When I first rode a motorbike, thirty odd years ago, biking was a primitive activity and every trip could turn into some kind of adventure. I wore a rubberised, quilted onesie and a helmet with the polystyrene interior partially excavated to accommodate my brow ridge.
Those mail-order Frank Thomas boots and two weeks of wispy stubble made me look like Ogri at the back of Bike magazine – I felt sure. Adventure travel was something that only bearded SAS veterans with a dog sled and a taste for raw blubber undertook. I felt heroic if my clipped-on 350 LC and I managed to make it through 15 miles of Aberdeen rush hour without becoming lost, upended or arrested. I thought it important to be able to flat-foot the machine, but in fact it was so small that I could get my knee down easily. Actually, I could get both knees down… at once… when parked. Riding all the way to St Andrews was like a trip to the Moon (in some ways it still is).
Thankfully, there were braver souls in search of more distant adventures. Ted Simon probably started it all when he combined riding inter-continentally with writing about what it felt like to be a lone, two-wheeled traveller. I told him last year that his description of red skin beetles had put me right off South America. He looked at me with genuine pity.
Now, as I’m back on two wheels, I find that adventure motorcycling has grown up. You have to be pretty motivated just to get a licence and it’s common for people to have a bike that is bigger than their car. Activities get documented compulsively on Insta or YouTube and the routes are less likely to be immaculately virgin territory. We’ve seen the Ewan and Charley roadshow take the long way everywhere and prove that people are generally friendly at every point of the compass.
Perhaps the biggest change is GPS – we now have the ability to get efficiently to the McDonald’s in Ulaan Bataar…
[Ed] Tune in here to follow the continuing misadventures of Doctor Sprocket.