World’s Greatest Motorcycle Rides: Henry Cole on his new South African adventure

We chat with the avid biker, ahead of his new Travel Channel series, about jumping through walls of fire on a bike, almost drowning in potholes and his next two-wheeled challenge


The latest dose of World’s Greatest Motorcycle Rides starts tonight on Travel Channel (8pm, September 30), we catch up with star rider Henry Cole, ahead of his South African adventure…


What should we expect from the next installment of World’s Greatest Motorcycle Rides, what do you get up to in South Africa?

Most of my regular viewers who get in contact know one thing about me, I tell it how it is. Us bikers can easily see through the modernity of bubble gum drivel and I deplore it on TV especially.

So when I tell you that South Africa is one of the most enthralling and incredible countries to ride a bike in hopefully you might just think that it’s true. South Africa has everything to entice the motorcyclist and for that matter the car driver.

The roads are quite simply breathtaking from arrow straight desert roads to thousands of miles of dirt tracks to mile upon mile of twisties. The scenery is some of the best in the world and it changes continually from mountain ranges, deserts to lush coast road riding but more importantly than anything else it’s the people. Wherever I was whether it was downtown Johannesburg or a remote village in the Kalahari I was welcomed with open arms. This is the land of the solution rather than the problem.

Visit South Africa with Radio Times Travel, see here for more details

What’s been your most terrifying motorcycle ride so far?

Without doubt it has to be Russia. I rode for World’s Greatest Motorcycle Rides from St Petersburg North and then down to Moscow. The roads are utterly terrible especially if you’re heading North East. The minute you get out of St Petersburg the main road turns to mud, gravel and potholes. The problem is that juggernauts are trying to find the best way around the obstacles as well leaving you sometimes no option to go into a pothole to avoid them. It was raining for three weeks while I was riding so the potholes were full of water – I had no idea whether I’d just fall in one and drown bike and all!

Visit Russia with Radio Times Travel, see here for more details

We hear you spend more time on two wheels than your feet, is this true?

I try and avoid walking at all costs. I’m passionate about pedal biking as well so I spend most days either on a motorcycle and or on a pedal bicycle. I probably spend three to four months away each year doing The World’s Greatest Motorcycle Rides series for Travel Channel and have done that for ten years and next year I have about 15 one hour shows to do so it ain’t stopping anytime soon thank heavens. If I’m not riding round or across the world I am doing stupid things like jumping through walls of fire on a bike with the White Helmets Display team presenting The Motorbike Show for ITV. But whenever I get the chance I’m riding for pleasure and have been since the age of 12.

Why motorbikes? What can you experience on a bike that you cannot on other forms of transport?

For me motorcycling imbues and delivers all of the values that I crave in my life: Individualism, freedom, solitude, fear, exhilaration, satisfaction, contentment and time to think and reflect. When you’re on a motorcycle you are taking part in your surroundings in a car you’re a spectator. On a motorcycle you take care of your needs, keeping warm, safe etc. In a car it’s about your wants, another wine gum, a different CD or some more heating.

Where are you going next?

Next stop is back to Australia where I am going to ride the no man’s land that is Perth to Darwin up the West Coast. Then I’m off to the Balkans then the Far East. Happy days

What would you say to folk who think bikers are just beardy, greasy men who listen to rock and roll?

I’m proud to say I’m one of those less the grease. Wherever I ride in the world motorcycling attracts individuals, non-conformists and real, genuine kindred spirits. Those people come from all walks of life; rich, poor and somewhere in the middle. If you ride a motorcycle on any road in any country of the world you’re not alone. Oh and by the way there has been a 23 per cent increase in the US of Female riders. That’s something very exciting.

There is always the offer of companionship, practical help, advice and even a hot meal if needed. How many car drivers will stop and help in a torrential tropical storm when you break down on the freeway at night? None. How many bikers did? Every single one who was out there braving the elements like me.

What’s the best bike route in the world and why?

I have been fortunate to ride quite a few. South Africa, Australia and New Zealand especially are right up there but it has to be Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles – a road that I have had the privilege of riding twice. This route is where automotive culture started. Everyone who could afford a car escaped the dust bowl and the economic crash of the 1920s and headed west along Route 66 to find a new life.

Route 66 saw the first mechanised migration of a population and it’s that legacy that makes this road so special. Route 66 saw the first Gas Station, the first roadside Diners, the first Motels, the first road side advertising, all of which are still there today – even the first McDonalds. All the elements that have shaped our culture of today. To ride this road is to be part of living automotive history and if you’re into riding the American Dream like me there is no better place in the world to do it than on “The Boulevard of Dreams”. Do it – it will change your life.


Visit South Africa with Radio Times Travel, see here for more details