convention and are filling their lives with genuine adventure: Tiffany Coates on her Suzuki DR350, posting from Madagascar; Jo Rust aboard her BMW F650 Dakar travelling around Africa; and Sherri Jo Wilkins on her KTM690 on a round the world voyage. There's also another group of women travelling with their (male) partners, and more often than not on their own bikes.

Lois Pryce female motorcycle adventurer
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Lois Pryce; lone adventurer and author of several books about her exploits in Africa, Iran etc Jacqui Furneaux who has spent years riding her Royal Enfield through numerous countries and the latest woman from the UK to ride off into the 'unknown' Steph Jeavons who departed from the Ace Cafe on Sunday 23rd March on her 250cc Honda CRF attempting to become the first UK woman to ride all seven continents, including Antartica

UK Horizons Unlimited supporters organise an annual rally, and if you want to get a perspective on this type of motorcycle travel riding from a friendly bunch of information sharers who seem to build their whole existence around real adventure travel, get along to their UK event at Donnington Park from June 19th-22nd.

Generally the coterie of motorcycle travellers who form around Horizons Unlimited, those who contribute to 'Overland' magazine, and the redoubtable Austin Vince and his compatriots, tend towards the more utilitarian aspect of adventure travel. They make it work without spending a small fortune on accessories, specialist luggage and navigational paraphernalia.

Austin Vince and the Mondo Sahara team
Another commodity
But at the other end of the adventure travel spectrum, the opportunity to divest yourself of a whole bundle of money is perhaps best exampled by companies whose encyclopedic catalogues are inches thick, and stuffed with luggagery and gadgetery that you never knew you needed. The popularity graph of 'adventure' travel moving inexorably upwards presents the opportunity to transform a desire to strike out for the unknown into yet another commodity.

The life scientific
One bloke, Samuel Marcora, a Professor of Exercise Psychology at the University of Kent has even turned riding and exploring on a motorcycle into a scientific study. He was a member of a group taking part in a London to Beijing ride in 2013, and was sponsored by BMW Motorra d who provided his bike and riding gear. His brief was to quantify the physical and mental effects of adventure motorcycle riding.

Another Mondo man being adventurous
A bit like the equipment you didn't know you needed. Marcora posits an eight week aerobic exercise regime, based on evidence provided by the American College of Sports Medicine programme to get you into shape for adventure biking. Did you know that before your next trip you should use the Rockport Walking Test to measure your VO2max. This is concerned with measuring how much oxygen a person can consume in a minute, and linked to how much oxygen cardiovascular and respiratory systems can deliver to your muscles. The VO2max is calculated using this formula: VO2max (ml/kg/min) = 132.853 – (0.0769* weight) – (0.3877* age) + (6.315* gender) – (3.2649* walk time) – (0.1565* ending heart rate). Got that.

Good sense and experience
Yes I am being a little facetious here. Because reading the whole blog and research effort creates a (perhaps unnecessary) scientific exercise into what is basically about getting fit by riding your bike. Present this to the hundreds of enduro and moto cross riders who race throughout the year, and those who take off across continents, and they would more than likely laugh. My mates would anyway. They know about tiredness: take a rest. About hydration: it's going to be hot I'll need water. About timing: I should stay in this town/village for a couple of days and relax. It's all akin to good sense and experience. Life, the world and the universe is complicated enough. But if you are inclined towards the life scientific in your biking endeavours go to where you'll find a lot of information.

Exploration and movement are words that sum up human history, and could serve as a pithy description for motorcycling too. If you have an insatiable curiosity to seek out the unknown or unfamiliar. Get on your bike and go.

John Newman
for Wemoto News

Any experiences to share email us at or comment on twitter or Facebook
Posted by John Newman
for Wemoto News on 08 April 2014 in General News

Edited By: Lucy England



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