Easy riding his way around the world - Brian’s biking odyssey


Boredom can be a powerful motivator, and so when ennui set in for Bexhillian Brian Clarke he decided to jump on his motorcycle and travel the world.

His two-wheeled odyssey is still a work in progress, but the Observer caught up with him during a brief visit to the town in which he grew up - a former pupil of St Mary Magdalen School and St Richard’s Catholic College.

Brian, now 39 and a trained motor mechanic was touching base after an incredible journey that has so far seen him clock up almost 50,000 miles in the saddle.

He started his adventure in 2010, shipping his Yamaha XT 660Z Tenere motorcycle bought the previous year to South America and riding 17,000 miles via the Pan-American highway from Argentina to Alaska.

Earlier this year he rode 15,000 miles visiting every state in Australia before taking on 24 states in the USA and much of Canada.

Next spring he aims to visit countries in South America he’s not yet been to - Brazil, Venezuela, Paraguay and Uruguay, before transiting back through the UK and heading east for Russia.

Brian, who’s single, said: “I like to say don’t have a destination - that way I can’t get lost.

“I just rely on maps and a compass and go whichever way the fancy takes me. Sometimes I’ve done more than 300 miles a day, but that’s when you begin to get a bit sore.”

He added: “Sometimes I sleep rough, other times I use a couple of websites, ‘couchsurfing’ and ‘helpexchange’ which put me in touch with people prepared to offer bed and board for a night or two.

“The Americans are particularly friendly , and meeting people and making new friends is perhaps the best thing about travelling the way I do. I’ve also seen some wonderful sights.”

Highlights have included riding part of the USA’s famous Route 66, the Dalton Highway for ice road truckers to Alaska and in southern Australia, the Nullabor Plain, where he had no conversation for a whole week.

Brian has ridden in the thin air of the Atacama Desert at altitudes of 15,748 feet (4,800 metres) and the 50 degree heat of Badwater Basin in America’s Death Valley, 280 feet below sea level.

On Route 40 in Argentina he experienced strong sidewinds, which at their worst are easily powerful enough to flip a car onto its roof.

Brian has also seen Mount Rushmore, famous for its huge sculptures of former US presidents, and the stupendous Grand Canyon in Arizona.

National parks are a favourite port of call and he said: “I was chased by a grizzly bear which objected to me taking photographs by the roadside in the Yukon and thank goodness I was on my motorcycle at the time, because they really can shift when they’ve a mind to.”

He’s suffered occasional mosquito bites and come off the bike a few times, but added: “Touch wood, I’ve actually been extremely fortunate, and never had my progress halted by illness or injury.

“The bike has had a few gremlins to contend with, but given the huge distances it’s covered it’s been incredibly reliable.”

Brian said he had not planned or trained for his global journey, although had once completed 1,000 miles in just 19.5 hours while taking part in an event called the Saddlesore 1000, riding from the south coast to Scotland and back in a single day.

As to survival abroad, he has a smattering of Spanish but tends to rely on “fluent hand signals” to indicate his need for food, rest, fuel or whatever. He has used his engineering skills to help finance his journey along the way.

When he finally decides to call a halt, Brian hopes to write a book about his adventures. He said: “My advice to anyone else is simply to go for it. You only get one chance with this sort of thing, and you’re best off just doing it. Think about it for too long, and you’ll never go.”