Most people have in their memories, images of Shackleton`s ship The Endurance, wedged in the jaws of Antarctic ice or Hilary and Tensin`s grinning, burnt complexions descending in triumph, but what about names like Carl Stevens Clancy, stanley Glanfield, Avis & Effie Hotchkiss, or Ted Simon, Dan Walsh. These names, with images of bent handlebars buried in deserts, rusty paint cracked panniers smothering machines and ancient brown bomber jackets are only wedged in the memories and research of motorcycle obsessed minorities. They deserve their names & stories stuck in the vaults of hero`s. Forerunners in the world of " Adventure Motorcycling" without whom i doubt i personally would`ve had the belly to do this FXPedition. It looks like the first round the world by motorcycle was in 1913. Carl Stevens Clancy, an American, rode his Henderson motorcycle 19,000 miles though Europe, North Africa, Asia, Japan, west coast States onto East coast States. (a similar henderson in the photo)
This must have been pure endurance and a great advertisment for the Henderson company, proving the machines ruggedness and reliability. Imagine it though, feeling every internal organ shaking pot hole, on terribly maintained roads (if there was any maintenance), no machanics in every town, hardly any fuel stops and basic clothing unsuited for the ever changing climate. These Bikes were not fast either, you couldn`t just blast out parts of the route at an average 80mph. There is some history of a mother and daughter team, Avis and Effie Hotchkiss riding their sidecar outfit the whole length of the States, undirectly covering 5000miles, in 1915, how they must have been looked at with judgmental eyes. We jump to 1928 now. Stanley Glanfield devoured 18,000 miles and 4 continents in just 8 months. He was riding a Rudge Whitworth combination, with a "wapping great" 3.5 horse powered single cylinder motor. How did the locals in the far Mesopotamian mountains see and behold a grumbling, rumbling sidecar outfit with a wide eyed lonely Englishman, "what - oh"-ing it up & grinning at them ??. Not long after this Mad Dogman, along rode Another Young North American. Robert Edison Fulton Jr. 1932 to be exact. He rode a huge 40,000 miles in 18 months on a Douglas T6 twin, which going by a rare photograph ( i can`t show) started to actually take the appearance of a modern bike and not look like a victorian Hobby horse. By this time it looks like they had started to get to grips with the bike travel stuff, because the bike was modified with a larger fuel tank, room for his luggage, including a movie camera and 14,000 feet of film, also enough space for clothing and a sneaky place for his gun (wonder if he used it ?). In later years the bike travel bug spread, bikes became more accesible to the average person, like everything else and the stories were spreading, which inspired people to bite the bullet and get out there. Elspeth Beard, a fearless young English woman of 24 years went out to eat up 48,000 miles on a BMW. Then of course you have Ted Simon, who in the early seventies took his triumph out there for 4 years, subsequently writing the book Jupiters Travels, an honest, exciting, insighful coverage of his adventures. A book loved by all , including anti- motorcycling, couch lords. Then theres Dan Walsh. A riding writer, lost in the wilds, that appears in the UK`s BIKE magazine, from time to time. A definate inspiration, finding comical, sometimes dark and insightful situations. I think most of us search Bike mag every month hoping that Dan has managed to fill some pages with that colourful, rich & dangerous prose of his. Unlike a lot of adventurers these handful of characters went in search of stuff other than glory, that i am sure of, which makes my hat go out further to them. My hat comes off again to go out to all the invisble ones who over the years and now, also ride across, war torn lands, beauracratic walls, dangerous jungles, over populated unknown cities and general life threaten situations everyday in search of something other than the usual mundane nothingness. What is it about motorcycling that gets in the blood forever ?
There is definatly a strong bond amongst motorcyclist, no matter what kind of riding they are involved in, whether its blasting around as fast as possible, lording it up outside the local cafe or riding as far as possible chasing something inside, we all make time for each other and instantly become more than aquaintances, listening easily to each of our stories. I learnt of this bond when i was 16, bone shaking around on a Yamaha FSIE 50cc rascal, which had a habit of falling apart each time i parked up somewhere. On a winters night my little FSIE decided to fall apart once more, which left me with my head in my hands screaming obsenities at a broken gear lever, when a loud bass rumbling machine came up the street (a washed out kawasaki Z1000, carrying two oil faced, older than me urchins, with tattoed cobwebs on their necks. I thought this was my time to die, until these gentlemen spent half an hour out of their precious terrorising to help me out & fix the bike until i could ride off once more. Some say its the freedom a bike brings, some say it clears a cluttered mind, some say its as close to being part of the earth around them, feeling the temperature drop in the woods, then feeling the sunshine the other side. A famous quote : "Driving a car is like watching a film, but riding a bike is like being in a film". I do know that during a long ride the mind goes to other places, sometimes shockingly profound places that gets forgotten that night around the dinner table. The risks are massive, and we all know this. Maybe thats where the bond is. Knowing the risks brings an acute sense and vision of things. Reading the road and expecting the worse. Knowing what that nut case in the rickerty truck, with the family of pigs on the roof is going to head straight for you expecting you to ride off the road out of HIS way. Everything and all of it is Fun, even when your buttocks are killing you and the Darker than usual storm is following you everywhere until you are soaked beyond the bone. On top of this i think that riding into everywhere on my trip will get me noticed more so than any other means of transport, which will get the message of Fragile X out there on a wider scope. Down sides to Motorcycle travel ? There isn`t any !
A date is settled. I leave the fluffy safety of England on 3rd August. (Lee, you know it makes sense !)