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11th March 2015

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Beyond The Coffee Shop by Nick Adams

Now available in a paperback edition, so you too can travel to the Canadian wilderness on a classic Italian motorcycle...

Nick has become a semi-regular contributor to RealClassic magazine, regaling us with tall stories of his travels on old Moto Guzzis across the Canadian wilderness. British-born Nick followed his heart to the New World several decades ago, established a career in archaeology, and then did the whole family thing. But he never lost a love of motorcycling on rattling old clunks through windswept, wide open terrain which he developed back in his youth in Blighty. In later life, he made time and devoted resources to rediscover the exquisite loneliness of the long-distance rider.

And these compiled episodes tell some of the stories of his travels. Nick’s a natural storyteller. He has a real gift for transporting you to the icy wilds of northern Canada, where immense lakes look more like inland oceans and the horizon hides behind ancient forests. Nick takes an old bike, one which doesn’t have a particularly brilliant reputation for reliability, and proves that you can motor many thousands of miles on a 1972 Guzzi Eldorado, without back-up, breakdown cover or even a mobile phone signal. Sometimes his routes are paved or tarmac surfaced. Often they’re not. The Guzzi does its best to shake itself to pieces. Nick patiently puts back essential components, and slings an extra can of petrol on the back. Just in case the next filling station is further away than he expects…

Beyond The Coffee Shop by Nick Adams
Moto Guzzis on Now...

The story starts with a bit of history, the type of ‘when I were a lad’ tale about Nick’s early motorcycling years which will feel familiar to many men of a certain age. It’s not just background; these formative years have a direct relevance to recent events. Nick’s teenage experience with a the Red Panther which expired in the rain comes back to haunt him when his Guzzi likewise loses its sparks in heavy traffic – and in both occasions a brush with the law is the result…

I don’t particularly enjoy most travel books (or other people’s holiday photos), but Nick has a gift for dragging you into the ride. This is less like a travelogue and more like sharing the ride. You could, if you were truly keen, recreate his routes by following the short road notations or detailed maps, but I preferred to instead let the rhythm of his writing recreate the rumble of the road, until I could almost draw in a crackling breath of crisp, pine-soaked air. (And the virtual rider has the benefit of not needing to spit out blackflies, either).

Beyond The Coffee Shop by Nick Adams

Each ride is presented in a self-contained chapter, so this is an easy book to read in half-hour sessions. There is a bit of repetition (especially when it comes to Nick’s firm grip on the French language), but every journey has a distinct character – becoming more adventurous as Nick’s confidence in the bike and his stamina grows. He describes some situations common to many motorcycle travellers: pressing on past what looked like a busy hotel, only to end up in a dump of a motel a hundred miles later, exhausted. Refusing the stop (for anything!) on the home straight, and finishing a 22 hour trek in a state of wired, hyper-real concentration. Worrying about that rattle. Spending half the time with your head inclined towards the engine…

More precious are the moments I’ve never experienced, beautifully described. Pulling up by the side of the road and hanging a hammock to sleep under the stars. Being woken by the full moon (I truly do relate to that) and rather than restlessly fretting, getting back in the saddle to ride a few hundred miles before breakfast, dimply lit by the glow of 40 year old Italian electrics. And even in the genuine, honest to goodness middle of nowhere, Nick encounters that essential motorcycling truth. He meets strangers and they part as friends.

Beyond The Coffee Shop by Nick Adams

Criticisms? A good editor would’ve tidied up the few grammatical and punctuation glitches, but they rarely spoil the flow. Bonuses? The photos of the deserted roads, the sparsely-visited rest stops and the sheer scale of the landscape. These images brilliantly illustrate that which Nick so modestly neglects to mention. It’s a brave man who challenges himself on rides like these. So it’s an honour to accompany him after the fact…

RC reviewer: Rowena Hoseason


‘Beyond the Coffee Shop: Riding 1970’s Moto Guzzi motorcycles in Northern Canada’ by Nick Adams is available from Amazon as a paperback or an ebook

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