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10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Trying Out Rally Racing

Rally Racing on Suzuki DR650
Photograph by Actiongraphers

I’m a world traveler with zero previous racing experience. While I do journey off-road fairly a bit, particularly in South America, I’m on no account an skilled rider, let alone rally racer. Equally, my Suzuki DR650, “Lucy”, isn’t exactly a rally machine. It has an oversized Safari tank, a snug Seat Ideas seat, a steering damper and journey footpegs – all arrange for long-distance journey, not rally racing. Nonetheless, I was hellbent to do the Hellas Rally, excuse the pun.

After chasing the Dakar Rally in Peru this yr, I turned so fascinated with cross country roadbook navigation rallies that I determined to enter one myself. As an journey rider, I knew a multi-day enduro rally can be an entire totally different expertise, and I wasn’t positive I had what it takes to complete one. But the one option to discover out was to only do it, so I shipped Lucy to Europe from Chile where I was at the time, and crammed out the registration type for the Hellas Rally in Greece.

Rally Racing on Suzuki DR650

The Hellas Rally is among the largest cross-country roadbook navigation rallies in Europe and has been the beginning rally for current Dakar superstars like Matthias Walkner. The seven-day enduro race consists of plenty of challenging terrain, technical levels, deep river crossings, long distances and demanding roadbook navigation. In an effort to convey extra riders into the game, the rally provides a Hellas Lite class for newbie riders. Rivals within the Hellas Lite class do 70% of the rally route, and they are allowed to have a GPS as a backup to roadbook. I selected to enter the Hellas Lite class as an alternative of the complete rally version because of my bike – the DR650 isn’t exactly a rally machine – and because this was my first critical roadbook navigation rally and I wasn’t absolutely confident in my roadbook expertise.

Hellas Rally was a troublesome problem. Though I got here last in my class, I am insanely proud to have finished it. Nevertheless, there are some things I want I had recognized about rally racing earlier than the large problem:

1. Velocity vs Navigation

Rally Racing on an Adventure Bike
Photograph by Actiongraphers

Through the Dakar, Edwin Straver, winner of the Dakar malle moto class, informed me “I’m a fast rider, but I can’t ride faster than I can navigate.” During Hellas, I finally understood what he meant. I’m a sluggish rider as it’s, however the navigation slowed me down much more just because I needed to ensure I was all the time proper on monitor. However, a few of the quick riders acquired misplaced much more, which value them general time. If you end up getting ready in your first roadbook navigation rally, simply needless to say velocity and navigation have to match as well as attainable so that you’re both driving quick and staying on monitor, because getting misplaced will value you time.

2. Malle Moto vs Rally Help

At the Hellas Rally, riders might both go malle moto – work on their bikes themselves – or hire a help staff. An alternative choice was to rent a rally mechanic immediately with rally organizers, which was a cheaper choice – $450 for the entire rally (a personal help group will value $500 and upwards). Since I’m on a very tight finances, and since Lucy has been pretty indestructible up to now, I determined not to have any help and go at it alone. It was a mistake. Although my bike did hold very nicely and I had no main issues through the rally, there have been all these minor issues that wanted to be taken care of: roadbook holder installation, brake pad change, tire change, damaged luggage rack, bent rear brake pedal…

Rally Racing on an Adventure Bike
Photograph by Actiongraphers

I am eternally grateful to a Mexican rally help staff, Nomadas Journey, for lending me a roadbook holder bracket and helping me set up it, and Enduro Greece staff for giving me a hand with the bags rack. I had to pay for all the opposite minor fixes, nevertheless, and people things shortly add up, to not mention the stress of coming back after a stage and never figuring out whether a mechanic would have the time to work on my bike as they have been very busy with their own riders. For my next rally, I am hoping to study extra about bike upkeep myself and spend money on some tools, however I may also save up for no less than primary mechanical help. In the event you aren’t a motorcycle mechanics genius, I advocate you get someone that will help you throughout a rally – it’s going to make an enormous distinction.

3. Roadbook vs GPS

Rally Racing on an Adventure Bike

Initially, I was intimidated by all the Rally navigation gear however roadbook navigation isn’t as difficult as it might appear at first glance. Nevertheless, it takes a couple of days to actually get into it, at the least for me. Before doing Hellas I had finished a non-competitive roadbook navigation experience referred to as the Transalentejo Rally that helped me study roadbook fairly shortly. And while I nonetheless solely perceive the basics of it, I made only a few navigation mistakes in Hellas – and not because of my GPS back up. The truth is, I most popular navigating by roadbook over a GPS monitor through the race. The Roadbook supplies extra element about hazards forward and how many kilometers you might have earlier than making your next flip, so you possibly can give attention to the path fairly than continually wanting down following a line. I strongly advocate you study and persist with roadbook, not GPS, in your first rally. The Roadbook is quicker and safer for navigation. Just use your GPS as a again up in conditions where you lose the monitor.

Four. Roadbook Gear: Shopping for or Renting

In case you are getting into your first roadbook navigation rally and you’re not but positive whether you will continue racing, shopping for roadbook navigation gear only for one rally might not make sense. A full roadbook package includes a roadbook holder, an ICO tripmaster, control switches, and a GPS receiver, and prices from $1,000 upwards. In addition, you will have a bracket and handlebar mounts, or a full navigation tower, which can considerably add to the fee. I was fortunate to be able to borrow the roadbook package, but in case you can’t do this, think about renting. Most rally organizers supply roadbook navigation gear for lease particularly for his or her rally.

5. Special Expertise Training

Rally Racing on an Adventure Bike

Before Hellas, I had a couple of enduro driving periods with Mykolas Paulavicius, a Lithuanian Erzberg Rodeo and Romaniacs rider and coach. Although they have been just two brief periods, they helped me really feel rather more assured, especially in sand, and I really feel that it made a distinction. Nevertheless, though I didn’t thoughts the technical terrain at Hellas, my velocity was far too sluggish and lots of riders have advised me to get some motocross coaching to fix that for my next rally. For those who’ve been driving off street for a few years and are confident on rocky terrain, steep hill climbs, sand, and dirt, and in the event you aren’t a sluggish rider like me, you in all probability do not want any additional expertise training earlier than a rally like Hellas, especially the newbie class. However in case you really feel you lack velocity or confidence in certain terrain, coaching can make a huge impact.

6. Delivery Your Bike vs Renting Regionally

Relying on where you’re, delivery your personal motorbike to the rally could be costly. In Europe, most corporations will charge 500-600 euros to transport a motorcycle (say, from Germany to Greece). Should you’re delivery from one other continent, nevertheless, the prices might be 3x that or extra – and that’s just for a one-way. An choice it is best to contemplate is renting a motorbike for the rally. For the Hellas Rally, a KTM 450 EXC full with the navigation gear would value around 2,500 euros for the whole rally, including primary mechanical help. If, nevertheless, you’ve gotten the time and need to make a trip before the rally, driving there’s a good way to get into the mindset and hone your expertise alongside the best way.

7. Pain Administration

Rally Racing on Suzuki DR650

During a multi-day rally, fatigue starts to set in round day 4-5, and you’re more likely to begin experiencing some ache. For me, hand and wrist pain was the worst, particularly after spraining my clutch hand on day 5. Whereas adrenaline can do wonders for the pain, do pack some robust painkillers for those previous couple of days. I tried to stay off of Ibuprofen for as long as I might and use Copaiba essential oil as an alternative, but by Day 7, I caved in and took some robust painkillers each three hours to manage the pain.

8. Gear

Even in case you are a really expert rider, you will in all probability come off the bike sooner or later through the rally, and it’ll possible be at velocity. Make certain your protecting gear is in prime condition, because the danger could be very actual. I am extraordinarily proud of my Leatt knee braces and chest and again protector, as a result of Hellas Rally particular levels involved numerous exhausting, rocky mountain tracks and I crashed multiple occasions. I’m additionally loving my Sidi Crossfire boots, and not just for the level of protection: during a multi-day rally, chances are you’ll spend 8-10 hours on the bike each day, so you gear needs to be as snug as it is protected. Nevertheless, because I had no elbow or shoulder safety, I wore my Klim Artemis jacket over the Leatt chest and again protector. Not a perfect set up – you should move quite a bit, and it’s often scorching – so maintain that in thoughts when you select your gear.

Rally Racing on Suzuki DR650
Photograph by Actiongraphers

9. Sleep and Vitamin

Restoration is extremely essential through the rally, so don’t skimp on the zzz’s and the energy. Even in the event you don’t really feel hungry, eat an enormous breakfast in the morning. When you don’t, you’ll be affected by hunger and lack of power by about 12pm. For the race, pack a wholesome snack like a few bananas or good high quality power/protein bars and plenty of water. Hydration is essential, so attempt to sip water throughout the day even in case you don’t really feel thirsty. Power gels might help too, although strong meals is all the time higher. Finally, you might feel like celebrating after you end a stage, however as an alternative of consuming beers till midnight together with your fellow riders, have some water and go to mattress. Minimize out beer before 8pm, drink water, and fall asleep before 10 pm to get well greatest. The deepest, most restorative sleep occurs between 10pm and a couple of am, so use that to let your physique heal itself before you experience to the beginning line again within the morning.

10. Emotional Rollercoaster

Rally Racing on Suzuki DR650

A rally is a mental recreation just as much as it’s a physical problem. You’ll have nice days and dismal days and expertise extreme ups and downs in a very brief span of time, and it takes a toll. For me, day 4 was the worst: I crashed arduous and sprained my hand, and since I was the final rider to start out, all the other riders as well as quads and SSVs had gone before me leaving the monitor mangled beyond recognition. It was raining, too, so some sections had turn into a swampy nightmare of mud, and by kilometer forty, I was falling over every few meters. Lastly, the bike obtained stuck in a deep muddy rut, axle deep, and I simply couldn’t drag it out. I sat in the mud for a couple of minutes, staring at the fallen bike and questioning what the hell was I even doing right here, feeling small and useless. I didn’t make my time that day, which suggests I wasn’t allowed to finish the stage, and coming back to the bivouac felt like defeat. Nevertheless, the subsequent day was implausible with quick flowing tracks and unimaginable scenery, and I obtained my mojo back. These ups and downs continued throughout the rally, and I definitely wasn’t alone on this: the psychological and emotional rally rollercoaster is one thing that every rider experiences, and you must be mentally prepared for that.

Rally Racing on an adventure motorcycle
Photograph by Motors and 4×Four

Nevertheless, crossing that finish line makes up for every part – the pain, the fatigue, the emotional toll, and the crashes. Racing in a multi-day roadbook navigation rally is ridiculous fun, and the bivouac camaraderie is second to none. For me, Hellas Rally was an unimaginable experience, so much in order that in the future after the rally ended, I crammed out the registration type for an additional rally in July. The enjoyable factor, the bivouac friendships, the last word challenge to yourself and your bike, and the belief that nothing is inconceivable, makes it all value it, however be warned: racing rallies comes with high habit danger.

Writer: Egle Gerulaityte

Driving around the globe additional slowly and not taking it too significantly, Egle is all the time looking out for fascinating stories. Editor of the Ladies ADV Riders journal, she focuses on peculiar individuals doing extraordinary issues and hopes to convey travel inspiration to all two-wheeled maniacs out there.