The book “Gone Riding” by Dom Giles kept me good company on my long flights from India to the US and back. If I had to sum up the book in two words, those words would be “freaking awesome”. The book is about Dom’s epic 30,000 mile long motorcycle ride through 18 countries across two continents – North America and Africa. To me the most amazing part is that Dom was/is a school teacher teaching history in the London and knew next to nothing about motorcycle maintenance when he decided to go on this ride. He started his ride in Alaska of all places, which is also where he purchased the second hand BMW R1200 GS that he rode across half the world without a GPS on some horrible roads. That in itself completely rattled my preconceived notions of long distance motorcycle travel.
In preparation for my ride to Marsimik La, the highest motorable road on the planet standing tall at 18,953 feet in the Himalayas, I got my hands dirty and got a deep understanding of my motorcycle, replaced just about everything that could be replaced, planned the route on my GPS and went over it in my head months before I actually pointed my headlight towards Marsimik La. And here was a man who decided to take a flight from London to Alaska, to buy a second motorcycle he has never ridden before and knows precious little about, with a plan of riding it down through Northern and Central America into Panama, then ship it to South Africa and ride through the madness that’s Africa up to Kenya, and hopefully live to tell the story.
The book is wonderfully written and I’ve picked up a few tips that will start showing in my riding blog posts. Being a history teacher, Dom did a fantastic job providing context to the places he visited on his long ride by going into the history of each place, explaining the origins and relevant background. That’s far better than simply recounting the events of the day from the vantage point of the rider’s seat of a motorcycle. I felt like I was riding pillion with him while attending a very interesting history lesson at the same time.
Dom has been blessed with a wife who should be given a medal for being the most supportive wife on the planet. She flew out to ride with him on parts of his journey and in spite of what Dom put her through, it’s a wonder that they were still married at the end of it. And more importantly she hadn’t strangled him on more than one occasion.
There are books that make you think a little differently about something and then there are books that save you the hassle of thinking and outright convince you of something. “Gone Riding” is a book that has convinced me that long distance adventure motorcycle travel isn’t as heinous and most of us think it is. It’s definitely not easy as Dom recounts his bad days in excruciating detail in his book. But it’s doable if you decide to shed your preconceived notions of disaster and death as the only two possible outcomes.
If you ride a motorcycle and are into adventure travel you need to read this book. You can thank me (and Dom) later. 🙂
Kindle and Paperback edition – Amazon
Dom’s blog – The Dom Way Round