The youngest man to circumnavigate the globe (hopefully) - Henry Crew
Words: Scott Blackburn Images: Henry Crew
Back at the end of November Ferrous was lucky enough to be able to get a hold of Henry Crew. Henry is attempting to be the youngest man to circumnavigate the globe on a motorcycle. At the grand old age of 23 he'll beat the nearest record by a good year if he's successful. The previous record having been set by Kane Avellano just two years ago on his Triumph Bonneville. Henry passed his test in 2013 and has been riding ever since but now has decided to take that just a bit further, 35,000 miles further to be exact.
Having set off from the Bike Shed in Shoreditch on the 3rd of April this year Henry was over half way when we spoke to him. In order to beat the record he needs to be back in the UK by the 10th of May 2019. His trip isn't just a transcontinental jolly though, he's aiming to raise £35,000 for the Movember Foundation while he's at it, a £ for each mile. His bike is a Scrambler on loan from Ducati.
As is normally the way with these things we grilled Henry on a few set questions but much of the responses came naturally from him just talking. It's clear from the way he talks about his experiences that he's enjoying every moment and is keen for other people to follow in his footsteps. When we caught up with Henry he was stuck in San Jose waiting for a replacement helmet after he'd left his first one on a ramp while he was loading his bike onto a dingy to take him to his Panama-bound boat. So here's our account of our chat with Henry from half way round the world.
Ferrous: "How's the trip going so far?"
Henry: "It's been amazing so far, it's difficult to sum it up as a whole but I'm grateful for every day I'm on the road, even when it's tough or things go wrong. I'm a little behind where I wanted to be. I'd planned to be in the USA sooner but things don't always go to plan and I've had delays and then caught up and got delayed again a few times. I decided to stop trying to play catch-up at the end of my time in Australia and just relax as much as possible. I'm still on track for the record, the only thing that's changed is how cold it will be in North America."
As well as his helmet Henry went on to say that he'd long had a habit of losing things, losing his glasses in Kazakhstan and his wallet in India. Funnily enough being over-tired seems to have that effect on people.
Ferrous: "How's the bike been holding up with all the travelling?"
Henry: "I'm really impressed with the bike, other than replacing the clutch after 5,000 miles in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The bike was a press bike before I was leant it so its abuse in that life caught up with it fast. It's been perfect since then and mainly just had general maintenance - new bearings, chain sprocket, desmo services, a fork seal and a couple of nuts come loose. I've abused it a lot off-road, water crossings, shit petrol, high altitudes, hot (52˚C), cold, dropped it a bunch of times off-road and a couple on road too. It still feels amazing to ride. It's going to be hard to part with it!"
Ferrous: "Have you had any major highlights so far?"
Henry: "So many! The Himalayas were amazing and I'd encourage anyone to get over there on a bike - it's chaos and really intense on every level but so amazing. I've really enjoyed so many places because I hadn't really travelled much outside of Europe before so there's been many new experiences for me. Having never been in a desert that was amazing, I've been in like five different kinds now which I've loved. Australia was also amazing, it was great to be back somewhere that speaks English as I don't speak any other languages. I also rode across Australia with a guy called Mike who runs a bike tour/rental service in New Zealand which allowed me to ride off-road a lot more and really push myself which was great. I think we would both agree that day two of our journey across Australia, riding out onto the beach in Esperance and ripping across the shore line was a moment we will never forget."
Ferrous: "How did the idea for the record attempt come about?"
Henry: "I had wanted to travel with a motorcycle for ages and been planning smaller trips that never happened because of work or money or not having any mates that rode bikes or wanted to join me. So I was sat at work and saw an article on Kane who currently has the record. That was the first time I'd seen his age and as soon as it clicked that I could beat the record that was it. I turned to my mate, Glen, and just said "I'm going to ride my bike around the world." Started emailing companies to get some sponsorship etc. that night and also contacted Movember about raising money for them. That was in late June I think, and I left in April.
We wondered whether Henry had contacted the previous record holder, Kane, before he left. The answer was actually almost unexpectedly wholesome.
Ferrous: "Did you have any communication with Kane before you left?"
Henry: "Yeah I actually messaged Dart fly screens about sponsorship and got an email back and it was from Kane. I was like "...oops." But he was super cool about it, which was great. We talked a few times and he gave me some advice on stuff. He said that the records are meant to be broken and he's absolutely right. I'd be happy to help anyone who wants to beat it but it's going to get to a point soon where it's not possible. You need to know about the record at like 18 to save enough to do it in time to beat the record now. But there's a few places you can't ride until you're 21 etc. and Iran is making it harder to take big bikes into the country."
One of the issues we were keen to get Henry's perspective on was the issue of the barriers that exist for young riders and his experiences with those.
Ferrous: " As a young rider do you think it's becoming harder to get into motorcycles at all?"
Henry: "Yeah I think it's really hard if you don't grow up with a family that rides. It's expensive to get a license (or three depending on when you take your test) it's expensive to get a bike and insurance is crazy, as it is with car insurance. People are put off by the cost, people are put off by their families and the stigma around motorcycles, young people are put off by the industry's tired offerings and the current demographic of motorcycles. I'm glad it's becoming way more inclusive and I was really excited when I started to see the industry adapt to incorporate the style of riding and riders that I identify with but when they started putting £300 price tags on a jumper you start to realise this isn't a culture being created for you and the love of bikes it's for middle-aged men with large wallets who want to buy an image and a lifestyle which is much the same as half the people travelling on GSs. It's such a difficult one to approach really because we're all broke and almost being shut out of a scene that was almost made for us."
Henry raised some really interesting points in response to this question with regards to the zeitgeist of the motorcycle world. Turning back to the record at hand though we then probed him about any fears he might have.
Ferrous: "In terms of what's still ahead are there any bits you're particularly nervous about?"
Henry: "I was getting nervous about the next few countries. There is a civil war in Nicaragua at the moment which is my next stop. Then Honduras - murder capital of the world and on to El Salvador which has a lot of gang issues. But I normally find that you never actually notice these things. People like the build up reputations that are inaccurate and spread rumours etc. It happened with Russia and Pakistan and in India every state would badmouth the state next door. I'm lucky to have had a few people on social media reach out and offer assistance too, so in Honduras a bunch of bikers are meeting me at the border and riding with me to the capital, where they've sorted me a place to stay. Honestly I've said from the start that I'm most nervous about America because of the gun laws and culture, police brutality and poverty. But in reality it's got to be pretty rare that anything like that happens and I'm more concerned by traffic than being endangered by violence or theft."
The final thing we wanted to quiz Henry on was what he might have in mind for when he returns to the UK, whether he just wanted to return to his day job or whether he had more adventures in the making.
Ferrous: "Do you have any plans for what you might do when you get back to the UK?"
Henry: "Before I left I worked in the music industry and I'm not sure I want to go back there as it was pretty thankless and not great for my health. I'd love to work with motorcycles in some way but it's just going to come down to how I can actually make money doing that. I'm coming back to a blank canvas and clean slate in many ways which has its advantages and disadvantages. But I have a load of money I need to pay off from funding this trip so it's going to be about getting an income first and then working on making the other things happen. I would love to work on creating a motorcycle show where we build bikes with no budget for completely inappropriate challenges or adventures. Like here's £2k, go and buy a 1970s two-stroke and do whatever you want to it within the budget and then we will ride it to the Rotten Race in Athens. There are a lot of shows out there for cars but I've seen nothing but bloggers making weird POV riding videos which some people seem to enjoy somehow. For me shows should do the crazy, stupid stuff you can't always do, not ride through traffic or a mountain road with commentary or whatever, which you should go and do yourself. I'd also love to help other people get out and have their only adventure - like I mentioned before about there being no foundation or anything to help get young people into motorcycles or help fund adventures. But there a million day-dreams happening while I put the miles in at the moment and we will see what happens when I'm back!"
Henry is currently making his way through North America, soaking in as much as he can we're sure. We here at Ferrous, and I'm sure everyone else too, hope that he makes his trip in time and most importantly safely, to beat the record in May. If you'd like to help Henry along his road to £35,000 for Movember, in aid of men's physical and mental health, you can do it via his site below.
Donate to Henry’s cause now at 35000miles.com/