When Robert Murphy – known universally as Murph – bought his BMW R1150GS Adventure he had no idea he would end up fitting it with a sidecar and spend years traveling the world. But, three years after first getting caught up in the GS lifestyle of freedom and open roads, he has ridden through most of America and is now embarking on Europe.
He is currently in The Netherlands, where his motorcycle is being customised by local specialists CVS Sidecars to incorporate a two-wheel drive addition. His plan from there is to simply ride ‘until the money runs out’. The catch is that Murph is also a photographer, who is funding the trip through his pictures. With demand for the images constant, there’s certainly no end to the trip in sight – which is exactly what Murph wants.
The Irishman, who has lived in the US since he was 22, lost $5 million which he had invested in property when the global markets crashed in 2008. Having also struggled with alcohol addiction, he decided it was time to completely overhaul his life as a Florida businessman.
“I hadn’t had a bike in a while – I didn’t want one while I was drinking. But I’d been to rehab and, having lost the money and had my house go into foreclosure, I decided to look for a bike. I came across this 2004 R1150GS, it was a good price and I went for it, and my first trip was to ride it home – that was 3,500 miles.”
After his initial ride, Murph set off for the Pacific North West, where a BMW Rally was being held. He discovered that while he loved the GS lifestyle, the rally itself didn’t appeal and he was soon on the road again.
“I headed for Canada and spent some time there, but I’d always really wanted to go to Bonneville to see the salt flats. By the time I got there, I’d been on the road for three or four months, and I started taking pictures and writing my blog, Where the hell is Murph. People started noticing and begging me for pictures, which was when the lightbulb went on and I realized that this was how I could keep going, keep riding. In two years, I did 65,000 miles and I’ve got a lot of stories and pictures to show for it.”
The success of his pictures and love of life on the road kept him going through two years of American travel, during which he saw much of the country. “I think my favorite place was Sedona. It is just breathtakingly beautiful, with sunsets that are out of this world.” His travels even captured the attention of one of America’s biggest TV personalities, Jay Leno. A well-known BMW motorcycle fan himself, Jay invited Murph onto his talk show to discuss his trip. Unsurprisingly, Murph took it all in his stride, but most enjoyed the experience of being inside Leno’s famous garage – home to around 90 motorcycles and more than 100 cars.
Having arrived in Europe, he is excited about seeing some countries for the first time and returning to others he hasn’t visited for years. He will incorporate a series of visits to sidecar rallies in the journey, including the famous sidecar-only Dragon Rally, in Wales, in the UK – although this will not be until 2013.
“As soon as my sidecar is fitted, I’m headed to the Faro Rally, in Portugal. That’ll be my break-in run, so I can get used to how it rides with the sidecar. After that, I’ll be riding through Europe, heading to Sweden and Norway – I want to get to the North Cape before the bad weather arrives. There’s so much I want to do along the way – including climbing the Matterhorn again. I did it when I was a teenager and still have the same climbing boots I used then, so I want to visit the factory that made them too!”
Murph’s travel plans are flexible – he can go wherever and whenever he chooses, and it is this freedom which is so appealing. However, his date with the 2013 Dragon Rally is set in stone, as is a visit to his native Ireland. After that, destinations on his list include Turkey, the Middle East, Russia, and the ice roads of the Antarctic.
“I don’t want this to just be a regular tour round the world. I’m going to be visiting 40 different countries over the next three or four years and I want it to be full of good stuff and exciting experiences. I’m just going to keep going for as long as I can. As for my bike, I love it. If someone said to me that I could have the very latest R1200GS for free, I wouldn’t take it. My bike does everything I want it to.”