It takes a certain kind of bravery to ride 7,000 miles from Malaysia to the spiritual home of Triumph on a bike built almost 60 years ago to the day.
But when the bike’s owner has just married his childhood sweetheart and immediately tells her that he’s off on a five-month adventure alone, that’s bravery on a whole new level.
Ali Garero had a honeymoon with a difference in mind when the 36-year-old kissed his new bride farewell and jumped on his 1956 Triumph T110, bound for the UK.
His destination was the Triumph headquarters in England’s Midlands, where the throaty Tiger rolled off the production line in the year Elvis Presley first burst on to the world scene.
Ali’s uncle ordered the then blue beauty and had it imported to his small plantation village of Seremban on the south-west coast of Malaysia a year before the country gained its independence from Britain in 1957.
For years it ferried the family and goods around the lush green state of Negeri Sembilan, famous for its palm oil and rubber crops, until it was inherited by Ali.
“I’d been interested in bikes since the age of 11, but it was always Triumph that captivated me because of the shape and the technology,” he said.
“I rode it for years and it has never ever let me down, despite its age. There’s something magical about it – that’s why I called it Merlin.” So after his wedding, he felt a desperate need to settle down after getting one last adventure out of his system.
“When I told my wife I wanted to take Merlin back to where he came from she said ‘it is a very old bike and I think it’s impossible, but do your best’,” Ali said.
“My wife understands my life, which is a good thing. She rides a little too, so I think she knew why it was something I needed to do.”
Travel was not new for Ali. He had worked as an engineer for a shipping company before, but that was nothing like heading for England on a vintage bike using only the B roads.
He said: “I didn’t want to take the motorways anywhere because I wanted to see the real side of the countries I was riding through, smell the smells. Going by bike gives you the original view of somewhere.
“Because I was on the B roads, I met all the people in villages and everyone was so friendly. The people in Europe were really interested to hear where I had come from and when I said I was going to Triumph, they all smiled, nodded and understood why.”
The only hitch came when Ali rode through Pakistan and into an area dogged by a sudden outbreak of civil unrest.
“I found myself in a prison cell,” he said: “But it was only for my own protection and the next morning I got on my way. It was a little frightening though.”
In India, his connecting rod broke but a Malaysian mechanic friend of his was, by chance, flying to a city nearby and brought a replacement.
Everywhere I went the people were so friendly, maybe because of the age of the bike. Many of them couldn’t believe that a bike so old could do such a trip.Ali Garero
Ali said: “I was lucky, but that must have been the magic of Merlin who looked after me all the way and even made sure I was one of the first people allowed to ride into Myanmar.
“The highlights of the trip were riding through Turkey and Iran, which were fascinating places, but everywhere I went the people were so friendly, maybe because of the age of the bike. Many of them couldn’t believe that a bike so old could do such a trip.”
Ali now plans to fly back to Malaysia to reacquaint himself with his wife, then head back to Europe and a tour of the Scandinavian countries before trying to conquer South America.
“There is no word for going back in my language. This trip was something I just had to do and once I’d done the first 17 hours without stopping, that was it. Riding into Hinckley was incredible,” he said.
So once he has finished the South America trip, will he finally settle down with his new bride?
“It might be time then, yes, but I may bring Merlin back to Hinckley for good then as his final resting place.”