Travel agents - Overland and Adventure Day at the Ace Cafe
Adventure means different things to different people. MCM went along to the annual Overland and Adventure Day to meet some two-wheeled travellers...
ADVENTURE/DUAL PURPOSE touring bikes have never had it so good: sales are strong, the market is expanding and it seems all the manufacturers boast a go-anywhere, do anything machine – just take a look at the Triumph Explorer and Honda Crosstourer in this month’s issue.
Perhaps Ewan and Charley started it all with their televised endeavours, bringing adventure riding to the mainstream. But of course, the concept of travelling big distances on a motorbike started long before that; Ted Simon riding his Triumph around the world in the Seventies, and for anyone having read India: The Shimmering Dream, a Puch being ridden from Europe to India way back in 1933 by two Austrian friends, Max Reisch and Herbert Tichy.
So the concept of adventure riding is nothing new. The only difference now is it has become big business, and there’s a clear image of what is an adventure bike and what constitutes an ‘adventure’. You must have the right bike, the right clothing, the right accessories and of course the right intentions of one day taking off around the world.
Adventure motorcycling is very much becoming a lifestyle choice, but there is still plenty of individuality, of which there was clear evidence at the annual Overland and Adventure Day, held at the Ace Cafe one sunny but cold Sunday in February.
There were perhaps 500 bikes, some of them BMW and KTMs, but also Transalps and V-Stroms, some home-made brews and even half a dozen Honda C90s. Some of the Cubs had been ridden to the Elephant Rally in Germany, others were heading to the Sahara for charity, others to the darkest corners of Wales mid-winter. A real mix of bikes then, and it was in the car park of the Ace Cafe in London the riders intermingled, with vastly different approaches to adventure, vastly different budgets and ambitions, but one clear and common goal – they were going to ride their machines as far as they would possibly take them.
The most remarkable story of the day came from the pair of Korean girls.
These two, just turned 30 and barely speaking any English, had not long since ridden a pair of 150cc scooters all the way from Korea, through Russia, Siberia, Kazakhstan et al, and were now resting up over winter, saving some money for their journey ahead, possibly to Greece and Italy, though maybe down through Africa as well.
Another rider with cruel intentions was Bruce Smart, a police officer who plans on riding his Suzuki GSX-R750 through more than 70 countries over 18 months, covering 100,000 miles in the process in order to complete a pact he agreed with his mother on her deathbed. He had promised he would go out and see the world, and hopes to raise £1 million for charity en-route.
Of course, not everyone had such wild ambitions. Some simply planned on venturing into Europe for the first time, others up to Scotland, while more than a few had enjoyed their adventure years before and were now content to simply stand in the company of those who still had it all to chase.
The biggest hurdle for many it seemed was simply finding the time and confidence.
Others had partners, mortgages and other commitments they couldn’t just leave behind. But if they could, they spoke of heading east and not stopping until they came full circle. Many conceded that would never happen and they had to make the most of any spare time they got. This it seemed, was the reality of ‘adventure motorcycling’ for most people, finding a compromise and snatching the time when they could afford to, on whatever bike they happened to be riding at the time.
My relevance to all this is that I rode a 105cc Honda CT110 the 23,000 miles from Sydney to London, a story that’s been serialised in MCM. In many ways then I sit at the opposite extreme of the GS crowd, though I remain adamant there’s no best way to do these things, and that people choose whatever machine is most suitable for them.
To me, there is no such thing as an ‘adventure bike’. All bikes are capable of adventure. It’s the rider that gives them that. In fact, as I type this, a Cornish lad named Ed March is riding another one of those C90s back from Malaysia with a shopping basket on the front to carry all his gear in. You can follow him at www.c90adventures.co.uk
But if anything, the overriding message that came out of my day at the Ace is you don’t need to ride around the world for months or years to have an adventure. People had been on one simply making their way down to the Ace that morning, and no doubt braving the cold winds on the way back up to Liverpool or Scarborough or wherever else they’d come from.
Perhaps too much fuss is made about adventure riding, too many marketing messages and public speakers espousing the benefits of jacking in your job and taking to the road.
As someone who lived on the road for nine months and enjoyed all the pros and cons, it’s nice to hear of people taking off for a few weeks then having something to return to. Of course, to them it’s not long enough. But deep down, I sensed they were glad to have an excuse to turn back once they’d had enough. At least that’s the impression I got – it’s nice to dream. But it’s also nice to live with a sense of reality as well.
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• Next issue on sale: January 16, 2015