Flight of the Bumblebee

Saul Jeavons meets a couple with broad horizons

2017, picture the scene: after working all day in the Apple store in London, two young men are having a drink, enthusiastically discussing their dreams to travel the world… One of them sets off by motorcycle to circumnavigate the globe and attempt to set a new World Record for Youngest Male to do so (but fails because he discovers the world is a distractingly exciting place and doesn’t want to rush through). He’s now familiar to Overland readers as Ben King, AKA King on the Road, who had the audience rolling in the aisles at The Overland Event Winter Warmer back in February.

So, what did the other guy from the Apple store do? Well, he set off for Australia, and when working on a cherry farm in Tasmania, fell for a German girl called Lavi Scholl. That’s how Ollie Gamblin and she became ‘Lavi & Ollie’.

Lavi & Ollie then spent two years travelling around Australia in an old van with no air con, before heading off and exploring elsewhere using the technique “where can we get the cheapest flight to from here?” That took them on a 3,000kms walk across New Zealand and then on to Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Timor-Leste, all of which they explored by scooter. Ollie had ridden motorcycles since he was sixteen, starting with a Vespa before moving on to a Suzuki Marauder 125 and then a Kawasaki Eliminator 250 when he lived and worked in London.

Their further exploration was curtailed by the arrival of COVID, but they managed to explore Europe once lockdowns had lifted, by buying a £500 Peugeot Expert van, building a bed frame into the back of it and setting off for four months, covering 15,000km in the process.

Back in the UK, and with international travel still difficult, the pair were considering cycling around the world, so decided to start with a 2,000kms cycle from John O’Groats to Land’s End. That was enough to convince them both that bicycles were infinitely better when they have an engine fitted, so a plan was hatched to ride around the world 2-up.

When they realised that there is no current World Record for doing this, they decided to add a bit of fun to the proceedings by making it an official Guinness World Record attempt to be the youngest couple to do so. Currently aged 33 and 30, Lavi & Ollie expect their attempt to be easily beaten, particularly as they have set aside two years for the trip, but it will mean that a record is established. The Guinness rules for such records mean they have some interesting logistical hurdles, particularly the requirement for two antipodal points, with Russia likely to be out of play for travellers for some time, but they have a number of contingency plans.

In terms of a bike, Ollie reckoned a 250cc cruiser might cut a dash on the mean streets of London, but wasn’t going to hack it in the rest of the world, so they’ve managed to persuade Motorcycle World in Northampton to LEND them an ex demonstrator Suzuki V-Strom 1050 for the duration of the trip. Riding a much bigger bike two up and off road is a big step to take all in one go but Ollie is up for the challenge.

When I met up with them to discuss the trip, it was the first time they had been off tarmac, yet on 10th April they will be setting off for Europe to ride some of the TET as they travel down to North Africa, then on down to Senegal, where they will ship to South America. Apart from engine bars the only modification they’ve made to the bike, which they call Bumblebee, is to fit a pair of Dunlop Trailmax Mission tyres.

We’ll be watching their progress with interest, and joining them for their Ride Off to begin their RTW trip. That’s happening this Sunday (10th) starting at the Super Sausage Cafeteria (Watling St, A5, Northampton NN12 7QD) for breakfast (10am) and then riding on down to the Ace Cafe in London for lunch (around 1pm) and the official start of their World Record setting journey. See you there?
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