The youngest person to ride around the world... during a pandemic
Although still being verified by Guinness World Records, Jack Groves is the youngest person to ride around the world on a motorcycle. At just 22, Jack finished his studies and set out to break the record on the gap year of a lifetime, despite having only an A2 licence and had most of his riding experience on a Herald 125 which hadn’t seen the streets since he started university.
“The idea was to do a motorcycle trip,” Jack explains. “I wasn’t sure what form it would take, but then I saw Kane Avellano’s article in MCN in 2017. It was the first time I’d heard of the record and I guess it just struck me as being something really cool and different.
“I did the math in my head and worked out if I left after studying, then… bar nothing happening like a global pandemic… I’d get back a year earlier than Kane.
Related articles on MCN
“But stuff hit the fan and suddenly it was weeks difference rather than years. It was always about the ride, but towards the end, I needed a cherry on this cake. It had been a pretty mucked up cake, so it deserved a cherry.”
Jack started his world record attempt on July 11, 2019, but the trip was off to a shaky start, as Jack flipped over the Himalayan’s handlebars and ended up in hospital on the way to Dover. But after a quick check over with road rash and no broken bones, he shook off the nerves and kept onward to Europe.
“I spent a few days in France and rode into Germany along the Alps and through Bavaria with some amazing riding. Then I went through Austria and Slovenia and the back roads were stunning. Then I rode all the way down the Balkans into Greece.”
From Greece, the journey took Jack through Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and then crossed the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan before riding Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and the Pamir Highway.
Jack says, “that’s the best adventure off-road riding of the two years. I then picked up a tour guide in China and travelled to Laos, Thailand and into Malaysia.”
In Australia, Jack was met with wildfires that were ravishing the country.
“There were days where I’d stop in a sweaty, horrible mess. I bought a two-litre bottle of water, walked outside and just emptied it on myself.”
Despite the heat, Jack and the Enfield made it across the Nullarbor and reached a smoke-filled Sydney which was almost his finishing point. But instead, Jack shipped his bike to Argentina to carry on the journey.
“You started to hear COVID cases being recorded in South America. I got to La Paz in Bolivia, and it was clear borders were about to close.
“Everyone was looking at social media and different embassies, information was pumping out and it was a bit of a Chinese rumour mill. On March 14 2020, I got up in the morning and there was a fevered atmosphere in La Paz. Everyone was tense and there was something going on, we knew stuff was about to change.
“I wasn’t going to risk getting stuck in Bolivia, so I made a dash for the border to Peru that morning, and it shut that evening.”
Jack made a beeline for the capital before the lockdown, and after declining evacuation flights then waiting as a Peruvian pilot refused to take the last infected British passengers, Jack spent nine months in Cusco and even learned Spanish.
When more freedom came, Jack experienced a visit to Machu Picchu without the crowds, then was finally able to leave the country on Christmas Day.
He made his way up to Mexico before shipping the bike to Spain, still desperate to achieve the record he set out to claim. And although he had another lengthy wait caused by the blockage of the Suez Canal, his dad joined him, and they completed the last leg home together with only a few weeks to spare.
But after being in the UK for just over six months, Jack is already thinking about his next adventure.
“I didn’t do Africa or the Road of Bones. I’d like to do Siberia, Mongolia… There’s lots I’d like to do.
“It would be really nice to show people who are riding 125s, or aren’t even riding, that it doesn’t have to be a massive effort to go and have an adventure.”
Jack’s big moments
Stacking it on day one
Stacking it on day one was a turning point. I had to make a call whether I carried on or packed it in. After getting out the hospital, for better or for worse, I carried on.
The Gates of hell in Turkmenistan
I was riding through sand at night and suddenly there was a fiery glow. I rode up to it, and the heat hit me in the face. This kid asks if I want a cold beer from a coolbox, then the Mongol Rally guys turn up. I bought more beers and we all got smashed together and swapped stories from the road.
Manu National Park
I went to Manu National Park because I became a local in Peru and people told me about it. Manu was where the Spanish conquistadors looked for the lost City of Gold. It is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, you can drink fresh juice off the tree and parrots eat their bananas next to you – and the road is incredible.
As restrictions eased, I was lucky enough to be one of the first people on the Inca Trail, first on the train, and first into Machu Picchu, and I walked around with nobody there. It was completely empty, so that just stands out as being amazing and a moment of vindication for my choice to stay.