‘Triumph around the World’ could dispassionately (and errantly) be dismissed as the manifestation of a middle class, mid-life crisis. It certainly has the incredients; a 45 year old divorcee, dis-illusioned with a career in advertising and life on Britain’s comfortable south coast, but in posession of an appetite for beer and the keys to a shiny new motorcycle.
But it’s not what you may envisage. There is a little soul searching, but more importantly there’s the real honesty that if he had not indulged his desire to explore the world, he would regret it for the rest of his life. Sadly, the rest of his life wasn’t as long as any of us would have hoped and 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of his untimely death, on the road, in Spain.
Robbie and his story was an inspiration to me when I first read it, as indeed he was, when I first sat through one of his presentations on his return to the UK from his circumnavigation.
It’s a story that never set out to be fast-paced or high-drama, even though travelling without a map or any real idea may have encouraged this. Lack of planning however, does not necessarily lead you to be shot in the head, to accidentally buy a huge sack of ‘grass’, be hit by an over-turning truck, be eternally grateful for a train journey, or meet a Masai philosopher who wishes to discuss the current state of British politics when you’re convinced you’re lost in a desert and about to die of thirst.
It’s writing that doesn’t rely on self-deprecation, or force the reader to endure the minute details of his daily life. The bike fails occasionally, but he doesn’t obsess about mechanical issues. He observes the world he sees and he challenges his own preconceptions. He lets the reader ride with him and enjoy the experience, yet he feels no compulsion to embrace descriptive prose. Robbie really strikes a balance which, you feel almost by mistake, creates compulsive reading. It’s a page turner, but you can’t quite ascertain why.
His bike, as you can see in the pictures, wasn’t a purpose-built BMW, and for African corrugations it wasn’t ideal, but Robbie was travelling in the 1990s before a new fashion had been carved and when the important bit was having two wheels and an engine. Arriving home penniless, Robbie pressed the same bike into service for courier work, until a white van finally killed it.
Robbie made a video of the trip and it is available in 6 parts on YouTube. Click here for part 1 and you’ll find the rest from here.
Rather like his writing, the bike and the trip just unfolds and all slots together, and as readers we should be grateful that EYE Books chose to republish ‘Triumph around the World’ in 2011. What we should also be grateful for is that although the new edition doesn’t carry the 4 page colour insert, it has kept the same £7.99 price tag. The 1st edition is pictured to the right.
You can get a copy here, but as this book had such an effect on me when it was first released nearly 14 years ago, and because this is the 10th anniversary of Robbie’s death, we will be offering a particularly special deal to Overland subscribers who come to the NEC bike show wearing their Overland shirts…
paperback 290 pages £7.99
Published by Eye Books