When Ian Coates set out on his 1992 Honda African Twin motorcycle in 1999, it was supposed to be a four-month trip.
More than a decade later, the 66-year-old mechanic from the village of Blackshaw Head in England has travelled 220,000 km on his bike, visiting 70 countries. His motorcycle is plastered with stickers from his travels throughout Africa, New Zealand, and South and North America.
He added one more sticker on Friday when he stopped by Turple Brothers Ltd. in Red Deer before heading to the Calgary Stampede today. Glenn Turple, owner of Turple Brothers Ltd., had met Coates at the Olds Ride for Sight event and invited him to stop by Red Deer.
Coates said Turple would be a perfect fellow adventurer because he has enough experience on a bike to keep up. Turple, who turns 81 this month, says he is “a 1938 model.”
There have been plenty of mishaps along the way for Coates. While travelling in Sudan, he was lost in a sandstorm for 10 days, eventually making his way to the Nile and catching a boat to Egypt.
As Coates was riding around a turn in Mexico, he suddenly faced a car on one side of the road and a wagon on the other — both headed in his direction. He had to go off the road to miss them, breaking a wrist, his collarbone and ribs in the process. He rode 120 km on his bike to a hospital, only to wait five hours without treatment. In the end, he fixed himself up, purchasing bandages and taking it easy in a hotel. His wife Judith was waiting for him in Alabama. Two weeks later, he was finally able to ride there to see her.
The couple has been married for 42 years. “She says it’s only 32 because I’ve been away 10,” Coates said.
They’ve only seen each other six times in the past 10 years. “My wife’s not stupid. She knows a good man when she sees one,” Coates said.
After so many years on the road, Coates’ bike is still in decent shape. He has added screens onto the headlights so they don’t get broken by rocks when he goes off road, the mirrors have been reinforced and there are extra canisters of fuel on either side of the bike. He has a small toolbox behind his front wheel and a spare tire on the back for fix-ups.
Coates said he likes travelling by motorcycle because he can smell things, see things and get to places he never could in a car. It has also made the trip more affordable.
While on the road, he often works on farms doing repairs, welding jobs or helping with branding for food and a place to sleep.
But he said after 11 years on the road he is still so excited to get going in the morning that he can’t eat. After Canada, he has his sights set on Siberia.