A while back, Avon Tyres asked me to do an interview with them. Basically, they wanted to know who the hell Sam Manicom is. This is what happened…
Who are you?
Sam Manicom and I’m an adventure motorcyclist.
What do you do?
I ride my bike in foreign lands. I’m an ‘accidental’ author, travel writer, freelance journalist and I do travel presentations at motorcycle and travel clubs.
What does that entail?
‘Accidental’ author? I took off planning to spend a year riding the length of Africa and had such a ball doing it I just kept on going. I ended up spending eight years riding around the world. Not bad for someone who’d only been riding a bike for three months by the time I first rolled my wheels in Africa.
I’m a bit of a disaster magnet though – stuff happens to me all the time. I’ve got a great guardian angel but sometimes I travel a bit closer to the edge and a bit faster than she can fly.
But that means there are plenty of tales to tell, and amazingly most of the accidents end up with something fun or amazing happening.
I got stuck in Delhi for a while and by this time I’d been on the road for just over three years. During that time I’d met many people who’d told me that I was incredibly lucky to be doing trip such as mine. They were all right. Stuck in one place for a while, I decided to have a go at penning an article or two. To my amazement Motorcycle Sport and Leisure accepted the articles and asked for more. Perhaps I could write after all. My English teacher would have been gobsmacked. She’d thought I was a basket case as far as learning to string sentences together was concerned.
Readers of MSL started to write in to the editor and say that they liked my articles and to ask when my book was coming out. I’d never intended to write a book. I was out on the road to have adventures, but I had to have a go and so my first book ‘Into Africa’ came about. To my delight it’s been really well received and I got stuck into writing ‘Under Asian Skies’ and then ‘Distant Suns’. So, my career as a writer happened by accident – if I’d not been stuck in Delhi trying to get a visa for Iran…
‘Travel writer’? My partner Birgit and I get on the road outside the UK as much as possible and I write tales of the road. Some of my most recent articles are a series on travel in amazing Vietnam. It’s a country that should be at the top of your list of ‘must visit’ places.
‘Travel presentations’? I spend a lot of my time belting around the UK doing book signings and power-point presentations about the eight-year trip. Happily I’ve managed to take some really evocative pictures, and doing the talks gives me the chance to share the fun and to answer questions about overlanding. I’m delighted by the number of people who have the same sort of fascination with the world from two wheels that we do.
There’s all sorts of information about my books and the talks on the books website www.sam-manicom.com Please do take a look.
What is the most demanding aspect of your job?
Not the writing that’s for sure. I love the idea of being able to share the fun, and if I can encourage a few people along the way, all the better. No, the hardest thing is dealing with the printers. I chose to keep my work printed within the UK. In my own small way its keeping employment here but it also means that there are less fuel miles on each book. The problem is that the service I’ve had from some printers has made me edge towards taking my business overseas. I’d make more money if I had my books printed in China, Hong Kong or Singapore, but no, I’m going to stick with the UK. I just hope that things run more smoothly than they have sometimes. Publishing books is rather like riding a dirt road in a strange land. There are new rules and customs to learn and you do fall off. You just have to pick yourself up and get back on with it. I’ve met some amazing people along the way.
What do tyres mean to you?
They mean the difference between staying alive or dying. The right tyres can make a very good day into a stunning day. They can make a hard going day into something that is manageable and fun.
What is your favourite tyre from the Avon range and why?
The Gripster; it’s a brilliant tyre. I’ve tried just about every equivalent I can find and none do the job so well. The Gripster lives up to its name. When you are on a long distance overlanding adventure you need a tyre that’s going to give you good mileage and that will cope with as many of the road conditions you are going to come across, as possible. That can range from tarmac to potholed tarmac, to gravel and to sand and mud. No tyre is going to be perfect for all of those conditions, so you look for a tyre that will work for most of them. The Grispsters coped wonderfully with all except the very soft mud and thick sand. Those conditions need knobblies.
What motorbike do you ride?
A 1991 BMW R80GS. She’s got 265,000 miles on her now and I’ve done pretty much all of them. She’s a class act and has been excellent from what I’ve been up to. She’s still my main means of transport. Oh, and over half of her miles have been done on Gripsters.
Best biking moment?
There have been so many. Riding the Andes, or riding through the Australian Outback, the Himalayas, riding the Namib Desert, or working along Route 66, or following the trails through Monument Valley in the USA.
But no, it has to be the day in Northern Kenya when it clicked that I wasn’t having to think about what I was trying to make the bike do. Suddenly realising that the bike was doing what it should be without conscious effort from me was a real buzz. I’d stopped falling off so often and started to look for challenging sections to ride on purpose, rather than just dealing with what the road put in my way. What a fun feeling to be instinctively in control. My bikes a bit like a third leg now.
Top tyre tip?
Perhaps, don’t be tight with your tyres – get the best and don’t be afraid to change them to suit the conditions you’ll be riding in. But mostly I think it has to be get new rubber on in good time and get your tyre pressures right for the road conditions you have, the weight you are carrying and the speed you want to be travelling at.