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ADV NewsWe Previewed The ‘Long Way Up,’ Here Is What You Can Expect

We Previewed The ‘Long Way Up,’ Here Is What You Can Expect

 Long wait for Ewan and Charley’s Long Way Up is finally over. Does it deliver?

Published on 09.13.2020

This week we were given early access to preview Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s first three episodes of the ‘Long Way Up’ ahead of its September 18th debut on Apple TV+. This series, which follows the buddies as they ride from Ushuaia, Argentina, to Los Angeles, comes 16 years after the original Long Way Round series, where the duo circumnavigated the globe, each on a BMW R 1150 GS. That first motorcycle series and their 2007 trip Long Way Down, where they took R 1200 GSs down the African continent, inspired legions of riders to get off the freeway and explore more challenging terrain.

While riding the Americas is a more tame endeavor than, say, riding the length of Africa, the greatest challenge of Long Way Up comes with Ewan and Charley’s choice of mounts: not their traditional adventure bikes, but Harley-Davidson LiveWires, brand-new to market e-bikes that at the time of their departure were totally unproven. Also along for the journey and likewise unproven are two full-sized electric pickup trucks from Michigan-based Rivian. If you know about Ewan’s longtime advocacy for sustainable energy, this choice isn’t much of a surprise. 

Long Way Up Review

Each Long Way Up episode greets you like an old friend with the franchise’s familiar intro style: Ewan’s voiceover synopsis, the montage of highlights, the familiar road marker graphics and, of course, the lush original theme song, Long Way Round, by the Stereophonics.


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Also familiar are the hallmark prepping scenes in the first episodes: the birth of the idea, the reconnection with the original crew, the creation of a brainstorming headquarters in London and the tackling of routing and logistics. What does feel startling in those first scenes, however, is just how much everyone touches one another, reminding us of how much the pandemic has changed the world since Ewan and Charley wrapped up their journey in LA last December. Will we ever go back to bear hugs and high-fives? 

Review of Long Way Up Series
The LiveWires were upgraded to handle the harsher terrain and primarily ride separate from the trucks during the journey, linking up at border crossings.

As you get into Long Way Up it’s clear the biggest challenge for the riders is going to be the bikes and their thirst for electricity. They couldn’t have picked a more remote place to start out their journey, and even though Rivian has sent crews ahead to install fast charging stations along their route (part of the company’s plan to create permanent infrastructure), it doesn’t make a dent in the vehicles’ demand. Scenes show them constantly trying to find power to keep the ride moving, charging their bikes at lunch stops, hotels and often relying on the help of complete strangers to get them back on the road.

Long Way Up Review

By the end of episode three you’re exhausted by the relentless quest to recharge the vehicles and the many “are they going to make it” moments, but you’re also freshly charmed by the chemistry between Ewan and Charley’s and their team, and best of all, just as soon as the guys are cut loose in Ushuaia, the joy of riding — that way your heart sings when you’re finally on your bike and rolling down the road — shines through. 

Ups

There are definitely laughs. The charisma and connection between Ewan and Charley is a welcome relief from the dark news we’re being inundated with these days. Right away, it sweeps you up into easier times, when border crossings and missing ferries were big problems.

Ewan and Charley's Long Way Up

Production values are worlds apart from earlier Long Way shows. Lots of gorgeous drone footage to really give you the feel and scope of the landscapes the duo travel through. The traditional video diary footage is also improved as is the audio quality when the guys communicate while riding. 

It’s very interesting and informative to get a snapshot of where e-vehicle technology stands today, especially as it applies to traveling through less developed countries. Clearly, it has a long way to go, but how exciting to find out whether these prototype (at the time) bikes (and trucks) can survive their 13,000-mile journey up the Americas. 

After reviewing the first three episodes, we can say for sure it adds a valuable element of adventure to the show. It’s like producer Dave Alexanian says during an early meeting discussing the viability of the e-bike choice: “None of us watched Evil Knievel jump the Snake River because we all thought he was going to make it.”  

Downs

Long Way Up Opinions

The most pervasive thing about the first three installments of the series is how much time we spend worrying about recharging the Harleys (and the Rivian Trucks) instead of enjoying the culture, scenery and joy of riding. Sure, it’s part of the Long Way legacy to problem solve, but the constant charging conundrum tends to weigh down the story a bit. Hopefully the boys can work out the bugs and get into some kind of rhythm in the remaining episodes.

There is also a heaviness to the traditional prep scenes that kick off every Long Way series – the opening of a trip-planning HQ (always in London), the vetting of bikes, teachings of culture and unboxing of gear. The lack of sparkle feels related to the somber revelation that Charley and Ewan had grown apart but were reunited after Charley suffered a catastrophic crash in 2016. Charley then has another spill during the preparation phase of Long Way Up, which leaves him hobbling around. 

Remember when Ewan breaks his fibula during prep for the second series, Long Way Down? It added to the excitement, wondering if he’d heal in time. The crash-related injuries in Long Way Up just feel ominous, and that, coupled with the lack of magic-making seat time — at least during the first few days of riding shown in the initial episodes — cast a dull light on the sport. Of course, we seasoned riders know all about the joys that outweigh the peril, but the first few episodes may not capture the attention of new riders like the original series did.

Final Thoughts

Thoughts on Long Way Up Series

Just as the e-bikes Ewan and Charley chose to ride are a nod to the future, so is the way we’ll watch this show. Apple TV’s streaming service will drop the first three episodes on September 18th, and follow with one episode per week. If you want to get a feel for the series you can take advantage of Apple TV+’s seven-day trial and watch the first 3 episodes before you fully commit. As of now, there is no official confirmation on the total number of episodes but there are at least 10 lined-up. So that means if you want to watch as they drop, you’ll need to subscribe to the streaming service for at least two months (first week is free then $5.99 per month). 

For all of you out there complaining about having to pay to watch, just keep in mind we pay around $14 for one person to see one movie in a theater. If you are really compelled to hack the system, you can wait until all episodes have launched and binge-watch them all during your free trial.

As usual, it’s about perspective. Same with whether you can get behind Ewan and Charley’s latest adventure. It doesn’t really matter if you’re into e-bikes. If you like motorcycles and laughing and learning about new places, this feels well worth the cost of admission. 

Long Way Up official trailer. Series premieres September 18th.

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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One thought on “We Previewed The ‘Long Way Up,’ Here Is What You Can Expect

  1. I am with you, the journey has lost some of its shine. 16 years after the first installment, There are dozens if not hundreds of ADVers, both male and female which go at it alone traveling the world and producing outstanding content on YT. We know their formula all too well now. Having said that, I love motorcycles and really appreciate Ewan and Charlie having decided to highlight E-bikes in their latest journey and expose the bikes’ strengths and weakness. Both HD and Rivian, I’m sure, gained tons of valuable information about their products and are better informed in bringing their products to market.

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