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ADV NewsEwan McGregor Breaks Silence On Long Way Up Charging Challenges

Ewan McGregor Breaks Silence On Long Way Up Charging Challenges

Ewan gives a glimpse of challenges faced during the Long Way Up.

Published on 02.04.2020
The last time we checked in with Ewan McGregor was back in December when he and Charley Boorman arrived in Los Angeles looking blissfully road worn, riding a couple of Harley-Davidson electric LiveWires. The pair had just completed a three-months-long journey from Tierra del Fuego, the subject of their latest overland adventure documentary, Long Way Up.

And then, crickets…at least until last Friday when Jimmy Fallon asked McGregor about his experience in South America during an appearance on The Tonight Show. 

A newly clean-shaven McGregor lights up remembering the ride, explaining that he and Boorman chose to go with electric Harley-Davidsons instead of traditional adventure bikes simply because they wanted to be a part of the new “wave” of transportation technology. 

Ewan McGregor spotted in Ushuaia, Argentina riding the Harley-Davidson LiveWire during filming of the Long Way Up.

“It proved to be amazing, and quite tricky at the same time,” he says of charging the e-bikes along the way. And while they could sometimes charge the bikes at hotels, and restaurants during lunch stops, many times they had to rely on the generosity of locals, knocking on doors and asking to use an outlet.


“There’s no real infrastructure for charging in the middle of Patagonia, for instance,” says Ewan, who goes on to describe camping in people’s backyards and plugging in overnight, occasionally blowing their host’s fuses while charging the Harleys’ greedy 15.5kWh Lithium-ion batteries, which can take over 12 hours to fully energize using 120 V household current. 

In contrast, energizing the LiveWires on the Level 3 DC “fast charger” stations we’re used to in North America would take only 40 minutes for an 80% charge and an hour for 100%.  

Back in September when the guys left from Ushuaia we reported they were traveling with an extensive vehicular entourage, including at least one backup LiveWire, a Ford F350 truck and a Mercedes Sprinter Van that likely carried portable fast chargers. How much they relied on crew support for charging (if at all) is still unknown. What we know is that Charley reported upon their arrival in L.A, they were only able to average about 120-180 miles in South America, Central America and Mexico due to charging issues. Once they crossed into the U.S. in Arizona they were able to step it up to 300 miles a day, thanks to modern charging stations. 

Ewan arrives in Los Angeles to a crowd of fans and family, 3 months after departing Tierra del Fuego.

While Jimmy doesn’t ask the question we’d most love answered (When will it air?) he does ask what they did when they ran out of juice while riding, a situation Ewan says happened to him several times though never to Charley (and that Charley would claim it’s because he’s a better rider of the two). 

“I ran out a couple of times and I would just hold onto a car,” Ewan says as Jimmy and the audience laugh in astonishment. “If you open the back windows and front windows of the car, you can put your arm around the pillar and just muscle along like that.” This, a questionable trick the Scot says he learned while riding in a New York City Yellow Cab in his early 20’s when a Harley rider “clattered into the side of the cab, grabbed the pillar and shouted out the the address of the Hells Angels clubhouse to the driver, who just took him there.”

Knowing that Ewan and Charley’s first show, Long Way Round, aired less than three months after the end of their life-changing, trail-by-fire journey around the world, and the second show, Long Way Down, was on the BBC only two months after their return, makes us hopeful we’ll soon see announcements about the Long Way Up airing soon.

Judging by the heavily-used state of Ewan and Charley’s LiveWires when they arrived in Los Angeles, it looks like the friends got into some tricky situations. But even if this new show doesn’t deliver all the deep water crossings and dropping of bikes we’re used to, going along for the ride with these hilarious guys as they problem solve their way across some of the most beautiful countries in the world ought to be worth our time. 

Author: Jamie Elvidge

Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire range of bikes for the major print magazines and specializing in adventure-travel related stories. To date she’s written and supplied photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 foreign countries, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer’s Awards along the way. Her most-challenging adventure yet has been riding in the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as Team AusAmerica’s embedded journalist.

Author: Jamie Elvidge

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16 thoughts on “Ewan McGregor Breaks Silence On Long Way Up Charging Challenges

  1. I’ll pass on E power for traveling/touring. The ‘adventure’ side of the trip shouldn’t be looking for charging options 2-4 times a day.

  2. Good article, I follow Ewan and Charley and I enjoy their adventures…I hope to hear how they felt travelling in Southern Chile, Puerto Octay, where they stopped for lunch and recharge. Greeting to my friend in Chile Cafe Interlagos.Liarrosa.

  3. What he meant to say was they were charged with gasoline powered generators inside multiple support vehicles that run on gasoline. LOL

  4. Umm, yeah. We all know the real story. They traveled with an entourage of support, including two vehicles with charging stations AND an extra bike per rider so one could charge while they were riding the other. They may have had a good time but, this was a farce as far as adventure riding goes. I’ve had tougher trips to the grocery. At least in the long Way Around they had a support team that met them at predetermined spots but, for the most part they were on an adventure ride.

  5. Anyone with half a brain could see this was a dumb idea. I’m afraid their new wave of transportation is a fantasy untill better battery technology catches up with the needs of long distance travelers. Cute stunt aimed at millennials won’t equate to sales.

  6. The CT90 couple traveling to S America just passed out from laughter. I remember feeling so disappointed when they announced HD, if only because it would turn an adventure into a big PR stunt. Fail. Next time do it like Lyndon & handle your own stuff!

  7. Choosing an electric was imaginative in a way their previous trip weren’t. I suspect the public-at-large will find it interesting, while experienced riders will find that it supports their doubts about eMotos at this stage of battery technology.

  8. Congratulations to them both. Someone has to push the envelope, and I’m glad they did it with a support team in tow. Having ridden through the mountains and jungles of Bolivia, I can say that it is an adventure no matter what you are on.

    I don’t care what you ride, just get out and ride. Can’t wait to see the show.

    Gregory Grabowski

  9. What a joke. Sorry. No. Just know. I don’t have an entourage. A truck with a diesel gen set to charge my bike. Ability to hold ferries every time I’m late. Or to buy a bus to get me through the sketchy areas. This whole series has become a sad joke.

    • It’s a sad reality that our heroes age and become beholden to families and safety. It’s part of being an adult. I do think the bus thing was pretty lame but at least they were more honest about that more than the charging stuff, which seemed to be a mix of scripted fiction and reality. I’d be really disappionted if they actually each had two LiveWire bikes each, but I’m pretty sure that was a false rumor.

  10. I think that if Harley would have thought this out a bit more they could have created something Special. Maybe that’s the same issue they’re having with bikes. My 09Harley sits in the Garage, (its beautiful) but its just not what I like to ride much anymore, unless I’m into a Bar Hopper.

  11. It was a good challenge. SPOILER ALERT.
    Granted one of the Harleys had the entire battery pack replaced in Costa Rica by the factory but these were prototypes so… thought the Rivian trucks were cool too. Wonder when those are available

  12. Haha I love all the negative comments. The long way adventures started because ewan and Charlie didn’t want to do the logistical work for the trips. So they made it into a show travel to world with new equipment for free. Anyone would do that if they could.
    Dave ekins did the Tijuana‑La Paz trip on a honda cl 72 for the adventure. He had a support team in an airplane to give them fuel because there was no fuel where they were going. This trip is really no different. So what they had Support teams to charge their bikes, they still road the trip on proto type bikes. They did it because no one had done it before. Dave Ekins did his adventure to prove Hondas were good bikes and to set a time record.

  13. I love Ewen and Charlie’s enthusiasm for motorcycles. But I kind of lack the two to three million dollar budget or whatever it was that it took to make this film. Have to stick to gas for now. But electric is making it strides. It’s the batteries that are the issue at this point.


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