Book Review

‘No Room for Watermelons’
A man, his 1910 motorcycle and an epic journey across the world.
Authors: Ron and Lynne Fellowes
Publisher: High Horse Books
Email: info@highhorse.com.au
Can be purchased through Amazon for a black and white unsigned version, or for a signed full-colour copy, go to the website: www.oldblokeonabike.com and follow the link.
160 x 230mm (portrait), 229pp with 115 photographs and illustrations. £16.45 (UK), $21.81 (USA), $28.50 (Canada), £29.95 (Australia) ISBN 978-0-646-93141-8

In 2012, while others his age were enjoying quiet retirement, Ron Fellows set off on the challenge of a lifetime. His dream – to ride a 102-year-old FN motorcycle from Nepal back to the Belgian factory where the bike originated – had all the hallmarks of an epic adventure: one that was never going to be easy.

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New Zealand-born Australian Ron Fellowes was given the unnamed, incomplete and rusty remains of an old motorcycle when he was 26 years old.

The machine turned out to be a 1910 Belgian FN (Fabrique Nationale was a renowned motorcycle manufacturer from 1901 to 1967) – a superbly-engineered machine with an inline 500cc, air-cooled, four-cylinder, inlet-over exhaust engine with shaft drive, single speed and pedal assistance.

However, it would be over 40 years before Ron, a diesel mechanic and skilled engineer, was able to start the restoration, requiring many hours making replacements for damaged or missing parts.

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For eight months, Ron rode 9072 miles (14,600km) through 15 countries under gruelling conditions, into some of the world’s most hostile territories.

He faced desert sand storms, mountains too steep for the motorcycle’s capability – the threats of rock slides and bombings when he took a detour – and pressure from armed police through conflict zones. He was robbed and when held at gunpoint, Ron came face-to-face with his own mortality.

The motorcycle’s limited capacity – with its single speed and no gearbox, pedal assistance and only one rear wheel brake – made it a daily struggle.

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Breakdowns were common, and only Ron’s ingenuity and single-mindedness, and Lynne’s logistical support and mobile phone contact, and the generosity of others, kept him going.

Finally, when receiving an enthusiastic reception on arriving at the Belgian factory, FN’s CEO Robert Sauvage asked: “What was the purpose of your journey?”

“I am here to settle a warranty issue,” said a tongue-in-cheek Ron.

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“Unfortunately,” Robert replied, “the warranty period only applied for the first 100 years!”

The book, co-written by Ron and Lynne (journalist Lynne collated and edited Ron’s sometimes rather salty diaries), is an engaging and entertaining account of one man’s stoic determination to fulfil his dream. With many superb colour photographs, you will be carried along for the ride, and inspired to achieve your own dreams.

A true modern-day pioneer. Highly recommended.

Book reviewed by
Jonathan Hill

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