Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Long Way Downer

Sadly, I’ll probably always be a dreamer when it comes to huge cross-continent motorcycling adventures. How fortunate then that I can live my dreams vicariously thanks to Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman.

I avidly watched every episode of Long Way Round and Race to Dakar. When I heard that a new series Long Way Down had been made, travelling from Scotland to South Africa I was eager to see it. Was it worth the wait? Well, sort of…

I’m finding it a bit harder to get into it. This time around it’s harder to identify with the intrepid duo (well, trio actually if you count Claudio their ubiquitous cameraman/third rider), and their support crew and mountains of brand new gear. It’s still good, but…

They just have soooo much cash to do anything they like. Maybe I’m too harsh, but the garage they use to prepare for this trip is bigger than my house! It’s also packed with a gratuitous amount of bikes and tools.

One thing that really got to me in episode 1 was Ewan, sitting on his brand new BMW saying something to the effect of ‘this is me for the next three months’. This implied a simple, stripped down lifestyle; just man and machine.

The trouble was that in the moments preceding this statement the panning camera has captured the incredible collection of equipment that they’ll take with them!

I mean, it’s not all bad. Their off road riding skills have noticeably improved since LWD; which is apparent when they visit the BMW Off Road School again. They continue to do significant work for charity. Charley and Ewan are likable characters…

The second episode has already gone some way toward addressing my cynicism, as the travelling circus leaves the garage and hits the road. Motorbikes being ridden to exotic locales are always going to be a winner, right?

The fact is that people do this sort of stuff all the time, without a huge budget and satellite-phone toting entourage. Motorbike mags like Two Wheels, Trailrider, Trailzone, Bike (UK) & T.W.O. (UK) often feature articles about adventures had by ordinary folk. Check out the adventure rider website too.

If you’re looking for some more solid reading on this subject A Tankful of Time by Michael P Fong, and Two for the Road by Shirley Hardy-Rix and Brian Rix are two books about long cross country journeys undertaken on BMWs.

Charely and Ewan weren’t the first to set off on a motorcycle voyage across Europe, but they were the first ones to make a series with wide appeal and turn it into a franchise, and good on ‘em.

I’m the first to admit that I’m insanely jealous. It is good entertainment, and I shouldn’t be so self righteous. After all, I’ve never attempted anything as adventurous as any of these trips. I’m going to keep watching (and will watch any subsequent motorcycling series they release). Maybe I need to be less cynical, and just enjoy the ride…

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