It is easier to count the countries which Eric Massiet du Biest has not yet explored on his motorcycle. By his sixtieth birthday in 2022 he wants to have his all-embracing world tour completed. Nevertheless, the Frenchman is in no hurry. He wants to travel far, not fast. And whoever gets to accompany him will return happier than when they set out. This is his mission.
Stories at the camp fire.
Eric Massiet du Biest makes himself comfortable on one of the tree trunks around the camp fire at the BMW Motorrad Days. He often sits at the fire when he is on the road as a tour guide with a motorcycle group. "This reinforces the sense of community," he tells us. Unlike in a hotel, where everyone does their own thing and doesn't see each other again until the following day. "I prefer camping.
My motorcycle clothes are my bed, my helmet is my pillow. This way, I can sleep anywhere. Some people ask me to show them how to sleep outdoors. My answer is always: there's nothing to learn. Lie down and go to sleep." By sitting together by the fire, the tension accrued by the group from the day's exertions subsides. "Then we sit on our saddle bags and tell each other stories." Today, Eric tells his own story.
Riding lessons with a stunt man.
As a general rule, Eric Massiet du Biest has never chosen the path that was expected. Maybe this is the reason why he has discovered so many paths all over the world. Even as a child, he always did what he thought was right. He was an untamed animal. "I was a bad boy," he says mischievously and tells the story of how he took his mother's car and drove it through his village and over the surrounding fields when he was twelve. He grew up near Nantes, in western France.
"My mother had no idea about my tours – she still doesn't know today." Eric never met his father. This is how he accounts for his penchant for adventure. No rules, no boundaries. Yet his secret excursions with his mother's car didn't go completely unnoticed. One day, his neighbour caught him. Moustache – named after his distinctive moustache – was a stunt man. "When he found out that I was driving a car illegally, without hesitation he taught me how to drive and even a few stunts for good measure." Moustache also taught him how to ride a motorcycle. By the time he was 14, Eric had saved up 500 francs and used them to buy a Honda 125 XLS.
Pioneers of the adventure bloggers.
He rode his bike everywhere, including of course to his driving test, which he passed four years later. Then he bought his first proper motorcycle: a Ducati 900 Darmah SS. The delivery included the frame, two wheels and six boxes of parts. Three years later, he sold the bike in order to finance his first world trip with the car. Together with three other lads, he opened up the first mobile press office. They worked for French television and magazines – and were in many ways pioneers of adventure blogging. They set off in July 1988, travelling through 45 countries and returning 18 months later.
He gave up his studies for this world trip. Six years of teacher training – he had the exam in the bag already. But Eric has never taught. "My mother wanted to kill me. She said I would never do anything with my life. But I had these big dreams and didn't want to take the easy path." Instead of teaching, he battled his way through as a journalist and later founded his travel agency T3. "My only boss is the sun. It tells me when to go to bed and when it's time to get up."
Mission: making people happy.
At T3, Eric maps out tours, promotes them and then sets off with a group of adventurers. It's not just about the money. It's about that feeling that he only gets when he's riding around the world. It's about the spirit of GS, which he wants to show everyone who comes with him. "Some are travelling for the first time, and they change.
If I have a mission on this earth, it's to make people happier. He has been successful in this endeavour hundreds of times – and that's no exaggeration. Even if we do the entire logistics ourselves, there are still a great many hurdles along the way. It requires courage. Sometimes you hate it, but afterwards you love it. Everyone without exception comes back stronger from a world trip."
Fast or far – it's one or the other.
After his first world trip, he bought a BMW K 100 LT in 1990. "It had tremendous power and it was like sitting on a sofa. But I didn't notice the speed, which was dangerous." So he switched models and arrived at his first GS. "You have to decide whether you want to travel far or fast. You can't do both. It is silly to ride fast when you want to travel far – because you can't afford a single accident. I prefer to ride far rather than fast. That is my philosophy." Eric has done countless tours with the GS to date. And not with just any bikes, but with Max, Bill, Cirrus and Bob. "I give them names, pet them, give them encouragement or praise them," says Eric with a completely straight face.
"Max was my favourite. We have experienced a great deal together. In Tanzania, Max and I raced with ostriches, at the Salar de Uyuni we rode through saltwater 20 cm deep. I could always rely on Max." He rode Cirrus at the One World Tour. He named the prototypes with water coolers after the "most beautiful and most technical of all clouds". Eric loves the clouds. He can read the weather from them. "In Namibia, I once saw a huge cloud approaching me like a black carpet. In the middle of the desert, there was no escape. So I put away everything that should not get wet and accelerated. I was absolutely soaked and simply kept on riding, and in ten minutes I was dry again. We often make problems out of situations for which there is usually a simple solution."
Seized by the Spirit of GS.
Attracted by the unknown.
It sounds so cliché. But it's that feeling of endless freedom that draws Eric out into the world and seduces him into travelling. "I can last two months at home, then I start sprouting wings everywhere", he says. Attracted by the unknown, he has to take to the road again.
"I can't play the guitar, I can't build a house. The only thing I can do is traverse continents." And anybody on the go as much as he is, doesn't need a house. "I am at home wherever I hang my helmet." In France, Eric has a garage and lives above it. It is – if you will – his primary residence.
Adventurer with a family life.
A contradiction in itself – of which Eric is aware – is the desire for a family life and the dream of endless journeys. He has four children. They have inherited a lot from him: his eldest, 27-year-old Tom, is a photographer living in Costa Rica and now accompanies him on his world trips as an official photographer. His second son is 22 and is an architect in Australia. His two youngest are ten and twelve and live with his ex-wife in Orléans, France. This is his reason for living in France himself.
"Without my children, I would probably have emigrated a long time ago," says Eric and stares into the camp fire lost in thought, as if pictures were being shown on a slide projector of all the places he has seen, experienced, and become fond of. "I was married for seven years," he says. "I was already travelling a lot when we met. I couldn't give it up for her. I had already tried doing that for a girl once, and it didn't work. Lots of men expend all their energy on women. I can't understand that. That energy can be used to get around an entire continent."
A teacher after all.
Even if Eric Massiet du Biest has never taught at a school following his studies – he has nevertheless become a teacher. It's just that his subject is not usually taught at schools, and his pupils are usually seasoned men and women.
"I love teaching people stuff and learning things from them as well. And this is what my mother wanted. I just did it my way. I did not become rich, but a billionaire when it comes to personal contacts."