Motorcycle adventure books that will spark your wanderlust

Sometimes, all you need to get the itchy travel bug crawling again, is a little glance at the possibilities. Most of the time, a quick look at the stunning photos on Motorcycle Diaries will do the trick, but even your imagination can spark that need to get out there and ride. By reading a book on the matter, for instance. We’ve gathered a bunch of must-reads for you, which will without a doubt get you out of the sofa and onto the road. 

10 years on 2 wheels - Helge Pedersen

Hands down our all-time favorite motorcycle adventure book. The story goes that Helge Pedersen already dreamed of seeing Africa when he was just a kid. As soon as he was legally old enough to ride he sold all of his belongings, bought a motorcycle and left on a journey that would be longer, more dangerous, and lead to more adventures than he could have ever imagined. For more than 10 years, Helge and Olga - nickname of his loyal BMW R80 G/S - traveled in true stray style. His journey took him across five continents and over a quarter million miles, totalling more than ten times the circumference of the globe. Although most of his adventures teach him to look at the world in a completely different way, but it’s not all was peaches and cream: postcolonial Africa ‘treats’ him to malaria and corruption, he endures severe hunger in Argentina, gets incarcerated in Somalia and Yemen, suffers broken bones and a major infection in Colombia - and even gets exiled from Japan. In the book he describes all of the above, complemented by mind-boggling stories about crossing deserts and jungles, changing money on the black market, and curing from dysentery. Along the lonesome road, he suddenly gets involved in a serious love affair. But how does he cope with that? A question which causes him some restless nights, when he falls in love with an American woman, and… We’ll let you read it to see what happens next. But rest assured, 10 Years on 2 Wheels is an unusual, exciting and candid adventure of a motorcycle vagabond. An absolute must-read! 

 

Mondo Enduro - Austin Vince

Remember having endless discussions with friends over which was best: the movie or the book? Well in the case of "Mondo Enduro" - that won’t be the case. It is one of those books that was written without actual intention to ever publish it, and it came àfter the broadcast. Mondo Enduro (the book) are typed up diaries, which were released following the tv documentary of the same name - they were only published as fans of the show ached for the whole story behind the (in)famous DIY motocycle expedition. We can’t deny we all love underdogs - which explains the immense success of the Mondo Enduro: the boys excel in stunning incompetence and unpreparedness, which has become the stuff of adventure dreams - and justly so. Far from being though Indiana Jones-types, the seven man Mondo team is a mix of nobodies who, with no idea what they are doing, set of to establish a new long distance travel record. If you think that’s crazy, the fact that they pulled the whole trick off with no sponsorship, backing or - as it was 1995 - not even internet to fall back on. Therefore, many motorcycle adventure riders will acknowledge this one to be the last great analogue adventure. As the first people to ride from London to Magadan,  on second hand Suzuki dirt bikes they manage to set the record, on second hand Suzuki dirt bikes. As if that weren’t spectacular enough, they then rode from Alaska all the way down to the bottom of Chile, then from Johnannesburg back to London. Non-stop. Just to see if it could be done. True heroes, ladies and gentlemen! Fun fact: lateron, it motivated Ewan MacGregor and Charley Boorman to leave on their Long Way Round adventure. But in 2004, when the well-known duo steered their big BMW’ towards Magadan in Russia's remote far eastern Kolimar province, there was as much celebration as there was little mention of the fact that they had merely followed a trail smoothed by the Mondo Enduro boys in 1995… 

 

Red Tape and White Knuckles - Lois Pryce

From husband to wife! As well as being a well-known motorcycle adventurer and celebrated writer for the New York Times, The Guardian and The Telegraph, Lois Pryce is also married to the above-mentioned Austin Vince. In her second book ‘Red Tape and White Knuckles’ Pryce shares the baffling story of her 16.000 kilometer journey all the way through Africa. The trip starts when she slams the door of her home in London, and makes her way down to the shores of Tunisia. From that point, she’s on a roll through the Sahara Desert, Angola, and the basin of the Congo River before reaching her ultimate destination of Cape Town, South Africa. Most globetrotters we know, wouldn’t leave on anything less than a high powered adventure motorcycle like a KTM Super Adventure 1290 or a Yamaha Ténéré 1200, have every bit of necessary gear on them or in the back of the trunk of a support vehicle. Not this lady. She left home on a simple 250cc motorbike, wearing light travel clothes, and carrying along only the bare necessities. And still, her straightforward way of writing, candid way of explaining things, and bold humor, the writer makes this incredible, sometimes scary - the part at the Congolese border - and always surprising motorcycle journey through Africa a fun and exciting book to read. Despite challenges and unexpected surprises throughout her journey, Lois tackles every obstacle head on and with immense strength of character. Whether you're a seasoned adventure motorcyclist, or just your average person looking for a good read, this story of action, discovery and achievement is sure to inspire and entertain from start to finish. “The kind of book which will have you reach for your helmet and aim for a remote part of the globe”, we read somewhere. Spot on. 

 

Jupiter's Travels - Ted Simon

Over to the absolute godfather of motorcycle travel novelists. Jupiter's Travels is Ted Simon's astonishing story about his four year motorbike journey around the globe - another one which sparked McGregor's and Boorman’s Long Way Round. If it can spark theirs, why not your next adventure? Raised in England by a German mother and a Romanian father, Ted Simon found himself impelled by an insatiable desire to explore the world. It led him to abandon an early scientific career in favour of journalism - and aim for the unknown. His adventure takes place at the end of the 1970’s, when Simon set off on his loyal  Triumph Tiger 100, on which he rode more than 100.000 kilometers over four years. When he eventually arrived home, he realized he’d crossed fifty-four countries during his journey around the world. During his trip, Simon encounters breakdowns, prison, war, revolutions and disasters, was treated as a spy but also as nothing less then a god - constantly rollercoasting from fear to euphoria. Not shy of the philosophical side of writing either, in that way. This absolute classic - which has informed a whole genre of travel writing in the thirty years since it was first published - will be hard to beat when it comes to downright adventure, passion, humour and honesty. Give it a shot, we’re sure you’ll love it. 

 

Into Africa - Sam Manicom

This first book of Sam Manicom is the one which will have you dreaming of your next motorcycle trip in the blink of eye. Manicom starts from his rather boring non-globetrotter life: his life was as ordinary as it gets, but something didn’t feel quite right. He had a reasonable education, a job as a shop manager, and was healthy. But he didn’t earn a lot, and didn’t have much free time. Fearing his future might equally bland, he came up with the plan to quit his job and travel. After all, he wouldn’t be the first to do so, and by doing it on a motorcycle: it reminded him of the backpacking he had done and the idea of freedom a bike could give was convincing, especially after being stuck indoors for so many years. If only he knew how to ride…What follows is an amazing tale. About two thirds of the way down amazing Africa Manicom realised that in spite of the ridiculous number of times he fell off the bike - no surprise as he’d only been riding a bike for three months by the time he’d reached the Sahara- and regardless of being arrested three times, in jail once, shot at twice, nearly dying from malaria, and a seventeen-bone fracture prang in the desert in Namibia, he was thoroughly enjoying adventuring on a motorcycle. So was there any good reason to stop? As he’s written three more books, we guess there wasn’t… 

 

The Motorcycle Diaries - Ernesto Ché Guevara

I guess we’d be lying if we told you this one hasn’t inspired our website… The one which sparked it all for us. As most of you know, the title is a translation of ‘Diarios de Motocycletta’, written by Ernesto Che Guevara - not a revolutionary hero yet at that time (1952), but a 23 year-old medical student, eager to see the world and to help people along the way. So he bought an old 500cc Norton which he baptised La Poderosa a.k.a. The Powerful One and together with his friend and co-student Alberto, he set off from Buenos Aires, down the Atlantic coast of Argentina through La Pampa and across the Andes into Chile. From there the two travelled northward to Peru and Colombia with journey’s end Caracas in Venezuela. By journey's end, the duo had travelled for a symbolic nine months by motorcycle, steamship, raft, horse, bus, and hitchhiking, covering more than 8,000 kilometres across places such as the Andes, Atacama Desert, and the Amazon River Basin. An amazing journey, especially at the time, which made Ché conscious of the impact this journey was having on him. If you read carefully, you’ll find him encouraging you to travel with an open mind and an understanding heart as well. A little spoiler, but the diary ends with a declaration by Guevara, born into an upper-middle-class family, displaying his willingness to fight and die for the cause of the poor, and his dream of seeing a united Latin America. And the rest… The rest is history! 

What's your favourite adventure reading?

Want to share your favorites books about travel stories and epic adventures? Let us know in comment your most memorable reads.

 

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