Monday, 4 March 2013

Interview with Nick Sanders

I interviewed Nick a year ago for an article I was writing. It was some time later that he offered me a job and we became friends. I now live in a cabin on his land most of the time with my dog Chui, helping him manage all his various projects.

Nick Sanders has motorcycled around the world 7 times and up and down the Americas 7 times to make him the most experienced solo motorcycle adventurer in the world. Nick holds the record for riding around the world in 19 days and also the double transit of the Americas in 46 days. He has led client expeditions across the Himalayas, from London to Timbuktu, around the world and extensively along the full length of the Americas from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska.

Seems like a perfect base to develop my skills as a Solo Motorcycle Adventurer!
Check out the interview here and come join me in Peru after the tour!

Interview with Nick Sanders - 13 March 2012
By Steph Jeavons.

1.      Do you see your trips as adventures or business opportunities?

Both. It has to be. I’m not in a privileged position to be able to afford to do them and not try and make some money out of them but I started off as an adventurer purely just to do adventures with the idea that even if I didn’t make any money I wanted to do it come what may. Remember that’s 33 years ago and so very quickly I realised that I had to make them pay as I had no family money.

2.      What would you be doing if you hadn’t made it as an adventurer? Did you ever learn a trade?

No. I probably would have been a journalist and I might have been a war correspondent. I always fancied myself as a war correspondent as I have been to a lot of dodgy places.

3.      You must have to plan well ahead of your trips to organise visa’s etc. Do you do it all yourself?

Yes. Always do everything myself. I have a very particular way of organising my life. It doesn’t work for many people but it works for me. I am sure I could be criticized in all sorts of areas about my methodology but things pan out eventually.

4.      Is there a trip you still long to do?

I am very happy with what I have done. I don’t yearn to go anywhere. I haven’t done China and Russia yet and I am sure it will happen, but I have been around the world seven times and done the Americas eight times so I have pretty much got it out of my system.

5.      What is the one piece of kit you could not do without on your travels?

Long pause…This is a hard question as I have actually taught myself to do without most things. A puncture plug is vital though as it saves me having to take a wheel off. I don’t bother with clothes. That’s nonsense. I just take my leathers and underwear and that’s it. I don’t have room for any frills at all.

6.      You say you have never done a proper job. How did you get started? How did you originally fund your first couple of trips around the world on your bicycle?

I didn’t need much funding because it cost me £2 a day to bicycle around the world. I lived rough for the first four and a half months and lived hard. I think the whole journey cost £1500. Very quickly though I got small sponsors behind me so by the time I cycled around the world a second time I got £20,000 from Spa. In those days when everyone else was buying houses in the mid-eighties, I wasn’t. There was plenty of money sloshing about so it was a good period but I had to fight my way in to it.

7.      Women seem to like you and you have some fairly naughty bits in your books. Have you ever considered writing Confessions of a biker?

I wasn’t aware of that! I love women and I have a good relationship with women. I don’t really spend much time wondering whether they like me or not but I always thought that being an adventurer would be attractive to women.  I’ve spend 30 years being proved wrong! I think the majority of women are quite conservative in actual fact and want the normal things like family, mortgage and so forth so I don’t fit those parameters whatsoever. The women who do like me are in a very small minority.
Steph - Small minority but quality?
Nick - No doubt but harder to find!
Steph - So in answer to the questions have you ever considered writing confessions of a biker….

Well actually I’ve always thought about writing a rather racy autobiographical and its funny as I have a few racy bits in one of my books and I give it to little old ladies with blue rinse haircuts and they love it….
I bet they do

So I think there is a possibility of that because it would be quite funny

I will look forward to that!

8.      What do you think makes some people doers and others watchers?

That’s a good question. The easy answer is fear of the unknown and self-confidence. I think those things have to be built up by the individual in order to progress. Of course a desire is key. Not everybody wants to “do”. Some people want to just observe and that’s perfectly valid. I don’t want to martyr myself saying I’m a doer and you’re not or that I’m in any way different or better.

9.      Is it nature or nurture that made you who you are?

I think the clever people will say that nature is more important that nurture. Nurture can influence. I’m sure in my own background it has had an important influence.

10.  Some people believe that adventurers have usually been through some kind of extreme situation that makes them who they are? Would you say that is the case?

You can only go on how it is for you but I think you are right. I think maybe a bit of shock treatment as a child, maybe a difficult upbringing. Yes, I think that is applicable to me.

11.  You are well known for your endurance and ability to function with very little sleep. Do you believe this comes from practice or are you just born that way?

Practice. I was not born with the ability to go without sleep and when I go home I love to have a good 8 hours sleep. Sometimes, before a big trip, I wonder how am I going to get through this, I’m comfortable, I’m sleeping, and then suddenly my world is going to turn upside-down where I will be riding through the day and night.

12.  Does it get harder as you get older?

No, not at all. I have just done some of the best riding of my life last summer. I rode the Americas three times and in parts it was hard but the overall feeling was that it was well within my capabilities.

13.  How old are you?

54. Number of ages is exactly that. Just numbers. If you take away the number you are what you are. I’ve never thought of myself as being a 54 year old. Endurance is something that you get better at. My hand eye coordination is still excellent.

14.  You describe yourself as Stoic. We all know you are capable of taking pain without too much fuss but on the flip side does that mean you rarely get excited about things?

Some days I have to work quite hard at getting excited over things. You have to rack your brains sometimes to find something that you really want to do.

15.  So do you think that is what drives you to do more extreme things?

More extreme things certainly but different things for sure. A few days ago I was feeling very flat and I couldn’t work out why I wasn’t excited about the things I had done. I have done so much. Then ideas started to flow, phone calls happen and little opportunities occur and now I am exited again about what I am doing. I may not look exited but I am!

16.  What is your best feature?

Gosh I don’t know. What do you think it might be?

Steph - Maybe your hair?

I hate my hair. It’s a mess. I can’t do anything with it.

17.  Do you ever listen to music on the road

Generally speaking no, although on the last trip I did try it and on long straight bits I found it did help. It kept me awake.

18.  What kind of music do you like

All sorts but I like dance and trance.
Steph - Really?
Oh yes. I don’t dance but I like the music. I am very up to date and very contemporary! (he smiles)

19.  You have 3 kids. Any of them have motorbikes yet?

No. They are not bothered. I guess they are slightly waking up to it. They ride mountain bikes which is the important thing for kids. They are not going to be stunt riders so I don’t have to put them on a bike at five. They will do their own thing.

20.  What if they come home tomorrow and say “Dad I want an off roader”.

They’ll have to go and earn it.

21. What is the single most important bit of advice you want to give your kids?

To believe in themselves. I was never really taught how to believe in myself. I had to learn it and it took an awful long time and so many trips. Not believing in yourself as a child takes almost twenty years to learn and its wasteful time. Kids should have a healthy belief in themselves. Confident without being arrogant.

22.  What would you say if your son came to you and said “Dad, I want to be a mortgage broker!”

I’d want him to be a good one and to enjoy what he was doing.

23.  I hear you want to hang up your biker boots and stay still for a while? 30 years of adventuring. Do you think it is possible for you to walk away or are you wired to keep moving?

 No that’s not true. Not at all. I rode 51,000 miles in four months last summer and I haven’t ridden a bike since but that’s what I tend to do now. In context though, 51,000 miles is a lifetimes riding and I do find that I simply just have other things I want to do. I don’t miss riding the bike when I’m not riding but the moment I get on the bike I can’t imagine ever having stopped. It’s vital still to what I want to do. I’ve always wanted to stop adventuring for many years to be honest because its stressful, no doubt about it, I’m away from friends and family and I get very homesick and the way I do it is quite dangerous and I’m alone. I think you can simply train your mind to want to do other things more. As long as I have a challenge. Travelling around the world is just one element of motorcycling.

23.  Why chose to settle in Wales?

I didn’t want to come in the first place. I had a wife who wanted to come over here and I felt it was important that she felt very secure and she should have the choice of where to nest if you like. We were in the middle of having children and it was important that she was safe and happy and she made that choice. Now we are all here. She is around the corner and now I have realised what a fantastic place it is. It’s a great destination place.

24.  Are you learning Welsh?

No but my children are fluent

25.  Do you think it is important?

I think it is important to integrate in to the society that you are with. Not quite whether you learn Welsh or not. The worst thing is to be an English person coming to tell the Welsh how to live. I find that very irritating. If you go to India do you have to learn Hindi? Probably not.

26.  What is your favourite thing about Wales

I can only speak for mid wales but I like the people. They are very gentle. They are not a warrior class that is for sure. They really are delightful people. Also on a sunny day there is no better place than where I live.

27.  Have you had Welsh cakes?

Yes. They are best homemade and of course Bara Brith.

28.  Where are you from originally


29.  What do you do when you are not working or is it difficult to define work?

You know these things are difficult to define when your work and pleasure are blurred so I don’t ever know when I’m not working and I don’t ever know when I’m not playing but to try and give you an answer I spend quite a lot of time with my children. I quite enjoy going to the cinema with them. I also like sex!

30.  You have a lovely spot here. I believe you have some plans for the place now that you are going to be doing a little less travel. Tell me about it.

We are going to have an expedition centre where people come and learn how to expedition. It will be open probably later on this year but I’m not sure. It will be open when its ready but definitely next year. Basically people will come and learn how to adventure with me. I will teach them how to adventure cheaper because I know all the shortcuts.

31.  Will it include accommodation and food?

Yes. People can come and stay for the weekend and everything is on site. We plan to have a café with home cooked Welsh food and log cabins on the grounds. We will arrange bike rides and there will be bolt on possibilities such as kite surfing on the beach, hill walking, white water rafting, all sorts of stuff. We will have a menu system so people can decide when booking how much they want to do. The core value is motorcycling and adventuring and the periphery is all those extras.

Nick Sanders Expedition Centre is now open. See details HERE!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Great Article!

  3. Bike boots are the footwear for riders; they may go from lower leg boots to beneath knee boots. These boots for the most part have a low heel to give the harmonyøvler


  4. Great you Are joyful

    I have one myself because like 10 decades. I like it as well, not modded as yours however.

    At this time it doesn't function, it chokes if warm. Brought into some neigbour of mine and he will get a deeper look at it.

    It feels like some have had trouble with the automatic decompression valve, so does yours have that?

    Enjoy a fantastic day!

    Chainsaw Sharpening Angles