In 100 days from now [Thursday 13 February] Gordon Stuart will set off on his GSX650F, ride into Europe and up to Nordkapp in Norway, the most Northernly point in Europe. In doing so he hopes to raise money and awareness for Cerebra, a children’s brain injury charity, which is very close to his heart.
The road to Norway might not be the favourite of most adventure riders at the moment, with Africa or Eastern Europe and Asia far more popular, but that doesn’t make Gordon Stuart’s journey to the most northern point in Europe any less treacherous.
Gordon is undertaking the journey to raise money and awareness for Cerebra, a children’s brain injury charity that has helped Gordon and his family over the last 15 years.
“Cerebra provide many things for brain injured children and their families,” Gordon explains. “The provide things such as funding towards specialist equipment, advice and guidance on disability rights and benefits, family help and support for dealing with brain injuries, and free use of their Wales-based holiday home, amongst other things.
“They have helped my little brother Robbie, 16, and my family over the past 15 years with support. Robbie suffered a brain injury at nine months old when he was a near-miss cot death. A lack of oxygen to the brain for nearly 10 minutes left him with severe brain damage. Now at 16 he has sight, hearing, and learning difficulties, and while he lives a happy life as a big Newcastle United fan, he’ll never have a cognitive age of more than a six or seven year old.
“With the support Cerebra has given Robbie and my family over the past years, I’ve always wanted to give something back so they can help other children and their families. I’ve been bike-mad for as long as I can remember, so I wanted to combine my passion for motorcycling with my passion for the charity. I looked at a few other ideas, including the Mongol Rally, but eventually I then just started looking at the world map and the idea just came to me, ‘why don’t I ride to the top of the world?’ Or as far as I could go in Europe.
“One of the big things for me though was to do this trip solo. Its not a holiday away with my ‘biker buddies’; it’s going to be a hard slog, both mentally and physically, to repay the donations that people have given to Cerebra.”
A trip of this magnitude, approximately 6,000 miles, required some planning. However, Gordon was in a strange position, of having already planned for the trip once, which he attempted in 2011.
“I’ve been planning this journey for the past year. But I have previous experience though as I attempted the trip back in 2011 but crashed in the Swedish wilderness, which ended my trip. But the planning has been more than just stopovers. I’ve been looking into the harsh arctic weather and when it’s most realistic to take the bike. There’s also the most effective way to raise money for the charity and I’m also planning on filming as much of the trip as I can.
“In the run up to the trip I am also preparing myself and bike the best I can too. With the 2011 attempt I have a good idea of the sort of difficulties I could or am likely to encounter. Except this time I’m hoping to do it in a week less than I planned in 2011 and I’m doing it earlier in the year, with more chance of typically arctic weather conditions. As a result, I’m also doing some extreme weather survival courses with ex-commandos at Nomad Biker.
“I’m also doing a run into Scotland to get used riding long distances everyday on smaller roads. I’m planning on covering 300 miles or more a day on b-roads, which represents what I’ll be doing in Scandinavia.”
The trip represents a huge challenge for Gordon, with the roads and weather set to deteriorate the further north he pushes into the arctic. But he’s confident he’s picked the right bike for the trip.
“I picked the GSX650F for the journey as it seemed like the perfect bike for what I was going to be doing and the range of roads and conditions I would be riding in. I needed a bike that could eat up the miles, as I’ll be doing 300 plus every day for three weeks, something that was comfy, that had the power to hold all my camping and filming gear and still power on along the European motorways as well as the ability to overtake caravans on twisty roads of Scandinavia.
“On top it looks stylish and sporty and is very comfortable on long distances. On the flip-side I needed a bike that was small and manoeuvrable enough for camping in national parks and not so heavy that if I did encounter ice or snow I’d be able to safely get the bike stopped until it passed. Also the pricing of the bike was a key factor for something that had all the features that I need. I want to prove you don’t need to spend five figures to go on the journey of a lifetime.
“I’ve added panniers and a top-box but plan to travel as light as possible. I also have a larger screen fitted for motorway use and a gel seat to try and remain as comfy as possible.”
While the trip is undoubtedly going to present a huge challenge to Gordon, it is one he knows he will enjoy, and one that he is relishing tackling, especially with the money and awareness he’s hoping to raise for Cerebra. However, there are aspects Gordon’s not looking forward to.
“I’m not looking forward to being away from my wife and family throughout the duration of the trip and one of my big worries is getting lonely, but English is very well spoken on the route. But the loneliness is a worry, and I’m also hoping my mood won’t effect my riding. I’m also apprehensive of other road users, especially in Europe.
“But all in all I’m looking forward to getting going and I’m so grateful for all of the support I’ve received already. I’ve had a great amount of support through social media and in the local area. Bike tuition company, Newcastle Rider Training, has pledged money towards my 6,000 miles worth of fuel and so have Newcastle-based bike equipment store, Custom Lids.
“In addition my local racing club, the North East Motor Cycle Racing Club, has also done this as well as well letting me get some much needed PR with them at their annual dinner and at their first race meeting at Croft in March, where I’ll be doing a lap of the track. And a local photography company, Allinson’s Photography, has also supported me by providing me with free PR shots to help advertise my trip. I’m also meeting up with over 100 of my social media biker friends the week before my trip in Nottingham to go for a ride and collect donations for the charity.”