“Look after your loved ones, do what you have to, but live your life”Bruce aka TeapotOne
One of the most distinct voices on the evermore crowded motorcycle podcast and vlogging circuit is Bruce TeapotOne, otherwise known as Bruce Smart. With a down-to-earth persona and round-the-world overland adventure riding experience he is a motorcycle enthusiast that people respond to. Based in Kent in the UK, you could say that his no-nonsense way comes from his background as a Scotsman.
Before diving headlong into the world of motorcycles, Smart lived a life as a police officer, specialised in the area of diplomatic protection. Originally from the north east of Scotland, born and raised up near a town called Peterhead, north of Aberdeen, he went to university in Glasgow before 2000, when he moved to London to join the force. He’s still there.
While the responsibility, discipline and self-reliance learned in his nearly 20 years as a police officer stood him in good stead. Smart feels it was the right time for him to get out, retiring just before Covid and has since dedicated himself fulltime to his passion.
“It really takes a toll on you and I don’t think I really appreciated that until I left,” says Smart about the police. “Then you realise how mentally knackered you are. It’s nice to be out.”
It was a very natural calling for Smart, he says. It just seemed like something he would be good at, but he also wanted to help people.
“Growing up, I always liked structure. I liked organisation and rules. I believed what was right was right and what was wrong was wrong, it was always very cut and dried for me. I’m a reasonably big guy, six feet, twenty stone, so I was always somebody that people came to when they needed help. Helping people just felt like a natural thing to do.”
The motorcycle came into his life relatively late. Life events and a push in the right direction from his mum saw a transformation in everything. It started him on a new two-wheeled path that saw him circumnavigate the globe, but also to bring a positive message to his community about seizing the opportunity when life affords it. To follow you passion and ‘live your life,’ is his mantra.
“I grew up with motorcycle posters on my wall, thinking they were cool, but my family and my mum especially were against bikes,” says Bruce. “So it was just never really on my radar growing up. I always thought that when I’m older I’ll get one, and then once I was older, well I always had other things going on, other things to spend my money on. I just kept putting it off.
“It all changed for me because of my mum. In ‘98 she got diagnosed with cancer. She eventually got the all clear, so my parents emigrated to Spain in 2004/05 but within a year her cancer had returned, so she would come back to the UK, go through treatment, and that would work and then she would go back to Spain, this happened two or three times,” he says.
“Then in 2008 it came back and I could see she was really tired by that point and I had bought a flat so I said to her that when she was coming back form treatment she should stay with me. She wasn’t responding to treatment this time, she was getting more and more unwell. We spent a lot of time just sitting and chatting on the couch.”
It was a difficult time, but one that provided a crucial moment that proved to be the catalyst from dramatic change.
“One day ‘The Long Way Round’ came on the TV. I’d seen it all before, my mum had bought me the box set when it came out. I had watched it and thought ‘that is so cool, I would love to do something like that’. But again, I had a job, I had a son, I had all these excuses not to do it. So it came on the telly and I started moaning again saying ‘ah it’s alright for Charlie and Ewan, A-list celebrities,’ etc., and mum said ‘you’ve always spoken about buying a bike, but you’ve never done it, you always spoken about doing a trip like that, but you’ve never done it. Don’t get to my stage and you regret what you’ve not done. Look after your loved ones, do what you have to, but live your life’.
“It still gives me the chills. It was a real epiphany moment for me, the thunder bolt flashed in front of me. So I picked up my laptop there and then and googled how to pass a bike test and I booked it. By the time I did my test, mum was really bad, she’d decided she wanted to be in a local hospice. I passed my test, went straight to the dealership, took up my new GLSR600 got the outfit and rode it to St. Christopher’s Hospice, walked in, saw my mum, showed her the keys and said, ’I’ve done it’. She gave me a big hug and said ‘promise me you’ll do your trip’. Five days later she passed away. I had to do it then.”
Grief, especially for the loss of a parent, at any age, is a traumatic event, but one that often brings a period of change, transformation and growth. For Bruce the first steps were a motorcycle test it was to take him around the world and on a path he continues on today.
“Although my mum had lived with me for 8 or 9 months and I don’t think that I ever really accepted that she was going to die. Even a week before she died, I remember the doctor bringing us in and saying ‘we’re close now’. And I was like ‘nah, she’ll pull through like she always does’. Because of that, I always felt like I wanted the one last conversation to say all the things that I didn’t get to say. I really wish I had spent more time with my mum getting all that out before it was too late. But how do you do that?
Travelling put me on path, it changed everything for me.
Having made a promise to his dying mother that he would travel the world on his bike, he had to go and do it. The option of taking an unpaid sabbatical from the police force was there, and it gave him the chance to plan for the trip of a lifetime.
“I had done Europe,” says Bruce. “From the second I passed my test I pretty much lived on a bike. I was doing 35-40 thousand miles a year, all over the UK. I would get up early and go for ride, I ‘d go to work, finish work and go for a ride, then on my days off I rode my bike, That was all I did and I wasn’t interested in anything else. But I had never done the overland adventure travel, either on a bike or with a back pack that was all new”
Perhaps because of his profession, Bruce meticulously planned every aspect of his trip. With the benefit of hindsight, he probably wouldn’t do it that way again.
“I always say, that if I was to it again, as long as I had a couple of grand in the bank, I would just pick up my phone, my passport, credit card and I’d get on the bike and go,” says Bruce. “That’s all the prep I would do, but it’s easy to say that once you’ve done it. For the first stage of the journey I had everything mapped out, I had visas, I knew where I was going what I was doing, and I met so many people who were just winging it. They had forged visas, they had no plan, they were just winging it, and they did fine.”
Of course a trip like that will change you, it has to. So what did Bruce learn along the way?
“One of the biggest things that I learned is that the Media is full of shit,” he says. “The news that you see on the television, what we’re fed is utter bollocks. It’s always in some form shaped by somebody and it’s not real. Once you get out into the world, you see things with your own eyes, you experience it, you meet people, you realise that we’re all just the same. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what language you speak, who you call god, none of that matters. Everyone is just out to look after their family and they’ll help you if they can. There are a few ‘wrong’uns’ out there, obviously, but most people are just good. The warmth, kindness and generosity I experienced all over the world was really humbling. It has changed me massively. I was a bit guarded before, but now I’m much more open.”
TeapotOne is the brand that came out of that round the world adventure, and he vlogs, podcasts and organises road trips with his community. The podcast has taken a backseat for now, but it is one of the better ones out there and Bruce plans to resume in the near future. His overland adventure riding trips sell out in just an hour, so he has plenty to keep him going.
“Some people think I’m very blunt, because I don’t believe in bullshit. I say what I think and I think it’s the right thing to do. I don’t believe in kowtowing. If I get myself behind something it’s because I believe in it. It’s been a long process to get to where I am within the industry and I’m fully aware there are people who may not like my approach, and I’m ok with that, but I know that my community, people who follow my channel, they know I have that integrity, they know I’m not going to bullshit them. I like that position”.
A big thank you for Bruce for talking to us about his incredible adventures
Please check out his website below to listen to his Podcast, watch his videos, buy merchandise and take part on his tours.