Ted Simon is generally credited as starting off the whole adventure motorcycling industry and certainly the making a record of it. Jupiter’s Travels was published in 1979 by Penguin. As it says on the cover, Ted Simon spent four years travelling the world on a Triumph motorcycle. He was a journalist employed and supported on the trip by the Sunday Times newspaper. He left London on 6th October 1973 for what turned out to be a journey of 63,000 miles. This was the same day, he notes, that the Yom Kippur war started, inauspicious but signalling the way his journey and the book criss-crosses with world politics of the period. Ted Simon writes with interest and insight into the cultures and lives that he comes across and becomes involved in across Europe, Africa, the Americas, Australia and Asia. He is politically and personally astute and inquiring. He also writes movingly about the inner life. Its my opinion that though very many books have subsequently been written about this kind of world-encompassing adventure, no one has come near to Ted Simon’s account.
The group of people who have become known as adventure riders come in many orientations I now realise. There is a spectrum from the athletes at one end who’s ride is all about endurance and technical matters to do with the bike and its preparation and at the other end are travel writers, people endlessly curious about the world, its culture and its people who have chosen to ride a motorcycle, maybe because it gives a unique access coupled with vulnerability and openness to people. There are some riders who are somewhere in the middle of course. There are some who seem more focussed on the non-human (landscapes, vistas, wild animals) than human culture.
Ted has written a number of books since this, Riding Home (or Riding High as it is sometimes called) includes further reflections on the same journey. But he has written about other travels, notably his ‘re-run’ of the original trip done 28 years later, starting in 2001 when Ted was 69. All the details can be found on his website and its possible to order his books and video from there too.
Ted turned 90 years old earlier this year. I like him because he makes me feel young.