Henry Cole takes his Metisse Steve McQueen Desert Racer on a 1500 mile ride of a lifetime from Ljubljana, Slovenia, to Sofia, Bulgaria; taking in Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia along the way.
Motorcycle Explorer Catches Up with Henry to Talk About the Ride, World Records, Drugs and the Future
Henry Cole was educated at Eton and has gone on to forge a career spanning some 32 years in the TV and movie industry.
The owner of a production company HCA Entertainment, Henry is currently best known worldwide as a TV Presenter immersing himself in his lifelong passion for motorcycles and the tinkering and restoring of vintage machinery.
Currently he's the presenter of World's Greatest Motorcycle Rides: Travel Channel Worldwide, The Motorbike Show: ITV4 and Discovery Networks, Shed and Buried for ITV and Travel Channel Worldwide and The Motorbike Show Special: Steve McQueen's Motorcycles... Now let's get to the questions shall we!
1) You’ve ridden all types of bikes and even have your own brand, what bike has been your favourite so far and why?
I don’t have a favourite motorcycle. I think anyone who says they have perhaps hasn’t ridden enough motorcycles. It depends what you’re using the motorcycle for that dictates my favourite bike. So, for cruising through country roads, my Gladstone. It took me three years to develop that with Guy, my chop builder. For long haul, KTM 1190. For KAF Racer, you know, scratching it, my Norton Domi Racer. For cruising, my Triumph Bonneville and for my old British bikes I’ve got a Bitsa Norton ES2 from the 1947 that I absolutely adore. And don’t forget my C50 Cub that is the ultimate bike and I take my mother on it who is 88!
2) When and how did you get into motorcycles?
It was my Uncle, at the age of 8. He was called Uncle Dick Redbeard, to me anyway! He’s the reason why I started Gladstone motorcycles, because Uncle Dick Redbeard Gladstone. He took me in his shed when I was 8 and I saw his BSA’s and Arials and I fell in love with motorcycling from that day on.
3) What was your first bike?
My first bike was an RD250 Yamaha, which I absolutely loved and put in a large hedge basically. My second bike was a CB550 K3. My third bike was a Superdream 250 N. All three of which I absolutely adored.
4) Looking at your show ‘The World’s Greatest Motorcycle Rides’ what one stands out the most?
I’ve been looking forward to re-visiting The Balkans. This series stands out to me the most, due to my past war cameraman days.
5) What’s the new series all about and where can readers find your show?
My new series is a five part series of me riding my Steve McQueen Desert Racer ‘Old Triumph’ through The Balkans, from Slovenia to Croatia onto Bosnia down to Serbia and then onto Bulgaria. Its called ‘Worlds Greatest Motorcycle Rides’. It starts this Tuesday 3rd November.
6) What is the biggest challenge when filming a bike ride?
The biggest challenge is to make the bike ride. The riding sequences look fantastic! But also have to try not to get too technical about motorcycling, as much as I’d like to. Obviously I want to encompass as many viewers as possible who are perhaps watching the show, not so much for the bike rides, but also the stuff that we get up to. So the route is key, combining great riding, but also great features of windsurfing or restaurants or other interesting things we come across. We aren’t purely about riding, the technicalities of riding. It’s just getting that balance that’s the real difficulty.
7) With all the filming of bike rides do you still just ride for the hell of it?
Absolutely, I ride a motorcycle most days. I would do these rides whether there was a camera crew or not with me. I ride every single mile when I do a show. There’s no van or support vehicle to put my bike in. We have one vehicle and one bike. There’s three of us doing it. We could have more crew, but we don’t because I like to keep it real. If we get stranded, we get stranded.
8) You’re now a Guinness World Record holder! Tell us a little about this and do you have the certificate on the wall at home or at the office?
I do have the certificate on my wall at home and at the office. I’m incredibly proud of it. I now hold the fastest 750 pre 1955 motorcycle on a borough superior. A brand of motorcycle I could only have dreamt to possibly ride. To ride one and actually do a world land speed record on it is the most unbelievable thing that’s ever happened to me. It was also the most terrifying thing that ever happened to me, but once you’ve done it on the Bonneville salt flats you get a thing called ‘salt fever’ and that means that you’ve got to go back because its so addictive. So I will be going back on our Gladstone race bike when it dries out.
9) When you broke the record, it was a very emotional moment and you spoke about having had a drug habit. Is this an ongoing battle for you?
I was a Heroin addict for five years between the ages of 19 and 24. I’m now 27 years clean and haven’t had a drug or a drink since. Is it an ongoing battle? No. Do I respect my sobriety? Yes, everyday. The minute you take your eye off the ball and don’t respect that, about hardships that you’ve been through is the time when you might relapse. So, yes its something that’s always with me, but its something that does not torment me in any shape or form. I’m just privileged to have survived.
10) What’s in store for 2015 / 2016 for Henry Cole fans?
Worlds Greatest Motorcycle Rides; were doing five round Britain rides because I wanted to make sure we were endorsing and celebrating the great rides that are in the UK. So, we are doing Wales, Southern Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Lincolnshire Wolds and Cornwall. After that we are doing ten other rides; individual rides, rides like Iceland, Majorca. The rides that you can do perhaps at a weekend... You know you go over, hire a bike and go round Iceland on a off-road bike, something like that. We want to give people as much opportunity as possible to get out there and ride, rather than taking 5 weeks to cross Australia.
11) I expect you spend a lot of time away from home doing the rides, how does this impact on your family life?
My marriage is fantastic and it has lasted 15 years, mainly because I never see my wife!
12) You have your very own motorcycle company now – give us the low down on how it’s going?
Gladstone Motorcycles is my brand. We have spent three years developing the Gladstone Number 1, which is the first motorcycle. We are only building nine of those bikes and the prototype makes it up to a total of ten. The wonderful news is we’ve sold all the bikes and we have no more to sell. We have nine deposits and we’re building them now, delivery has started and our clients stretch from New Zealand to New Malden. We have a new bike that will be launched in the second quarter of 2016 with a UK engine manufacturer.
13) You normally ride alone, if you had to take someone with you... who would you like as a tour companion?
If I could take anyone with me on a ride it would actually be my wife, but she won’t get on the motorcycle, so there’s no chance there!
Thanks for speaking with us today Henry!
You can catch the new seiries of World's Greatest Motorcycle Rides over on the Travel Channel - see guide for details: