Would you quit your job, sell all your possessions, ship your bike to Kenya, and hit the road?
That’s exactly what Luke Phillips, an adventure rider from the UK, did recently. Having served in the parachute regiment of the British Army for several years and returning home from operations in Afghanistan ten years ago, Luke felt like he wanted to complete a lifelong dream and start riding a motorcycle.
“So I bought a small Honda, did my test, and then just started riding every day, commuting to and from work and going on small trips just to get away from daily life a little. Leaving the barracks in the evening and riding to the coast to relax and ease a little stress. After leaving the army, I continued using a motorcycle as my only means of transport.
Then, maybe four years ago, I wanted to see the world, but I was solo and had a big think about how I could enjoy doing it alone. Then it hit me. Doing everything on a motorcycle would be perfect. It’s a way to see the world where you can meet loads of people and still enjoy the solitary moments in your helmet just looking at the beautiful scenery. So I sold all of my possessions and started riding east!”, Luke shares.
A Dispatch from Uganda
Currently in Uganda, Luke says the trip to Africa was originally part of a bigger journey. “I’d been riding around the world for around three years when COVID hit, and at the time, I was in India with a plan to ship to South Africa and ride north. Unfortunately, myself and the bike (which is named Herbert) were repatriated home to England. After a year and a half of working and waiting we finally got our break and could restart the African adventure”, Luke shares.
What got him into adventure riding in the first place, how did the RTW plan come about, and what’s next for Luke in Africa? I caught up with him to find out.
– Tell me a little more about your bike – it looks awesome!
The bike is the absolute workhorse of my trip, it’s my best friend, and it has never let me down. I bought the Honda CB500x four years ago as it was a virtually indestructible bike, its parts can be found in literally any Honda garage around the world and I’ve had 0 problems in the 90,000 miles it’s completed so far.
After riding from England to Mongolia on it, I realized that while it was a workhorse, reliability alone could not get you across harsh terrain. That’s where Rally Raid stepped in: they are a small British-owned company and they shipped parts to me across the world to transform my road-orientated Honda into the perfect adventure bike. It’s cheap, lightweight, incredibly reliable and now, thanks to Rally Raid, it’s incredible off-road.
The upgrades from them raise the ground clearance, add a larger spoked front wheel, and add customizable traction suspension that not only make it extremely capable off-road, but also means I can overload it to my heart’s content! Since the original build, they’ve also supplied numerous other upgrades such as an engine guard, Rally foot pegs, and hardened levers. I honestly couldn’t imagine doing this trip on anything other than this.
I do always look to disappear off onto the difficult routes to test myself and the bike, but hopefully, after riding down to S.A, I hope to ride back north to Dakar on the west coast and give myself an unofficial (much shorter) Dakar Rally.
– What’s your current route and plan for Africa? How long are you planning to be on the road?
Right now I’m in Uganda, and I’m hoping to head all the way south towards Cape Town,then back up the Western coast towards Dakar. If borders allow, it would be great to reach Morocco and then ferry across to Europe and ride the final stretch home to England. I expect all of this could take around a year, or maybe more. Things always change on the road, though, so I never like to have plans set in stone. Always happy to just follow the road and see where it takes me.
– Your photography is amazing. Spill: what gear are you using?
I often get asked this. Most of my photography is done on my Sony A7III, with a 24-105mm lens. Unfortunately, I am ‘that guy’ who sets up a tripod and uses an infrared clicker to take photos of themselves on the road, but it has to be done! Some of my photography is just done on my phone as well. It just depends on the shot and on how much time I have to take it!
– What has been the most challenging part of your trip so far?
The most challenging part is always borders. These are made much worse by COVID: entering Kenya, I had to self-isolate for 7 days due to my nationality, and more recently entering Uganda, being British caused a lot of headaches for the border staff. But it’s all part of the journey and after every difficult border, you have a relief of a beautiful new country to explore, so the stress quickly fades. You just have to keep on top of current events and know which countries are bringing in restrictions and which are closing their borders.
– Which countries have you ridden through so far?
So far, I have ridden through 49 countries and 6 continents in the last four years. In Africa, we have so far ridden through Kenya and Uganda. Unfortunately, we had to miss northeast Africa due to the current problems in Ethiopia which made it a no-go and cut off the route a little bit. I hope to add many more African countries to this list in the next year!
– What’s the most awesome part about being on a long-distance moto journey? What’s the worst?
Without sounding cliche, I feel like riding a motorcycle around the world makes all of your problems and worries transform. Instead of worrying about work, bills, relationships, and the like, I find myself just thinking, where am I gonna pitch my tent tonight? Where will I get food tonight? Where can I find beer? All of the important stuff! These sorts of things make life feel more simple and for me, it’s something that I absolutely love about a long-distance moto journey. The worst part would definitely be thinking about the end of the journey. It’s something I try to put to the back of my mind, but one day I’ll have to go home and all of this will just be a memory as I try to find a new job and get back to normal life.
Until that time though, I’ll push that to the back of my mind and do what I can to carry on riding and exploring!
– What is your journey teaching you as a human and as a rider?
As a human, this trip has taught me many things. I find the happiest people in the world are the ones who have so little. It’s made me re-evaluate what I’m doing in life and has taught me not to take life so seriously. We only get one shot at this life so might as well spend it doing the things you love.
While I understand that may not always be possible, it’s a good mentality to have and has taught me not to worry so much about saving for a house or pushing to get a more expensive vehicle; instead, I try to save my earnings to spend on experiences that I’ll remember and moments I’ll cherish! As a rider, I feel I’ve come a long way, from riding to Mongolia on a street bike (and struggling) to now trying to find every strange and difficult dirt road which might lead to something cool.
As far as I’ve come as a rider I still understand that an African kid on a 100cc Chinese bike will leave me in the dust every time!
Images: Luke Phillips