Inspiration: Interview

Trip pioneer shares his tips

Ted Simon: The Godfather of bike travel

FTR Bio:, The Godfather

Name: Ted Simon

Born: Germany

Circumnavigated the world: Twice

Bike: Triumph Tiger 100 (Jupiter)

Can't travel without: Elastic bands

Globetrotting journalist and author Ted Simon was the inspiration behind Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s Long Way Round documentary.

In 1973 he undertook a four-year trip on a 500cc Triumph Tiger 100. It was a journey of 64,000 miles through 45 countries that resulted in the seminal adventure travel book Jupiter’s Travels.

In 2001, at the age of 70, he did it again.

FTR caught up with Ted for a few travel tips.

 

Q. Where would you recommend for someone planning their first motorcycle trip?

A. It completely depends on the person. If you’ve never been anywhere, a trip to Brighton would be exciting! Certainly, the thing is to extend your horizons. If you’ve already been to Brighton, the next thing would be to go to Calais. Think of somewhere that makes you nervous, somewhere that you don’t speak the language and you think people might be a bit dodgy. Then go there.

Q. What’s your advice for planning a motorcycle adventure?

A. The thing is to concentrate on the adventure and less on the preparation. People spend too much worrying about what’s going to happen, what they should take and whether they’re sufficiently prepared. Very often, they get so lost in all of that that they never actually go.

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Q. Is there a particular mindset that riders need?

A. The key is to be very lean and mean. And not worry about avoiding problems, but actually almost welcome the possibility of problems. It’s the problems you have on the journey that make it the most interesting. That’s how you meet people – look for help.

Q. Is there always a fear of the unknown when setting off?

A. People get mental images of being attacked or robbed, or misled in some way and that people will be hostile. The beauty of almost every adventure I’ve ever heard of is that you end up with the opposite impression. In other words, if you do have those fears, go anyway. You can’t avoid being afraid if you’re afraid, but find a way to ignore your fears, make the trip and discover that they’re baseless. I had to deal with a lot of fear on my first trip. Some of it made a fool of me, but after about a year I realized I could control it and use. It enhanced my awareness of everything going on around me. You come out of it realising how little there is to be afraid of. You have these two opposing impulses – curiosity and fear, and curiosity has to win. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it won’t kill you.

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Q. Which pieces of kit were indispensible to you?

A. I always found elastic bands very useful. Basic things like bits of wire and string are really very useful. The thing is that you can get almost anything everywhere now. If I were doing a journey today, I’d take a toothbrush and a credit card.

For lots of people, an adventure is buying a huge amount of stuff, planning and going on a trip and taking photos. But an adventure has got to be something that takes you out of your comfort zone and challenges you.

Ted Simon

Q. Is there any single destination you want to go back to?

A. One of the reasons I took my second journey was wanting to revisit so many of the places I went to on the first trip. The one that I missed and would love to go back to is the south of India. If I had to name a place it would be Kerala. It’s completely different down there to the North.

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Q. What does “adventure” mean to you?

A. For lots of people, an adventure is buying a huge amount of stuff, planning and going on a trip and taking photos. But an adventure has got to be something that takes you out of your comfort zone and challenges you.

Q. Is a motorcycle adventure always going to be impossible for some due to work commitments?

A. When people tell me they’re worried about going on a trip because of work, I tell them it’s rubbish. When you’ve come out of the other side of a big trip, people can tell. You can deal with lots of people in all sorts of ways. The confidence you come back with translates into people wanting you. It’s a kind of magic really.