Pacific Ocean to Indian Ocean Motorcycle Journey: Engine vs. Human Power


There’s no doubt about it, I love motorcycling. But with 50,000 miles under my expanding belt (and a waistline progressing with age), I’ve wonder if it’s time to put the keys away for a while and go back to human powered journeys, like in the past. Hiking, or riding a bicycle, can be significantly cheaper than a motorcycle after all*, and this blog is dedicated to frugal adventures. And to clarify, a ‘human powered’ adventure would be something that requires getting from point A to point B while expending your own strength and energy. Trekking, cycling, kayaking, running, climbing, skiing, etc. No need for gas or oil means you can spend more on food, much deserved (and needed) during a human powered adventure. And while using your own steam to get around sure is tiring, you’re allowed to eat anything and everything you want, while getting trim and healthy. An adventure, frugal fun, a workout and getting to eat to your heart’s content? Not a bad tradeoff! Sure, it’s slower, but there are definitely many bonuses.

Now motorcyclists, don’t get up in arms! I’m not quite ready to give up my motorized ride forever (nor am I suggesting you to) but maybe we should think about changing things up a bit. From unicycling to skateboarding, there are so many options to be explored. My mind’s already in a frenzy with the possibilities!

On my ride across the Nullarbor this December, 2015, I saw 4 cyclists clearly on a long-haul journey across Australia. Heads down to the wind, shades on and arms protected from the harsh southern sun, they peddled mile after mile on fully loaded bikes with little company. I stopped and talked to two of them, and have included a video here. The wind was in such a blowing fury during parts of my interviews that only snippets were usable, but I hope it gives you an idea of what so many people are out there doing, even as this passage is being read.

The dozens of men and women cyclists I’ve met on my long hauls across the Americas, Europe and Australia were a huge inspiration. Young and old, they traveled across countries, continents, and even the world. While I slogged up 14,000 foot passes with my little 125cc engine puffing and panting, they slogged harder. While I opened up the throttle and rode long days across the Nullarbor, they rode longer (and sweatier, and in far better shape). While I paid $18 bucks for premium oil in Australia, they paid $18 for a fine dining experience. And although my motorcycling experiences have been life altering, there’s something to be said for changing things up a bit.

Hats off to you, cyclists! You put my little engine to shame.


*Note: I’ve met a number of people whose fancy bicycles cost more than my frugal little machines, but that doesn’t have to be the case! And there’s the question of food consumption vs. fuel (gas) consumption, but I leave that for another time.

14 thoughts on “Pacific Ocean to Indian Ocean Motorcycle Journey: Engine vs. Human Power”

  1. About ” Hiking, or riding a bicycle, can be significantly cheaper than a motorcycle after […]” i am not so shure. When i am on bicycle my consumption is cca 3 beers/100 km.

    1. Good point, but that’s the same for some motorcyclists :) Food (and drink) consumption goes up significantly, but it feels so much better to spend money on food vs. petrol!

  2. I bicycle tour and ride a moto. When pressed I’d rather tour on the bicycle. I’m a lot healthier at the end of a 2 week bicycle tour than a 2 week moto tour.

    I tend to ride the moto places I couldn’t bike fast enough and use it for transport not for recreation.

    1. Yeah, I think I need to find that kind of balance! Motorcycling really replaced climbing, and I’ve slowly gotten weaker and weaker. As much as I love motorcycling, it doesn’t feel great to feel that change. Gotta get back on track!

      1. You can combine exercise with moto riding if you get creative.

        I’ll haul my kiteboarding and camping gear on the moto down som fun dirt roads to the beach. Kite and camp overnight. Kite again and ride home. I get 6-7hrs of exercise and 3hrs of moto riding plus a night of camping in.

        I’m getting a mountain bike rack for my moto to do the same thing for that activity as well.

        If you love climbing you can use the moto to visit a whole slew of climbing spots. Climb lots and ride a bit as well.

      2. That’s great, Vik! I’d love to see a picture of your mountain bike rack setup. I’ve thought about something like that, too. A few years ago when I was still climbing pretty hard, I get some great multipitch climbing in near Chamonix during a moto trip. It’s definitely harder to haul the gear around on a motorcycle, but totally doable. Sounds like you manage that really well!

  3. I do both too. Cycling is great for some places while the moto is better for others. I don’t enjoy hardship so in remote areas with few places in between or where traffic is manic I prefer the moto. Where there’s plenty to see and good places to camp I prefer the bike. It depends on where I am. But yes, it is easier to keep the waist line under control on a bicycle … Says he who gained 5kg on my last cycle tour and nothing on my last moto trip

    1. Agreed. I’d probably be pretty content riding a bicycle across the Nullarbor (is “content” the right word?!), just because I like the challenge of the physical with the mental. But there are definitely places I’d want one over the other. If I get into cycle travel, I’ll miss being able to take a quick 20 mile jaunt up a rode just to see what’s there.

      5kg on a bicycle trip? You must have been eating really well :) There are times I’ve lost weight on motorcycle trips. Through Peru, for example, where there’s nothing but rice and eggs for vegetarians!

  4. I look back and realize that I didn’t do my body any good by attempting to do some of the fascinating (to me) things that I did. Racing motocross, running in track, working out hard, etc. was great when I was invincible. But now I’m a older man of 59 years old. lesson learned – don’t wear your bodies out in the first 30-40 years of life or it will remind you by the pain you feel the next 30-40 years of all the heroic deeds we thought we were doing when younger. (I feel for the extreme sports kids that end up with mangled bodies). Moderation in all things will get you through to the end of our adventures here. Take time to smell the roses, smile at everyone, a slower pace is good, making peace with yourself and God, do a kind deed every now and then, enjoy what has been given to us as we could all be in far worse circumstances, drink some tea, have a Big Mac, take more vitamin sea, don’t sweat the little things.
    How was that for a speech?
    So I appreciate your moving to a “slower” pace in life Elisa ,something we could all stand to do in our lives that most of us think we will do when we retire.
    I know that it will be a great adventure for you by shaking things around and living life more simply still. Looking forward to your adventures. What happened to the Alaska trip you talked about earlier? rj

    1. Good speech :) And yes, I agree that things should be in moderation! I also think our bodies are made to do such incredible things, and most of us don’t take advantage of our own abilities. And some go far beyond! I find it quite inspiring. And as for mangled bodies… I just got an email about a friend and his motorcycle accident. Thoughts and love go out to him. We definitely need to proceed with caution in all things.

      As for Alaska, you’ll have to wait a bit and see!

  5. Have you considered an electric assist bicycle? With a folding solar charger as a cape :-) you could go quite far and still have a very small energy footprint.

      1. All right Miss Tuffshitski, on electric assist for you :) You probably won’t need one at 62 either…

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