The Hill End Activity Centre outside Oxford played host to the third annual Overland Event during the sun-soaked first weekend of September. The event is dedicated to motorcycle travel and at its heart is the Overland Bike Show.
Among many other bikes, old and new, that have carried their riders on long-distance journeys, this year’s show featured two very special trailblazing icons.
On loan from the Coventry Transport Museum, one of them is 90 years old, both were produced by factories in Coventry, 46 years apart, and both have been an inspiration to generations of adventure motorcyclists.
On 2nd July 1928, Stanley Glanfield, a former motorcycle sales agent, and Flight-Sergeant S.W. Sparkes embarked on a world tour riding a pair of 3½ hp Rudge-Whitworth machines. The project was sponsored by the Board of Trade to demonstrate the reliability of standard British motorcycle combinations.
After crossing Europe, they reached Constantinople on 19th August. Making their way through Basra, they arrived in Bombay where Sparkes was forced to abandon the expedition due to ill health. Glanfield set off to finish the trip alone and reached Calcutta on 10th October after covering 1,800 miles in monsoon conditions in only six days. In Australia he rode 3,700 miles across the central Australian desert from Darwin to Sydney – the first motorist (not just motorcyclist) to complete the journey alone. A voyage across the Pacific later, Glanfield crossed the USA in 13 days before eventually being reunited with Sparkes in London on 4th March 1928. In all, the journey spanned eight months and around 18,000 miles through 16 countries.
45 years on from Glanfield’s astonishing achievement, a journalist by the name of Ted Simon rode away from a drenched Gray’s Inn Road in London on a 500cc Triumph Tiger T100P. His four-year, solo journey around the world, during which he covered 64,000 miles through 45 countries, would be immortalised in his book Jupiter’s Travels and become the most famous motorcycle journey of the pre-Long Way Round era. Ted is now 86 and lives in the south of France. He still rides a motorcycle.
Words and photos courtesy of the Full Chat Agency