Interview: Neil Grobler Talks #LONtoMOR
For the past couple of months Neil and his friend Sean have been steadily working towards their adventure motorcycling dream – London to Morocco overland. On the eve of the expedition, Neil talks about the motivations behind the journey, the decision to purchase the Yamaha Tenere and what he’s planning next.
Geri: Tomorrows the big day. Are you nervous, excited, a bit of both?
Neil: A bit of both. Super stoked to be going on the trip but I’ve also stocked up our first aid kit just in case, it’s a long trip to a foreign place so not sure what to expect.
Geri: What are you most looking forward too?
Neil: The ride. Doing some gravel roads and going through the Dadès Gorges in particular.
Geri: This will be your first big trip overland on a motorcycle. Have you always been interested in adventure touring?
Neil: It’s been a dream really. Since I was 11 years old I wanted to ride with my brother from Cape Town overland to Cape Horn, driving over the ice self between Russia and Alaska.
Geri: So where did the idea for London to Morocco come from?
Neil: When we watched the documentary about the four kiwi boys (African Odyssey) who went from Cape Town to London on a shoestring and with buckets of shit bikes. Overlanding then (that dream from when I was eleven) seemed like something I could actually do.
I floated the idea past Sean when we were in Korea and London to Cape Town seemed like a long way, whereas London to Morocco seemed like a more logical first exposure. I think it might have been Sean’s idea; the half measure option wouldn’t have been my idea! Sean was a bit more responsible – he suggested this trip as a more rational start. Getting our toes wet if you will.
Geri: What prompted you to pick the Yamaha Tenere 660Z over the more popular BMW touring options?
Neil: Price. When they [the Tenere] launched in 2008 I saw them advertised in NZ and thought they were a cool looking bike. Coming to the UK I looked at BMWs but you could get an almost brand new Tenere for the price of a thrashed BMW. The BMW is very reliable but when they go wrong they’re very expensive to fix. You’re unlikely to find parts for them in Africa for example, but I could be wrong.
In my opinion the GS1200 Adventure is the only real other competitor for overlanding, but they are really big and really heavy and again, really expensive.
The Tenere also looks sharp. I found a really nice one for what I wanted to pay with aluminium panniers. They have a 23L petrol tank, good fuel economy and that famous Paris to Dakar rally heritage.
Geri: In New Zealand you owned a Kawasaki ZX6R. Why the switch from sports bike to dual sport?
Neil: You can’t take a ZX6 off road!
Geri: So when you go back to New Zealand you’ll switch back?
Neil: I don’t think it has to be either or. Adventure touring has a lot of appeal for couples. You can take your gear and get to some really nice remote places. Off road is fun, but there’s not much that comes close to the thrill of 0-100kmph in 3 seconds, so I might need both.
Geri: How about gear? Obviously traveling two-up limits what you can take…is it mostly tools you’re carrying?
Neil: No. we’ve got tents, sleeping bags. Instead of going with the old classic sleeping mat we’ve got a double air mattress. (The complete list of gear should be up here in a couple of days).
Geri: It’s taken more than two years for this trip to come to fruition. Was there ever a time you thought it might not happen?
Neil: Up until last week! The original leave date was the 1st of June. There’s been set-back after set back with Sean getting his licence and his bike. There was a month waiting list for the direct access course, then the possibility of him failing his licence. Once he had it we had to wait for both his licence and his V5 (ownership papers) to arrive. On my side, there have been a few projects at work threatening to cause issue, but these have now been delayed. It really looks like the stars have aligned.
Geri: It’s a long way to Morocco. Is there anything about the trip that worries you?
Neil: Punctures and running out of petrol in Morocco. There’s that and we don’t have any navigational equipment. With a bit of luck the signage through France, Spain and Morocco will be a bit better than that found in England.
Geri: Sean will be leaving you in Spain and then you’ll head back home to London. Have you got any more overland trips planned after this one?
Neil: I said before that I wanted to travel overland to Cape Town and that’s still high on the agenda. Another one I’d like to do it Alaska to the bottom of South America, in the future possibly. There’s always the seed the wife planted about riding home from London to New Zealand next year instead of flying home. Let’s see how the trip to Morocco goes first.