The need for adventure pulls some riders away from the comfort of home for weekends or sometimes more extended multi-day trips. An adventurous spirit has taken one man around the world on a trip that will touch the two wheels of his early nineties Honda Africa Twin on the soil of every continent except Antarctica. This may not be the first time such a trip has been undertaken. It does likely hold the record for length of time.
The man, Ian Coates of Hebden Bridge, England has an infectious smile. It is a sign of the stamina and character of a single man who has been on the road less traveled for more than eleven years.
That’s right, Ian has been on this worldwide journey since 1999. A much shorter trip from South Africa to England started this odyssey. The original trip was to take four months. Instead it took nearly a year. Mere days after arriving at home, he and his trusty Honda were bound for Australia. Years were spent on his quest down under through the driest continent on the planet. He then headed to New Zealand, South America, Central America, United States and Canada. He spent an entire decade riding, camping, helping out on cattle ranches and enjoying every moment of life.
It is in Canada where I had the pleasure of meeting Ian. The 67-year old man is a definite character. His spirit built upon true wanderlust escapes through his constant smile in a mix of non-stop tales from his travels.
The wear and tear of his circumnavigation isn’t noticeable on his body. It is only noticeable from his motorcycle gear. Most of which has seen more miles than many avid motorcyclists will encounter in a lifetime.
Boots Bring us Together
Ian’s worn out and tattered boots brought us together on a warm 70-degree day near Vancouver B.C. The wayfaring had taken a toll on the sole of the boots with ever mile added to the soul of this incredible motorcyclist.
Held together by duct tape and bound to his feet by rubber bands, the boots showed every dusty mile. Nevil Stow, of Canmore, Alberta, one of many friends that Ian has made along this ride, offered to get him a new pair of riding boots. They order a pair of Gaerne boots from MotoCrossGiant.com in California. Unfortunately, there’s a minor mix up and they send him a pair of size 10 boots. Ian wears a size 13. With just a few days until he flies out from Vancouver to Seoul, Korea en route to Vladivostok, Russia. There just wasn’t enough time to ship the boots internationally across the US and Canada border.
I happen to live an hour south of the border. Ian calls and asks if the boots could be shipped to my house and if I’d be willing to bring them up to Vancouver. This would not be a problem at all. In fact, I was rather pleased to get a chance to meet him and help at the same time. Two days pass and the boots arrive on my front porch. That weekend I bungee them to my V-Strom and ride up to meet Ian at Malcolm and Kathy’s house in Surrey, B.C.
It was a glorious day for a ride. The weather was equally nice while sitting in Malcolm and Kathy’s well manicured back yard visiting and talking about travels to far off lands. A couple cups of coffee, a few hours and tons of stories is the best way to start any friendship. It is perhaps the best gift from a well-traveled rider. The knowledge and insight that those many miles provides is incredible.
This was truly a unique experience that I’ll carry in my mind from here on out. I can’t say this enough, you meet the most incredible people on a motorcycle. The fact that he is also an inspirational and joyful person is just icing on the adventure cake.
Good luck to you, Ian. May your ride through Siberia, Mongolia, India and all the ‘Stans go as smooth as fun will allow.
Read more about Ian on his online travel journal.
February 2011 – Update on Ian Coates around the world adventure.
YouTube video of a local TV station interviewing Ian and his wife Judith.