6 mins

How to travel by motorbike

Motorbike circumnavigator and author Ted Simon gives his advice on mounting a two-wheeled expedition

(John Yavuz Can)

1. Make your fear work for you

At the start of your expedition, paranoia is your friend. Look for danger everywhere. Resist doing risky things.

2. Anticipate trouble

Behind the car coming towards you on a narrow dirt road is a truck. If the truck overtakes, how will you escape it? Behind every parked car is a child waiting to dash out. In every car is an idiot ready to fling open their door. Search them out. Look for reflections in windows. Make space, go slow, learn to read the minds of stray dogs.

3. Embrace the attention

If you’re lucky you’ll visit countries where motorcycles are uncommon. You’ll be admired. Locals will offer you invitations to eat and sleep. You can travel almost free.

4. Travel slowly

It’s cheaper, and you have time to build immunities. Stop early to camp. Give yourself time to find a good spot or, better still, a welcoming host. Get into the habit, when you stop, of looking over the bike for what’s loose or missing.

5. Ride a small bike

Buy the smallest bike you can be comfortable on, preferably one you can bring into a hotel bedroom in places such as Bolivia. Big alloy boxes are great in civilised countries, but you tend to fill them. People take too much. Take soft bags you can scrunch down; you’ll pack less and you can sling them over your shoulder and take them inside.

6. Be patient and prepared

Get to border crossings early and prepare to spend the day there – then you won’t lose your cool. Offer to unpack everything. Remember, officials have all the power; they are the enemy, but don’t let them know it.

Did you know? With high charges and insane security it may be better, between continents, to sell your bike and buy another on the other side.

Ted Simon’s new book is Rolling Through the Isles (Little, Brown, £20) and is available to buy online now.

Wanderlust's Associate Web Editor Peter Moore recently chatted to Ted Simon about his legendary adventures and what he'd do differently if he set out today.

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