Iron Butt Rally Wraps Up, With A Three-Peat Winner

In case you missed it with all the Canada Day fun over the weekend, one of North America’s most challenging motorcycle competitions wrapped up on June 30. The 2023 Iron Butt Rally (IBR) ran across North America the previous 11 days, and once again, we saw almost-superhuman riding from the dozens of motorcyclists involved.

This year’s IBR winner was James Owen, and it was a three-peat. He’d previously won in 2009 and 2017, and he put in a ride to remember for this year’s event by covering 22,753 kilometres through the 11-day event. Yes, you read that right; he averaged roughly 2,000 kilometers a day while getting bonus points at photo stops and braving the elements, other motorists, and fending off breakdowns. It was the second-highest mileage ever recorded at the IBR. Many other riders eclipsed the 16,500-kilometers mark, for an average of more than 1,500 klicks in a day.

But other entrants weren’t so lucky. Health issues and mechanical woes forced some riders out, even serious crashes, but 94 riders/teams (seven couple rode as teams) finished this year, with only 14 DNFs. The usual mix of adventure bikes, touring bikes and big-bore cruisers dominated the standings, with what appeared to be fewer oddball entries this year (Kurt Worden returned on his Kawasaki Versys-X 300, though). One competitor also showed up on an old K-bike, a BMW K100 RS… but with the original four-cylinder gasoline engine swapped for a diesel engine! A couple of other guys showed up on Victory cruisers, which was a bold decision, considering the dealer network has been shut down for several years now. That would certainly complicate parts supply.

The IBR has a start line, a finish line and two checkpoints in the middle. How riders make up the points in between those required stops is entirely up to them—they can visit and photograph the bonus score points in any order, in any location, as long as they make the required checkpoints. This year, we saw riders spend a bit more time in Canada than usual, or at least it seemed that way. Meat Cove off the Cabot Trail featured as a high-value bonus, and there was also a visit to the Northwest Territories (two bikes aimed for the bonus points in the north). You can see the animated routes of all the rally finishers here, and it’s impressive to see just how far some riders roamed in their quest for IBR glory.

As for Canadian riders, Wolfe Bonham (who runs the Lobo Loco rallies in Ontario and we discussed his 2019 IBR run here) managed to get through considerable difficulty this year for a 29th-place finish on his 2003 BMW R11150 GS. Props to him!

Final standings for the 2023 IBR are here.


  1. One canadian showed up on a hodgepodge homebuilt diesel thing. (Worked good too until it didn’t. ) Engine swap in a hotel parking lot and off I went. First diesel to ever compete and finish the iron butt rally

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