An Englishman becomes the youngest person to ride a motorcycle around the planet
Jack Groves had a dream- to ride around the world on a motorcycle, and become the youngest human to ever achieve it. With little more than a British A2 license at the time and limited experience with a small Herald Brat 125 motorbike, Jack read about the 8-month, 32,000 mile motorcycle circumnavigation of fellow Brit Kane Avellano in 2017, at that time the world’s youngest, and decided to make an attempt at breaking his record.
Suspending his university education for a time, Jack started making plans for his global odyssey. He purchased a used Royal Enfield Himalayan, fitted and kitted it out for the varied terrain, conditions and long miles he’d be traversing, and began to plan his routes. As he shared in several motorcycle and travel publications, “I did the math in my head and worked out if I left after studying, then… bar nothing happening like a global pandemic… I’d get back a year earlier than Kane. But stuff hit the fan and suddenly it was weeks difference rather than years.”
Full of dreams and youthful enthusiasm, Jack Groves and his trusty Royal Enfield Himalayan ready to ride.
Before even leaving England, Jack had a freak accident that flipped him over the Himalayan’s handlebars and landed him in the ER of a local hospital in Dover. With no serious injuries save some painful road rash, Jack righted everything on the bike, took a deep breath, calmed his nerves, and launched out on July 11, 2019, 21 years old at the time. As he shared with England’s MCN, “I spent a few days in France and rode into Germany along the Alps and through Bavaria with some amazing riding. Then I went through Austria and Slovenia and the back roads were stunning. Then I rode all the way down the Balkans into Greece.”
Go east, young man.
Jack then pointed the Himi to Asia, crossing through Turkey, Azerbaijan, across the Caspian Sea via ferry to Turkmenistan, then through Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and up the fabled Pamir Highway. In Jack’s words, “That’s the best adventure off-road riding of the two years. I then picked up a tour guide in China and later travelled to Laos, Thailand and into Malaysia.” His Asia odyssey took him across the Himalayas of his bike’s namesake, even through Tibet, as he wrestled with the constant “red tape” of Chinese authorities. His journey had already been epic enough, but Jack was far from finished.
Vast, open, deserted places.
Hopping a flight to Australia in January of 2021, Jack and his Himi set out across the “land down under” in the midst of the country’s worst wildfires in decades. We were reading about and following those fires here in the States as they ravaged the Aussie homelands, and Jack set out to traverse the continent from Nullabor to Sydney in the searing heat and periodic smoke. Jack told MCN, “There were days where I’d stop in a sweaty, horrible mess. I bought a two-litre bottle of water, walked outside and just emptied it on myself.”
From the arduous trek across Australia.
Jack then shipped himself and his bike to Santiago, Chile in the South American continent. All of these journeys, mind you, in a widening coronavirus pandemic around the world. Jack rode down to Patagonia for a month, over into Argentina then pointed due north up the famous Ruta 40 into Bolivia. Arriving in La Paz in March, rumors swirled of impending border closures due to the spreading virus, so Jack quickly decided to make for Peru, arriving in the ancient Incan capital of Cusco before the lockdowns.
Jack at Machu Picchu. He had the place to himself.
In an interview with Dure Magazine, Jack recounted how his world trek ground to a halt in Cusco: “What followed was some 255 days of quarantine in Cusco that has all become a bit of a blur if I am honest. I contracted COVID-19 in early April which, at 3,400 metres altitude, was pretty punchy, spent a month exploring the remote jungle of Manu National Park and the high sierra of the Asungate Massif, and the rest of my time was split between Cusco City and the nearby Sacred Valley of the Incas.” Making the best of his nine months in Peru, Jack even visited the fabled Machu Picchu site, albeit alone, a surreal experience in itself.
The lush highland jungles of central and south America.
After numerous lockdown extensions and multiple rejections of repatriation requests, Jack was finally able to resume his journey November 26, making his way with the help of the British Embassies in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia despite those country’s continued border closures. Rolling up through the lush jungles of Central America, Jack made his way into Mexico before deciding to forego North America and ship his Spain in order to achieve his quest for the world record.
Roughing it in the wild.
Another lengthy wait came due to the Suez Canal blockage and its effect on world shipping, but when Jack was finally able to get back to Europe, his father joined him for the final leg of his journey, and he completed his global circumnavigation with only a few weeks to spare. Still yet to be verified by the Guinness Book of World Records, Jack is nonetheless forever changed by his experiences around the world. As he recounted to Dure Magazine, “Ultimately, life is too short to do all the things that you want to do, let alone wasting time giving a flying crap about what others think. For good or for ill, we never know what is around the corner – that is one lesson from this dismal year (the 255 day quarantine in Peru) – so seize the day and don’t leave any cards left on the table when it is all over.”
The journey of a lifetime. All before his quarter-century mark.
One of Jack’s favorite quotes is from American writer Mark Twain- “20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, dream, discover.” It’s easy to see how that applies to motorcycling.