Two Wheels Good, Four Wheels Bad; the Motorbike Road Trip

Ever since the internal combustion engine was invented, the road trip has offered a romantic allure for the traveller. But whereas journeying by car merely does the job, travelling by motorbike is associated with the most carefree of all road tripping experiences.

Travel by motorbike offers many things a car deprives us of; first and foremost a much stronger connection with the landscape through which you pass. Motorcyclists often speak fondly of the sounds and smells of the outside world that they enjoy as they pass. This is something that their car driving counterparts tend to miss out on, being confined to the insides of their vehicle.

Motorcyclists’ tales of the road have often been shared with armchair travellers in the form of books, films and TV documentaries. One of the most famous motorbike trips to be enjoyed by the mainstream was undertaken by Argentinean-born revolutionary icon, Che Guevara. The image of Guevara’s face is said to be the most reproduced image of all time, appearing as a fashion statement on posters, album covers and t-shirts which can be found in student’s bedrooms the world over, even though many probably have little idea of Guevara’s life and what he stood for.

Guevara wrote many books, but his best known publication, “The Motorcycle Diaries”, details a young Guevara as he travels through South America with his friend Alberto Grando on a 1939 Norton 500 motor-cycle. It was the poverty and persecution that he witnessed during his travels that fuelled Guevara’s desire to fight and die for the people of the lower classes.

A famous but fictional motorbike road trip story is told through the film “Easy Rider”, which features two bikers travelling through the American south to experience the land and its people and explore the American dream. The story follows their adventures as they encounter hippies, narcotics and eventually meet their doom at the hands of red necks, during their search for spiritual freedom.

More recently, the TV series “The Long Way Round” followed the biking adventures of actors Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman. The show documented their trip from London to New York which took them across Europe, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Siberia and Canada. Viewers were able to share McGregor and Boorman’s pain and pleasure, which included incredible scenery, amazing kindness and generosity of strangers, but also breakdowns, crashes, injuries, mosquito bites, and even being threatened at gunpoint. However, with a little help from the locals, and of course a good motorbike insurance policy, McGregor and Boorman survived the incredible journey intact; and the trip inspired the adventurous duo to embark on another biking adventure from John O Groats to South Africa two years later, which was also televised.

A road trip of any sort will always hold a romantic allure for the traveller, but it is a long journey by motorbike which is the ultimate expression of freedom on the road.

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