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CARL STEARNS CLANCY with his motorcycle

Photos courtesy: Clancy Family Collection

In the early 1900s, the idea of travelling around the world on a motorcycle was unheard of. You’d have to have a few bolts loose upstairs to even think of it. But that didn’t stop a young American, Carl Stearns Clancy, from dreaming big and embarking on the adventure of a lifetime.

Clancy set out to prove that it was possible to ride a motorcycle round the world, and he did just that on a bike that looks like a piece of haunted furniture.

Carl Stearns Clancy was born in 1890 in Iowa, USA. He was an adventurous soul from a young age, and he had a fascination with motorcycles. In 1912, he purchased a Henderson four-cylinder motorcycle that was at the time, at the cutting edge of technology.

Clancy’s journey began in 1912 when he set out from New York City. He rode across the United States, stopping at various towns and cities along the way. He encountered numerous obstacles on his journey, including bad weather, poor road conditions, and mechanical problems with his motorcycle. But he persevered, and he eventually made it to San Francisco, where he prepared to ship his motorcycle to Japan.


The Henderson Four that Clancy rode was a marvel of engineering. Manufactured by the Henderson Motorcycle Company in Detroit, Michigan and selling for $325, the bike was powered by a 934cc four-cylinder engine that was capable of producing seven horsepower. This may not sound like much by today’s standards, but it was more than enough to propel the Henderson to a top speed of 60 miles per hour, making it one of the fastest motorcycles of its time.

Clancy’s Henderson was also equipped with a range of cutting-edge features that made it ideal for long-distance travel. It had a large fuel tank that could hold up to 17 litres of fuel as well as a detachable sidecar that provided extra storage space for supplies and equipment. The bike was also fitted with a speedometer, an acetylene headlamp, and a horn. It was the DR650 of its day.

Henderson closed its doors in 1931 partly in the face of competition from Indian, but in 2017 an unrestored 1912 Henderson Four sold for $490,000 US.


The journey across the Pacific Ocean was no easy feat, and Clancy found himself seasick and bored during the 17-day voyage (this is now an 11-hour flight). But he finally arrived in Japan, where he was greeted with open arms by the locals. He spent several weeks exploring Japan, and he even had the opportunity to meet Emperor Taisho.

After leaving Japan, Clancy headed to China, where he encountered some of the most challenging terrains he had ever faced. The roads were often little more than dirt walking paths, and he had to navigate steep mountains and treacherous river crossings. But he was determined to make it to his destination, and he eventually arrived in Beijing, where he was given a hero’s welcome.


From China, Clancy continued on to Russia, where he faced yet more challenges. He had to contend with harsh weather conditions, poor road conditions, and hostile locals. But he persevered, and he eventually cleared the border and continued on through Germany, France, and Italy.

One of the most exciting parts of Clancy’s journey was his trip across Africa. He travelled through countries such as Egypt, Sudan, and Kenya, encountering exotic wildlife and stunning landscapes along the way. He even had the opportunity to ride alongside a herd of elephants in Kenya, which was a truly unforgettable experience.


After spending more than two years on the road, Clancy finally arrived back in the United States in 1914. His journey had taken him around the world, covering more than 18,000 miles on his motorcycle.

Carl Stearns Clancy’s journey is a testament to the power of determination and the spirit of adventure. He showed that anything is possible if you set your mind to it, and he inspired countless others to follow in his footsteps. It also proves that you don’t need the latest model bike anymore to make a serious ride a reality.

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