It's a Podcycle: Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Famer Phillip Funnell Visits Murray

Jun 18, 2015

Credit Chad Lampe

Murray residents were treated with an unusual sight today: an eccentric Canadian traveler and his larger-than-life "podcycle."

79-year-old Phillip Funnell ("that's two 'Ls', rhymes with 'hell'") of Vancouver, British Columbia parked his podcycle - a motorcycle with a small sleeper-trailer on the back - outside a local bike shop Thursday to fix a flat tire.  

The vehicle is meant for long-range trips and Funnell has done many in his lifetime. 

"This is probably the world's most photographed motorcycle," said Funnell. "In museums, those classic antique motorcycles have more pity taken on them. But out here on the road, to me this is an attention-getter. And that's why when I had my extra breakfast this morning, I hid it at the back of an abandoned garage and under trees. Didn't need the attention."

Credit Chad Lampe

The small trailer acts as his bed when he stops off to find a hidden place to camp for the night while traveling.

Funnell is in town after a trip through the Appalachian mountains to meet a friend who is celebrating 40 years in the motorcycle business.

He's completed two world tours and was about embark on his third.

"But I worried about my health," said Funnell. "I wasn't really going until next year, that's why the machine is in Russian colour.

"But I don't expect I'll go. Now, I'm going back, after I checked with the motorcycling authority, heading to Newfoundland and Labrador to make a complete circle of North American and then I've completed all states, countries and territories in North and South America. Twice around the world, 74 countries."

A quick Google search for Phil Funnel yields quite a few results and YouTube videos. The top result is his membership in the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame.

Funnell’s entry notes his early life in England and his time in the British Army. In an accident he nearly lost his right leg. The injury still plagues him today.

"I'm lame so I have to have my feet forward, which is a disadvantage because I can't raise myself out of the saddle if the road is real rough," said Funnell. "So I do pull up on the bars and if I see a hole I can't avoid I get off the seat a little bit." 

One of Funnel’s greatest achievements he says is driving across Canada in the coldest part of the winter, January and February. Funnel also drove to and on the Arctic Ocean in temperatures so cold that he had to build a fire under his motorcycle to get it to start. He says it takes a special person to complete these kinds of feats.

"It takes a will, some courage, a lot of expertise, determination and the time to do it," said Funnell. "In the past, I've had a business or I've worked and ridden, worked and ridden, worked and ridden, and I had a business to pay for it all. Then I was paid to do it. Nowadays, I'm just retired and no one pays me anything except little bits from the government."

Funnell has the time and he’s in no hurry.

"My new motorcycling philosophy is low-anxiety riding," said Funnell. "Not going into the corners like the ragged-edge of terror, because I want to make it to the other side. I just toodle-along, toodle-along, and the people say 'how fast are you going, Funnell?' because I have a reputation of not being very fast, and I say 'as slow as I can, as fast as I must.'" 

That’s what Funnell plans to do as he straddles his podcycle and heads to Maryland where he might visit one of his earlier machines that’s sitting in a museum.