Bruce Smart first graced our pages in 2011 as we helped to publicise his impending around the world adventure on a Suzuki GSX-R. Did it change his life? Our resident motovlogger, o75 catches up with TeapotOne for a brew.
Bruce, you came into motorcycling quite late in life. What invited you to the saddle? I’d always had a fascination with bikes from a young age. I remember my dad arriving home from the oil rigs one weekend, and his mate had this huge Suzuki motorbike. Picking me up, he plonked me on the tank. I always remember thinking it was the best thing ever. However, my parents made it clear bikes were dangerous, so they just weren’t on my horizon until my late 20s when Long Way Round came along. It rekindled my desire for motorbikes and travel.
Where did you get the idea to go around the world? Fast forward a few years and my mum was now very ill after battling cancer for almost ten years. Watching one of the episodes of Long Way Round with her, I started to moan saying how it was okay for Ewan McGregor to swan off around the world; he had all the money and support etc. My mum turned to me and said I had always wanted to ride a bike and never done it. After watch Long Way Round years earlier, I’d spoken about riding around the world but here I still was not doing anything about it. She said, “Don’t get to my stage in life where you face the end and regret what you’ve not done in life. Look after those you love, but ‘live your life’”.
That changed my life there and then. I booked my DAS and, by the time I’d passed the test, my mum had gone into St Christopher’s Hospice in Penge. I went straight to P&H Motorcycles in Crawley to pick up my brand new GSX-R600, climbed into my power ranger suit and rode to the hospice. As I walked into mum’s ward, she looked over, and I shook the keys, “I’ve done it!” She gave me a huge smile and hug, then made me promise her I’d do my trip. Five days later, she lost her battle.
How did you get your name, TeapotOne? TeapotOne was the callsign in the Met Police’s mobile tea wagon. It would be deployed for large-scale public demonstrations, for example. You knew that you’d get ten mins off the front line for a brew, get your breath back then get back to it. As I was a serving police officer in the Met, and I was taking a career break for the trip, it just seemed the right name.
Your choice of motorcycle for the trip was, shall we say, an interesting one. Why did you choose the Suzuki GSX-R 1000? Why not? I’d always ridden Gixxers; I loved them and was used to riding big miles. Regardless of the weather, I ride around 40,000 miles a year. It’s my mode of transport.
If Sjaak Lucassen and Nick Sanders did it on R1s, then why not me? I also wanted to try and raise some money and awareness for a few chosen charities. I also wanted to be different to everyone else at the time who seemed to be setting off on adventures astride GSs.
Luggage-wise, the Suzuki was pretty fully loaded. Was this a contributory factor with the subframe breaking? What implications did this have with the trip? When I first set off in October 2012, I had a ridiculous amount of kit with me, but it only weighed around 55kg — still less than a pillion. I admit I was taking the Gixxer outside its normal parameters.
I was riding along a lovely tarmac road when, at a crest, it suddenly dropped three feet the other side. I was doing 90mph at this point before soaring through the air in the style of the Dukes of Hazard.
When the subframe first broke, I was in the Sahara Desert in Mauritania, West Africa. I was riding along a lovely tarmac road when, at a crest, it suddenly dropped three feet the other side. I was doing 90mph at this point before soaring through the air in the style of the Dukes of Hazard. As I landed, the subframe snapped like a twig. I stayed upright, though.
I managed to get the subframe soldered enough to get me back on the road. Once back in Blighty, a short time later, I bought a proper replacement subframe from Suzuki only to find this snapped as I left the M1 going to a trackday at Donnington. The next subframe lasted until halfway across Russia, and after welding it again, it snapped 2,000 miles later just before I entered Mongolia. Further welding got me to Japan where I replaced it with a bespoke heavy-duty solid aluminium one built for me by a stunt company in Kent.
Knowing what you know now, what luggage would you have left behind? I didn’t need my two weeks of ration packs or any of the camping kit like the stove, pans, cup, inflatable mattress, the full toolkit, enough clothing to cater for any weather etc. If I get the chance to go on another big trip, I will take my phone, credit card, passport, and some spare pants and socks. I did the whole RTW trip with three t-shirts, three pairs of pants and socks, a pair of lightweight trousers which, with a couple of zips, become shorts, and a fleece. That’s all I needed as you can wash as you go, or just buy kit as you need it.
How long did the trip take? 442 days.
As a ball-park figure, how much did it cost? The entire trip from start to finish cost me in the region of £55K. That includes absolutely everything; the bike, clothing, visas, carnet, vaccinations, shipping, lodging, food/water, tyres, servicing, repairs, even my mortgage when tenants did a bunk without paying for a few months! I’ve done a vid about how to work out a budget for a big trip at http://bit.ly/RTW-cost
Did social media help, when you needed help? Absolutely. I utilised social media heavily in the build-up to the trip as I documented the planning and prep. Once on the road, people got into it, and I enjoyed sharing my experiences with them through posts and video.
People would start telling me about their friends and family who lived around the world, and then I’d get invited to visit them on my travels. Initially, it felt too weird to accept and just turn up at a stranger’s home, expecting them to host you, but after a while, I started taking people up on their incredibly kind offers. It was the best thing I ever did and brought a whole new ‘human’ dimension to it. As I was travelling alone, it would have been straightforward to just keep myself to myself and not interact much with people as I travelled. By putting myself out there and agreeing to meet people it brought in new characters to the adventure, continually changing the vibe of it all as everyone is different.
When I had any technical issues, I could always just post a pic or vid up on Facebook, and within minutes I’d have people suggesting solutions or pointing me in the right direction. It was awesome, and it’s something I’ve carried on to this day.
What was the most challenging moment? There were a few and maybe not what you were expecting either. The first one was at 0900hrs on the 1st October 2012; the day I was to set off on my trip of a lifetime. I’d spent over three years planning and dreaming of this moment, but when it came to me actually setting off, I had this almost overwhelming urge to stay! I had all my family and friends around me, and I just thought, “What the hell am I doing leaving all this to go who knows where and face who knows what!” It took a real jolt to get me going and start the journey.
The next big moment for me was Mauritania in West Africa. I had a rough time there for one reason or another, and I found myself questioning what I was doing, and whether it was worth risking my life for a ‘dream’. Thankfully, I eventually got back on the road and had a new-found resilience to life which saw me through the rest of the trip. There were lots of challenging moments for a variety of reasons, but I just had the mindset that I’d never, ever give up. Just keep going, keep digging down deep and pushing on, things will work out in the end. That’s true in life in general for me now, to be honest.
It took me almost two days to cover about 80 miles; it was physically and mentally one of the hardest things I’ve done.
What was the most euphoric moment? There was a stage in Laos where I ended up way in the mountains along the old Ho Chi Minh trail. They hadn’t finished the road yet, so it was just mud and rock that took you along some incredibly beautiful but remote villages and scenery. It took me almost two days to cover about 80 miles; it was physically and mentally one of the hardest things I’ve done. You just had to keep going, keep picking the bike up every time I dropped it, just get back on and keep plugging away. The sense of achievement eventually seeing beautiful flat tarmac road was just intense. It’s still to this day one of the highlights of the trip for me, and I’m so glad I captured a lot of it on camera for the vids.
Since your trip, you uploaded the Round the World trip onto YouTube. How has this impacted your life? I filmed and edited on the road. Episodes were published on YouTube every month or so to document the journey as I went. I only had about 600 subscribers by the time I finished the trip. However, the channel has since grown a bit. I get more and more people contacting me to say they’ve discovered the trip and are loving following it.
It seems to have a real positive, inspirational effect on people, and I love that. I kind of feel I’m paying something back; it was following others who had gone before me, which gave me the inspiration to do my trip. Anything I can do to pass this on is just awesome in my book.
Was it always a plan to continue with a YouTube channel after your return? Not at all. I finished the trip in June 2014, and that was that. I went back to work and back to my old life. I still kept TeapotOne social on Facebook and Twitter because I continued to be contacted by those who had followed the trip. It was also a great way to stay in touch with the people I’d met and become friends with too.
As time passed, I started to be invited to adventure travel meets like the HUBB and then the Overland Event, where I’d be a guest speaker. I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet and talk with people, listen to the adventures they’d done, or the dreams they had for future trips. I felt like I’d really changed as a person; I just didn’t fit back in with my old life particularly well. I’d changed so much yet people were just still doing the same old thing, moaning about what they’d been moaning about before I left, and I felt quite claustrophobic. I had an overwhelming desire to just go. Anywhere. It didn’t matter where — I just needed to be back on the road.
That’s where I started touring a lot more as it gave me something to focus on and look forward to. I’d film these trips but didn’t do much with them; I was still thinking that ‘TeapotOne’ was done as it was the trip, not me as ‘TeapotOne’. A good mate of mine had a chat one day and pointed out that it was the other way round — I was actually the TeapotOne brand, not the trip. I was missing the interaction with people that I’d had on the trip and, in late October 2016, I just posted a vid on YouTube called ‘After the Dream’ http://bit.ly/RTW-After-the-dream. It got a great reception. Instantly I got that buzz again, and it went from there to where we stand now. I recently resigned from the police and I am now a full time ‘YouTuber’!
There appear to be a few names synonymous with vlogging moto touring trips; two being you and Richy Vida. Would you venture on an extensive trip with him and if so, where would you go and why? Rich is a top man; I love the bloke like a brother and would love to do a big trip with him. We’ve spoken a bit about doing something, but as ever it comes down to finances and time. He’s self-employed and has a young family, so timescales are a factor as well as cost, but I’m sure we’ll get something sorted in the future. We’ve already done a little special with LampChops, TMF, Rich and AndyManCam, where we raced a plane against three bikes http://bit.ly/Bikes-Vs-Plane.
In terms of where and why, I’d love to do something like Ushuaia to Dead Horse with Rich. He’s got a sense of adventure so I don’t think he’d be too phased by it all, plus he’s incredibly creative with a fantastic eye for details and photography. I think between us we could produce quite a special series of vids both in terms of production quality and content. He’s an amiable, approachable guy who is genuinely interested in meeting people. I think it’d be great just to hit the road and see what happens. Are there any budding backers out there?
There is no doubt that your videos have inspired confidence with many motorcyclists to take their bike to tour foreign lands for the first time. What tips would you give to anyone thinking of booking the ferry? Just do it! Go! Make sure you have the relevant European breakdown, recovery and travel insurance in place, then hit the road.
What are the benefits with a guided tour and a DIY one? With guided tours, you just turn up and go. Everything is sorted, and you’re guaranteed the best roads, beautiful places to stop and good hotels at the end of the day. If anything happens like breakdowns or accidents, you’re with someone who can help sort it immediately. But you don’t need to follow the leader if you are given the route. You don’t even need to ride within the group if you don’t want to. However, you could be constrained by the route and destination for that day.
A DIY tour gives you the freedom to go wherever you want, stop anywhere for any length of time; just do your own thing. However, if anything happens, then it’s down to you to sort it out.
How are your ChickenStrips guided tours going? Fantastic, thanks. As I’m going full time with all this, I decided to double the number of tours I was doing with ChickenStrips, yet they still all sold out with a matter of weeks. I mainly concentrate on the Picos de Europa and the Pyrenees in northern Spain as, in my opinion, they offer the best riding roads. There’s hardly any traffic, it’s cheap as chips for food and accommodation, and the old bill out there aren’t too bothered about bikes if you’re up in the mountains. It’s biking heaven!
What are your plans for the next few years? TeapotOne for me is all about the mantra of ‘Live Your Life’. I want to get out there and meet the biking community across the globe, ride their favourite roads with them, ride different bikes, use different kit, all the while exploring different parts of the world and sharing it with people through the vids and other content. The world is an awesome place but, even right here on our doorstep, the UK is a fantastic place to ride too; full of amazing, friendly people and I just want to show that.
Do you feel fate is with you? This is where I set myself up for a fall as everything is going so great just now, but yes, I think life has a habit of throwing opportunities your way, but it’s down to you to recognise them and do something with it. I always try to keep a positive mindset about things, even when it feels like everything is against me, you just have to keep slogging away and striving to make whatever it is you’re doing, or aiming for, a success. NEVER give up if it’s what you really, really want.
Do you feel you’re ‘living your life’? Mate, I’m living the dream!
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Written by #o75 for #motogusto
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