Sometimes the best-laid plans are made over a beer or two although rarely do those plans promise to be ‘life changing’. But that’s what happened to Chris Everard from Lutterworth on a balmy evening last June.
Chris, 53, a former rugby player and larger-than-life character had never been anywhere near a motorcycle before that night, but a late-night chat down the local pub with Michael Hobbs changed everything.
Great friend Hobbs suggested Chris join a group on a three-week journey across India on motorbikes. It sounded an epic adventure and Chris signed up, starting a chain of events that would see him learn to ride a motorbike from scratch and lose four stone in weight!
“Before that chat with Michael I had never been on a motorbike” says Chris who is quick to accept the ‘mid-life’ crisis tag that has been added to his journey across India.
From novice to riding around India
“I had hired a scooter on holiday and driven it – not very well – while my experience even as a pillion passenger is about two minutes. I had no knowledge of motorbikes, no particular love or motorbikes but I am now motorcycling across India in a three-week adventure for charity.
“Michael has been before and when he told me what a life-changing experience it was I just couldn’t say no. He said that what you see, what you hear, what you smell is beyond explanation.
“While this isn’t quite the Paris-Dakar Rally, it is far from a gentle ride through India’s countryside. It’s a demanding trek through some of the most challenging and dramatic scenery southern India has to offer.”
The reality of Chris’s agreement to take part in this gruelling trek then hit home. Not only would he need to buy a motorbike, but he would also have to learn how to ride one!
“I hooked up with a fantastic organisation called Shires Motorcycles, a training school in Leicestershire who took me through the stages of learning to ride and passing the four-stage process,” Chris adds.
“I failed the road test the first two times but full of vim and vigour and with the full support of my wife I finally got through it.”
Chris has learnt to ride on a Triumph 865 which even he admits is too heavy for him to pick up, so he will travel – with five others – across India on the famous Royal Enfield Bullet, a classic single-cylinder 500cc bike which is now built in India.
“I wanted a Triumph as I love the story of the brand and the factory is just 25 minutes from my house,” he explains. “It is probably the most unsuitable bike you could get for a learner as it is far too powerful and far too big, but it was the only bike I was going to buy even though it is a beast!”
The team have taken on the moniker of the Bullet Boys and they have already raised some £15,000 for Adventure Ashram, a charity devoted to helping the poorest people through southern India and the Himalayas.
The Bullet Boys will travel 2,000km across Southern India. From busy towns and cities, to arid desert plains, dense seldom used forest trails and on to mountain passes it promises to be a real test of endurance.
Chris’ new passion has been fuelled by a group of likeminded men found by his wife in a local newspaper ad.
“I was looking for people to ride with on a regular basis so I can get more experience, the sort of experience that will stand me in good stead when I get to India,” Chris admits.
“While flicking through our local newspaper my wife came across a one-line ad for PJ’s Riders and I joined this ‘geriatric’ group. We go out and ride around the country on a Sunday, and they have taught me so much even if they shake their heads and scratch their beards when I tell them I am going to ride a motorbike in India for three weeks.”
Changing your lifestyle – for the better
Motorcycling isn’t the only new thing in Chris’s life as this ‘new start’ has also inspired him to become healthier and to lose weight.
“A few months ago I was 18 stone. I stopped smoking and since deciding to go to India I have also lost the best part of four stones in weight after going on the Cambridge Diet!”
With drive, determination and commitment like that it looks like nothing will stop him.