By Sean Mooney: Henry Crew had just pulled over after enjoying some Chilean mountain twisties, when a car lost control on the road above him, spun out and came to rest just 30cm from the back wheel of his motorcycle. It was one of many close calls on his recently completed circumnavigation of the world.
“There was a tonne of hairy moments,” the 24-year-old concedes. “A few points almost crashing or actually crashing, I ran into a man who walked out in the road in Iran, and I washed out with a bald tyre in Panama… as well as a bunch of off-road crashes.”
Crew survived the ride; indeed, he thrived on the year-long two-wheeled journey through more than 35 countries. He even broke a world record and raised money for Movember along the way.
It all began in 2017, when Crew announced that he was going to attempt to break the world record of the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe. Crew says the fact that his dream soon became a reality is due to his compulsive traits. “I get obsessive with things, may that be good or bad,” he says. “Crazy things start to seem like logical next steps.”
The trip wasn’t just for the hell of it; there was a more serious edge to this adventure. It was designed to deal with men’s mental health issues – both his own and those of others.
“I had my own issues with mental health and have lost many friends and acquaintances to suicide,” Crew explains. “I’m not a linear thinker, so I find it very difficult to follow linear timelines. That means I get very stressed out thinking about a million projects or deadlines at the same time. I ended up trying to compensate or medicate with alcohol and other harmful methods.”
Goodbye macho bullshit
Crew noticed that riding and being around bikes seemed to help people to start important conversations. “I think motorcycles and mental health go hand in hand,” he explains, “and with the developments of the industry and community moving away from the macho bullshit of yesteryear, hopefully we can see the same progression in mental health and how we talk about it as a community too.”
Crew admits that he didn’t intend to talk about his own past at all, but he was put in a position where he felt he had to. “I’m glad I did,” he says. “Talking about it has got that big step out of the way and made me a lot better at dealing with my mental health. Now people are aware, it’s easy for me to ask for help.”
Crew notes that his experiences mirror Full Tank Moto’s mission. “Full Tank is a great example of a conversation-starter approach, which reflects that of my trip: community, charity, men’s health and a different way of thinking. It’s a modern, honest and open approach to a community that is progressing in the same direction. I’m really inspired and motivated by their work.”
Like many of us, Crew sees riding motorcycles as a way to deal with stress and anxiety. “It’s a distraction and an escape,” he says. “It’s a time to process things or think about nothing. It allows me to both tune out and focus. It gets me out of bed and out of the house and it has introduced me to amazing people.”
And when you are riding around the world, you wake up in a different place every day, so there’s no time to dwell on your own dark thoughts, Crew says. “If you are on the side of the road with a flat tyre and no tools to fix it yourself, you have to ask for help or you will sit there with your flat tyre forever. Mental health is the same. I have had to ask for help a lot this last year, mostly with the trip. I’m not a very good mechanic and I’m also not very good at looking after myself. Still managed to ride around the world solo, though!”
Scrambling the globe
He certainly did, and it was a serious endeavour. Starting on April 3, 2018 in the south of England, the then 22-year-old rode across Europe to the Middle East, down to South-East Asia and across to Australia, then over to South, Central and North America. The last leg was home via Morocco, Spain and France, finishing on April 19, 2019.
Crew made what many would consider a rather eccentric choice of bike to ride around the world: a Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled. “I wanted something lighter than a BMW GS, which is what most people use,” Crew explains. “I wanted to use a bike that I would ride every day back home, something that I was able to ride on and off road, and also something that looked good.” Apart from a luggage rack, fly screen and engine guards, the bike was stock standard. “I wanted to show that anyone can ride a bike and if I can circumnavigate the world, so can you.” Although, he warns: “While your bum stops complaining after a couple of months, I’ve gone from a peach to a pancake.”
While riding through the Himalayas was his favourite 10 days of the entire trip, Crew’s favourite country was Australia (of course!). “I rode from Perth to Brisbane along the south coast, Margaret River, Esperance, the Nullarbor Plain, Port Augusta, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney… great people, great roads and amazing scenery and wildlife,” he says. “I also loved being able to ride off-road more – shredding a beach in Esperance was one of my favourite days. The bike culture is also great, I spent a lot of time at Kustom Kummone in Melbourne as well as hanging out with [Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride founder] Mark Hawwa and some other great moto people.”
In fact, Hawwa gave Crew £5000, despite “having never met me and we’d only spoken for two days prior. He didn’t think it was right that none of my sponsors had invested in me financially.” This is something that Full Tank founder Scott Wilson says “gives some indication of the kind of guy Hawwa is”.
Now Crew is back home, he’s busy submitting all of the evidence online so the record can be authenticated. He’s also sleeping, eating cheese, sausages, pies and mashed potato, and getting plenty of physiotherapy. Oh, and he might even catch up with an Australian woman he met in Melbourne. Sounds like a plan.