Amazing Pictures from Sjaak Lucassen's R1 World Tour

Stuck in African mud, buried in Saharan sand, or submersed in floodwater. Sjaak's long-suffering R1 clocked up 155,000 miles in five years. Here are just some of the amazing pictures Sjaak brought back.

What's the toughest terrain this 2001 R1 has conquered?

This single bike has brought me through some of the most extreme environments on Earth. You cannot imagine what it did and how it just kept on running. I rode through the Sahara, along the Road of Bones in Russia, across Saudi Arabia, through China... But crossing the Congo must be the most difficult thing I've ever done. When I was in the Congo, the last people to cross it were four years in front of me and had taken four trucks with them. It was hard going, 300km taking about a week to get through. It's tough when you're only managing 40km in a whole day. But overall I actually completed the trip two months earlier than the four trucks! That same 300km stretch took a 4x4 truck with a team of 40 people more than a month to complete.

Calling the R1 reliable is an understatement. It's now done over 319,000 miles and still has the original gearbox, valves, fork pistons and rings.



What inspired you to take an R1 on a world tour?

My inspiration? There was no inspiration. That was all about addiction. Yeah. I did another world trip before on a Fireblade – three years and 100,000 miles. And I thought that would be the once-in-a-lifetime trip. The problem was, once I had completed it, I carried on living it over and over by giving presentations, talking at events, sharing my experiences with others. To make matters worse (or better), I'd gathered enough sponsoring opportunities and cash to start another trip. So why not? I told the sponsors that this new expedition would last three years, but I told myself it'd last as long as it needed.



Have you ever had to turn around?

Every now and again I've had to detour around something, but I've never been defeated by the world. I always get to where I want to go. The secret to this? I don't give up, but I'm also flexible, reasonable, and don't hurry. Other people say that you cannot do things; don't believe them. People told me I couldn't ride through the Sahara, but that turned out to be pretty easy. I know the limitations of the R1, but the Sahara isn't one of them.


You've also taken it on the racetrack?

Yes! I got the chance half-way through my world tour. I was working in a bike shop and some local bikers invited me to ride with them at the Topeka road course in Kansas. I remember turning up at the track and someone coming over and asking, “What are you doing here with that fridge on the back?” Well it wasn't much longer before that fridge was passing other bikes! I had worn, squared-off, hard compound tyres, and a destroyed rear shock, but I was still scraping the R1's pegs. My metal top box didn't affect the ride much at all. Because the construction is solid, the weight doesn't move around, and because all the weight is in front of the rear axle it means cornering is a breeze and pulling inadvertent wheelies isn't a problem.



What's the longest you've gone without a shower?

Ooh, I'm not sure. Probably about two weeks. But that isn't the time that I've smelled the worst. That was in Saudi Arabia, for only three days as well. I was riding through temperatures of close to 50 degrees Celsius, sleeping the night in my tent and spending the whole time swimming in sweat. The smell of new sweat warming up the dried and encrusted sweat of the day before was atrocious.


One tip for touring on a sportsbike?

Take a tank bag. If you've seen my bikes at events, you've also seen the manikin sitting astride it. The reason the manikin doesn't fall forwards is the same reason why I can comfortably ride that bike for years on end: it's supported by the tank bag.



What Next?

The North Pole of course! I've ridden on polar ice in Alaska back in 2013 to test my R1. Thanks to that experience I've created a totally new bike – with huge tyres – for the real thing. The chassis and engine will still be a 2001 R1, just like the one in these pictures. Why? Because I know that engine like the back of my hand. If I break down on the ice I want to be able to fix any problems myself.

I can't give you a definite departure date yet. There are still a few things to sort out before I can tell you exactly when I'm leaving: the bike needs to be finished and tested, a Guinness World Record attempt needs to be applied for, a stand-by helicopter arranged, and most importantly money to be raised!

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