Some good posts here.
Have a look at the links in my sig line how i got started. My Dakar has been delayed two years now, maybe three due to a recent injury.
Im also in Toronto quite bit so we can get together if you like and do some trails.
Dreaming of Dakar
Everyone has a max speed, 90% of that max speed is much safer and easier, and if that 90% speed isn't fast enough at Dakar, you enter the snowball. - neduro