The CS Clancy Centenary Ride

Supported by Adelaide Insurance Services and BMW Motorrad.

Recreating the first around the world ride 100 years on.

Background briefing

clancyridesmallFrom March 25 to June 24, 2013, author, adventurer and Sunday Times motorcycle columnist Geoff Hill and former road racer Gary Walker will recreate the journey of American writer Carl Stearns Clancy, the first person to take a motorbike around the world 100 years ago.

Motorcycle Adventurer: Carl Stearns Clancy: First Motorcyclist To Ride Around The World 1912-1913 – On Amazon – Click Here

Since Clancy’s father was Irish, he started the ride in Dublin with colleague Walter Storey and rode through Ireland and the UK, then on through Holland and Belgium to Paris. Storey, who had never ridden a motorbike before the trip and had been badly shaken after being hit by a Dublin tram on the very first day, then returned home, and with incredible courage, 22-year-old Clancy continued alone, riding down through Europe and across Algeria and Tunisia.

When he found he couldn’t get petrol in India, he shipped the bike to Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, rode around there and part of Malaysia, then hopped up through Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai to Nagasaki, rode around Japan, shipped to San Francisco and rode home to New York.

The main sponsor is motorcycle insurance broker, Adelaide Insurance Services, supported by BMW Motorrad, which will be providing the motorbikes for the trip: R1200GS Adventures which would probably seem like spaceships to Clancy compared to the 1912 Henderson he used – a 934cc inline four with one gear and no front brake which made 7bhp and was advertised at the time as the fastest motorcycle in the world.

Dr Gregory W Frazier, the American author and bike adventurer who wrote Motorcycle Adventurer after 16 years of research into Clancy’s original articles and pictures in the American magazine The Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review, is organising a major series of PR events across the United States in June 2013 which Geoff and Gary will be joining and which will add to the critical mass of publicity.

Rather wonderfully, Geoff and Gary will be taking Clancy’s original boots on their second journey around the world 100 years after they did it the first time.

When Clancy died in Virginia in 1971, his housekeeper gave the boots to 16-year-old neighbour Liam O’Connor. Now a Professor in Western Australia, Liam has donated them to Geoff and Gary to pass on to Dr Frazier for donation to a museum, along with some of Clancy’s original notebooks and other travel documents from the trip.

Clancy-route-map-smallDuring our journey, as well as producing stories and pictures for several newspapers, Geoff and Gary will be blogging on, linked to other websites such as BMW Motorrad, Horizons Unlimited and Facebook., and blogging weekly to the Times Online motoring site,

The book on the adventure has already been commissioned by Blackstaff Press, which has published all of Geoff’s best-selling books, including several on previous motorbike adventures such as Delhi to Belfast, Route 66, Chile to Alaska and around Australia.

Gary, a former actor as well as top road racer, starred with Joey and Robert Dunlop in the iconic 1992 documentary Between the Hedges.

His career highlights so far include being chatted up by Lena Zavaroni, minding Julie Christie and riding his race bike sideways along a dry stone wall at 140mph, although not all in the same weekend.

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  1. Geoff Hill’s latest update on – THE CS CLANCY CENTENARY RIDE

    Supported by Adelaide Insurance Services and BMW Motorrad.
    Departure from Dublin with Gary Walker on Henderson, Geoff Hill and Adelaide Insurance Services director Sam Geddis (first right of bike).Recreating the first around the world ride 100 years on.
    Carl Stearns Clancy and Walter Rendell Storey arrived in Dublin 100 years ago all set to ride around the world on their Hendersons except for one small but significant detail.
    Storey had never ridden a motorbike in his life: a fact which even the normally imperturbable Clancy admitted people might find a little queer.
    Undeterred by such a hurdle, they did what any men in their right minds would do: saw the sights and went shopping.
    Two days later, after Clancy had spent a day teaching Storey to ride in Phoenix Park, they set off at last on their grand adventure: only for Storey to be rammed by a Dublin tram, damaging his bike and shaking him badly.
    Storey’s machine would take some days to repair and so, with Clancy riding, Storey astride the petrol tank and 75lbs of baggage on the back, they finally made a “third and triumphal start” on roads made slippery with rain.
    One hundred years later to the day, it was raining again as Gary Walker and I stood waiting for the Clancy cavalcade to arrive at Joe Duffy’s, the BMW dealer on the north of the city which Feargal O’Neill, the Dublin biker who’d alerted me to the Clancy story, had chosen as the starting point after the Phoenix Park authorities asked him for a €6.5 million Public Liability Insurance Indemnity which he couldn’t quite lay his hands on, then told him that in any case they couldn’t have the innocence of their leafy glades sullied by commercial razzmatazz.
    At nine, the party began, like a reunion of old friends we had never met. There was Feargal, pulling in on his own GS Adventure, as friendly and convivial in person as he had been on phone and emails.
    There were the bikers who had signed up with him to recreate the Irish leg of Clancy’s journey, at least 60 of them roaring up in spite of the rain on everything from a spotless 1959 BMW to start of the art machines.
    Clancy and Henderson in DublinAnd there, too, was Paddy Guerin, the owner of the only Henderson in Ireland, who had risen at dawn with his wife Rena and driven up with it from Cork in spite of a streaming cold.
    Paddy cranked the starter, and after a deep, sonorous cough like history clearing its throat, the engine settled into the rhythm of all the years between then and now as Gary rode it around the block several times for the benefit of cameramen and photographers, Clancy’s boots planted firmly on the footboards of a Henderson for the first time in a century.
    We shook Paddy’s hand, then climbed on our GS Adventures and pressed a button to bring them too coughing into life; a sound that grew like rolling thunder as the dozens of bikers around us climbed aboard and started their own engines.
    We rode north, my head giddy with nervous euphoria that the great adventure had actually begun, and full of wonder at how Clancy must have felt as he rode along the same road at 20mph with 75lbs of luggage on the back and Storey on the front, his feet balanced on a rod pushed through the axle.
    Wobbling north on this same road, their way blocked by numerous herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, Clancy had covered an impressive 88 miles by the time they rolled into Newtownbutler as darkness fell at 5.30pm.
    There, as they rode up the main street past the thatched town hall, they spotted the yellow and black Cyclists’ Rest spoked wheel sign above the door of the Temperance Inn, and inside found shelter for the Henderson and bed and breakfast for 6s 6d, or $1.56.
    It had, without a doubt, been a grand first day.
    Today, the inn was boarded up and its door weathered by the wind and rain, but the hefty cast iron knocker which Clancy would have used to gain admission was still there.
    I was giving it a hearty knock just for old time’s sake when a local man came wandering by.
    “Och aye, it was still a hotel up to the Fifties or thereabouts, then Harry Sewell the postman and his wife lived there,” he said in answer to my question.
    “And what was his wife’s name?” I said.
    “Mrs Sewell,” he said, and wandered on.
    Geoff Hill with Clancy's boots, Adelaide Insurance Services director Sam Geddis and Gary Walker at the Adelaide HQ launch in BelfastAs we rode into Donegal, we could not have asked for a better finale to the first day of Clancy’s boots on their second journey around the world, and you could see why Clancy had loved Donegal: it was like Middle Earth, with white cottages nestled in the nooks and crannies of its hills and dales, their aromatic turf smoke rising into the limpid air.
    Parking their machine in the yard of a hut where a fisherman lived with his wife and five children in a single room containing only a plate rack and a bed, they were led by the eldest boy up to the cliffs.
    Although he was clothed in rags and had never been to the nearest town 10 miles away, he was well versed in Irish history, and could even tell them the height of Niagara Falls.
    At last we stood just where Clancy and Storey had stood 100 years before, as the sun sank in a blaze of glory and a half moon rose to take its place.
    Keen to see if their young guide’s global knowledge had been passed down the generations, when we stopped at the next petrol station, I said to the teenager behind the counter: “Listen, my mate and I are trying to solve an argument. You wouldn’t happen to know the height of Niagara Falls, would you?”
    “Not a bother,” he said, tapping the Google app on his iPhone.
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