Sitting at your desk watching the clock and watching the minutes of your life tick away. All while your adventure motorcycle sits sparkling clean next to that weight set you never use in your garage. Rather than get those reports done, you watch scratchy images of Ewan and Charley’s documentary on YouTube, The Long Way Round. The freedom, the adventure, and life on the open road collecting passport stamps & souvenir stickers. It is the dream of many adventure motorcycle riders and is easier than you think. Although the ‘What if, and the ‘Will l make it back alive?’ questions do cross your mind. We sat down with a German motorcycle adventurer who pulled the trigger on an epic five-year Round the World (RTW) adventure, that abruptly came to an end in Las Vegas. Moritz is a photographer, biker, budding entrepreneur, and an enthusiastic adventurer. We asked him about life on the road and what happened to bring his epic motorcycle adventure to an end, here is what he had to say.
Where are your from and what was your plan for the RTW adventure?
I’m from Germany. There wasn’t much of a plan but I told myself I have enough money to reach South East Asia. From there I would see what was going to happen with the rest of my trip.
(Cereal breakfast in some beautiful hot springs around 5am)
What bike did you choose and why?
I chose a 2001 Honda Transalp. I’ve always liked Honda and my research about proven RTW-bikes narrowed it down to Transalp and Africa Twin (the old one). As the Africa Twin was quite a bit heavier, I tried to find a Transalp, and I did. A 2001 with 35,000km for 2700 Euros and in mint condition.
(Cold morning close to Popocatepetl in Mexico)
What countries were you able to check off your list with the bike?
I started with a test-ride through France all the way up to Scotland. After this I then left Germany heading East. From there I got to travel across; Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Timor Leste, Australia, Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Jamaica (bike had to stay on the boat though), Cuba, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and the USA.
(Early morning coastal ride cuba)
(Beach Camping Cuba)
(Fuego Volcano in Guatemala erupting big time shot lava up to 300 meters high)
I heard Alaska was a major goal for you, what was your planned route through North America?
The general idea was to head up to Alaska rather quick to enjoy the good weather. Coming from Baja California, following the coastal road and explore the western states a bit. After Alaska I would ride back with much more time and try to hit some highlights like Utah and make my way east all the way to Toronto, Canada. The reason being, that from eastern Canada they have great deals to fly to Europe, so I could continue on my journey.
(Leaving Death Valley National Park to the west)
What route did you end up accomplishing in the end?
A little bit of Arizona, California, and Nevada. I went through Joshua Tree, Mojave and Death Valley, then on to Flagstaff for the Overland Expo.
(Interesting colors on the way to Titus canyon Death Valley)
5 years came to an end in Las Vegas, what happened?
After my visit to the Overland Expo West, on my way to Las Vegas, I was just riding up the hill out of Bullhead City when the front cylinder cut out and some noise of something bouncing around in my combustion chamber appeared. The bike doesn’t really run well on one cylinder, I barely made it to the side of the road. I checked a few things, but I knew this time it was more serious than the other problems I had had in the past, and I wouldn’t be able to fix it at the side of the road. I called roadside assistance and tried to get the bike to a mechanic. That idea failed and the only open shop in a 25-mile radius was a Harley dealer and he wouldn’t allow me to do anything with my Honda on his premises. After a few attempts to get some kind of transport to Las Vegas, a fellow biker that hosted me the week before came down to pick me up with his trailer.
(A fork in the road, Ruta de las Lagunas in Bolivia)
The next days I spent trying to figure out what had happened. I’m not a good mechanic but I had learned a fair bit during the past years. When it comes to the engine though, I’m pretty much lost. Knowing that, and the fact that in the USA paying for a mechanic by the hour is very expensive. As well, finding spare parts for this particular bike is difficult. I said goodbye to my trusty Transalp that brought me 115,000 km around the world. From here I started pulling apart the engine, well aware that I would not be able to assemble it again. I would do so just to learn and find out the reason for the malfunction.
My final conclusion of the fault, was a loose (without tank removal accessible) spark plug on the front cylinder. The ground electrode came off and hit the second spark plug (same cylinder), bending it so there would be no more sparks. I wish I would have known and understood that before opening the engine. Two new spark plugs and a magnet to remove the piece of nickel could have been enough to have me back on the road. Sad, but a lesson learned.
Do you have a major sponsor, or how do you pay for all this?
No sponsors, but a few friends bought me a beer (PayPal money). I first traveled on my savings, then I did some IT Consulting and software development which worked out great. I did this from about everywhere till the current end of my trip. In Colombia I was hanging out with a fellow RTW-rider and together we started a sticker online-shop for adventure riders, www.advmotostickers.com. This doesn’t earn me much money so far but it’s fun and finally I can get all the stickers that I want 🙂
Are you headed back to America? If so what’s the bike and what’s the plan?
As much as I loved my trusty Transalp, for a while I wished I had a lighter bike. It’s just too much fun to explore all these small trails, or let me put it this way, it’s not so much fun to pick up a fully loaded 260+ kg (575+ lb) bike alone in the middle of nowhere. I’m now in the process of preparing a Honda CRF250L as my new RTW-bike. Current plan is to leave at the beginning of 2019 from Thailand to Japan. Then onwards to Canada/USA to finish what I started before.
(USA On the way to Sedona)
Any advice for someone looking to do their own RTW adventure?
Don’t overthink it! You really only need two things, time & some money. When you run into problems, that’s almost always when the good stories start. Here you will see the true friendliness of people around you and back home. There is nothing wrong with planning a bit, it’s a lot of fun looking for gear or at maps to see where one could go. Just don’t make any exact plans when you are going to be somewhere (some exceptions for visa restrictions apply). One of the nicest things on a RTW-trip is the freedom you get, try to keep it 🙂
Anything you want to add?
I arrived in the United States with mixed feelings. They had already made my Visa process more difficult because of my visit to Iran (on this trip), so I wasn’t eligible for the Visa waiver anymore. When I arrived at the Mexicali border they sent me to secondary and asked a few more rather unnecessary questions, like “Are you a terrorist?”. After all this was over however, I was blown away by the landscapes that seemed to change at every corner, and the friendliness of people that offered to host a dirty traveler with a German number-plate. I’m excited to come back next year and see more of this beautiful part of the world.
(USA perfect highways)
Maybe it’s time to punch the clock at your desk job for the last time and set off on your own RTW adventure to test the engineering intricacies of your garage-bound adventure bike. There are stories all over the internet from people who have done this kind of trip on everything from a zippy Vespa to the classic BMW Adventurer. It would seem the only limits are the ones you put on yourself. No matter what bike you are thinking of taking, there is likely a Facebook group dedicated to its fans and faults. The world is more connected than ever before! With more online groups offering up easy to find answers and on the road support for each other, you will often find that a stranger can be your best friend and best source of advice when far from home. If you want to check out what Mortiz is up to for his next adventure, you can view his Facebook page that he maintains on behalf of his new bike Veely Red (replacing the Transalp, Veely Blue) or maybe stock up on some ADV motor stickers of your own.