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In honour of the Super Cub’s 60th anniversary, Honda interview English adventurer Ed March of C90 adventures. To date, Ed's ridden over 110,000 miles through 36 countries on a 30-year-old Honda C90 that he bought for 150 quid.
It began with a bet. One day, taking a short break at his job as an electronics engineer, Ed March got talking to a colleague about an episode of Top Gear in which the presenters travelled through Viet Nam on motorcycles. One of them, driven by James May, was a Honda Super Cub, a C50.
Ed enjoyed the programme and had done a couple of small trips around Europe on his 1989 C90 that he bought for £150. But he reckoned he could take the idea a few steps further. Then and there, he told his workmate that he wanted to travel from Malaysia, through Vietnam and all the way back home to Devon – on his trusty C90. “He told me there was no chance I could do it, that my bike was rubbish,” says Ed. “But if someone tells me I can’t do something, that’s like a red rag to a bull.”
In 2011, after posting his bike to Malaysia in bits, he was off, embarking on a 14,500-mile journey, blogging and making YouTube videos along the way. And that’s where it all began. On and off, he’s been travelling the world on his C90 ever since.
“If you want to actually experience the world, there is nothing that can beat a motorcycle,” says Ed, who’s now 30. “You just flip your visor up and your eyeballs are travelling through Peru at 50mph. Your feet are a foot from the road, you can feel every bump, you can feel the air. You’re so immersed.”
To cover such large distances on a bike without much in the way of power, storage or suspension might seem crazy. But there’s method to Ed’s madness. “It’s the world’s best-selling vehicle, so spares are easily sorted. It’s incredibly simple and reliable. Every motorcycle breaks if you ride it far enough, but when the C90 goes wrong, you normally just lose about 5mph. I’ve never ever had my bike actually break down. I’ve had things fail on it and I’ve had it so it would only do 20mph, but it doesn’t stop. It only slows down.”
‘Ninety,’ as Ed calls his bike, might only go about 50mph, but when you’re travelling, “you don’t want to go much faster than that, otherwise you can’t take things in.” And, anyway, it was fast enough to be allowed onto the historic Nürburgring race track in Germany – even if his lap time of 17 minutes 41 seconds was a little slower than the Honda Civic Type R’s record of 7 minutes 43 seconds!
There have been some sticky situations, though. Like the time Ed was driving behind a petrol tanker on a road in India. The driver of the tanker was behaving erratically; after swerving a few times, he pulled out to overtake another vehicle and ended up rolling sideways, off the road and into some power lines. Damaged power lines and a tank full of flammable liquid aren’t a good combination. Thankfully, there wasn’t an explosion, but a few moments later Ed found himself in a different kind of trouble – surrounded by an angry mob.
The mob began to hit him and shout at him, assuming that he had somehow caused the accident. Luckily, though, Ed was able to show them the footage that proved otherwise. They relented, and he and Ninety hit the road.
He had another close call on a trip from Alaska to Argentina. In Mexico, Ed did a section of the route from the famous Baja 1000 off-road race, but began to struggle on a 25-mile stretch of sand. In the 48°C heat he was running out of water and fuel and realised that he didn’t have enough of either to turn back. He had to keep going. “Nobody knew I was there and I could hear rattlesnakes,” says Ed. “I thought I might die. But when I finally made it back onto tarmac, it was such a cool feeling.”
During his journey through the Arctic Circle, the biggest challenges were posed by low temperatures and snow. But special kit, such as tyres with steel spikes for grip and an ‘arctic suit’ (actually a piece of clothing designed for people who work in walk-in meat freezers), helped him make it through.
Ed says that the best thing about his life on the road has been discovering how friendly people are, particularly in countries where you might not have expected it. “The number one place is Iran. It is the friendliest place on earth, and the food, the people, the roads, the culture and the architecture are all amazing. I had my view of the world blown apart there.”
Right now Ed is back in the UK, but unlike previous gaps between trips, he hasn’t gone back to a ‘normal’ job. He’s earning a living and funding future trips by making films, giving talks and hosting guided tours that are designed to give other people a taste of his laid-back approach to travel. “They usually only really realise when they ask, ‘So where are we staying tonight, then?’ and I go: ‘I dunno.’ We’ve got a certain distance to cover and a certain amount of time to do it, but other than that, nothing is set in stone. Initially, they either think it’s ridiculous or awesome. But ultimately what happens is, after the first couple of hours, they feel like they’re part of it.”
“Anybody,” Ed says, “could jump on a bike and ride around the world tomorrow if they wanted to.” Well, he adds, that’s not quite true. “You have to be in your own country when you apply for a visa to enter Pakistan. And, of course, you need a little bit of money. But other than that, there’s absolutely no reason why not.” Sounds tempting, doesn’t it?