Nick Sanders answers your questions

Nick Sander gassing up in South AmericaNick Sanders’ ride from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego and back in 49 days, riding a Super Tenere, was an incredible effort. Even more incredible when you think he was filming it for his just-released documentary, aptly named “The Incredible Ride”.

Of course this is not his first time around the block, and it may not even have been his toughest adventure… from Wikipedia

Nick Sanders is a British bicyclist, motorcyclist and author noted for his long-distance riding. On 9 June 1997, Sanders completed a world record 19,930-mile (32,070 km) circumnavigation of the world in a record riding time of 31 days 20 hours.

Sanders used to have the World record for cycling around the World, but that was broken on 15 February 2008 by Mark Beaumont of Scotland. Sanders has also cycled across the Sahara. He has also taken two narrowboats across the English Channel and along the entire length of the River Danube to the Black Sea. Sanders holds a private pilot licence for a hot air balloon.

This ride also provided proof of the Super Tenere’s toughness – Bike magazine reported on stripdown of Nick’s bike after 50,000 hard miles, and found the internals pristine. (you can read about it here, here, and here.)

Nick has kindly agreed to answers some questions for me, and for readers of this blog.

You can order “The Incredible Ride” direct from Nick, here

The Bike

Q. Yamaha says “Premium Only” for fuel, on the US bikes at least. I’m guessing you used whatever you could get, most of the time NOT premium. Did you have any issues with poor quality fuel along the way? Pinging or poor running?

A.  Premium fuel only exists in Canada and the USA and toll road gas stations in Mexico so the rest of the journey the bike had to cope with low grade octane fuel on a daily basis. I was never concerned because the R1 managed very well on fuel as low as 82 so I knew the Super Tenere would be fine.

Q. Also on fuel – HarryA has a BMW GS and had fuel filter problems in Alaska. He asks if you had anything like that on the Super Tenere? In the recent tear-down, was the fuel pump and filter inspected?

A. I had no fuel problems whatsoever – except for some pinking on very low octane fuel but then you ride within those altered parametres and then engine subsequently runs fine. The engine tear down was 100% successful in that there was no evidence not only of wear and tear, but, believe it or not, no real evidence of the bike having been ridden. You may find this hard to believe but the engineers were amazed and could not believe the mileage it had achieved.

Q. I know you love your R1’s, but how does long distance travel on the Super Tenere compare? What were your impressions overall? Do the electronics (ABS, TCS etc) make any difference compared to the R1, in terms of making the bike easier/safer/more relaxing to ride, therefore making it easier to cover miles? Or, in your case, can you cover big miles just as easily on either bike?

A. The Super Tenere was easier to ride than the R1 in a number of ways: firstly it carried luggage easily, in my case camera equipment and a small laptop. Plugs and leads are a headache when you have no storage capacity whatsoever. Secondly, the weight gave me momentum and in the sense of some gyroscopic effect this gave better balance at speed. My own weight shifts did play with the riding line and approach to corners but not like on a much lighter bike where the positioning of your body is much more critical. Thirdly, this sense of weight was reassuring on poor road surfaces, a bit like wearing a stout pair of shoes instead of racing spikes. It may surprise you to know that cornering on a Super Tenere is every bit as good as an R1.

Q. Was there any time that the bike gave you any concerns at all?
A. No


Q. There were pics of the Super Tenere with a stack of maps on the dash, and no evidence of a GPS – did you do the trip without a GPS? If so, why not?

A.  I have never used a GPS and for two reasons: they can and do go wrong, reliance on them can lead to complacency, especially in places like Guatemala where surface mapping can be unpredictable and thirdly, you know, it’s sometimes nice to ask the way. Often, my only conversation all day would be to ask a gas attendant to fill up my tank and to ask someone where I was. I don’t state a law here – ‘do not use a GPS’ – more like – ‘this is what suits me!


Q.   Tyre management – I noticed in one pic you had FIVE tires loaded on (and around) the bike.
What sort of mileage were you getting out of them, and what did you do when it came time to change? Did you have any “miscalculations” in terms of tire life?

A. I hadn’t organised tyre drops before I set off so carried sets of tyres which I could leave on the way down to collect on the way back up – it worked. Sometimes I had to change tyres before the end of their natural life simply because tyre changing operatives were far and few between. Sure I can change a tyre by hand but when you are riding so many miles alone with so much going on, it’s best to get a little help when you can.

Mind and Body

Q.    Seems like you were surviving on 4 hours sleep per day, with some “power naps” thrown in.
Do you have any techniques to share? How did you know enough was enough?

A. I had less than 4 hours on many occasions. Remember I am trained to do this. If anyone were to attempt to break this record, and I applaud that, they would need to exist on 2 hours a night for several nights in succession, sometimes less. I have two techniques and one is stopping just before your battery is run down. A very flat battery is often ruined and hard to recharge but if you stop when you feel on the edge of exhaustion but not exhausted you will recover faster. The real technique is operate on a ‘must-not-fail’ basis and the thought of going home empty handed, after all this effort from me and trust and financial investment from my sponsors, well, it was too much to bear. There are responsibilities to rides like this and I do take them seriously.

Q. When you did sleep, WHERE did you sleep? If on the roadside, any safety concerns?

A. I slept on the bike in the way a method actor would never slip out of character. If you clasp your hands together on the instrument panel and rest your chin on your knuckles that locks your arms into place and doubles as a cushion. The legs can hand or stay on the pegs but when I stop I can be deeply asleep in seconds. No safety concerns at all. I sleep in the shadows.

Q.    One of the things about being on the road is you’re constantly faced with crap food choices, especially if you don’t have time to search out good stuff. Good nutrition is essential for alertness and stamina, especially over a long period of time. What was your daily diet like?

A. My diet was minimalist. We all eat to much and where food is concerned, less is better. I did not drink tea or coffee unless I needed to treat myself. Look, if you were to ask Van Gogh why he painted like he did, he would not know how to answer you. I can wreck my body with such poor food and such a severe lack of sleep that it might precipitate a stroke in other men, but this is what I am good at, a rather weird ability to put my mind and body into some kind of hibernation while I focus on a task in hand.

Q. Alone, a long way from help, and up against the clock – what was the most frustrating moment? Dealing with borders? Picking the Super Tenere up in the snow for the umpteenth time, with the chance for the record slipping away?

A. I head planted myself in the snow on the second leg travelling south just over the Pass de Garibaldi and lay under the bike for 30 minutes. I broke a bone in my foot and only by my body heat melting the snow in time did I manage to squeeze out. That was hard but the most frustrating time was the number of border posts I had to wait to open, largely because of my inability to organise myself well.

Scariest Moment

Q. In a trip covering so many miles, much of it in adverse conditions, and in darkness, there must have been some scary moments. What was the scariest?

A. If you are calm you are not scared – often, we scare ourselves. Take away a lurid imagination and you have only logic as a command to the brain, so no problem. Avoid areas where you might be scared and you won’t be scared. Of course, this technique needs to be applied on a moment by moment basis because the potential to be scared is ever-present.


Q. You had to ride the bike, take photos and video footage and write during the ride. It’s hard enough for most people to do the ride let alone all the rest. So what are the logistics involved and how much time would have been saved if you just rode?

A. I could have saved at least a day by not filming and brought the record below 20 days – I shall leave that pleasure to a younger and equally committed man or woman. I’ll let you into a little secret, but some of the film you will see in the DVD was shot on the way north on the very first leg when I was leading my clients from Ushuaia to Vegas. The real stuff – pieces to camera were as it happened. It was a slight compromise but you’d never know! You’ll have to buy the film!!:)

And Finally…

Q. Did the aliens that abducted you outside Fargo, North Dakota decide NOT to invade after determining that the humans could not be defeated, based on their tests of your mind and body?

A. Good question but actually I was abducted and after a thorough examination they decided that I was more like them than their initial research had suggested and they did invade. The aliens are already here, didn’t you know?

Comments (10)

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  1. Hi Nick,

    Quite a substantial mission you completed !

    But as dataminer, and Tenere owner myself i’m interested in the little niggles of the bike, so my inproptu question, what did you have to repair and where did you need some Q&D engeneering to get along ?

  2. GrahamD says:

    Amazing Stuff Nick!

    Since my first topic has been covered, I’ll chime in with this..

    You have to ride the bike, take footage and edit and self publish I assume.

    It’s hard enough for most people to do the ride let alone all the rest.

    So what are the logistics involved and how much time would have been saved if you just rode?

    How many hours a day do you sleep normally.?

    Did you really get abducted by BMW fans at Fargo?

    I’m sure there are more questions but I will keep an eye on the rest and see if there are some intelligent questions I can add before the thread closes :)


  3. HarryA says:

    AB-SO-LUTELY amazing Nick. You’ve set a record that cannot be broken, EVER ! !

    To break it, a person would have to go with one hours sleep per day.

    One question: On my BMW GS I had fuel filter problems due to bad quality gas when the filter only had 20k miles on it. The bad gas was in Alaska. Did you have any fuel quality problems on your trip? Did you replace the fuel pump after so many miles or did you replace anything fuel related at all?

    I ask because I see no sign that the tenere actually has what would normally be considered a fuel filter like most vehicles have.

    thanks, Harry

  4. Malcolm Allwood says:

    What a trip, the word awe is used far to much, but in the true sense of the word I am in awe at your achievement. Is the tour of Yamaha dealerships on and if so are you going anywhere in the North East. I spoke to Ian Bell (very good Yamaha dealer in Bedlington) recently and they had heard nothing.
    Regards Mal

  5. Devin Ridgeway says:

    Congrats on your achievement. I know you were sponsored by Continental but I was hoping you could give us a review of how the Trail Attacks performed on the bike? What kind of mileage did you get? I have also heard of potential braking wobble from the fronts. Did you have any issues with them? I am looking for a replacement to the Tourance EXP and am hoping for better mileage as they are done at about 3300 miles.

  6. Mark Brown says:

    Awesome achievement, looking forward to the book, DVD.

    Did you have any issues with fuel on the trip? Specifically lower octane fuel causing performance problems.

  7. deanl says:

    Nick, Awesome ADVenture!! Welcome Home, glad you get to see the family finally!

    As someone mentioned I’d be interested in the niggles, as well as the best of the best re the bike; handling, performance, ride comfort… ?

    Inmates have wondered about the ABS; how did it work for you, would you have an off switch for that?

    And what about some of the other high techno included in this nice package i.e TCS, UBS, did you find useful, efficient, effective..?

    Many Thanks, dean

  8. John Nail says:

    I’m interested in the oil(s) and other fluids you used on your journey. The 50,000 mile teardown thread was quite impressive.

  9. Bruce Miller says:

    I believe your name and photo should be beside the word Adventurer in the dictionary.

    Not bad, not bad at all Nick.

  10. Dave Cooper says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the dvd and thanks for taking the time to answer the questions.

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