Life on bikes

True Biker: Nick Sanders, round-the-world record breaker

Nick Sanders once broke the record for travelling around the world on a motorbike: 31 days, 20 hours, on a Yamaha R1 superbike. What makes a man do this?

“Every day of your life you have a choice. Do you play it safe? Do the regular. Do the stay within the confines of what you know, or every single day do you chase something new?”

These are the first words on the cover of The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man – The Nick Sanders Story DVD.

The DVD covers many of Nick’s exploits, from his many circumnavigations of the world on two wheels to navigating two canal boats across the English Channel and through Europe. Oh, and taking Victoria Wood for a ride in a hot air balloon (he’s a qualified balloon pilot).

The words go some way to understanding what makes a man want to endure intense physical hardship, the impact of time away on family life and the never-ending treadmill that is trying to finance life as an adventurer on two wheels. But they don’t quite explain why.

To attempt that understand that, we reached out to this incredible biker, currently between adventures as he and his team put together 2018’s Mach 3 Motorbike and Music Festival, which he has run for the past two years.

How do you rest? In fact, do you ever rest?

“On my canal boat. On the beach with my kids and dogs. Friday night with the missus – I’m a Northern Man.”

What’s the one thing that you still haven’t done, that you feel you need to do before you hang up the keys?

“You never hang up those keys, you just get more selective about how much time you spend on your bike. Life is short and there is so much to do – it’s more about the other things I want to do than stopping riding my bike because I’ve had enough.”

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What’s your single greatest biking experience?

“Riding the 16,000-mile length of the Americas in 21 days 8 hours in 2012 – The Incredible Ride – then doubling back in another 24 days. I was on a Super Tenere and was flying. I have never ridden so well, and also safely. Never had any issues with the bike, nothing close to a ‘near miss’ – on a different level, may never happen again.”

Nick Sanders Atacama Desert
© Nick Sanders | The Atacama Desert, part of the 16,000-mile length of the Americas in 21 days 8 hours in 2012 – The Incredible Ride

Right at the beginning of your DVD your friend, Sam Allison, says, “What it is that singularly drives him, I’m not sure.” Do you know what drives you?

“Tough question. A top pianist doesn’t think about the keys when he/she plays, it kind of happens. It’s the 10,000-hour rule. I have always wanted to be the best in the world at something and while it’s debatable as there are some cracking adventurers out there, I feel I’m close to getting there, I can smell it…:)”

When you are running behind schedule during a challenge, what goes through your mind?

“I was behind all the way on my first ever record attempt on a Triumph in 1996, never really got to grips with the idea that once behind you can never catch up. Very stressful. Better be just ahead, right on the button, you still might lose it but not by much.”

Have you ever found yourself thinking, I can’t do this?

“Not really. I don’t mean to sound conceited at all just matter of fact, but I can only repeat myself by comparing my thinking processes to a top racer. If he/she thinks it can’t be done, it won’t be done.”

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The big question: What’s the next big challenge for Nick Sanders?

“I’ve just put in a new proposal for a final three-year contract with all my sponsors. I expect they will sign me up. The stuff I’m suggesting is pretty big in our big little world of motorcycle adventure. Then that’s it. Goodbye.”

If you would like to meet the man in person, Nick will be present throughout the Mach 3 Motorbike and Music Festival, including leading rides around the beautiful Welsh countryside that surrounds the event.

Tickets can be purchased from just £68, here: https://www.themotorbikefestival.co.uk/

If you can’t make it to Wales for Mach 3, other events are listed in our Motorcycle Events Calendar.

Nick’s latest book, Russia Mongolia Motorcycle Me will be published March 2018, and he has kindly shared some of the preface in an attempt to finally answer the question, ‘What Makes Nick Sanders tick?’

I might mention another lesson learnt from any English literature High School grader. Simply, that if you think of this manuscript as an essay, then it has to tell a story. Rules of engagement associated with organising material may seem self-evident but does a story always have to follow the rules of drama? I felt little drama in what is more a ‘think-piece’ than an ‘act of bravado’. Nothing really happened. I rode a bike, I reached the intended destination and thought about it along the way. And yet: doesn’t a good story start by positing a problem that needs to be overcome – how to ride 15,000 km across unfamiliar terrain. The escape has to be bold or at least obstacles have to be overcome – getting lost, being lonely, operating machinery away from the unforgiving wheels of a truck. And then, something unforeseen takes us to an ending in the journey that satisfies everyone’s intents – “I read him, I hear what he says.”

And if you share my own views about whoever it is we are within the story, surely this makes the whole process more meaningful, where some level of personal substance seeps through from the process of reading and the exacting labour of writing.

So it is with my books. My bloody bits of esoteric literature from which all my life I have sought refuge. The practice of constructing a cogent story can be seen in the way a reductionist might hone in only on what has meaning. Italo Calvino, my second favourite author, wrote, “The ultimate meaning to which all stories refer has two faces: the continuity of life, the inevitability of death,” one of many irreducible sentences I wished was mine. Published in 1972, his novel ‘Invisible Cities’ explores in nine chapters aspects of imagination and the imaginable through 55 cities in short prose poems. What is interesting is that by narrating fictional dialogues between the traveller Marco Polo and the ageing Kublai Khan, we come to realise in time that those multiple views are of the same city. An ultimate stylistic reduction. It is so, that most people insist a journey has to begin somewhere, but it’s possible that it can evolve in more than one way:

There is the start of a journey in the mind,
The start when you leave your home.
A beginning of a journey you imagined you’d have,
Something that’s mistaken for a start but isn’t.
A beginning worth having which gives the best prospect of a controlled conclusion.
It starts, it stops, it starts, it stops.
You can also be like a bird circling in your cage and the moment the door is opened is the signal for you to fly out.

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The Author

Norm Deplume

Norm Deplume

Norm! Big bloke on a big bike.

Loves an adventure, takes no prisoners, takes no drugs (anymore).

He likes to keep things mysterious, mainly because he already has another job and his employer might not approve...