From age 16 to 76

by: TERRI YEATES FOECKLER - Bill Yeates, who has been riding motorcycles for 60 years, enjoyed participating in last year's Steel Stampede with his daughter Valerie and grandson Jack, 18. This year's event will be held May 4 and 5 at Crooked River Ranch.Crooked River Ranch resident Bill Yeates, 76, has been racing motorcycles longer than most people have been alive.

Yeates, who has lived at the Ranch for the past 16 years, will participate in the Steel Stampede for the fourth time this weekend, riding a 1975 Honda TL125 in the trials. As a concession to his age, he'll ride in the novice class, rather than the intermediate class.

Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Yeates got his love of riding from his father. "My dad was a trials rider back in the '30s in Ireland," said Yeates, noting that his father, a founding member of the Dublin District Motorcycle Association, rode for the Triumph Factory in England, and also represented Ireland in world events.

"I got into trials following him around in the '40s," he said. "I like the challenge. In the modern trials, it's really challenging, with big rocks. They eliminate that in the vintage trials."

In the trials, Yeates explained, "You're riding a long loop and the trail is a lot of rough stuff."

Yeates and his wife Bridget, who have been married 53 years, met in Ireland, and moved to Portland in 1960 to find a better life. Yeates found work as a mechanic for British Motor Cars, and then sent for his future bride, who found work as a seamstress at White Stag.

The Yeates were both motorcycle enthusiasts at the time. "I rode in my 20s," said Bridget Yeates. "I learned something right off the bat; just because you're married to someone who's good at something doesn't mean you are."

Bill Yeates got into modern motocross racing in the 1960s, which he said can be "a bit scary," and continued until his late 40s.

Trials are another story. "I keep going from year to year and saying it's my last year," said Yeates, who still enjoys the cameraderie with friends.

"In the summertime, I take my trailer to Klamath Falls in May, then Northern California (Canby) in September, and also one in Spokane, Wash."

"If I can get away with it, I'll probably go to eight or nine," said Yeates, who is often accompanied by his wife and grandson Jack, 18.

At last year's Steel Stampede, Jack and the Yeates' daughter Valerie also competed. "It was so much fun," said Bridget Yeates. "My daughter hadn't ridden in an event for probably 15 years."

As their daughter came around a tree, she lost control and went right over the handlebars. "She got up and dusted herself off and said, 'Sorry Mom.' I knew she was going to be OK."

She finished second in her class to add to the family's trophies and ribbons.

Bridget Yeates is particularly amazed by her husband's dedication to the sport. "Bill, to me, is amazing. He's had this lifelong hobby that's taken him all the way from the age of 16 to 76."

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