Part 1: The First Indians to Motorcycle Around the World on a Royal Enfield
As told by Subhash Sharma
This incredible story marks the 50th anniversary of the first Indians to ride round the world. In 1972, when motorcycle travel was unheard of in India, Subhash Sharma and three friends rode 67,000 miles across the globe on two Royal Enfield motorcycles.
Today, Subhash is 75 years old and has lived in Fort Worth, TX, since 1975. At present, he rides a 1982 Honda Silver Wing. Motorcycles are his passion and he enjoys their company. The three friends who accompanied Subhash on the world tour were Sampuran Singh, Manmohan Singh, and Ashok Kher. Ashok died in late 1980s and Manmohan was 82 when he passed away in 2015. Sampuran is 85 and still lives in Jamshedpur, India.
Not a day goes by that Shubash doesn’t reminisce about their adventures. This first part of the story recounts how their unforgettable journey started, as told by Shubash himself.
How It Began
It was a Sunday morning in 1969 in Jamshedpur, India. I was sipping tea with my friends when the idea of riding around the world on a motorcycle came up. At the time, motorcycle travel was so obscure that we might as well have been talking about riding to the moon.
Even though I had no idea what was involved in a trip like this, I just couldn’t shake the thought. I believed we could do it and started researching. When we all met up again, I presented my findings. When they realized I was serious, three friends stepped forward to say they were in. And that was it—from a crazy idea over tea we now had a four-man team and were going to be the first Indians to ride around the world. We’d just have to figure everything else out on the way…
Our initial plan was to exit India into Pakistan before crossing through Afghanistan and into Iran. From there, we would ride on to 60 more countries, which we estimated would take around 18 months. But the more we researched, the quicker we realized that just getting out of India was going to be our biggest challenge.
Back then, there was no readily available info. You couldn’t pick up a book about motorcycle travel or ask someone online. I had to speak to someone who could at least show us where to start and approached senior officers at our company who had traveled abroad. They couldn’t tell us much, other than we’d need passports—our first hurdle.
Passports, Ministries, and Red Tape
Getting a passport was not a right but a privilege in 1970s India. We had to explain why we needed them and were denied until the government approved our trip. I had no idea how or even where to apply for the documents. I contacted officials, the police, attorneys, politicians—anyone that would listen. Eventually, I ended up on a two-night train journey to the Ministry of Education in New Delhi to write a detailed letter explaining our plans.