Exploring the world on a CBR600RR
The Engine Room speaks to Nikki Misurelli, the 31-year-old, ‘Alaska Moto Girl’ who has covered over 25,000 miles on a Honda CBR600RR as part of an amazing around-the-world motorbike adventure.
Nikki Misurelli has been traveling for more than 12 years in a variety of ways, but in 2015 she set off to travel the world on her trusty Honda CBR600RR motorbike. Over two years and more than 25,000 miles later, she’s still going strong. We caught up with Nikki in Europe to talk about the highs and lows of her quest so far – from building friendships in Central America to dodging wasps in Hungary.
A seasoned traveller and motorcyclist, Nikki is no stranger to adventure. She’s driven an older pickup truck through all 50 US states. She’s backpacked through Australia. And she’s ridden her Honda motorcycle through 32 countries – beginning with an excursion through nine countries, from Alaska to Panama (12,000 miles), in just six months.
She’s been touring the world on her CBR600RR for almost three years. There have been breaks here and there to take on jobs to further fund her travels.
Following her trip through the Americas, Nikki has completed a 5,500-mile ride through south Europe and North Africa – through Italy, Spain, France, Portugal and Morocco – and is now clocking up mileage around the rest of Europe in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, and England. We don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty exhausting.
“It hasn’t been an easy ride,” she says. When there’s no permanent home to go to and limited contact with friends and family while traveling, it can be hard. “But it has been totally worth it.”
Regardless of the hard work and determination that it takes to live this lifestyle, Nikki says that she really enjoys her time on the road and loves meeting new people along the way. Volunteering and giving out gifts are a few of her favourite things to do while she travels.
Nikki’s wild ride, a black 2005 Honda CBR600RR that she bought in Alaska in May 2015, started life as a commuter bike. “Little did I know it would take me on an adventure around the world!” The bike is mostly stock, with a few exceptions: dual sport tires, heated handlebars, phone charger, a stunt cage and two emergency fuel tanks.
It’s also covered with loads of “souvenir stickers”, each one with a story. “Many are from motorcycle clubs, other travelers and motorcycle shops. Some are just fun, random stickers that I like. I also try to get one with the name of each country I've visited.” Her first – and favourite – is a giant, heart-shaped sticker on her front windscreen that reads ‘Alaska’ – the state she considers home.
But some of the stickers remind Nikki of more treacherous times: “There’s a reason that this type of lifestyle can be tough. It’s not always as easy as it looks, and it can be dangerous.” But whether she’s riding through terrible weather conditions or facing impossible terrain, Nikki always focuses on the positive. So what advice would she give any intrepid travellers?
“Don't be intimidated. Be prepared to face new challenges, and to break down and cry once in a while. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies. Things rarely go as planned, so be adaptable. Don’t ever let a bad day, week or month ruin your trip. Expect the worst, hope for the best – the hard times will pass, but the good memories will last forever!”
When Nikki set out on her big, bad 50-state road trip in the US in 2010, she had no other option but to go solo. With only a week to map out a continent-spanning itinerary, the responsibility was hers alone. “One week is not even enough time for the average person to decide on a weekend trip, let alone a year-long, 50-state road trip into the unknown – with only $100 in my pocket.”
“Many people say they’d love to travel with me. But when the time comes, most of them have excuses for why they aren’t ready: they don’t have enough money, or time, or they get sick. I’ve learned that there’s never really the ‘right’ time – and there will never be enough money. So, I just go on a whim. It’s something I wanted and needed to do on my own anyway. But I have randomly met up with many other motorcycle riders on the trip and have ridden short distances with them. It’s a nice luxury to have company once in a while!”
Like any good adventure, each chapter has its fair share of characters. The most unusual? Possibly the Mennonites who put Nikki up for a few nights in New York during her US road trip. (Mennonites are somewhat similar to the Amish in that some communities live a detached life devoid of modern technology.) Nikki first heard about them while visiting a friend in New York, who described them as “a crazy cult who practiced witchcraft”. Guess what: it was a load of rubbish.
Nikki was invited over by a member of the community for dinner and quickly found out they were a “super friendly, welcoming group of Christian people.” The next year, she stopped off for an additional few nights, drawing with the kids, playing games, singing songs and generally experiencing their way of life – quirky clothes and all.
Similar to the Mennonites, Nikki had heard her fair share of warnings about Central America, and Morocco. But to her delight, she received nothing but warmth and hospitality. “Even with the language barriers, everyone welcomed me into their homes with open arms. Even people with very little money made sure I had food and a place to sleep.”
Mother Nature, on the other hand, was less hospitable. “I’ve encountered snowstorms, hurricanes, sandstorms, windstorms, floods, mudslides, you name it.” And then there were the animals. Nikki has had close calls with moose, cows, bears, kangaroos, birds, squirrels, deer, elk, camels… and even caribou.
“I actually got stung by a huge wasp when I was riding through Hungary. It hit my neck and fell down inside my jacket under my shirt, and just kept stinging me. Thankfully, I was in the middle of nowhere when it happened, otherwise it could’ve easily caused an accident from swerving! It was terrifying because I had a minor allergic reaction and my breathing became difficult. It hurt for days, but thankfully it’s just another adventure story now!”
Her biggest challenge to date? Sleeping rough. Good places to kip have included barns and beaches. The bad? Cars and mechanics shops. And the ugly: a highway tunnel.
But, according to Nikki, it’s not nearly as bad as it sounds. “Believe me, all of those places feel comfortable and cosy after a long day’s ride.”
Whereas a lot of adventure motorcyclists opt for Africa Twins and CRFs – Steph Jeavons and Austin Vince included – Nikki went for a street bike: the CBR600RR. Why? “It’s just the bike I had at the moment. I’m very passionate about these sporty types of motorcycles and it’s what I’ve been riding my whole life!” she says. “I think it's a great way to travel for me.” According to Nikki, the Honda has had hardly any trouble at all, even after thousands and thousands of miles. Who knew a CBR600RR could not only take on the track, but an around-the-world adventure, too?
Reflecting on her journey so far, Nikki says it’s changed her life for the better. “I’m a completely different person from who I was 15, 10 or even five years ago,” she says. “I’ve learned from my mistakes, and other people’s mistakes. I’ve become both physically and mentally stronger with my travel experience – not to mention smarter. But I know there is always room to grow and more places to go.”
So, what’s next? Continuing through Europe, apparently. And then maybe Russia. Or Asia.
“You know what, I’ll probably decide a day or two before I get on the road, just like I did for this one!”