by Caiti Beattie
Gordon Stuart (pictured above in his home city of Newcastle) is an ambassador for the UK brain injury charity Cerebra, global youth leader forum One Young World, and fundraiser for special care babies charity Tiny Lives Trust. He is a keen motorcyclist, writer, and film maker. In June, Gordon will travel to Alaska to attempt to ride the deadly Dalton Highway, to raise money for Cerebra and Tiny Lives Trust.
You completed your first motorbike challenge in 2011. Where did you go?
The aim of my first challenge in 2011 was to ride from the UK by the shortest sea crossing possible to the Arctic Circle. The route was heading through mainland Europe (France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany) before crossing in Scandinavia through Denmark, riding up the East Coast of Sweden and heading into Finland, and finally Norway. However, my trip came to an abrupt end in north-eastern Sweden when I crashed my bike. I came away uninjured although with slightly dented pride. My bike however had some damage and I was unfortunate that when I crashed it was at the start of a three days bank holiday in Sweden. By the time I’d waited for some parts to arrive from Stockholm, I’d lost the best part of a week and ran out of time to reach the Arctic.
And why did you decide to take this challenge?
I took on this challenge to raise money and awareness for a UK charity called Cerebra, who have helped my disabled little brother Robbie over many years.
How would you describe the journey that you have been on since then?
The whole project of the Arctic Rider has grown into something bigger than I’d ever thought. Initially it was just about doing something different to raise some money for charity, whereas now it’s become an unequivocal obsession with riding in the Arctic and the ongoing cause to raise money for charity. It has also given me another great purpose in my life outside raising a family and my career. It’s a great balance to have and I feel lucky to have found my calling, so to speak.
What has been your best moment throughout your challenges so far?
There have been some truly great moments as part of my challenges. I met some amazing new friends from all around the world, I’ve got to ride some amazing roads, and see some spectacular parts of the world (Norway and Scotland are breathtaking). The best moment though had to be reaching Nordkapp (the most northerly point in Norway) in 2014. After crashing en route in 2011, to have another go and make it there after two weeks solid riding North, was something else. Part of me never thought I would make it there and that was the moment that really unlocked for me that this could be more than just one ride and turn into a (hopefully) lifelong project.
And the most challenging?
The most challenging time I’ve been through was the last few hours of my Iron Butt ride in 2016 and subsequent few days. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was pushing myself so hard to make it to John O’Groats within the 24-hour time frame that I wasn’t looking after myself properly while riding and developed hypothermia. I really should have stopped to warm up but didn’t and ended up being really sick the following few days (and still riding home to Newcastle which wasn’t clever either). It was a horrible experience and it’s taught me without doubt that staying warm and well should come above completing any challenge.
Do you have any motorcycle safety advice that you would like to pass on?
The tough thing about being a biker is that you are at the mercy of other road users more than just about anyone. Before my 2014 trip I did some advanced motorcycle tuition. It really taught me to try and plan ahead and try to judge what mistakes other road users might make so you can be prepared. I’ve also learnt that local knowledge can be key. In Norway the speed limit is <50mph... I didn't understand why until I came round a bend doing more than that to encounter a herd of reindeer in the road! Also, all the usual things like keeping a safe stopping distance, having an escape route planned in congested motorways, and remembering that arriving late is better than not arriving at all! Final tip for touring is to spend some time getting to know your bike fully loaded before you set off. My bike rides so differently with three boxes, a tank bag, and a tent, compared to a Saturday afternoon, riding lean.
People can sponsor you to complete your challenges. Can you tell us why you chose the charities Cerebra and Tiny Lives?
Cerebra is a UK-based charity which supports brain injured children and their families. They do amazing work and helped my younger brother Robbie throughout this childhood. I was proud to be named an ambassador for Cerebra in 2014 after my second ride. Tiny Lives is a Newcastle-based charity which supports 750+ premature and sick newborn babies, and their families every year, at the Royal Victoria Infirmary. Tiny Lives helped my daughter Islay in 2014 after she was born premature and spent time on the special care baby unit.
What goal have you set yourself for your 2018 challenge?
In 2018 I’m planning to take on the notorious Dalton Highway (famed by the TV show Ice Road Truckers) in Alaska. The aim to ride to the top of Alaska to Prudhoe Bay, deep inside the Arctic, which will see me ride the entire 414-mile Dalton Highway, a glorified dirt track named often as one of the world’s most dangerous roads. My 5,000 mile journey will start in Calgary, Canada, and end in Vancouver. Again, I will be raising funds and awareness for Cerebra and Tiny Lives.
We noticed on your blog that you are yet to confirm which bike you will be taking. Any insider updates for us on that front?
I’m just waiting to sign a contract with a global bike manufacturer to use their latest Adventure bike for the Arctic Ride Alaska. I can’t name names but for those who have followed my previous adventures and backing from said company might be able to guess. If this partnership doesn’t come off then I will be flying over my trusty GSX650F and hoping it survives the Dalton. I’ll hopefully be able to confirm either way very soon!
And what about a Visorcat, will you be taking one of those?
I will definitely be taking a Visorcat with me on the ride as Santa got me one for Christmas. Riding on such a dusty and poorly surfaced road as the Dalton means I’m going to be getting a lot of muck on my visor, so having a practical and reputable accessory in the Visorcat is a no-brainer for me and top of my kit list after bike and helmet.
And what can the readers of our blog do to help you and the causes that you support?
Reading my blog, watching my YouTube channel, and sharing content on my Facebook and Twitter pages is a great help. All my advert revenue from my channels go straight into my charity pots, so even just reading/watching helps. For those who can, donations to my fund to help children across the UK are always welcome. You can donate, with all money going straight to the charities at www.virginmoneygiving.com/thearcticrider or you can also enter the Arctic Ride Alaska raffle (£2.50 per ticket) where you can win over £800 worth of motorbike prizes including a Visorcat at www.justgiving.com/the-arctic-rider-raffle
Thanks for that Gordon! Good luck with your ride and do let us know how you get on. We’ll be routing for you!