Nearly every motorcyclist at some time or another dreams of travelling around the world on their bike. My dream started around 15 years ago after a few half-hearted attempts at travelling around France. Since then I promised my self every winter that the next year would be that year, I was going!
Life is a bitch! There was always something cropping up to stop me, ranging from being too busy, kids, nobody to do it with and no money. Never mind there was always next year…
Since 1984 there has been a group of us doing quite a bit of foreign riding, mainly to Le Mans in France and Assen in Holland. Sometimes there were 14 of us, some times only 2, but usually it was just two of us who made the effort. Me and my good friend Ian Wright. Ian was a police officer who I had met when I was doing my duties as a special constable and liked to travel fast on a bike, well actually very, very fast!
Not much chance of this in the UK anymore with all these Gatso cameras so he was always happy for a trip abroad to blow off the cobwebs. So, after returning from a very fast jaunt around most of Western Europe in the summer of 2000 we decided on two things: 1, if we continue riding at these silly speeds (I have a ZX12R and Ian a ZX9R) we will most likely kill ourselves. 2, we needed to travel further afield, not least because our warrant cards were wearing a bit thin with those normally quite happy Gendarmes. There is only so much you can get away with on a bike. Hence, my round the world trip once again was brought up. Ian was up for it and told me to get on with it and tell him when it was sorted!. That will be his police training I expect!!
So with nothing more than a loose plan we approached our good friend, Geoff Selvidge, the main man at Kawasaki motors UK. This was November 2000 at the NEC bike show and to be honest I think Geoff was just happy to get away from the same boring old questions that he was normally bombarded with at these types of shows to spend half an hour with us. We asked him for two KLR650s to do the job and he agreed at once seeming quite bemused at the idea.
Amazed at how easy it was we continued to look around the show and returned to the Kawasaki stand just before closing to once again thank Geoff. Now it might be my age or possibly all those free drinks that you get on Trade day at the show or maybe even that girl with the G-string on the Streetfighters stand but somehow before I knew what was happening we were now going around the world on two W650 twins!! What happened to the KLRs? Geoff reckoned that the W650 would be much more suited, more romantic just like Ted Simons wrote about in "JUPITERS TRAVELS" in the seventies.
That was a 650 twin as well. Yeah right Geoff!!!! There was about ten minutes before chucking out time so I dragged Ian back to the BMW stand to check out an 850GS. This was what I really had in mind, Paris to Dakar tackle this was. "But Dave, we have to go on a Kawasaki" said Ian.
The drive back home was strangely quiet, normally we are raving about the new front ends and the great back ends and eventually we even talk about the bikes as well!!. It was obvious to me that Ian was in deep thought. Then just outside Stoke-on-Trent, Ian blurted out "what a bloody good idea". What?" I replied. "Well it's got two cylinders". Ian is clever like that, he has O-levels you know!!!!. "And your point is?" I asked. "Well if one packs up we still have a spare one to get us home". I stayed quiet for the rest of the journey home.
Weeks and months passed and I tried to get my head around the idea of traveling around the world on a W650. The pros and cons list was pretty even and I had to admit I was actually warming to the idea. Up to this point I had only sat on one of these bikes and not actually ridden one, but I knew a man who had, one of our customers in the states. He had travelled up to Alaska on one and was very impressed with it. Only two faults he said: handle bars too high and seat to hard. He bought a low-bar conversion kit from us and fitted a Corbin seat and pronounced it perfect!
I felt better now and Ian was already mad for it so I contacted the new kid on the block at Kawasaki UK, Martin Lambert. He heads the sales and marketing department at KMUK and he was to have the final word on the proceedings. Normally this job attracts a strange type of person, all suits and units with no regards to the actual bikes that they are selling but Martin is different. He still is strange of course, he owns up to riding and owning quite a few Kawasaki triples, nuff said! Anyway, Martin clears it and tells us the bikes will be ready to pick up sometime in May. Better get my arse in gear me thinks.
Although we had not shouted it from the roof tops, word was out about two nutters going around the world on W650`s and soon we were getting e-mail, letters and phone calls asking us to explain more. The first question was always the same, "why W650`s?". Followed by how and when?
Motorcycle News got involved and from then on it steam rolled into the biggest thing in my life. I thought about nothing else for months!A good friend of mine for many years, John Pownhall, asked us if he and a friend could tag along with us just for the ride. I told him no problem and I would see him at the docks on the day of departure. Sounded good to me, safety in numbers and all that. He agreed but then asked what arrangements we had made for this trip of a lifetime. I told him my rough plan and watched the colour drain from his face!
John is a master craftsman, his forte is wood. He would quite happily spend weeks whittling a piece of 2x2 down to a work of art and not sleep until it was perfect. I worry about John! His friend, however, Gary fits windows - 'nuff said!.
I could tell John was not impressed by my casual approach to the whole affair so I tried to appease him with words like "compass"`, "maps", "insurance". Not sure if it worked but the next thing I know he was trying to buy a new bike for the trip, so the MARSDEN bullshit must have worked!
Some people say that I am the most laid back, easy-going guy they have ever had the misfortune to meet. I don't agree in over planning because I am a strong believer in Sods Law. I normally take it a day at a time making it up as I go along. I see this as a plus point always ready and up for the next catastrophe!. However John had got me thinking, perhaps I needed to sit down and think this through.
The plan was simple, due to business and family commitments we were going to do the trip in four separate journeys. We had thought of doing the usual round the centre of the world trip and even going for the world record set by Nick Sanders, around 31 days I think, but we decided that this would be too much like our normal banzai trips abroad watching the world go by at 180 mph!
So instead we decided to visit as many different countries as possible. First up, starting in early August 2001 is Western Europe taking in North Africa and up to Scandinavia and then back to the UK. I have many customers in these countries so we had plenty of shower stops to call in on!.
Second up was Australia, New Zealand and Japan. We plan on shipping the bikes by sea to Oz and flying out just after Christmas to meet them. The third journey would involve shipping the bikes from Oz or Japan to Mexico while we returned to the UK once again flying out a month later to meet up with them. We would then ride them around South America up to Alaska and back down to New York where they would be shipped back to the UK. Forth journey would have us catching the Trans-Siberian train into mid Russia and then riding over the tops into Asia. Sounded pretty straight forward to me, what could possibly go wrong?
Did I say earlier how life can be a bitch?. Before I knew it I was on first name basis with the foreign office. Visa's, injections (my arm is like a dart board!), insurance, carnets, breakdown cover, the list went on and on. We only wanted to ride a bike around the world but it seem that everybody wanted to stop us from doing it.