Interview: Rhys Lawrey

On 17 July 2015, after 15 months on the road, Rhys Lawrey arrived at the Houses of Parliament in London, completing a 56,854-mile ride around the world. On completion of his mammoth journey, he became the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe by motorcycle, as well as the rider to visit the most consecutive capital cities in the world by motorcycle. Bryn Davies caught up with him to find out more about his epic adventure…

ABR: Congratulations on completing your double record-breaking ride! Tell us, for those who don’t know, who you are and what you’ve just done: 

Rhys Lawrey: I’m Rhys Lawrey, now aged 24. When I started the trip I was 22. Born in Cambridge, England though raised in Auckland, New Zealand. A month ago I arrived back in London after being on the road for 15 months straight going around the world for two world records, raising money for the Prince’s Trust and taking that first big leap for leading the next generation of bikers coming through. I rode 56,000+ miles through 71 countries.

ABR: Talk us through the attempt – where were you by when and how were you feeling?

RL: There were two records, to become the’ youngest person to circumnavigate the world by motorcycle’ which was the whole trip and that started back May 2014, then once I was in Montevideo, Uruguay, I started my second record attempt which was the Guinness World Record for the ‘most consecutive capital cities visited by motorcycle’.

The old record for this was 5, I managed 51. At the start, being 22 and about to set off around the world, there were so much emotion, feeling and nerves. Not being sure of what was to come and what it was going to be like, yet there was pure excitement and I was pumped and ready to take it on.

Posing with Uluru

ABR: Why did you decide to ride around the way that you did? 

RL: I always had the passion to travel and never be in one place for too long. After leaving school at 17 and getting straight into hospitality work I was already on the move at 18 using the bar job to get me travelling.

With biking, I was always riding, having been exposed at a young age to two wheels thanks to my father. After one Skype call with the old man, we came up with an idea for a trip and then that lead to the even bigger idea of me riding around the world. 

Once all of the ideas started to build up and I took that leap of faith and said “yes, right I’m going to do this”, I noticed that hardly any young people were doing anything like it. Not as grand as riding around the world, but anything adventurous on a motorcycle.

Most are just doing the ‘norm’ straight out of school and into university, then into family life. Yet when speaking with others they usually mention that they wish they’d done something else or taken a year out, and so I got the idea of inspiring others of all ages. If a 22-year-old can make it possible and actually do it and achieve it then why can’t others get out and do what they love doing? Hence the slogan ‘inspiring riders of tomorrow’.

ABR: And why did you choose the name 2moroRider? 

RL: The idea came about as mentioned above, inspiring riders of tomorrow, the next generation of riders, the future of biking and future people of the world; they are the people of tomorrow. So I thought since I was going to be the youngest person to circumnavigate the world, I am also a tomorrow rider. But of course, there’s text language and keeping it modern and ‘hip’, so I shortened the word ‘tomorrow’, thanks to my mum’s idea.

50,000 miles

ABR: How much of an influence was your dad, Kevin Sanders, on you and your decision to ride around the world? Do you think it’s something you would have wanted to do anyway? 

RL: Of course he was my big inspiration for doing this. He helped train me riding when I was younger and was a fantastic father to learn from as I grew up. He taught me what he knew, the planning, prep etc., but the decision to do this was all me. 

It was definitely something I wanted to do myself. I actually hit a bit of a crossroad in the preparation of this trip. Three months into getting the idea (at which stage it was seeming pretty impossible in my mind) I was big into bartending, doing the flairing (think Tom Cruise from the film ‘Cocktail’) and was already in management and running bars.

An ex-boss was opening a place in Las Vegas and wanted me to open it and run it with my flairing background. Three to five contracts, top salary, it was going to help put me up to get myself on my feet. Let’s just say it was the dream job offer for a flair bartender and would have set me up very nicely for the future with money, a career, a base level, I even had a girlfriend at the time.

After thinking it through I thought “no, I’m going to do this world trip”, so I sacrificed everything, dropped everything, booked my flight back to England and starting planning the ride.

Back ground Bartending
Is that Tom Cruise?

ABR: Breaking the record for the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe by motorcycle is impressive, what was the record before you had done it? And what was your previous experience of motorcycling? 

RL: There wasn’t a record held before as no one had stepped up to say that they were the youngest to do it. It’s worth saying that you also have to take into account the term and meaning of ‘circumnavigate’. Some may say they have ridden around the world, meaning around to the top, for example, Russia, Canada and North America. This is around, but not circumnavigating the globe. 

So when planning this route I followed the ‘Circumnavigation Rules’: 

  • Start and finish from the same location – London. 
  • Cross two antipodes points (two places which meet when you fold a map) – Spain and New Zealand. 
  • The same motorcycle should be used for the entire journey. 
  • The rider should ride overland across the equator at least once. Meaning you ride both the North and South hemisphere. 
  • The journey should involve riding the motorcycle in six continents (Antarctica excluded) – Europe, Asia, Australasia, North America, South America and Africa. 
  • The journey must be a minimum of 25,000 miles (40,000 kms), – representing the Earth’s circumference. 
  • The age of the individual should be taken on the completion of the journey. 

My previous experience of motorcycling was going to and from work and doing some small trips in New Zealand. I went on the back of Dad’s bike in South America and through Europe. But a solo trip like this one, this was my first one. If you’re going to do it, do it properly I say. 

ABR: Tell us a little bit about your bike, Tigger, and how it performed on such an intense ride: 

RL: The bike is a Triumph Tiger 800XC 2014 model named ‘Tigger’ and it performed so well. It didn’t miss a single beat. I was surprised myself as I was preparing for a few roadside mechanic episodes but she never broke down on me and started with every single push of the button. The only time she had to be put on the back of a truck was when I ran out of fuel on Ruta 40 in Argentina. She’s the most reliable machine out there. 

ABR: Did you make any mods to the bike, or was it as standard? 

RL: Very standard, I love the English brand, Triumph, and wanted to prove that Triumph motorcycles are fantastic and reliable machines that can do a continuous around the world trip. 

The only mods I used were the Scottoiler eSystem for the chain, which worked wonders, and then Metal Mule Panniers as they are by far the best. Strong, reliable and easy to use, exactly what you need on a long trip. Other accessories are Triumph accessories for protection and other add-ons such as a bigger screen, heated grips, engine bars, bash plate, larger footpegs, and the arrow exhaust which offers a 3.8kg weight saving over the original.

Beautiful solitude

ABR: What was your favourite country to ride through? 

RL: A single favourite is always hard to choose from as there were so many amazing riding places. The ones which stand out the most are China, for the difference and craziness compared to the Western world, New Zealand for beauty, and Colombia for the sheer stunning scenery and perfect motorcycling roads.

ABR: And your least favourite? 

RL: That one’s easy. Turkmenistan. The worst officials and some real bad roads.

ABR: What was your scariest moment? 

RL: I didn’t really have any scary moments. I came off in Turkmenistan in sand and got stuck under the bike, which was a little bit of shock and a little sore, but nothing really scary. 

Rhys’s ride in numbers
■ 56,854 miles ridden
■ 71 countries visited
■ 51 consecutive capital cities
■ 15 months on the road
■ 2 world records
■ 5 rear tyres used
■ 4 front tyres used
■ 0 punctures
■ 6kg weight loss
■ 268kg – the weight of Rhys’s bike and kit
■ 6 – the amount of times Tigger was dropped
■ 2 – times Tigger got stuck
■ 5,401 litres of fuel were used to complete the ride, that’s 284 tanks worth of fuel
■ 3 chains used
■ 2 sprocket sets
■ 32,000 miles – the number of miles the second chain did with a Scottoiler attached

ABR: What was your most cherished item of kit? 

RL: There were many cherished items, as I only carried what I needed. If I didn’t use something I would look at it as I didn’t need it. But I always made sure I had my beanie handy, you’d be amazed at how in cold places, as soon as you take your helmet off and put your beanie on, you keep warm. Lots of heat loss from the head.

ABR: Funding an around the world expedition is a challenge in itself, how did you go about affording to be able to do this at such a young age? 

RL: A challenge it was and a challenge I’m still having after the trip! I funded the trip with my savings, sponsors and credit cards. I didn’t go to university so I didn’t have a study loan; why not make this my university course? With a good salary behind the bar, I managed to get a few credit cards. I’ve racked up a fair bit of debt, but with no house, no wife or kids and the beauty of being young, I have my whole life to pay it off.

ABR: How long did it take to plan the ride? Were there any logistical problems that you had to overcome? 

RL: It took just over a year to plan, and I didn’t really have any logistical problems. It was a challenge as I had to plan a route to fit the world record rules and the consecutive capital city record was by far the hardest to plan, logistics wise. Also, there’s only so much planning you can do, as you have to expect the unexpected.

ABR: When you’re not breaking records what do you do for a living? 

RL: Working in hospitality, mostly bartending, like Tom Cruise in ‘Cocktail’

ABR: If you could do it again, what would you do differently? 

RL: I wouldn’t do it solo. I’m a very social guy, and when I was riding with someone, like when I was with the GlobeBusters group in China, or Steven Kirk in Central America, it was amazing. You can share experiences and you have a familiar face to talk to. 

ABR: If you could offer any would-be RTW adventurers any advice, other than ‘just do it’, what would you say? 

RL: Well only a small few actually ‘just do it’. You have to wake up from dreaming about it, and start planning it. So, go get a big whiteboard, and start brainstorming. How can I do this? Start listing everything from the usual three setbacks, time, money, work. Work out what you can do and what you can change to make it happen.

ABR: What’s next for Rhys Lawrey? 

RL: I’m back behind the bar to help pay off my debts. I have goals to work alongside Triumph and to push the 2moroRider name and get more young people into motorcycling and get people out doing what they REALLY want to do. 

Quickfire Questions 

Dream bike?
Triumph Scrambler, rough and off-road version customised 

Next adventure?
The countries I haven’t visited 

What’s your best quality?
I’m charismatic, great with people and crowds (good to have when travelling) 

And your worst?
I can be overconfident. 

You can only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what is it?
Big fat, juicy Argentinian steak! 

Most dangerous moment on a bike?
Riding in big cities in China. 

If you could take one person, dead or alive, on a ride with you, who would it be and why?
Prince Harry. I’ve been told we look alike, he’s English, loves to ride apparently and seems like a wicked guy to hang out with. 

Craziest place you’ve found yourself naked?
On this trip, a few times in rivers and streams to wash myself, but wouldn’t call it too crazy. 

What do you order at the bar?
Lager or red wine