Ahhh, rolling in already. Posts and PM's about bike choice!
I have to say, this was not going to come out in the open yet but since a few Adventure Rider inmates were at the race today, people already know what I will be riding in the Dakar in 2013. So, I thought I better let the cat out of the bag (so to speak) before somebody else from the UK does. The last few months have been pretty manic so I have some catching up to do on this thread to get it to time now.
Having raced many different manufacturers of bikes I have thought long and hard about bike choice for the event. I have shared experiences with many other riders (including Neduro, Craig Bounds, Stan Watt, Patsy Quick etc) from past Dakar races and spent a lot of time researching possibilities. It really does come down to a single choice as a first step, either buy a factory built rally bike (of which there is currently only one out there and that is the KTM450 Rally) or build your own rally bike converted from an enduro / motocross bike. At first I was thinking SXF 450 with a Rally gearbox and crank, then EXC, then all sorts of other weird and crazy ideas but the big question was still 'self build or factory bike'?
The way I see it, there are a number of pro’s and con’s, and this is not all of them but I mulled them over for quite some time.
Self Build Enduro / MX Conversion
- Cost to completion can be less than 50% of the cost of a Factory bike
- Spare parts are typically cheaper than the factory bikes
- Sense of achievement in building your own bike
Factory Rally bike (KTM 450 RR)
- You have to take your own spares which can cost up to the value of a spare bike
- Time it takes to fabricate all the bespoke parts required is less time riding and training
- Less power than factory bike or expensive to develop engines to deliver power and longevity required
- Less testing and therefore more unknowns
- Incorrect gear ratio’s if motocross bike is chosen
- Built for the job with top of the line components
- The most powerful engine in class
- Well tested by the factory
- No need to carry spares as you can purchase a support package from KTM which will give you access to any part you may need. One less thing to have to worry about
- Expensive (price tag of ~£30K)
- Availability (only made 70 in 2012 models and 50 2013 models already sold).
I'm sure there's more and feel free to chip in, but after weighing up the pro’s and con’s of bike choice the answer was staring me in the face (or at least I thought so), but achieving it would be the hard part. Clearly if I could overcome the two con’s of the Factory bike (cost and availability), this would be the choice of bike due to the number of pro's. So how was going to do that? The answer was to find a used one, easier said than done. With only 70 made in 2012 I needed to start making phone calls. Passed from one contact to another, a number here and a number there, Austria, France and back again and eventually, I was able to secure a used (but not raced) KTM 450 Factory Rally for a price that I could stand. I needed to commit to this whole project and a good way of showing my commitment was buying the bike up-front so that's what I did. But as I've already said, I did not have the money so the house got re-mortgaged! Not an easy choice but a way of getting the ball rolling fast. I REALLY want to make this happen.
Clearly this is only the first step in a very long process but a fundamental step in the right direction I’m sure. Bike choice made, Factory KTM 450 RR.
My plan is to race the bike in the UK championship all year and then budget for a complete rebuild (chassis and engine) before shipping the bike to the Dakar. I will do the entire rebuild myself in my usual meticulous style and document the rebuild as much as time permits. Effectively I will start the race with a new bike that I have raced for a year and know well, perfect!
The big advantage of racing the bike all year is that I hope to wear it out, try and find all the weak spots and niggles and get to know it mechanically and chassis/handling wise inside out.
Here it is, just got it finished last night in time for it's maiden voyage today - UK RallyMoto Sprint at Sweetlamb Motorsport Complex in the UK.
There are niggles, things I don't like and things I can improve. Every time I see something or feel something I write it down. For now the list just keeps getting bigger but I'm sure throughout the year I will start to knock things off it and have a bike that is just how I like of for Dakar.
Ride report to follow...............