If you had a love of small motorbikes and mopeds would you take a ride halfway around the planet, this is a simple idea that many have but few ever complete…but Rob did
Tell us a little about you as a person?
I always find it hard to talk about myself but in general, so I’m an ordinary Dutch guy, 49, who loves bikes, likes live music while consuming a beer, talks with a funny accent, traveling, and enjoys life. (on a bike)
What bike do you own and why?
I’ve got a few vehicles to choose from as my hobby is restoring and riding oldtimer scooters, in my shed there is –
- Vespa 180SS (1966)
- Heinkel 103A2 (1963, used to be my dad’s)
- Lambretta 125LD (1952)
- Heinkel Kabine (Microcar 1957)
- Honda C90 (1982)
- Velo Solex from the sixties
- and my new one from Aussie, the Honda CT110 (2011)
Most people hit the road on a bike they owned already, was this the case with you?
Well, I had a few bikes already in my shed but for this trip, I needed a small, light, and most importantly, a reliable bike. Of course is a no-brainer, that could be only a Honda cub. You can ride it through every environment and it keeps going… Every kick and it’s great fun to ride.
Your ride was a little different than most swapping bikes as you went can you describe that and how easy/ difficult it was?
It was different indeed but that was just a mindset. You can make things as hard as you want. Or should I say as easy as you want…
I couldn’t ride the C90 in one go to Australia so I had to ship it back to Holland from Almaty, Kazakhstan. I flew from Kazakhstan to Indonesia and bought a “new bike” in Indonesia to keep going and sold it when I flew to Australia.
Once in Australia, I did the same thing. Instead of flying my own bike to Indonesia, then to Australia, and back to The Netherlands swapping bikes was an effective simple solution for me and at the end of the day, a cheaper option too.
Did you have anybody motivate you for this ride, Nathan ‘the Postman’ Millward comes to mind?
There were a few things and people that motivated me to make this trip.
- Bas Jongerius, a dutch young bloke known on youtube as ‘Dtour‘ and broadcasted by Discovery channel, inspired me by traveling on his bicycle from the Netherlands to China. With no experience and taking on the challenge.
- Friends in Australia invited us (Me and my family) to come to Thursday Island.
- A partner who says “go for it” when I came up with the idea to go by bike instead of flying as most people would.
I guess that was a good base for a trip through 21 countries from The Netherlands to Down Under…
And yes I found out about Nathan, and read his book after the plan was made, really cool!
What are some of the challenges of riding a bike like yours, and what are some of the positives?
The big challenge was, the C90 doesn’t go 120km/h! You can imagine that that was a bit scary sometimes, especially when all the other traffic goes fast and drivers have no patience. This was worse in Europe where people in a hurry and have a short fuse.
That’s actually the only thing I can think of, everything else is an advantage to ride a small bike, but of course, you need the right mindset for a smaller slower bike, no offense meant to the big bike riders.
A small bike brings you close to locals, I noticed. There is always disbelieve when they see the bike and when you tell them that you have been riding all the way from The Netherlands. It opens doors as people want to talk to you and want to know more about you and your trip, they’re offering help, food, or a place to sleep instantly.
You did a lot of drone footage, but in certain areas didn’t use it at all, can you explain?
Everywhere on my trip, except for the “Stan” countries, they don’t mind drones. So there was no drone footage or photos taken in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
When did you get into riding, and why?
In my teenage years, I grew up with BMX and later on motocross for a bit, racing 50cc scooters, Supersport 600, and restoring the old Heinkel 103 A2 that my dad owned and at the same time I started working at a bicycle shop.
What was the turning point in your life to make you hit the road?
I’ve made a few trips in my life before this big one came up. I’ve been through Europe on my Heinkel scooter, around England and Scotland with two mates on Vespa’s, and on my 50cc Solex from the Netherlands to Crete, Greece.
All these previous rides were good practice for a bigger trip I would say, and why this big trip? Because I could, if there is a will there is a way, so when the plan was made I started preparing.
Did you have a set route in mind before you left or just a destination?
A bit of both. I knew I had to go down south to Australia and I wanted to do the old silk route. initially going through Europe, Turkey to Azerbeidzjan and from there the ferry to Kazakhstan to enter Middle Asia and so on.
What were the challenges for your route, logistically speaking, and in hindsight would you take the same one if you were to do it again?
There was a logistic challenge indeed, time wasn’t on my side. Work gave me 5 months off so I split the “Route” to Australia into three sections.
1st part Netherlands to Almaty, Kazakhstan, sending my C90 home and flying to Indonesia and getting a ‘new bike’
2nd part Indonesia.
3rd part Australia.
I had limited time and had to make choices regarding skipping countries due to weather, the end of summer and fall was kicking in in the stans.
About the route? A big yes, I definitely would do it again and when I have more time and the freedom (Covid) I would do everything by bike and not skip countries.
Where would you consider the toughest area you’ve ridden, and why?
Two extremes I encountered – First of all Tajikistan. I had to change the main jet in the carb to get the maximum out of the “beast”. When you ride a 100bhp bike and you lose 10 or 15 you don’t care, and it’s not really a drama.
But in my case, when you have only 7 horses on board and you lose 3hp means you have to walk and push your gear up the hill like a donkey!
The Pamir Highway, which is not really a highway but a mix of a one-lane paved and unpaved dusty, sandy, rocky road with loads of potholes, some deep enough to break a wheel. All that on 4000 plus meter altitude and sometimes minus 5 with snow.
Second, Australia. Far North Queensland and it’s called the old telegraph track.
The name says it all. It used to be an old Telegraph track from years decades ago, now it’s a proper 4WD track, and riding that on a small Honda in 35C/ 95f you can probably think what that’s like. Through deep bulldust, loose sand, creek crossings and over, in and through obstacles, falling over and sweating like a pig, fun times.
All you have to do to keep the positive vibes up, keep laughing, and say to yourself, “this is temporary”, even though you are absolutely buggered. Take your time, no rush, recap, get your sh*t together and keep rolling, and all at 5 km/h
Is there anywhere you look forward to returning to or thought about staying for longer than planned?
YES! Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia. Due to the short timeframe I had, there was no choice but to keep rolling and sadly no time to chill out for days at one spot.
I met so many beautiful people in those “ex USSR” countries, the stunning scenery and interesting history, castles, Ghengis Khan, and the old Silk road blew me away.
I definitely want to go back with my family to show them those things and take more time to explore, enjoy the local food, wines and discover it in our own way.
Where is your favorite country to ride and why, and which other two round out your top three?
I don’t really have favorite countries to ride, for me, it’s all about the riding itself and being curious about what is around the next corner, no matter whether it’s off-road or on-road…but no highways.
Some favorite areas are going over the Alps in Austria, through the national parks in Slovenia and the winding coastal road of Croatia is amazing. But also, as mentioned before, Tajikistan with its barren highway and the red outback dirt roads of Australia.
A dream location to ride to that you have yet to visit?
Japan, the Honda Cub, and the CT110 scene are big over there, and Japanese people love camping and traveling on the little Honda’s. added to that the culture of the people, nature and especially the WW2 history intriguings me so that would be a good combination.
Scariest moment on your travels?
Only one, the Anzob tunnel in Tajikistan. Aka ‘Tunnel of Death’.
You’ll know why when entering it and the black greyish clouds of dust and diesel fumes pumping out, there are no vents, no lights, loads of potholes, crazy truck drivers and I’m on a tiny small bike!
You just pray and wish yourself good luck as you enter, follow the two red taillights of a truck in front of you, and hang in there. When you exit, you can say you survived but you look like Jack Sparrow with black makeup under your eyes.
Most memorable day?
Definitely on top of the Ak Baital pass in Tajikistan at 4655-meter altitude, sick as a dog, tired, and freaking cold, this was my highlight for high altitude. The chance to be riding everyday and experiencing nature for me was a wonderful thing and made each day memorable in its own way.
Do you have a dream bike, if you had an unlimited budget?
It sounds maybe a bit weird but no, not really. I’m not a dreamer…
Do you think more people should travel and why?
Travel isn’t for everybody, some are happy riding, or at home, or in a resort we can’t be all the same and that’s why it makes it interesting to meet people.
But I do think that for some people it’s good to travel like this with a minimum amount of possessions with you and just take things as they come. Obviously, different situations will cross your path and make you realize that people in other ‘strange and unknown countries’ with different cultures, are just as nice and sometimes even more friendly than what you expected.
I prefer to meet locals rather than being in a resort full of people, meeting locals who invite you for a tea and share the only thing that they have in return asking you if have any candy to give the kids on the street to make them happy.
So yes, traveling for western people is a good thing to venture to non-western countries to appreciate what you have and open your eyes to the world.
Top 3 tips for someone planning a major adventure?
- Don’t be a scrooge when it comes to buying stuff like riding or camping gear. It’s all you have and it pays you back when the shit hits the fan weatherwise.
- Go with the flow, don’t rush, use common sense to stay out of trouble.
- Be nice to locals and they will do anything for you in return.
When you aren’t riding what do you do for a job?
I’m a professional fireman in the city of Rotterdam in The Netherlands for 22 years. This is why I called my Instagram and Youtube channel ‘ESCAPE FROM THE RACE’.
Through my work, I see and get involved in some of the worse situations that can happen to an individual, not only fires but also car accidents, suicides, shootings, etc…you name it and I’ve seen it, in general, I don’t always get to see the prettiest sights when I go to work.
So, the name ‘ESCAPE FROM THE RACE’ is a wide conception, or to me, it means, away from daily life, away from work and jump on the bike, cruise and discover the beautiful things that mother earth has to offer, and that could be anyone or anything along the way.
What does the word ‘adventure’ mean to you?
Going to the unknown and get the best out of it and make it memorable, no matter where or what.
What do you think of social media?
I had never been on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, or other social media before to this expose my personal life, for this trip I made an exception just to show people how beautiful the world is.
I was surprised how many people loved it and appreciated the little daily stories on my travels. So please follow me and live vicariously through me
Instagram – @escapefromtherace
YouTube – Escape From The Race ***Rob has some great short movies of all of his travels with amazing drone skills, well worth the time to watch and find some new bucket list locations….here is #3, go and watch the rest and ride with him all the way to Australia
For now, I’m back in The Netherlands, struggling with the pandemic. Sitting at home with clipped wings but in the future…more kilometers