Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book Review: Adventure Motorcycling

Ted Simon, world-renowned motorcycle rider provides the foreword to Robert Wicks' extensive illustrated, very detailed but not overlong guide to the intricate world of Adventure Motorcycling and what one should consider and know before undertaking such a journey.

The reader's appetite is whetted by listing some of the big names of motorcycle adventure riders who've blazed the way for us as they circumnavigated the world.  Names such as Ted Simon, Helge Pedersen, and more recently Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman in their "Long Way Round" ride around the world on mighty BMW GS Motorcycles.

There's three sections to the book.  Section 1 takes you through the preparations and logistics you need to consider, do, prepare and plan for before you hit the wide open road.  The six main subsections deal with:

  1. Practicalities: Such as whether you'll ride solo or with a group, what routes to take, the budget and research.
  2. Choice of Motorcycle:  An extensive list of "suitable" motorcycles is presented to you with their specifications and you gauge the ride based on suggested criteria or Key Factors such as Budget, Range, Load Carrying Ability, Handling and Weight and others.  Being a Beemer guy, I never realized there was such a rich choice of motorcycles to choose from, but the book does show a lot of the BMW models.
  3.  Motorcycle Preparation:  What modifications/farkles are you going to add/need for the trip?  Types of tires are discussed, what type of fuel tanks should be considered, hard or soft luggage, and finally the logistics and shipping one's motorcycle when time is limited or there's an ocean between you and your destination.
  4. Gear:  Documents/Finances, clothing, spares and tools you might want to carry, how are you going to know your way, supplies, camping and cooking on the road.
  5. Riding Techniques: Training you should go through or consider, some details on techniques to try based on different terrains and finally, the pre-trip shakedown to make sure all is ready.
  6. Documentation:  Managing the plethora of paperwork required to cross many countries, Visas, Driving Permits, Carnets, Motorcycle Insurance & Green Cards, Personal Medical Insurance and of course, Money.  This section should give you pause and cause you to prior plan as paperwork takes time.  You can't really just show up at a border and ask to be let in, not that simple.
Section 2:  

On the Road
  1. Living on the Road: How to stay healthy: Common Ailments, Inoculations.
  2. Some safety considerations while on the road: General security, accidents, money, routines.
  3. Some things you should know about First Aid: List of things you need to know how to deal with.
  4. Knowing what to eat and drink, if its not something you brought along.
  5. Places to stay.
  6. What to do at border crossings: Tips, information and examples.
  7. Adapting to new countries and how they do things.
  8. Some notes for female riders:  Personal safety, dress codes, attitude, health issues.
  9. Some points on keeping in touch with family and friends while on the road: Communication means.
  1. Using a compass.  Really, you need to know.  GPS devices will fail.  
  2. Maps:  Can't really do a long trip without the proper maps, can you?  How to carry them, use them and read them.
  3. GPS: Technological terminlogies related to GPS and tips on how to use them.
Maintenance & Repairs: How to take care of your ride so you can survive the adventure together.
  1. Engine and Chassis: Control cables, coolant, mounting hardware, clutch plates....etc
  2. Electrical Systems: Terms, troubleshooting and maintenance.
  3. Fuel: Filters, the quality of gas you'll find and deal with.
  4. Air Filters: your engine needs air, know how to take care of the filter and replace it.
  5. Sprockets and Chains: Key maintenance!
  6. Suspension and Wheels.  Tire pressure, repairs of tube and tubeless tires.
  7. Emergencies: Basic survival information and some Essential Equipment is discussed.
Section 3:

Typical Adventures:

Three "typical" adventures are provided by the author of riders who've actually done the ride described.

The first being a Ride from England to the South of Morocco entailing two weeks in the fringes of the Sahara Desert.

The second adventure is by a group of eleven riders who ride from Cairo, Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa in about 35 days, wherein they cover 7800 miles, deal with multiple issues, repairs, injuries, sickness, even jail and apparently had a marvelous time of it.

The third and last adventure was still ongoing as the book went to publisher.  Two friends left England in March of 2006, riding around the world.  Talks about the two years they prepared for it and the three years + it would eventually take for them to do it

So, plenty of stuff to read but only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the research one must acquire and understand before doing the kind of adventure motorcycling described in this book.  Just the paperwork alone is seemingly daunting but the book guides your initial steps.  I found the book well thought out and it takes you through the different phases of the adventure quite smoothly.

I would regard this book as a good starting point for your research, it gives you pointers as to further places to look and learn while its richly illustrated contents fire up the inner urge in one to explore the world on a motorcycle!

This book is published by Haynes Publishing and is readily available from  If you end up getting this book, please mention you heard about it here!


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

You know my policy about always leaving a comment on your "Examiner" link when the opportunity to add to your reader demographic arises. (I am super-sensitive to that.)

However, I have an Amish connection to the internet these days, and shifting between URL's is like driving an English car, in England.

I read this clever, engaging, and compelling review on your Examiner site and got timed out twice, trying to figure out how to leave a comment. So I went to plan "B."

I like reading book reviews from a trusted source as it can save my hours in a book store. While it is unlikely I will do an adventure ride — with any stretch longer than 40 feet on gravel — I would stiull read this book, based on your assessment.

Spring is coming... Though it can be aegued that there is no real winter here on the Jersey Shore yet.

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

redlegsrides said...

Truly you are my most supportive reader Jack....thanks for trying to leave a comment on was probably their fault.

I bet, with the right gear and bike, we could do "The Silk Road" together one day...that would be quite the ride don't you think? You with the gift of writing, me with pictures ....we could do a book!


Roger said...

Charlie: Thanks for that, I am reading Ted Simons Book at the moment so it is timely. I have loved my adventure riding so far, but not sure I would have the balls to go along way, alone...but then I have been known to be wrong in the past.

Dan Diego said...

Solid review of a book I own and have read. Great job!

redlegsrides said...

Raftnn, given enough preparation and training, I believe even you and I could do it! Thanks for commenting.

Dan Diego, thanks for the feedback and kind words.

Unknown said...


Somes I dream that I am riding to South America, or to Europe, or through Russia. I dream of many places where I could ride my bike. So many people have done it alone but I am not mechanical enough to try it. With this book I could pretend I am getting ready for a ride of a lifetime

Riding the Wet Coast

PS: I tried to comment on Examiner, but I won't sign up for Facebook