Helmet Head – biker, YouTuber and all-round super-nice guy – has built an online community of thousands who adore his madcap motorcycling challenges and the epic vlogs that accompany them. We meet him fresh from his latest trip, chosen for him by his followers: a round-the-UK ride on a Monkey bike.
Alan Dowsett from Desborough, Northants, drives trains for a living, but has another, not-so-secret persona as Helmet Head, whose enthusiasm for all things motorcycle is infectious. He completed his round-the-UK trip on a tiny 125cc Honda Monkey bike in 16 days - pretty staggering considering the various breakages along the way. We were delighted he took along some Gerbing and Roadskin motorbike kit to help keep him warm, dry and comfortable as he took on the UK’s finest coastal highways in the wind and rain.
Helmet Head makes all his videos on the go and has a loyal online following, some of whom caught up with him on the road and quite literally kept him going. We got the lowdown from Helmet, just before he heads off again.
How did you get into motorcycling?
When I was 13, I got a paper round. My friend’s grandad had an old Vision scooter in his garage. My friend was telling me about it and I said, Can I buy it? I used my paper round money. The scooter wasn’t running at the time and I had to push it home. I managed to fix it and pretty much from there onwards I was into bikes. Then I asked my parents if I could get a proper bike to go and do motocross and obviously, they said no. Eventually, after going on and on and on, I got a yes. I got my first motocross bike. When I was able to go on the road, I pretty much raced motocross.
What made you decide to ride around the UK on a Monkey bike?
So, I put up a YouTube poll with trips to Thailand, Vietnam, India - and riding a Monkey bike around the UK. I didn't actually think the Monkey bike was going to win! I thought people would want to see me in India or something, but the Monkey bike won hands down. I had thought that would be my charity trip next year.
How long did it take?
I started and finished at Hunstanton, Norfolk, and it took 16 days, with one night in every place. I averaged between 200 to 250 miles a day. It's only a little 125cc bike! It's capable of about 55mph. It is more of a cool, quirky, city bike, not made to do any of the stuff that I’ve actually done. It’s not supposed to sit on the M25 at full revs at 55mph for hours on end! After this trip it was basically trashed.
Every day I would get to about 2pm and then look for a hotel around another hour or so away from there, and book that, because I never really knew how far I was going to get each night.
Lots of people came to find me on the route. I had a tracking link so people could follow my blog posts on Facebook. I had a guy turn up in a van, for instance, who came along with me for nearly six days.
What difficulties did you encounter?
Obviously, I went at a silly time of year - November - so it was torrential rain and cold, but I had all the bike gear, so that didn’t really bother me. Except – just before I left, I found my motorbike boots had split. So, I put on my normal walking boots, but they let in water. Very quickly into the trip, someone sorted that out and got me some bike boots and someone else got me some socks. My exhaust snapped on top of a mountain in Scotland; the bike sounded like a duck. Next day I found a garage and they fixed it for free. Then the rack bent with all my stuff in. Someone else saw that on social media and sorted it out. Another time my bike cut out and I found another garage which fixed it for free. I had to divert away from the coast a lot to get stuff fixed, but people did it! There was always someone to help. And no one would accept a penny. That was the heartwarming thing. They said, we love your YouTube channel and we just want to help you.
Where was the most scenic place on the route?
The NC500 in Scotland. It was like something from postcards. It was just stunning. The roads were amazing and the twisties for the bike… wow. It was by far my favourite bit.
What gear did you take with you?
My camera, my laptop, my drone, my Gerbing heated gear. I wore the same Roadskin motorcycle jeans (the Taranis Elite) 16 days straight. Actually… I haven’t washed them yet and they’re still in a bag. I’m going to frame them and put them on my wall.
Obviously, I own quite few pairs of bike jeans, but I couldn’t believe how light these were – they’re like going-out jeans. These are so impressive for the AAA protection. They are a lot more comfortable than any other pairs of jeans that I’ve worn. On top I wore waterproof Roadskin overtrousers (Rainskins), which obviously were a perfect fit for the jeans, and did the job.
To keep warm, I wore Gerbing’s premium heated jacket and Xtreme heated gloves. I thought the alternator wouldn't run the kit without causing problems with the battery, as it’s such a small bike. But it was fine and I didn’t need the separate batteries. There are five heat settings on the jacket, and I couldn't run it anywhere near the top; it was between one and two every day. Perfect, warm and cosy, and the same with the gloves, with three heat settings. I ran them on minimum because they're proper bike gloves so you don't feel the wind coming through. I had warm hands throughout the entire trip but when I got off the bike to film and took off the gloves, within about five minutes I felt really cold! I thought, It's actually cold outside the whole time! It’s just really good stuff.
What’s your next adventure?
I'm planning to ride the world - every single country that I can get into!