I have a growing addiction to adventure motorcycle riding, the sport/pass time of taking your motorcycle on a long journey where the roads turn rough and the large populations of urban area give way to the more desolate and scenic back drops of remote parts of the world. My fascination began when I watched the series The Long Way Round, in which Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor ride their BMW GS bikes around the world. After doing some research I found that one of the inspirations for this journey was a book called Jupiter’s Travels by Ted Simon (who also makes a cameo in the documentary).
So after I finished with the series I quickly picked up Simon’s book and read it cover to cover. The differences between the two trips were so immense that they are almost incomparable. Simon traveled around the world for nearly four years and covered all the major Continents. What is even more impressive is that he did it in the mid-1970s amidst much political upheaval all over the world riding a less than reliable (by modern standards)Triumph Tiger named Jupiter. The 500cc bike does prove to be pretty durable given the excruciating tasks it’s put through, but as Simon quickly finds out his four year adventure over deserts, mountains and oceans takes its toll on the machine. Several times he has to rebuild the motor on the side of the road or have parts sent in to completely overhaul the bike. Electrical gremlins rear their head and he seems to be constantly battling the problem of how to store his gear properly. With a heavily loaded motorbike Simon also finds out that control, particularly on rough roads isn’t easy, and after several spills he also figures out that he has to completely unpack his bike in order to upright it. Add to that the fact that he has constant trouble with border crossings, theft, weather and the local police and it makes for a pretty entertaining story.
Nearly 30 years later Simon is still riding motorcycles all over the world.
Simon, a British journalist, was able to capture his adventure quite compellingly. Although arrogant and out of touch at times he was able to justify his emotions and actions nicely and give the impression that indeed this was a real adventure not some made up piece of fiction. Seeing him deal with culture shock, and give in to the temptation to stay in nice hotels instead of rough it, where things that upset me at first. But as I thought back on the time I spent traveling I realized that if I had enough money I would have opted for luxury as well. While the tales of the bike braking down, and the countries he passes through are interesting, I felt the best part of the book was how he delved into his own psyche looking for the reasons and struggling to deal with his emotions. He does an excellent job of explaining that while the 4 year trip was difficult, it was even more difficult to end the trip and try to reacclimatize to normal life.
Simon’s Triumph was not unlike this one, just a lot more worn and dirty.
I recommend this book to any future travelers or people who need some extra motivation to go see the world. It is an excellent read.