Since he was 14 and read Jupiter’s Travels, Mark Kemp from Braintree, has wanted to ride around the world. A keen trials rider when he was young, Mark competed in the BMW GS Trophy UK Qualifier in 2015 to hone his skills before departing on the 61,000 mile adventure he had always dreamed of.
|The start of a grand adventure|
Turning his back on his self-described ‘conventional and comfortable’ life, the then 53 year old set off to ride the world in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. His journey began in Australia and New Zealand where he explored right from the forests of Tasmania, across the expansive outback and up to the rainforests of northern Australia. A quick hop, skip and a jump over the water brought him to South America to continue the journey.
His ride up the American continent was a little more dramatic than the start of his journey as Mark saw the Dakar Rally and Machu Picchu, dodged Taxis and ripped around the Andes as he headed north. Classic North American sites such as the Grand Canyon, Death Valley and Mount Rushmore followed – providing incredible riding roads and trails for he and his F 800 GS Adventure.
First of all Mark, tell us a little bit about the bike you used.
|Just a man and his GS|
Mark Kemp: “I chose to use the F 800 GSA. It’s an incredibly robust bike out of the box and with a couple of modifications available through BMW Motorrad you can really push the limit. I knew I’d be doing a lot of off-road riding alongside the usual road riding so needed something that could do both. I’ve always loved riding BMWs and felt very comfortable with the bike after doing Off Road Skills and competing in the GS Trophy Qualifier in 2015. You need to trust the bike you’re on for a 50,000 mile trip like this and I defiantly made the right choice.
“In term of modifications I didn’t have to do that much. I added the BMW guard plate as well as some additional protection on the bars and radiator for extra safety. For a trip this long I also needed some extra storage along with the BMW hard luggage I usually use. Probably my one ‘luxury’ on the bike was a USB charger – but that was mostly for the GPS.
“‘Bertha’ as I call her has been great. She’s had a service and been through seven sets of tyres and not missed a beat.”
Did you have much riding experience before the trip?
|Lessons from BMW Off Road Skills were used more than once|
“I’ve been riding bike since I was about ten years old. Trials mostly, but also some sidecar racing and a fair bit of classic stuff. In terms of adventure riding I wouldn’t really call myself super experienced before this trip, I have only done a couple of short tours here and there. The GS Trophy was always a yearly favourite for me. I got to the point in my life where I just felt like I needed to do this. I read Jupiter’s Travels when I was 14 and the idea had always just been in the back of my mind since then.”
You must have seen some pretty amazing sights along the way, does anything stand out?
|The F 800 GS Adventure always draws a crowd|
“Where to begin! There is so much beauty and wonder around us and in nature. Riding a bike really lets you enjoy it all, you’re not stuck inside a car and looking out a window – it really is right around you. All the famous places you hear about: Ayers Rock, Machu Picchu, the Andes, Death Valley, Yellowstone and many more are famous for a reason. They really do live up to all the hype.
“With a trip like this you also get to ride all sorts of terrain and roads. Again, there are almost too many great roads and rides to list. Bertha handled it all in her stride. I’m currently on some more road orientated tyres, but I really enjoyed the off-road parts at the start of the trip.”
|Riding Gear: Perfect for protection while temple exploring|
“Climbing Machu Picchu in my bike gear was a memorable experience! I got a few funny looks when I did it and it was a little bit warm but I loved doing it. It makes a great story and I think it demonstrates the spirit of this trip really well. You can go anywhere and do anything with a bike like this.”
Were there any challenges you were surprised by during the trip?
|Riding around the world solo isn't always straight forward|
“No matter how well you research and prepare there’s always going to be something that pops up. The border crossings can be a big challenge, especially when you don’t speak the language. There’s always a lot of paperwork and a couple of surprise fees to deal with. I’ve been very lucky and found some great people to help me out when everything looked at its worst.
“Hitting a sandstorm when riding through Death Valley was also a fairly wild experience. I’d ridden through a fair few tricky places in some hairy conditions on this trip and before, but that was my first sandstorm! Luckily I made it through OK, the F 800 GSA is really a great bike to use when you’re unsure of the conditions. For me it was the best combination of power, to help you get out of trouble, and weight, easy to move around if anything goes too wrong.
“I had a pretty scary moment in Peru when I got knocked off by a taxi. Bertha and I were both fine but three hours in the police station was a bit worrying. Not speaking the language and trying to prove I was the innocent party was a bit of an ordeal but we eventually got through it all. It’s those sort of events that you just can’t plan for.”
And what about luxuries, any little treats you’ve brought along or always get?
|Only the essentials, and an extra set of tyres|
“I tried to challenge myself and only bring the essentials. I have a couple of mascots with me including GuS the BMW Bear from Balderston BMW in Peterborough to go with Scott bear (from some Scottish friends), Manx Bear (from friends on the Isle of Man) and also Brian the pig (long story). I also treat myself to an ice cream every now and again, but that’s about it!”
“I still have a little bit left of the trip to do before I head home. I’m hoping to reach my donation goal for the Teenage Cancer Trust, that’s always been the ambition. After this I’d like to get back to doing some trials riding, I miss that a fair bit. I’ve also gained a lot more experience on the bike so I reckon I’ll be in the running to make Team GB during the next GS Trophy!”
Information on Mark’s journey and how to donate to his JustGiving Page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/RTW4TCT/