- John Winter of Canada is the winner of the 2017 DHL World’s Best Road competition
- Prize is the ride of a lifetime with former F1 driver Mark Webber
John Winter didn’t own a motorcycle until about twelve years ago. He’d been around bikes as a kid, even learned how to ride, but he bought his first bike after moving to Canada as an adult.
“I was pretty respectful of my mum. She wouldn’t allow me to ride a bike while I was at home,” says John.
It’s just the expanse of North America. I couldn’t wait to get out on the open road and just explore.John Winter
But the seeds had been planted early. Being from the Isle of Man, John was exposed to one of the world’s most famous motorcycle events: the annual Isle of Man TT Races. And after moving to South Africa at age five, he watched his 10-year-older brother bring home a bike and enjoyed getting rides every now and then.
“He’d take us around the neighborhood,” says John.
Still, it took moving to the other side of the planet and a four-wheeled road trip near the top of it – the Arctic Circle in Canada’s Yukon Territory – to seal the deal.
“The roads were just so empty. There was the wilderness and the wildlife. I saw a few bikes along the way and thought, ‘man, I gotta do that.’ I came off that road trip, went and got a license and bought a bike straight away.”
What did he buy?
“I got a Yamaha Seca 750 for about 800 dollars – that’s about 450 US. It was in really good condition, but I did a little tinkering with it – and rode it all around Vancouver. That’s one of the great things about living here – in no time you can be up through the mountains riding through wooded roads, where you don’t see a car for hours.”
That was in April or May. By July he was off with some buddies on his first long road trip down Oregon’s storied coastline – a “rag-tag bunch” on cruisers and dirt bikes, he says. They’d drive all day – sometimes as much as 800-1,000 kilometers – stopping at hotels, getting up early the next morning, grabbing breakfast and heading back out on the road. It was all about the ride.
“I love the freedom. You pack just what you can carry on the bike and that’s pretty much it. Once you get out there, you’re in the open with the sounds and the smells – the noise of the bike, the hum of the tires. I don’t ride with music; I absolutely love listening to the sound of the bike on the road.”
I love the freedom. You pack just what you can carry on the bike and that’s pretty much it.John Winter
John has been all over the western part of North America, exploring some of the continent’s best roads.
“We rode the Beartooth Highway in Montana and Wyoming as well as the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which takes you through Glacier National Park. You actually ride under a waterfall cascading over the road.”
Next stop: Great Ocean Road
John’s road to one of the world’s most scenic coastal byways began in an unlikely place – on the couch watching TV.
“I think I was watching MotoGP and it popped up on the TV. I’d just returned from a road trip to Vegas and the whole idea of a World’s Best Road really struck me. I went online and watched the video with Mark and right away I thought this could be the best thing ever. – I love riding, I love road trips. I just had to enter.”
Why does the Great Ocean Road stand out?
“I think Route 66 is one of the most iconic rides in the world, but there’s really nothing like riding along the coast. I just love it – the sea on one side and bluffs on the other. The coastlines here in North America are great, but to be honest you really can’t beat Australia.”
When he received the email from DHL that he’d won, it took several moments to sink in.
It’s still so hard to believe that it’s real.John Winter
“I was just sort of skimming through – I saw the word ‘unfortunately’, which was actually referring to the fact that they couldn’t reach me by phone – and then had to do a double-take when I saw ‘you’re the global winner’. I was reading it on my phone, so I got on my computer and read it again. And then I read it again, and a third time. I couldn’t believe it.”
The ride of a lifetime
When he phoned into DHL to confirm, the first thing he asked was: “Is this real?” Yes, it’s quite real, and soon John will be on his way Down Under for a once-in-a-lifetime experience riding alongside Mark Weber on Australia’s iconic Great Ocean Road.
“It’s still so hard to believe that it’s real,” says John. “I probably won’t be fully grasping it until I check in for the flight.”
What’s he looking forward to most?
“Besides the ride, spending time with Mark. You know, you see people like Mark on TV driving F1 cars at those speeds. It’s going to be so fun and exciting to get a different take on everything from someone who’s been in motorsports professionally. He knows the thrill of it. I know the thrill that I get going around a corner at 70 or 80 miles per hour and pretending that my knee is dragging, but it isn’t,” he says smiling.
Though he may not know the exhilaration of a race track, John Winter certainly knows adventure. Soon this North American explorer will venture Down Under to experience the ride of a lifetime. We’ll be capturing his latest road trip on film and sharing the inspiring story with the world. So watch this space and follow @DHL_Motorsports and #DHLWorldsBestRoad to catch the final chapter in the DHL World’s Best Road story.