It’s been thirteen years since the man who would be Obi Wan and his buddy Charley Boorman last embarked on one of their two-wheeled world travel sojourns. The original trek around the world from London to New York, Long Way Around, is a legendary piece of gearhead media, and the follow-up from John O’Groats at the tip of Scotland to Cape Town at the very bottom of Africa is equally entertaining. After a long hiatus, the pair have returned for Long Way Up, from Tierra del Fuego to Los Angeles through South America. And after the first three episodes dropped on Friday, I consumed them all in rapid succession and thus far I’m loving it.
Instead of their traditional BMW GS mounts, the pair have decided to attempt the journey on electric motorcycles. Obviously something of this scale has never been done on EVs before, so it required a bit of help. Harley Davidson pitched in with a pair of early-production Livewire electric motorcycles, significantly modified to make the journey through unforgiving terrain much more plausible. And if that weren’t enough, the production, support, and camera crews followed along in the first and second complete Rivian R1T pickups. Electric all around, then.
The great thing about these docuseries aren’t necessarily the bikes or the trucks themselves, they traditionally very rarely even warrant discussion on the show. This is more of a travel series, following two blokes as they stumble their way through whatever comes their way. Occasionally they bitch about it, as you or I would, but they find a way to dig deep and soldier on. Not what you typically expect from a pair of actors. These dudes are the real shit.
But more than the dudes, the series shows a part of the world that is often hidden to most of us in daily life. By taking adventures on two wheels and filming as much of it as they can, we can see a window to a foreign land. Customs, language, and kindness among strangers that we often take for granted in what some might describe as “the civilized world”. If you were riding across the United States on an electric motorcycle in the dead of winter, what percentage of people do you reckon would let you bring your bikes inside the house so that they could warm up enough to accept a charge?
In the first few episodes of the new Up series, which is on Apple TV in case you hadn’t gleaned that information from the promo trailer, everything seems to be going wrong, as usual. The bikes, the trucks, the weather, travel, coordination, none of it seems to be going forward as planned, and it’s all a last minute mad dash to make it work.
I watched the original Long Way Round series at around the same time I read Canadian rider Lawrence Hacking’s book To Dakar And Back: 21 Days Across North Africa By Motorcycle. The two have long since been a potent concoction in my brain as they inspired me to pick up two wheels and keep riding. In fact, I think I might do a cross-country ride in the very near future, and it all stems from those two pieces of media.
In any case, I highly recommend watching this new series. At least as far as I’ve seen through the first two episodes, it’s more of the same old legendary Ewan and Charley, only older and slightly worse for wear. And more electric.