For someone who described himself as an ‘appalling rider’ when he first threw his leg over a motorcycle a few short years ago, Kane Avellano has come a long way.
A very long way.
He survived monsoons in India, powerful storms in South America, spills and near misses to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the world on a motorcycle.
Days before his 24th birthday, Triumph rider Kane Avellano returned home to Newcastle in north-east England after riding 32,000 miles around the globe.
He completed the journey through 35 countries and six continents in just eight months on a 2008 Bonneville, earning him a Guinness World Record for being the youngest person to complete the round trip both solo and unsupported.
But it didn’t come naturally. He’d always been fascinated by bikes, although it wasn’t until his part-time business turned a profit that he could afford a second hand Bonneville and learn to ride.
“I was an appalling rider to begin with,” he says. “The one-day CBT course [which all UK riders complete before their full bike course] took me two days rather than one. Then, I passed my theory test, but I was still such a bad rider, my instructor said I’d fail my practical. I rode through two red lights on the way to the test centre, and she even came with me on the test so she could take me home faster after I’d flunked it.”
Miraculously, Kane passed and spent the next six months riding to and from university to finish his degree in computer science. After graduating in the summer of 2015, he set out for five weeks around Europe on a 7,000-mile jaunt through France, Spain, Portugal, Andorra, Italy, Sicily, Switzerland and Belgium.
Kane had rarely travelled when younger, and only applied for his first passport at the age of 21, but when it finally found him, the travel bug bit hard. “Before my European trip, I’d only ridden for an hour at the most in one go,” he says. “Europe was a test to see if I could manage the long distances… the goal was always to go around the world.”
Kane’s European journey had no real plan, end date or route. “I left with only a general direction. I would wake up in the morning, see what was within a 3-8-hour drive, book a hostel and ride, enjoying everything that came my way.” He applied a similar level of preparation a year later when it came to planning the circumnavigation.
“I started planning where I wanted to go two months before, and got the visas. I didn’t want to go through Russia and China because China costs between $200 and $300 dollars per day for a guide and you need visas. Also, I thought there were more interesting countries if I rode further south. I wanted to go to Myanmar, India and Pakistan.”
The Bonneville that carried Kane around Europe was stolen on his return to Newcastle, so he used the insurance money to buy a 2008 865cc Bonneville with 2,000 miles on the clock. Mods included fitting aluminium panniers, replacing the rear suspension, adding a tachometer, fly screen, new indicators and swapping out gear shift levers.
Never alone in Iran
He set off on 31 May 2015, heading east through France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Croatia and Slovenia. “Europe changes gradually,” he says. “There are progressively different cultures, but I’d seen so much of Europe already, I couldn’t wait for what was next.”
Kane continued through Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Georgia before his Armenian girlfriend flew out to show him around her country. From Armenia he crossed to Iran, and the start of the adventure proper.
“Iran confirmed what every rider I’d spoken to before had said – they were the nicest people on the trip and it’s a truly beautiful country,” Kane says. “If you stop anywhere for more than five minutes, people will offer food and accommodation. I got three flat tyres and I always got help.”
Across into Pakistan, and the desert skirting Afghanistan required a police escort, which changed every 20-30km. “It could be only a 200km day, but it’ll take you 14 hours – every checkpoint you have to get out your passport and details and wait for the changeover. But they’re such nice people. I had four days of that, and another 10 without an escort.”
Kane had planned to explore the mountains in Pakistan, but a friend suggested going to Gilgit in India to traverse the highest road in the world, the Khardung La pass, at 18,500 feet above sea level.
“I had a sports tyre strapped to the back of the bike and probably weighed 350kilos,” he says. “The road up the Rohtang pass was messed up by army trucks and I burnt out my clutch, so had to push the bike all the way back down the mountain.
“We waited for a truck to take it over the mountain, but none came. Eventually, some passing mechanics helped me tighten the clutch bolt to get 1mm play on it. I went back up and just made it over with no clutch, then rode through what I thought was a small puddle at the top. It turned out to be a huge pothole. I hit it, did a sprint wheelie, my baggage flew everywhere and I almost fell off the mountain. The front wheel had buckled, so I rode down the other side slowly, and the next day met a guy who charged me $1 to smash it back into place with a hammer.”
The golden cow
From India, Kane rode to Myanmar, where government rules insist on all tourists being accompanied. “It was just me, two tour guides, a driver and a person from the Ministry of Tourism,” he recalls. “Every time I stopped, they offered me an ice pack and an iced towel!”
Thailand and Malaysia finished off the Asian leg, before Australia, then Canada, south through the USA into Mexico and Central America, then Peru and Chile.
Take risks, taste adventure
And as he crossed into Argentina, Kane experienced the best two days of the journey.
“I was riding through the desert and a shooting star the size of a golf ball flew across the sky. It lit the whole sky. It was amazing,” he says. “The next day I was heading to Rosario and there was a storm brewing in front of me. It became impossible to continue on my road into the mountains as the wind picked up, tree trunks were being blown around, and I lost my gloves.
“I thought I would die if I continued into the storm, so I parked my bike inside an open bus shelter, put the cover on my bike and tried to sleep. At 2am I woke up and I was in the heart of it. There were about 30 lightning strikes around me and trees being blown down – I had to sleep on the bike, soaking wet, it was crazy. The power of it was amazing.”
The next day, having survived the storm and perhaps feeling a little too invincible, two dogs bolted in front of him on the motorway. “I hit one, skidded about 50 metres, my panniers came off and my gear shift lever snapped,” he says.
So didn’t the constant risk bother the 23-year-old? “Not once,” he says. “Every time it happened I was happy – the bike might have been hurt, but I always found a solution to fix it. You have to take risks to have an adventure. I tore a muscle in my back in Ecuador and couldn’t stand or breathe, but I’d already been stamped out of the country so had to leave. So I went to hospital, got a shot of painkiller and then rode for another four hours.
“Calculated risks are part of the trip – it’s adrenaline,” he says. “I’ve seen so many amazing things, and I’m grateful. I’ve got good reflexes, but there were some pretty close shaves.”
Things are only as scary as you make them.Kane Avellano
Kane undertook his journey without a support network, but was often hosted by some of the 18,000 Instagram followers who enjoyed his regular automated posts from @bonnietour.
He carried a SPOT Gen 3 GPS tracker, which updates a rider’s location every five minutes, and could notify local authorities of an emergency. And for ongoing mechanical help, the network of Triumph dealers in most main cities proved invaluable.
“They were all so helpful,” he says. “Especially the Bangkok and Malaysian dealerships, who helped me out with spares and parts that other customers didn’t want.”
While travelling, Kane raised money for international children’s charity Unicef. More than £2,000 has been pledged, but he is hoping to increase this figure with donations via justgiving.com/fundraising/bonnietour.
Kane is now keen to do something in Africa, but adds: “I also want to fly around the world – get a pilot’s licence and be the first person to circumnavigate the world by land and air.”
And the one main lesson learnt from his six-month record-breaking circumnavigation? “Things are only as scary as you make them.”