When we read about people riding motorcycles around the world, the vision that often comes to mind is of big adventure touring bikes, packed to the gunnels with necessary supplies. This image has been fed to us by Long Way Round and other well-heeled and well-documented travels.
What if we were to tell you that there is a guy who is traveling around the world on a 30-year-old Honda C90 and having a blast doing it? Sounds like madness, right? Well, when Ed March told his friends that he’d been inspired by the UK’s Top Gear trio touring through Vietnam special and wanted to fly his C90 there and ride it back, they didn’t just say he was crazy; they said, “That is stupid. You can’t ride a Honda C90 around the world.”
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Don’t ever tell March that something he wants to do is stupid because then the gauntlet has been thrown down, and he has no choice. He’s going to do that stupid thing – which is exactly what he’s spent the last few years doing. For his first trip, March shipped his bike to Malaysia and rode it 14,500 miles back to England over eight months. For his next adventure, he upped the ante, riding through the Arctic Circle in winter, up to the northern motor point in Norway in February – about 4, 000 miles “give-or-take,” he says.
March’s third trip involved creating a motorcycle tour company and leading seven like-minded folks on Honda 90s back from Mongolia to England. Total travel: 7,000 miles and two months. In 2014 Ed and his girlfriend started their 25,000 mile trip from Alaska to Argentina, but decided to add an extra 18,000 miles or so by riding across Canada in the Winter. The coldest temperature they encountered while riding was –15° F (–26° C) only to have it dip to –29° F (–32° C) inside their tent! For the course back across the American continent, they rode down to Tennessee, where they picked up the TransAmerica Trail for 4,000 miles off-road to Oregon – all on his humble little C90.
All-told, March says he’s ridden 110,000 miles in 36 countries on a 30-year-old bike he originally purchased for just $200. He sums it up: “Although my bike might break more, I can fix it anywhere with anything. That’s the crucial thing.”
So, while he’s temporarily in Southern California, he’s going to give a presentation about his trips on his unusual mode of adventure touring. We were fortunate enough to spend some time talking with him to learn more about his life on two wheels and what to expect on Sunday, April 10, 2016 at 6:00 PM. The location will be Colonial Kitchen, 1110 Huntington Dr, San Marino, CA 91108, and admission is free, though a hat will be passed around.
MO: What made you choose a Honda C90?
March: The limit of the bike happens before the limit of my talent. So, should anything ever go wrong, or should I find myself in a sticky situation, I’ve got enough skill to deal with it. I very quickly discovered that this bike let me have fun. I was actually laughing while on it. I wasn’t really laughing when I was on my much bigger Husky 610.
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MO: What inspired you to start adventure touring on your C90?
March: After seeing the Top Gear Vietnam Special, at work I said that I should ship my bike out to Vietnam and then ride it home. It was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek thing to say, then someone said, “That is stupid. You can’t ride a Honda C90 around the world. That would be stupid.”
I was like, “Why not? They’re small, light, and you can fix them everywhere. And they’re the world’s most popular vehicle. There are more C90s sold than BMW has sold of their entire range for the past 100 years.”
They said, “The salesman specifically told me that you can’t ride a cheap, small motorcycle around the world. It needs to cost $20,000.”
I’m like, “But you can’t get parts for them. If you’re in Nepal, and you need a new rear shock absorber, you’re absolutely screwed. It’s made of aluminum, so nobody can weld it.”
They’re, “Nope, I’ve read the brochure. Every adventure has big aluminum boxes, and it’s a very heavy motorcycle, and if you’re doing anything less than three times the speed limit, then you’re a loser.”
That’s not what adventuring’s about. It’s about getting out there and seeing what the world’s really like. And if you’re as invisible as possible, so that nobody really takes notice of you, then that’s the best way to be.
If you try to take a tour of the U.S. in a Ferrari, how many real experiences of people are you going to have? Or how many are just going to be, “Wow, look at that car; I could never afford that.” Or “Wow, look at that bike.” Whereas, if you’re just going around in a Geo Metro, anybody that you meet is going to be a genuine person, and there’s going to be no ulterior motive. They’re not gonna think that you are a millionaire or that they can’t even relate to your existence. They’re basically gonna ignore the car, which is exactly what happens to me when I’m outside of the Western World.
If I’m on my motorcycle, my little Honda 90, I’m completely invisible because I’m riding the same thing as everyone else. Of course, the real irony is that, if I’m abroad, my life is really easy because I’m completely invisible. When I come back to Western Civilizations, I end up with some more advantages because I look so bizarre and ridiculous. Because my bike’s so small, I end up with people being really friendly towards me because they think that my bike is really stupid. Which is actually really cool.
There’s a brilliant irony in that the reason I seem to stand out is because I’m riding the world’s most popular vehicle. But obliviously there’s nothing special about that. There’s nothing really special about that. I’m just a normal guy. The reason people follow me is that there’s actually nothing special about me. When I inspire people, they’re not actually saying, “Wow, you are an awesome person. You are so different; you are so special.” They’re actually really saying to me, “I really like that you’re normal, and that you’ve just made a couple of life choices that have actually meant that you’re doing something very special, but yet, the reason you’re so inspiring is because I could be like you at the drop of a hat. There’s nothing unattainable about what you do.”
That’s what I think true inspiration is. If somebody goes to the moon, that’s inspiring for mankind, but it’s not really inspiring for you as a person.
MO: What can we expect from your presentation this weekend?
March: This show doesn’t really have a name, but it’s about things not to do. It’s all the ill-advised, stupid things I’ve done. It’s massively based around sarcasm. Yes, this is a stupid idea, however…
For instance, when I shipped my bike to Malaysia, I left my keys at home, which was about as big a fck-up as you can get. When you fly over 10,000 miles to your motorcycle and realize that you’ve left your keys on your bedside table, that is obviously a really stupid thing to do. However, because I ride the world’s most popular vehicle, I could hotwire it and break the steering lock with a screwdriver and a rock in front of the custom’s guy, and then I ride it to the nearest motorcycle shop, where for about $4, I got two new locks and five spare keys fitted. So, for less than $5, including labor, I’ve got a new set of locks fitted to my motorcycle. Whereas if you ride a BMW, the key is coded. If you phone up the dealership, I don’t know how they get one out to you without seeing the vehicle. You’ve got to wait a week for DHL, and that’s if you’re lucky.*
I’m like, wait a minute, everyone was telling me it was a stupid thing to ride a Honda 90 around the world. It’s one of those things not to do, but even when you’re a complete moron, and you leave your keys on a different continent, it’ll only cost you about an hour and $5 to get a new set of locks.
I can’t travel any other way, now because I’ve come to terms with the negative sides of it, which is basically just top speed. But I’ve also experienced the good sides. If I were to ride any other motorcycle, it would just infuriate me beyond belief. I now sort of have to ride on a small, crap motorcycle because it’s the best way to travel.