Oxford (December 17, 2014) - We all like to travel and this is just one of the reasons why we love Harley-Davidson® Touring motorcycles. But how many people can say they have ridden their Harley around the world? Husband and wife Paul and Françoise Nuttall did just that astride their 2009 FLHT Electra Glide®, and discovered a lot more about touring…
Paul Nuttall (55) has owned and ridden Harleys for over 30 years. An Ironhead Sportster® bought new in 1984 from Warr’s Harley-Davidson still resides in Paul and his wife Françoise’s garage. Paul coupled with his latest Harley, a 2009 FLHT Electra Glide, while working in Qatar in the Middle East and decided to ride it back to the UK when his stint had finished. The journey home meant leaving Qatar to cross through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Greece before boarding a ferry across to Italy, and the final ride home to Blackheath, south east London.
The travel bug had obviously bitten deep because over the next few years, Paul with Françoise (57) as pillion kept adding the miles with rides down to and across Spain through to Morocco, and Germany and Slovenia. Lands End/John O'Groats and many other scenic ride outs in the UK kept them both happy. But, at the same time, between the two of them, they began to form a plan to accomplish their aim of riding around the world in 2014.
“Our plan,” says Paul, “…was to leave London on 2 May, travel eastwards through Europe, Turkey, the ‘Stans’, China, South East Asia, Australia and then a quick blip across North America just to say we had been all the way round. We post justified the trip by saying that we were going to see our eldest son who lives in Sydney and that we couldn't face the flight…”
A lot of travel paperwork is required for such a mammoth trip, but it seems China is really difficult. In a nutshell, you are not allowed to take a vehicle into the country without a level of the ruling government’s approval. This ‘approval’ comes via an approved travel agent who plots your route and avoids areas considered off-limits; you say you would like to come in at this time and this point and want to go roughly to various nominated places. An agent will sort out hotels and routes and will follow you, all the time, making sure you don't stray.
The Nuttalls investigated further and the costs for an approximated one month passage through China were phenomenal and littered with very expensive exclusions. One of the two quotes received from travel agents was in excess of £16,000! In the end, Paul and Françoise decided to join a motorcycle adventure tour group consisting mainly of “rufty-tufty BMW GS Adventure riders” in order to share the associated travel costs. But despite all the meticulous planning, as with all best laid plans, trouble loomed…
On 1 May 2014, Paul was admitted to hospital with a heart problem. “It took them over a week to calm it down and then I had to have a procedure/operation,” he said. “This happened on 19 May. While in hospital, I managed to arrange the airfreight of the bike to Kazakhstan where we joined it post-operation and met up with everybody else so as to hit the appointment at the Chinese border.”
Paul and Françoise rode through China before splitting with the group at the Laos border and continued through Laos and into Cambodia. Then followed routes through Thailand, where the couple spent some days walking amongst rainforests while the FLHT was being serviced, and then Malaysia through to Singapore.
“We had not been able to find a way for the bike in to Indonesia and the ferries between all the islands are very unreliable; one a week in some places, day or time unknown,” he continues. “Eventually we put the bike on a container boat from Singapore to Darwin in Northern Australia. While it was on the ship, we hired a moped and pootled around Bali in Indonesia before flying to Darwin and meeting up with the bike.” From this point, they rode down and across the Australian outback to the Eastern Coast and onto Sydney.
From Sydney, the bike was then flown to Los Angeles, USA. “Our neighbours joined us in LA and hired an Electra Glide to ride across America with us. We deliberately didn't do Route 66 though we started at the end and passed through the start on the way; we went up to San Francisco and back down through Yosemite and Death Valley to Las Vegas, and then up through Zion, Bryce and the Grand Canyon. Then we rode Monument Valley and over Lizard Head and Monarch Pass to Denver, across to Chicago and up to Milwaukee.” Needless to say, a visit to the Harley-Davidson® Museum was in order and proved to be another highlight of the trip.
A ferry across Lake Michigan put the couple and bike on their way to Canada, taking in Toronto before riding down to New York via Niagara Falls. And that, in a shortened view, was that. The option to ride for longer and further was there, but poor weather was closing in around them. Paul and Françoise flew back to the UK on 19 October just ahead of the snowstorms that hit New York. The FLHT arrived soon after via airfreight.
Total mileage for the Nuttall’s Electra Glide to date has reached 39,767 miles (64,000 km) of which 16,770 miles are the result of the global trip. In preparation for the journey, the FLHT was serviced and a new rear tyre fitted. The tyre lasted the duration and is only now being replaced. A new front tyre was fitted in Venice Beach, LA at the time of another service – which resulted in bad news. “In LA, the bike was diagnosed with terminal transmission cancer,” says Paul with a wry smile. “But it then did 6,000 miles across America and Canada… and now it is back in the UK – Warr’s Harley can’t find anything wrong with it!”
Aware of the road and ‘non-road’ conditions in extreme locations, Paul had the sense to carry service consumables – the spare air filters paid dividends especially in the dusty desert regions. Bulbs were a common replacement item no thanks to non-surfaced roads. An aftermarket airhorn put on to compete with traffic in China fell off but it wasn't a Harley product. The tourpak used developed fatal cracks on three sides of the base section and was bouncing up and down like a kangaroo in Sydney, but again it wasn’t a Harley item. “Maybe there is a message here,” says Paul. “I bought it from someone in San Francisco and cannibalised what was still good on it before a new base was sent from San Francisco to our stop in LA, where we fitted it in a car park.”
On the question of the Electra Glide’s ability to take what ever was thrown at it, Paul recounts a time in Thailand when he met with local H.O.G.® members. “The H.O.G. people in Bangkok invited us to dinner. During dinner they asked, ‘Why a Harley?’ For me it was never a question; it really was, ‘Why not?’ This is our bike; this is what we ride. Loads of people do similar things on BMW and KTM machinery and they are excellent bikes and can do things and go places the Electra Glide can’t. But you can also circumnavigate on an Electra Glide. There are ways round the world for it, no question.
“People said we were going to trash a lovely bike – we haven't. Yes, we struggled on some ‘non-roads’ and only had to change plans once because the road from Stueng Traeng to Phnom Penh was not possible, so we missed out Phnom Penh and went a different way. Another positive side is Françoise would have struggled as a pillion on a BMW or equivalent adventure based bike.”
Paul and Françoise Nuttall’s story doesn’t end here: the appeal of covering the missing section of the original trip due to Paul’s hospitalisation is very strong. As is visiting Russia and its former states, plus the Baltic. Needless to say this journey is being planned as you read this and the FLHT Electra Glide is now freshly serviced.