18th March 2017 |

The other day in London I met Gianluca Renato, the marketing director of Pirelli, a very likeable, youngish man with an obviously acute intelligence. We met thanks to an introduction from a friend in Russia, who thought we might be able to help each other. Unfortunately, like too many people, he had never heard of me, and I had the uncomfortable job of having to explain myself.

“Well”, I said, “I rode a motorcycle round the world and wrote a book.”
But obviously that wasn’t enough.
“That was in 1973. I was on a Triumph. It took four years. The book was called ‘Jupiter’s Travels’. A lot of people have read it.”
So you were the first to go round the world?
“Well, no, not really. There were others, long before me, who made very long journeys . . .”
And that was when I started thinking, what does it actually mean to ride around the world?

When I first told Harry Evans, the editor of the Sunday Times, that I wanted to ride around the world I was thinking only of how to describe the journey, to make it understandable – saleable, if you like. The act of making a complete circle was not at all important to me personally. I just wanted to see as much of it as I could. But I needed to raise some money and if I was going to write a book – which was always my aim – then that label, that headline “Round the World” would be important. And so far as we knew, I’d be the first to do it.

Since those days in the early seventies the business of making and breaking records has grown with record-breaking speed. The Guinness thing has become a huge business. Everybody wants to swallow more eggs, jump over more buses, swat more flies, fly, float, drive, swim, climb, drop, skate, crawl further, faster, longer, than anyone else and get a certificate.

I wasn’t thinking about records when I travelled. It would have been easy, for example, to nip across a few borders here and there to rack up a few more countries but it didn’t occur to me because that wasn’t the point. But now, forty years later, I think if a record would sell more books, why not?

So did I create a record? If so, what would the record be? I rode a bike around the world, solo – one uninterrupted journey, on the same bike, and I rode it back to the point of departure. What’s the competition?
According to Wikipedia, in 1912 an American, Clancy Stearns, rode a Henderson, starting from Dublin in Ireland, and apparently ended his journey on the East coast of America. He’s credited with being the first man to go around the world with a motorcycle. But at the beginning he was accompanied by his partner Walter Storey, and of course he didn’t ride the bike back to where he started.
In 1928 two Hungarians, Zoltan Sulkowski and Gyula Bartha, started an eight-year journey through 39 countries – a fabulous journey, no doubt – but there were two of them.
Then there was the marvellous Bob Fulton, who began his journey in 1932 from London on a dare (well, actually, he was on a Douglas) and wrote a terrific book called One Man Caravan, but he finished up in New York which was not where he started from.
Then we come to the most serious competition I can find, which was Anne-France Dautheville who apparently went round the world in 1973, but the evidence is very sketchy and she seems to have started with a Motoguzzi to Afghanistan. She then went on with a Kawasaki 175 and there’s nothing about where she finished up. She’s said to be the first woman to ride solo around the world, and I’d love to meet her, but I’m doubtful that she’s Guinness Record material. Anyway, she’s a woman. Pah!

So, the big question is: Am I the first man to ride a motorcycle solo around the world, according to MY definition? And if so, will you buy my book? Somehow I don’t think so, because you’ve probably already read it.

But if you want to challenge my record, I’d really like to hear from you. Who else circled the globe?
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