‘I’ve been planning on riding to the North Pole’
head of his appearance at the MCN London Show, the Dutch adventurer reveals what made him lap the world on a FireBlade
What was your first bike?
I grew up on a farm where I could have had a horse if I wanted one. But I never did, I just wanted a motorcycle. My dad said I could have one but would have to buy my own. So when I was 11 I worked for a guy for several weeks; labouring, tending his cows and garden. My payment was his old Vespa. I couldn’t even touch the floor so when I fell off my dad had to pick me up. But I covered about 50,000 miles on that thing.
How did you go from a Vespa ona farm to travelling?
Once I got older I started touring Europe, but it just wasn’t enough, motorcycle vacations were never long enough. So I bought a FireBlade in 1992 and shipped it to Australia. I rode around covering nearly 24,000 miles. Four months later I returned home with the bike and then went backpacking through Indonesia. I loved the travel but missed my wheels. Travelling without the bike wasn’t for me and that was the point I knew I was addicted.
‘Then I read a Blade brochure…’
Travelling on a FireBlade though?
I love that bike so it makes sense to travel on it. I had a CBR1000F and I remember reading through a brochure on the FireBlade. After reading it I just ordered one, I hadn’t even seen one before. So many people said it was a strange choice of bike to travel on. People couldn’t understand it, and they couldn’t understand why I would ride my brand new Blade off-road. But I just took the bike I loved and went for it.
Did you say off-road?
A sportsbike can get through pretty much anything. I remember meeting three guys in Kenya who had Yamaha Ténérés. We all had to get through deep sticky mud and only one Ténéré and my Blade could get through because of the wide rear tyre. I’ve ridden my sportsbikes through so many conditions. The R1 works beautifully in the Sahara too – just let your pressures down to 0.5 bar rear and 0.8 at the front and you’re good to go.
So what was next for you?
Immediately after returning from Indonesia I planned a round-the-world trip and left one year later. I rode for three years and covered 100,000 miles. Then in 2001 I rode my Yamaha R1 around the world too, that took five years and five months, around 156,000 miles and I visited 75 countries.
Modified Yamaha R1
‘My last ride was on the Polar ice’
Must be time for a little break then?
I love being on bikes, I’ve spent roughly a decade of my life on the road and I can’t see myself stopping. For quite some time I’ve been doing a lot of winter rides. And since the ’90s I’ve been planning on riding to the North Pole. My last ride was on the Polar ice, north of Alaska. I rode my modified R1 from the most northern point – Point Barrow – over the polar ice to Dead Horse and then down to Florida. I did that to gather more experience because I want to eventually go to the North Pole. I learned on that trip that I need to build a new bike with an R1 as the donor machine.
Catch more of Sjaak and his new book Life on 2 Wheels at the Carole Nash MCN London Motorcycle Show, Feb 12-14. For more information and for tickets, click here.