Have you ever dreamed of riding around the world on a motorbike? Kevin Chow did, and he’s currently in the middle of his round-the-globe expedition.
Seven years ago, when Chow began his journey, the worldwide motorcycling explorer shared some tales from the road (Chow also has some valuable advice and entertaining stories worth reading here on RidersWest).
These days, Chow resides in Hobart, Tasmania, the small island south of mainland Australia. The reason Chow, a Canadian born in Quesnel, B.C., now lives in Australia is because of Claire Newbolt, Chow’s Australian riding companion who is now his wife.
“We met in Southern Mexico in 2017 and have been inseparable since,” said Chow. “I was riding my BMW R1200GS south on my Americas trip and she was riding her Honda XR250 Tornado north on her Americas trip. We were riding in opposite directions, but we eventually made it work, hence me moving to Australia.
“After I completed North America, Central America and South America in 2017/2018, I moved to Australia to work, travel, ride, and work on my Australian immigration to ultimately get my Australian citizenship and passport.”
“Know how to flush your bike out in case it takes on water into your air filter box. This can be a real headache if you’re stuck in a remote place and you don’t have an extra spark plug or a way to flush water out of your cylinder if you attempted a water crossing and it was too deep or you fell over.” — Kevin Chow — Photo courtesy Kevin Chow
To pay for his overlanding excursions, Chow owns a small motorcycle dealership marketing consultant business where he contracts marketing to four dealerships, two in B.C., Canada, and two dealerships in Queensland, Australia.
“I focus on getting customers into the dealerships through events, paid advertising, and social media,” Chow said. “I’ve been in the motorcycle dealership marketing game since 2008 and have a lot of fun doing it. Obviously I love motorcycles and everything around the motorcycle industry so that makes it enjoyable as well.”
These days, Chow rides a 2015 Yamaha WR250R with an 18-litre IMS tank for adventure/enduro travel.
“Over the years I’ve made a conscious effort to set up lightweight enduros so we can get further while having more fun,” Chow said. “‘Light Is Right’ when it comes to long distance dirt travel.”
Before travelling to Australia, Chow rode through North and South America. Wherever he goes and whatever motorcycle he chooses to ride, Chow knows that repairs are necessary along the way. — Photo courtesy Kevin Chow
While living down under for the past five years, Chow and Newbolt have been busy exploring, going up and down Australia’s east coast on the enduros, as well as a 4x4 Toyota Hilux.
“In the middle of Covid, we loaded the Hilux 4x4 to do a half lap of Australia and crossed the most remote desert in the world, the Simpson Desert,” Chow said. “The Simpson Desert trip in the Hilux 4x4 was the most remote I’ve ever been from civilization—and I get out there a lot. We crossed the Simpson Desert via the French Line Track West to East. From Mt. Dare to Birdsville, you have about 600 kilometres between water and diesel fill ups, so we had to be self-sufficient for anything that could happen. It took us a good six months to prep the Toyota and our gear to be ready to make this drive. They say you have about 1,200 sand dunes to cross up and over and—now having driven it—I believe them. We took six nights to cross—the overall half lap of Australia trip in the Hilux was a month—and enjoyed the whole experience from prepping the vehicle, to planning the route and camping in the desert in the swag under the stars.”
When Covid was nearing its end in 2021, Chow and Newbolt made the decision to move from Brisbane, Queensland, down to Hobart, Tasmania, to explore a new part of the country.
“Last Christmas we had two friends fly down to Tasmania and we set up four Yamaha WR250Rs to do an off-road lap of the island,” said Chow. “We camped and rode single track, double track, gravel, and B roads. This country is full of adventure and fun. If you get a chance to get a motorcycle and ride Australia, plan it out and do it.”
Chow and Newbolt met in Southern Mexico in 2017 and have been inseparable since. “I was riding my BMW R1200GS south on my Americas trip and she was riding her Honda XR250 Tornado north on her Americas trip,” Chow said. “We were riding in opposite directions, but we eventually made it work, hence me moving to Australia.” — Photo courtesy Kevin Chow
With all of his experience motoring around remote locations, you might think that Chow has become impervious to the anxiety that comes from travelling the world, but not so. Even renowned travellers such as Chow experience fear and worry when pointing their motorcycles tires towards the unknown.
“I still get anxious for any moto trip if I don’t feel that my gear or bike is ready before we leave,” Chow said. “I spend a lot of time thinking about the bike’s setup and what gear we’ll have. Once I get a sense that the pre-prep jobs are good to go, everything else generally works itself out. If you ask Claire, she’ll tell you that I’m normally wound pretty tight and should relax more when it comes to travelling, but I don’t like being caught off guard when things go sideways. Like, case-in-point, if I don’t have all of the tools I need to fix a flat tire/tube on the trail, I’m stressed. If I have all of my tools and an extra tube ready, if we get a flat, it’s only an hour or so of work and then we’re back on the road again.”
When Chow rode through the Americas five years ago, he rode a BMW R1200GS. Besides changing up his ride and opting for a Yamaha WR250R in Australia, he also switched up some strategies in regards to supplies and parts for long distance travel.
“If you would have asked mid-twenties Kevin if he’d be stoked about going long distance on 250s, he would have laughed at you,” Kevin said. “Now, I’m totally bought-into ‘Light Is Right.’ The more experience I’ve had with getting to remote places has made me really think about what the motorcycle and gear mean to me. I put over 80,000 kilometres on a 2010 BMW R1200GS and I won’t be going back to a GS any time soon. I love them, don’t get me wrong, that Boxer engine is a work of art. But the motorcycle is just too heavy if you get into trouble on your own or if you simply just want to take a poke up an uphill track in hopes of finding the best camp spot ever. With the lighter bikes, you can. Also, I find myself leaning towards the backroad, single-track off-road routes now where having 100 horsepower is not really needed. Give me a lightweight reliable enduro with EFI, a sixth gear, lightweight tools, and I’m happy.”
“Last Christmas we had two friends fly down to Tasmania and we set up four Yamaha WR250Rs to do an off-road lap of the island.” — Kevin Chow — Photo courtesy Kevin Chow
Ambitious riders like Chow may live for the open road, but they understand that life—and their bikes—aren’t meant to go cruising at 100 kilometres per hour at all times. Expeditions of this magnitude require an immense amount of patience, which is something Chow has contended with over the years.
“It’s taken me some time to slow down and realise that I don’t have to power around the world as fast as I can,” Chow said. “I can slow it down to decades of travel versus only a couple years. I naturally want to do things quickly and one of the best things about being away from Canada for the past seven years is that I can take it slow and try to see as much as I can.”
In 2017, Chow originally set off from Canada to do a lap of the world over two years on his motorcycle. He’s now seven years removed from living in Canada and has “only” ridden the Americas and Australia. Covid restrictions certainly impeded the ability to travel, but with that situation in the rearview, Chow can carry on with his next adventure.
“I told Claire that I’d move to Australia until I got my Australian Passport,” said Chow. “It took us over five years to jump through all the immigration hoops and visas but it worked. In early 2023, I had my Australian Citizenship Ceremony so now I’m officially a Canadian and an Australian. Now we can follow through on our next stage in the big multi-continent travel plans. Stay tuned for what we get done in 2024.”
“This country is full of adventure and fun. If you get a chance to get a motorcycle and ride Australia, plan it out and do it.” — Kevin Chow — Photo courtesy Kevin Chow
Plan your global trip with these essential tips from World Overland rider Kevin Chow:
Riding around the world on a motorbike isn’t something that can be undertaken on a whim. It takes careful planning and preparation to pull off a lofty trek of this nature. If you’d like to avoid unwelcome pitfalls, heed these words from seasoned motorcyclist Kevin Chow:
1. Have your financials in place:
Make sure you have enough money in your bank account or some sort of income in place so you can enjoy life on the road. I lean towards being a natural planner. If you want to spend six months, 12 months or even more travelling off of your motorcycle, then you’ll need enough money to back it up. I averaged anywhere from $50-$75 CDN per day riding the Americas pre-Covid, so those figures will have changed now.
2. Have the mindset that you’re your own recovery team:
Let’s say you get remote. You’ve probably already asked yourself, “If things go sideways, what are we going to do?” If someone crashes, you have a breakdown, or any other number of things that stop you from getting to your destination, having the mindset that you’re your own recovery team before you jump on the bike in the morning may make you think through each decision a bit differently. I know we have Garmins, and Spot Trackers nowadays, but these probably should be used for the worst case scenario—not if you run out of gas or get a flat tire.
3. Know your motorcycle and how to do the simple stuff:
- Know how to change the oil.
- Know how to change a flat tire on your own.
- Know your travel tool kit and check every wrench, socket, etc. on your bike before you leave. This sounds like a no-brainer, but it doesn’t make sense to pack tools that don’t fit your bike and not have the tools you need.
- Pack an extra spark plug and plug socket (or plugs if more than one are needed).
- Know how to flush your bike out in case it takes on water into your air filter box. This can be a real headache if you’re stuck in a remote place and you don’t have an extra spark plug or a way to flush water out of your cylinder if you attempted a water crossing and it was too deep or you fell over.