Three Men on a Bike: Cycling across Africa on a 3-person Tandem

On May 28, 2013 by MarcF

One wet evening in the spring of 1988, Rory Spowers was enjoying dinner with his friend Dave Elliott when they started discussing their post-university graduation plans. After Dave’s suggestion of riding a mountainbike through Africa Rory came up with an even grander scheme: “Why don’t we go together and ride the Goodies’ Trandem? You know its the one they used in the TV-show, my brother bought it form an auction of the BBC a few years ago”

A seed was planted. A plan was born.

The Goodies Trandem
The Goodies was a consistently very popular comedy TV show in the eighties, often compared to – and contemporary rivals of – the UK’s other ‘alternative’ comedy TV hit Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The Goodies ran for 10 years on the BBC.


In the TV series  Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie together were known as “The Goodies” and the threesome travelled around on, and frequently fell off, a three-seater bicycle called the Trandem.

trandem2_larger the Goodies

It was exactly this Trandem that Rory’s brother had managed to get his hands on at a BBC auction some years after the show ended.
And it was exactly that Trandem they were going to cycle across Africa!

The Trip
Before commencing on the trip the Trandem gets a complete overhaul: new brakes, new wheels, a new crossbar and a ten-speed derailleur system are all installed. The guys also rename the bike into ‘The Goodloid’.

The Goodloid

Initially Dave and Rory have problems recruiting a third person for their ‘Three Men on a Bike (TMOAB)’ mission, as nobody believes they are being serious about their plan. Then they drag an old childhood friend, Chris Mills, to the pub and hit him with two pints and a tirade of reasons why he should leave his job and come to Africa. Within 24-hours he is onboard (a little girlfriend convincing was needed, hence the delay).

A fourth person on the team seemed crucial to them, to film the trip, as the visual impact of the trandem would be completely lost without three people on board. So shortly after they find another old friend, Steve Corry, willing to join the team as well. He will be riding an extra mountainbike which will serve as their ‘support and film’ vehicle.

Due to the political problems caused by the ‘apartheid’ regime in South-Africa they have to skip this country and the trip is started in Botswana. From there they head North with the ultimate goal of reaching Cairo, Egypt.

Route map three men on a bike (small)

One year, 278 punctures and 10.000 km / 6.500 miles later, they had traversed the length of Africa on their ‘Goodloid’ t(r)andem and a mountain bike, retaining their sanity (barely), but minus one testicle and their preconceptions. They starred as extras in a Clint Eastwood movie, were attacked by machete-wielding men and poisonous snakes, survived regular bouts of malaria and traveled through some of the most beautiful lands in the world.

On the Trandem in Africa

The Book
The book Three Men on a Bike: A Journey through Africa, written by Rory Spowers documents their kickass trip with some great coloured photos. It is a lively desciption of a unique journey through Africa. You can get it here.

 Three men on a bike_the book

Sources: Amazon, Literary agency, BBC,,

About MarcF

Global wanderer of the world. Avid cyclist, skier/snowboarder and passionate ping-pong player. Can't live without mountains in my vincinity. Fascinated by cryptocurrencies and hackerspace-like collaborative creations. Linguaphile with a special interest in Chinese, Russian & Spanish. Lover of both good & cheap wines, random facts and singing in the shower. Travel and backpacking remain my first true love. The crazier and more original those earthly exploits the better!