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Old 12-05-2011, 10:02 AM   #1
J Lewis OP
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I Want To Do DAKAR (The Right Way)

Usually, right before the Baja 1000 I start getting e-mails. Riders looking for training for rally, specifically Dakar because they are likely going.

"Can you help me?"

I may seem cynical when I ask, “With what?” but at that point in the game it is true. What have you done already and what is your goal?
Now I know most riders are looking at my experience knowing I can teach them something about navigation or riding fast and navigating. But I’m no magician and it takes a lot more than a couple of days out in the desert to learn just a small fraction of what you should know. On my first Dakar I learned something that saved my life ever day of the event I rode. And got a helicopter ride out because I didn’t know enough. No, I didn’t even crash!
Now you can learn a lot from reading posts on this forum, most of the mistakes and lessons learned have happened to all of the guys who have done rally racing at one time or another. But to put it out there for anyone who is thinking about a 2013 Dakar effort, you should be doing your learning and training now.
I know some other guys have done some rally training in the past and it was not a viable business operation due to many factors, I have tried to do the same in small versions and had the same result. So to put it in front of a large majority of fans and participants I am considering to do a full-spectrum training series over the course of 2012 if there is enough interest to make it so that I don’t loose my ass in doing it. Since I have moved to an Editor-at-Large position with Dirt Rider, I have the time to do this properly.
This is basically a feeler to gauge interest and try and put something together. I have had some limited discussions with a few guys who are going this year and some that are planning on going some time so there is just enough interest right now to spark this to make it work.
The idea is that in March we would do a 2-3 day introduction class. I have a pretty good basic program that explains a lot of the navigation techniques and strategies as well as setting riders up on training schedules. This would also be a good time to evaluate the level of riding ability and fitness to see if something needs to be addressed here. Then there is the all-important mental aspect of the whole thing and I have some stuff on that front too.
Following that we would set up 2-3 day training sessions where riders will do rallies and some training activities I have set up.
Our facility is based out of Pahrump, NV which is very close to Las Vegas if riders were to be far away. Flying in and out of Vegas is simple and right now we are working on some ideas on bikes for training as well, as I said this is all in its beginnings. In fact one of the ideas we are kicking around it to have a parallel course with riders who want to do a “fun level” rally training at the same time where they get to “observe and help” the serious guys. We do not have anything posted up about this on our site yet and I’m still not 100% we can pull it off, but I wouldn’t know unless I asked. My selfish reasons for doing this include trying to find and train some younger riders for the future as well as include the training (mostly the mock rallys) to some of the top American guys today.
So if you have an interest in this at any level, feel free to post here or e-mail me at
I was told by a very successful motorcycle racer, "It is not what you did yesterday, or last week, or even over the last month that will help your result tomorrow. It is what you have been doing for the last years that really makes the differance." I totally agree with this and am trying promote this kind of thinking whe it comes to doing something as big as a Dakar. Even if you are just a priveteer. When you think about how much you are going to spend I amazed at how little investment goes into training to finish and succeed.
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Old 12-05-2011, 10:13 AM   #2
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Having ridden in the woods of Vermont for several years, done several endurance rides on my own and via organized events, done Rally managements rally training, and done the Safari Rally...I can say that each helped. The greatest impact was in doing the Safari Rally. Everything from training, planning, logistics, riding, tech, nightly bike work etc is hard to duplicate in a training environment. Second to the actual competition I think the rally school helped tremendously. Getting used to riding with, reading, and interpreting a roadbook is key...also learning to slow down, stop, look, and think about a confusing bit is key as making a wrong turn is often more costly then sitting still for 20 seconds.
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Old 12-05-2011, 10:24 AM   #3
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Awesome, good luck!
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Old 12-06-2011, 02:39 AM   #4
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I think this is a great idea! I think that you definitely need to plan for the "fun level" crowd (which I may be part of) to help support the program for the "will do Dakar" guys who are probably a limited number. In any case, I will be following closely to see where this go and may join if time and finances allow at some point in the future.
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Old 12-06-2011, 03:58 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by J Lewis View Post
In fact one of the ideas we are kicking around it to have a parallel course with riders who want to do a “fun level” rally training at the same time where they get to “observe and help” the serious guys...
FWIW Jimmy... here in Sweden we (myself, Olle Ohlsson and Annie Seel) set up a similar sort of riding school/course/evaluation with just such a goal back in 2007...

Destination Down Under CHALLENGE

Within the scope of this "school" there were two different categories; one "fun level" training group (which we called BOOT CAMP) aimed at those enthusiasts who just wanted to be involved and experience something like this; ie to "observe and help".

Run in parallel with the boot camp were those who had entered the CHALLENGE division... which was an evaluation/selection type competition... the winner of which, recieved a fully prepped bike, paid entry and supported ride in a rally event (TUAREG Rally 2008).

The idea was that the "Challengers" competed against one another in various navigation, riding excercises, physical/mental challenges and even various trailside mechanical aptitude tests, to determine the ultimate victor. The "boot campers" were present during the entire event, and rode most of the transport/trail stages to get a "feel" for what it was like to be on a multi-day event (not just a trail ride... there were time schedules to adhere to etc.) and they used the same route/sheets as the challenge participants... albeit - occassionally - a shorter route itinerary to the "Challenge" riders.

Another positive in having the "boot campers" along on this type of "school", was that they performed the role of travelling marshalls or "helpers" to the organisation, when it came time to "assist" with conducting the different competition phases of the various "challenges". In this way they very much fullfilled an active role in the "selection process" and gained a much better understanding for what was need, if - in future - they ever chose to "step it up" and take up the task of competing in a rally themselves.

We found (and i think the same might be true here on ADVRider) that interest in the "fun level" rally training (as you put it) is significantly greater than the demand perhaps for a "hard core" Dakar/rally preparation course. In many way's those individuals who have made the commitment and strive to get to a big time rally event - like Dakar or similar - and are genuine in their commitment to reach that goal, will have often - themselves - already found ways to meet the training needs and adequately prepare and organise/avail themselves with the means to do so. There are a number of examples of these individuals that can be found actively on this website presently.

However, the "gee... maybe I'd like to do that someday" crowd, are possibly more interested in being provided with a model where they can come to a "set table" where the format is laid out and conducted by an experienced leader such as yourself, and that is NOT to say, if such a program existed; that the "hard core" guys would not avail themselves of it... it's just that (I think) your BIGGER market is in the "GI wannabe" sector... the guy's who really WANT to do it... are finding the means in any case.

Which is one of the reason's I came up with my "Dirty Long Weekend" concept...

Which has proven very popular with the "mere mortal" crowd, many of who - subsequently - have gone on to compete in a real desert rally event, having had a chance to get their "toes wet" and pump some other experienced riders/instructors for information/advice.

Good luck with it Jimmy... you've got an ideal base both logistically AND terrain wise, as a training ground for a true "desert rally" school.

troy safari carpente screwed with this post 12-06-2011 at 04:12 AM
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Old 12-06-2011, 10:20 AM   #6
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I'd love to do a 4-5 day fun class!
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Old 12-06-2011, 06:25 PM   #7
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Thanks for the insight and the links to your sadistic events. Some people think I'm mean and I think you are mean. But having done a lot of the kinds of racing that require this level of determination, your drills are not that far fetched.

The planning is in full fever pitch in my head and it will all depend on particiaption.

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Old 12-06-2011, 08:34 PM   #8
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Great idea Jimmy. Sent you an e-mail. I'm too old and unskilled for Dakar, but I love the race, love rallying and desert racing, and would like to get involved at some level. I'm also right over the hump in Henderson.
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Old 12-06-2011, 09:21 PM   #9
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If the chance came along like the Redbull KTM Dakar rider search a few years back.. I would be really be interested but I have found costs of just doing a couple BITD races a year depletes my very minor budget.. furthermore I found fund raising for a rally racing budget in the current economy especially last year was a dead end for me.. you need LOTS of money to fund even a single season of BITD... which most riders worthy of racing and finishing Dakar don't usually have... perhaps a Dirt rider continuing monthly story backed by a manufacturer(S) would be a great platform.. I also would like to see the ASO sanction a "Dakar Series" short 5 day rally here in the states or combined from the US in to Mexico in fact I have sent requests to France with no reply.. I was actually hoping maybe Casey can do another multi day Vegas to Reno but run it as a rally with roadbook and no pre running but im sure that will never happen..... I think you will find lots of volunteers for both support/logistics and riders here on advrider.... I don't fit the"younger rider" but have Dakar dreams and I will definitely be in touch!


Ps Charlie has tried this .. I hope you can make it work!

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Old 12-06-2011, 11:32 PM   #10
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Just a quick reply, by way of addressing the "mean" aspects of the DLW & DDU events and dispell the notion that we were overly "sadistic" to the participants.

Here in Sweden, we have quite a good number of one and two day "navigational rally/roadbook trial" events, that are conducted using the routesheet/rally type format of navigation, very similar to that used in most rallies/Dakar etc. (Okay, so there is no possibility for "off piste" type stages, where the GPS is the primary navigation aid through open dunes etc. - the only way to replicate that for us IS to travel down to Tunisia or Marocco - and that's where you will have a real asset with your program from the base in Pahrump for sure).

What we find, is that most of the participants (here in Sweden) are already pretty much at home with getting their heads around the basic navigation and the principle of riding from written information - not a marked course - as one does in enduros or offroad/desert type events. Which (from my expereince - both at home in Oz and even in the state's - where this type of event is not so common) is one of the first big "things" that riders who have never been exposed to "navigational" discipline can have a bit of trouble grasping.

In that respect, we perhaps have a little shorter start up period with the whole; "okay... this is how a routsheet looks and this is how a tripmeter works... and this is how you use the two together..." scheme of things.

What we did want to achieve however, is convey the importance of preparation (for both the known, the forseeable, and even the slightly unforseeable things that can crop up in a rally scenario). Secondly the necessity for good time/resource management and thirdly to give them an inkling of the determination and sometimes sheer will power that is required to see the thing to the end.

Of course on a rally like Dakar - as you well know Jimmy - many of these things become self evident, by day five, six or seven etc. But we did not have that luxury (of time) in our four day program, so it was neccessary to "orchestrate" some conditions/situations in order to attain the right "stress/hardship" scenario in the short time we had available. Indeed one of the things we wanted to see was how "mentally prepared" the participants were to meet such a challenge and how they worked both individually and in a team situation (as they would compete - ultimately - as on of a four rider team).

So if some of the "drills" seemed almost "military" in nature, it was not of sheer coincidence. But as far as the "fun factor" was concerned, that was still very much a part of the whole deal, and when asked at the finish line of the four days, if they would like to turn around and do it all again... all but one of the challengers (12 of them) said they would jump at the chance.

I am sure whatever and whenever the program you put together Jimmy, that it will be a worthwhile excercise for all involved. We look on, with regards the developments of this one with great interest...


troy safari carpente screwed with this post 12-06-2011 at 11:45 PM
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Old 12-08-2011, 12:34 AM   #11
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Legend doing Dakar training...

Wow, what an amazing opportunity... especially for not only the aspiring North American rider, but also the International riding community .

JL, you're a proven veteran. And a legend in American Dakar riders. And that's not discounting your proven racing record overall.

And a base camp offering sand training, where riders generally lack experience is hugely valuable.

Las Vegas is an easy location to fly in from any US or International airport. It's a perfect fit.

And I'd also think you'd be a great judge of talent for those corporate sponsors who will eventually tap into the marketing potential of the Dakar.

Not only is your vast knowledge of experience impressive, but your interest in developing techniques for teaching others to improved riding, racing and overall success as well.

For anyone with Dakar aspirations... American or's a top resource on a very short list. An opportunity not to be missed.
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Old 12-08-2011, 02:03 AM   #12
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Despite the fact that this has been attempted, before, I still find the concept very interesting...especially the whole "fun" option. Like the elusive "mid-size adventure bike", I feel it's an idea that has choked, in the past...but, nonetheless, an idea whose time has come.

For a few of us, "Dakar" (or any other Rally, for that matter) will never be a possibility. Plus, at this point in the game (I'm 41), the only thing I should be training for is Happy Hour. However, despite that, I would still love the opportunity to be exposed to the Rally an actual RIDER.

My personal limitations would be this...

1. Many, in this section of the Forum, are already racers. The last time I rode an offroad motorcycle, competitively, I was 13.

2. For the last two years, it seems as though I merely glance at my 300, and wind-up in the Emergency Room.

3. Genetics being as they are...some folks are built for speed, some for comfort. I am a member of the latter.

As you glance into the future (and ponder this idea), could you foresee taking-on a student such as myself? Just a thought...

Either way, I think it's a great idea, and wish you all the best in this endeavor.

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Old 12-08-2011, 09:42 AM   #13
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I am very happy to see this post as I do have Dakar aspirations. I have been targeting 2015 ... but more realistic I am thinking one of the smaller rallies (Morocco, Pharons, Abu Dabio....) makes more sense for 2015 and then I can make a more informed decision about Dakar. In the meantime I am doing as much as I can with trail riding, enduros and RallyMoto, also focusing on getting in shape (sitting behind a desk for years has not helped).

Being from the east coast obviously desert racing is something I have no experience with. With enduros and trail rides I have some experience with navigation from paper but obviously nothing like real rally navigation. I would be interested in doing something like what you described at the "fun" level this year and get more serious the year after. Bike rental would be a requirement for me as it really is to far for me to haul my own bike.
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Old 12-08-2011, 10:22 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by J Lewis View Post
for anyone who is thinking about a 2013 Dakar effort, you should be doing your learning and training now.
It's hard to under state the importance of that. There is SO MUCH to do in preparation for an event like Dakar, not even counting the training, a year is hardly enough time to be fully prepared. Go to Jimmy's school asap, then you'll have a better sense of what it will take riding wise and logistics wise.

For the “fun level” gang, well, why wait to have fun and experience a little of what Dakar competitors go through? Go for it now, before Jimmy figures out it's still not a very profitable business!
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Old 12-08-2011, 10:28 AM   #15
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PM on the way.
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