The Blazing Trails team has been running motorcycle tours continuously since 1999. Thus, our hugely experienced staff are well able to take care of all planning and logistics, leaving you to get on with enjoying the bike and the many wonders our destinations have to offer. We believe that in terms of everything from safety provision, through machinery, to accommodation, our local knowledge allows us to provide the best motorcycling experiences. Our tours are largely designed to cater for riders of all abilities looking to make something extra-special of their traditional two-week break. We know how important the time is to you, so we don't skimp on organisational detail. Whatever tour you choose, we'll take care of all transport and accommodation while you're on tour, and then whisk you safely back to the airport for your trip home - simple as that.
At BT we put a high emphasis on safety. So far as we know we are the only tour company that takes a fully-kitted medic (currently qualified to EU standards) on every Asian tour. Our Indian emergency equipment includes ample oxygen, neck brace and backboard – we have everything in house to stabilise and evacuate a casualty, or simply to deal with squits, headaches or cuts and grazes. In the Himalaya, all tours are also backed-up by a support vehicle carrying our medic, to ensure that any casualty is dealt with promptly, which is especially important when operating at altitude. Serious accidents are extremely rare, but better safe than tragically sorry...
We are not a hit-and-run operation. Although we provide our tours through the financial security of our UK-registered company, we live in India and South Africa for most of the year, with a base in the Himalaya, employing our key workers on very good salaries, with paid holidays, and providing them with a high standard of accommodation. This engenders the two-way trust and respect that allows us to work as a team – essential in dealing with the trials and tribulations that life on the Indian trail can throw up. On African tours, Suzie and Damon will be running them.
Suzie I'Anson (nee Lumsden)
Blazing Trails was set up by Suzie Lumsden, now I'Anson, who still runs operations in India along with husband Damon. Having first travelled to the Subcontinent in 1989, she bought an Enfield 350 Bullet, taught herself to ride in Delhi, and went on to cover some 35,000km of India. A decade later Suzie became involved in the Enfield Challenge, a huge charity operation in southern India, as a guide/outrider on an event with some 150 bike-mounted participants. Her experiences in 1999 led her to resign from her job in London move to India and set up Blazing Trails later the same year. After many years in the saddle, Suzie is quite some Enfield rider and still leads the majority of tours. Working as an official on the Raid-de-Himalaya has extended both Suzie's knowledge of the area and her network of useful contacts. As well as her native English, Suzie speaks good Hindi, French, some Spanish, Italian and swears profusely in Greek.
Has been working with bikes since he was 17, first as a despatcher, then mechanic, before entering bike journalism in 1995 at the launch of RiDE magazine. Over the next six years, Damon became deputy editor of RiDE, road test editor of Bike and editor of Performance Bikes. In 2002, Damon went freelance specialising in adventure touring. He has ridden in Thailand, Australia, South Africa, Costa Rica, the US, Sri Lanka and most of Europe. In 2005 Damon did a 16,000km 'lap' of India on an indigenous 150cc bike and the following year returned on a Yamaha XT660R to claim a bike World Altitude record (18,743ft). Also in 2006, Damon entered and won the Raid-de-Himalaya (on which he now officiates), before touring Nepal for several months. Damon speaks his native Cockernese, terrible Thai, hideous Hindi, touring French and still writes a few words for the UK press from time to time.
Or simply 'Jamal' to most people, is our chief mechanic. Already with some considerable working knowledge of the Royal Enfield motorcycle, Jamal joined Blazing Trails in 2000 and has been twirling the spanners on the team full-time ever since. Jamal maintains our fleet of over 40 bikes with great care and follows tours, dealing with any roadside problems. He has also been known to take a bike down to the crank and reassemble it overnight when called upon. In many years of dealing with Britishers, Jamal has acquired considerable skills in the art of sarcasm and can out-swear a sailor if the situation calls for it – like when someone thrashes the hell out of one of 'his' bikes. Otherwise, he is as gentle and polite as the day is long. Originally from Sultanpur, near Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, Jamal is versed in the Urdu language and, of course, Hindi. His English is good, though smattered with accent-packed bike-isms.
Who goes by the name of Ramji, joined the Blazing Trails team a couple of years after Jamal as our second mechanic and has also been in full-time employment with us ever since. When on tour, he is usually to be found on the back of Jamal's bike, so that he can double as a reserve rider if anybody gets too tired to ride. He is also generally the first to leap off and help if one of our riders punctures a tyre, or encounters any other mechanical mishap. When off tour, young Ramji is generally to be found either hard at work, eating, or sleeping. Ramji is from the same home town as Jamal, though from the Hindu community, and has pretty good English. Whatever the situation, whether calf-deep in freezing cold glacial water helping out at a river crossing, or straining to push a client through a patch of sticky uphill mud, Ramji can always be depended upon to manage a huge smile in the face of adversity.
Is yet another Blazing staff person with a shortened name: 'Billi'. Billi is Hindi for cat, an animal after which our Lithuanian programmer bears very great resemblance in manner (though if we were to be correct by gender in Hindi this tom would be a 'Billa'). Billi, a curious sub-species of interweb-feline, is the geezer responsible for this website and making it all tick. He also designed our real-time internet booking system, which took some nouse – and please don't blame him if you are struggling to pay via Paypal, as it's not our fault. Billi is now not full time in India, but wanders Europe in purr-suit of the purr-fect mate. He is, though, still a regular visitor to India and sometimes outrides on tours. Yet another of our cunning linguists, Billi speaks and writes in Lithuanian, Russian, Polish, English, Spanish and Hindi.
Any company supplying any two elements of a tour or holiday (in our instance transport and accommodation) is classed as an 'organiser'. As such, we are bound by law to be 'bonded' – insured so that if we as a company went bust, any money you had paid for a future trip would be returned to you. Any EU company taking money for trips like ours without the appropriate bonding is acting illegally. Likewise, companies offering tours should have appropriate liability insurance so that they can pay out should a claim for damages due to negligence be made against them. Any company running tours with any flight element must hold an Air Transport Operator's Licence (ATOL)... as we do.
There are other legitimate companies offering tours such as ours that you may like to consider travelling with, but there are also many operating in India on a purely cowboy basis. Every year new outfits show up with websites featuring copied itineraries... and many of these soon vanish. Often they have underestimated the difficulties of operating in India and have neither the staff, nor the contacts and experience to deal with a crisis on the road. With these matters in mind, it would be folly not to ascertain the operator's status on the matters outlined below before making a booking...
Who exactly is going to be leading your tour and what experience of the areas through which you will be travelling do they have? We met groups in the high Himalaya who were being 'led' by people who had never even been on the Manali-Leh route before! When one of their clients had an altitude problem, they had neither oxygen, nor any idea in which direction to evacuate them.
Will there be a real medic travelling with you and what equipment will they be carrying? Do they have a vehicle to evacuate you if you're hurt?
How many people are likely to be on a trip and what is the staff/client ratio? How many people will there be to a room?
What happens if you crash and damage the bike? At Blazing Trails, we take care of all that at no extra cost – unless you've been repeatedly warned to take it easy. Unlike some other outfits, we do not charge for any mechanical repairs.
Is the company with which you are booking bonded and insured? If not, you may have great difficulty getting back any deposits you've paid if your tour is cancelled. If a company is asking for a cash balance on arrival in India, it is highly likely they are operating illegally, either because they are not insured, or/and are avoiding paying tax. There is also the chance that there may be nobody there to meet you when you turn up in India with a pocket full of cash and nowhere to go!