Friday, October 22, 2021

Royal Enfield's stirring video about a man of iron

Royal Enfield Bullet and luggage.
Greg "Iron Ass" Staves rode this Royal Enfield the length of the Americas. 

 Royal Enfield on Tuesday released a dramatic video tribute to Briton Greg Staves, who rode a Royal Enfield Bullet from the Arctic to Antarctic in 1997 to raise money for cancer research.

 Knowing reappearance of his own cancer in 1996 left him only a few short years to ride, Staves determined to do something "big" for cancer research.  He died Aug. 21, 2002, having by various accounts raised many thousands of pounds.  He was 51.

 The video "1997 Pan American Bullet" is superb and well worth watching. Royal Enfield released it as part of its #90South plan to send two Royal Enfield Himalayans to the South Pole late this year.

Staves didn't get to the South Pole in 1997, but he got to Antarctica and so did (part) of his 1993 Bullet.

Thumbnail of Royal Enfield video.
Watch the "Pan American Bullet" video at this link.

Staves earned the nickname "Iron Ass" for his long ride, according to the video. His long (and dangerous) journey created such a wealth of experiences that no two accounts of it tell the whole story. The occurrences recounted in the video are remarkable enough, but others abound.

The 1993 Royal Enfield Bullet sold for $1,739 at the Bonhams auction Oct. 19, 2019 at Staffordshire County Showground. The motorcycle, given to the London Motorcycle Museum, was auctioned along with a trove of other British motorcycles when times forced the museum to close.

The photos here are from the 2019 Bonhams auction material. It tells the Arctic-to-Antarctic story this way:

"A former cancer patient, its first owner, the late Greg Staves, purchased this Indian-built Bullet and, being in remission, decided he would undertake a special trip he had wanted to do for some time while at the same time raising for cancer research. This epic ride would take him from Prudhoe Bay in northern Alaska to Ushuaia in Argentina, his intention being to journey from the Arctic to the Antarctic. The plan was to start the ride at the summer solstice and complete it by the winter solstice, a period of six months. He insisted that it be a solo ride, despite doctors and family being skeptical of his ability to cope.

"As a trial run, Greg took a trip to Europe to demonstrate he could cope while at the same time getting used to the Enfield. He hadn't experienced a single before and didn't know what to expect from it. He had a great time, later remarking 'I found myself in Egypt, thought perhaps I'd had enough fun and should go home now.'

"On the Europe trip Greg had grown tired of forever explaining to curious locals what he was doing, so put a map of his Arctic/Antarctic route on one of the panniers before setting off. Some of his stops during the ride were for interviews promoting the trip with the locals, and on a couple of occasions he was roped in to promote local cancer projects.

"Unfortunately, the speedometer broke after 18,350 miles but Greg claimed that his total journey was some 22,000 miles. This feat of endurance earned him the nickname 'Iron Ass', bestowed by a Canadian acquaintance.

Royal Enfield Bullet speedometer dial.
Bullet odometer gave up at 18,350 miles. Staves kept going.

"Greg was refused permission to take the Enfield into Antarctica so he removed the front wheel while leaving the rest of the machine at the dock, and took it with him on a cruise ship to within the (Antarctic) Circle so he could dip it in the sea!"

The memorial notice to Staves on the website of Scarborough College recounts other incidents:

"During the trip, the 46-year-old had a close encounter with a grizzly bear in Canada and was tear-gassed and water cannoned in Santiago, Chile after being caught in the middle of a soccer riot. Other incidents included a night in the cells after being wrongfully arrested by the Ecuadorian military and crashing his bike in the jungle after his headlights failed."

Staves attended Scarborough from 1964-1969 and went on to become "Austin Bucknall’s project manager (a global construction and quantity surveying practice)," the college memorial says.

The London Motorcycle Museum description of the ride says that Staves chose the Royal Enfield Bullet for the trip because "Greg wanted something simple and easy to fix at the side of the road hence his choice of motorcycle."

And then it adds this:

"When he arrived back and the bike was delivered to the museum he said, 'I never want to sit on it again!'"

The video correctly refers to Staves' Bullet as a 1993 model, although it sometimes is described as a 1994. Graham Scarth, chairman of the Royal Enfield Owners Club UK, confirmed for me that the motor number indicates the Bullet was manufactured in March, 1993.

According to the Royal Enfield video, the Bullet motorcycle Staves rode 22,000 miles will be displayed at the Royal Enfield Experience in Milwaukee, Wis.

Watch the video:


  1. Great story! The man had a mission and he did it. Best of all from an enthusiast's point of view, he did it on a Bullet.

  2. Anonymous10/12/2023

    I met Greg in Quatemala and I loved him

    1. I knew Greg in the early 70's, and I also loved him.


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