Words and pictures by UltimateMotorcycling.com
Recreation of the 1912-1913 Clancy Round-the-World Expedition
Two BMW-riding adventurers from Northern Ireland – author Geoff Hill and former road racer Gary Walker – have set off from Dublin on the first leg of an 18,000 mile round-the-world expedition.
The duo will replicate and celebrate the inspirational and ground-breaking adventure undertaken by pioneering Irish-American writer, and silent film director, Carl Stearns Clancy in 1912-1913.
Clancy was the first person ever to ride around the world, or as he put it, “girdle the globe”, on a motorcycle. Traveling over from the USA on a steam liner, Clancy and his traveling companion Walter Storey departed from Dublin on a brand-new pair of Henderson motorcycles, setting off for mainland Europe.
After his bike was hit by a tram in Dublin, Storey was forced to travel pillion astride the petrol tank of Clancy’s bike through a rain-sodden England and northern France. On reaching Paris Storey had had enough and gave up on his dream to see the world by bike. Undeterred, Clancy continued on into the unknown, traveling alone through Western Europe, North Africa, Asia, and the Far East before crossing the United States west to east, finishing at his home in New York.
For much of the journey, the tarmac roads were of poor quality or non-existent, and petrol was near impossible to find. In fact, he had to abandon plans to ride through India due to a complete absence of usable roads or fuel, instead traveling via Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to the Orient.
To introduce their recreation of the original ride, and to mark the landmark occasion exactly one century to the day, Hill and Walker traveled to Dublin on their BMW R 1200 GS Adventure motorcycles. The GS has been designed from the ground up to ride around the world, a feat which it, and the highly successful models which came before it, have been achieving for over 30 years.
At the preview to their historic ride Hill and Walker were joined at Joe Duffy Motorrad in Dublin by a vintage 1912 Henderson motorcycle similar to the one Clancy rode one hundred years ago. A crowd of well-wishers were also in attendance ahead of the duo’s ceremonial ride through Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The main ride itself commences in 2013 and will see the two riders continuing their trip around the world. On reaching America the BMW-riding pair will meet with Dr. Gregory W. Frazier, whose painstaking research and writing of the 2006 book ‘Motorcycle Adventurer’, finally pieced together Clancy’s trip after nearly a century.
Clancy’s tour is made all the more incredible by the fact that his 934cc Henderson motorcycle, then the fastest and most advanced in the world, made just 7bhp. The 1912 Classic boasted a top speed of around 70mph, had one gear and absolutely no front brakes, and Clancy was clothed in only a tweed three-piece suit and cloth cap.
By comparison, the BMW R 1200 GS motorcycles being used for the recreation make 110bhp and feature ABS braking and innovative electronically-adjustable suspension systems. Fitted with the very latest BMW technology traveling over some of the most challenging terrain on Earth has never been easier. Hill and Walker ‘s BMW Rallye 3 suits are waterproof, armored to the highest standards and feature the latest in climate-beating textile innovations, while the System 6 helmets offer protection unimaginable one hundred years ago.
Hill and Walker also have a unique item of luggage with them: Clancy’s original leather riding boots. Gifted to the pair for one last ride around the world, the boots will finally be delivered to a motorcycle museum in New York, where they will be added to an exhibition commemorating Clancy’s incredible achievement. The boots have a special significance as Clancy’s most famous quote is: “One must die sometime and to die with one’s boots on is very noble.” Happily Clancy did not. He passed away in 1971 aged 81, after a long and successful career as a film director, and an enjoyable retirement in Western Australia.
Geoff Hill, 56, says: “Today we are setting off on a very momentous occasion, marking exactly one century to the day that the very first motorcyclists set off to ride around the world. The R 1200 GS Adventures that BMW Motorrad have supplied are hands down the best choice for a round-the-world tour. They are such a contrast to the incredible hundred year old Henderson motorcycle which we have here today.
“To think that Mr Clancy set off on a cold, wet day like today is rather humbling. Gary and I are very lucky to be able to follow in his footsteps and, indeed, with his very own boots. We like to think that he’d approve of our adventure.”
Gary Walker, 50, says: “I’ve been riding a very long time, and I’ve been a road racer for many years, but this is without a doubt the biggest two-wheeled adventure of my life. While Geoff is sat on a GS Adventure for today’s preview and wrapped up warm in a BMW Rallye 3 suit, I’m riding this century-old Henderson wearing tweed and a flat cap. And for good reason; this is the same clothing that Carl Clancy wore on the same motorcycle one hundred years ago, and the difference is mind boggling. Modern motorcycles and clothing have advanced almost beyond recognition and that is what makes this trip so special. What better way to honor the man who has quietly inspired so many round-the-world trips than to recreate his?”
In the build-up to the departure of the centenary celebration ride in April 2013, Geoff and Gary will be making regular contributions to the BMW Motorrad UK Facebook page and will be featured in the BMW Motorrad e-newsletters.
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