Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Interview: Jonathan Gibson, Sydney to London on a 350cc Royal Enfield

Who are you ?
My name is Jonathan Gibson. A guy who gave up his day job (it's hard to believe I used to wear a suit... and have clean finger nails) to ride an old Enfield from Sydney to London while raising money for charity.  

When did you first get interested in bikes?
I have always had a thing for bikes. As a kid I had a hard-backed poster of Mick Doohan hanging in my wall. As a teenager I owned a leather jacket and jackboots long before I ever had a motorcycle. Despite coming from 5 generations of motorcyclists my parents were always very adamant that I should stay away from motorcycles.   

What was the first bike you ever owned?
A bright yellow 1994 Suzuki Bandit 250 at age 18. My parents tried very hard to keep me away from them... but here we are.  I rode the be-jesus out of that bike. Multi-day trips with all my gear loaded up. Learning to ride it on the back winding mountain roads around Brisbane and just being a general delinquent and hoon. The girl I was seeing lived at the bottom of a notorious mountain called Mt Glorious which Charlie Boorman once described as  "A truly great stretch of road": I used to blast that late at night when there were no cars or other bikes around. None of my friends owned bikes so I learnt to push the boundaries of that bike by myself.  I am very surprised that was not my first and last bike.  

What was the first motorcycle trip you ever took?
To go camping with my grandparents at a camp site so I could go fishing with them. The camping and fishing spot was about 4 hours north of Brisbane on the back roads. I didn't bring any food apart from a few packets of Ramen noodles to eat. To this day my grandparents still remind me about the time I went camping with nothing but a few packets of noodles and they had to feed the underprepared starving motorcyclist. In my defence - I really love noodles. 

In in 2012 Jonathan did 12,000kms on a 150cc across South America.

Sydney to London on a 350cc Royal Enfield. How? What? Why?
I read a book called the yellow book or 'Across Asia on the Cheap' along with Ted Simons' - 'Jupiter's Travels'. They both painted a picture of large overland travel from years ago... A very much a DIY attitude - No support crew, no real budget... Well... that kind of travel just appealed to me.   I always wanted to do a big motorcycle trip after blasting across South America on a 150cc for which I put together a photo blog which picked up 1.2 million views! I (and other people apparently) really got a kick out of taking a non-traditional bike to its limits and doing things that people say "Can't be done". 

I am the 5th generation to ride an Enfield, and I was aware that my grandfather rode a post-war 350 Bullet. I liked old bikes. Then one day I was siting in an office... I made the call to do a trip. Combine a few things I love. Old bikes, travel, meeting people and put it in action while raising money for charity. A few months later I left Sydney. 

What kind of preparations did you make for this ride? 
Not many. I didn't have much of a budget so I spent some time making some gear, researching the most cost effective mods I could make to the old bike along with some googling of different visa requirements. 

What bank did you hold up for this ride? 
These kind of trips can be cheaper than most people think. For me this trip will cost around the same as a new Harley Davidson back home. My budget is roughly $15 AUD a day or 25 Rupees a KM over 1.5 years.   

Till now what was the best and the worst part of the ride you have encountered?
The best part would have been some of the back roads between Goa and Mumbai. The run along the North Coast of Sumatra was also amazing. The worst part... Outback Australia. Just long straight stretches for days with nothing to really see while the sun cooked both bike and rider. I am glad I did it... but I will not rush back into it.   

What's in your garage back home?
I could never afford to have a garage when I was in Sydney. I did have a small outside courtyard though that I shared with another motorcyclist I lived with. In that area there were a whole bunch of redbacks (potentially lethal spiders), my Cagiva Raptor, my '72 XL 250, my house mate's SV650 and his XL500. We would have to put up a tarp when we wanted to wrench to prevent major sunburn. That said, I sold all of my bikes to do this trip. One day I will own a garage... That will be a good day. 

What advice do you have for other motorcycle nomads?
Carry a Leatherman and a smile. Those things along will get you out of 99% of your issues. 

Where do we go to follow your journey to London?
The websiteFacebook, Instagram and Twitter