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Old 06-09-2014, 02:46 PM   #16
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The plan was to allow a relatively leisurely three days for the ride to Ancona from the UK - primarily so I wouldn't be flogging myself with overlong days in the saddle prior to a week of racing - but also as I'd arranged to rendezvous with the two Torque Racing trucks and get the same ferry crossing to Greece at the end of the week. If we were lucky, we might even get an earlier sailing - nothing wrong with spending an extra day in a Greek holiday resort we figured!

As it happened, my journey south the following day coincided with the team and we had an expensive motorway lunch together before I pressed on ahead... razzing along at a steady 130kmh, then all of a sudden the bike started to lose power again.



Yep, that's me, at the side of the motorway somewhere north of Switzerland - fortunately the roads aren't overly busy in France!

The nice thing about the KTM 690, is that the stock instrument panel (which Rally Raid retain as part of their Rally kit conversion) reveals any fault codes with the EFi and various other sensors. As part of John's preparation, he has printed out a list of all the fault codes and stuck that under the seat of his bike - so all I had to do was count the flashes and look it up on the list.

This instantly revealed fault was with the airbox temperature sensor - saving potentially hours of messing around with fuses and a multimeter for example - and on inspection it turns out a wire had broken in the plug - something I could easily repair with a pocket knife and some insulation tape.

All good practice I kept telling myself...

cont.

JMo (& piglet) screwed with this post 06-09-2014 at 03:04 PM
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Old 06-09-2014, 02:54 PM   #17
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Having passed through the Mont Blanc tunnel on the Tuesday evening, I shored up in a very comfortable hotel in northern Italy, and the following morning (day 3), decided to push on all the way to Ancona and wait for the Torque team who had to divert to Genoa to collect three more bikes en route to the Hellas.

I have to say, during that 600 odd kilometres, I got throughly soaked. Three times.

To be fair my Traverse jacket held up perfectly well, but only wearing Dakar pants in a biblical rainstorm was always going to end in a soggy mess. Fortunately the warm(ish) weather meant I dried out by mid morning, and after a coffee stop had the forethought to don my over-trousers before the next deluge.

Somewhere in Italy:


Stripping them off at a mid-afternoon coffee stop was a big mistake... as just 30kms from Ancona, the skies opened once again...

Roll on Greece!

Jx
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Old 06-09-2014, 03:24 PM   #18
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Hello Hellas!

Having reconvened with the team later that evening, John (KTMmitch) flew in the following day, and we all got the Friday sailing to Patras in Greece.

For those of you unfamiliar, mainland Greece is effectively split in two by a huge sea inlet, with a canal at the far eastern end... at the west end, until a few years ago the only way across was by ferry, but now there is a very impressive bridge spanning the bay:



The Hellas Rally is based in Nefpaktos on the north shore, so crossing over from Patras in the south, I spied this rocky spit and had to find a way down there for a photo!

Once at the bivouac site, we were pretty much the first there - and set about setting up the Torque Racing 'tented village' that would be home to 18 riders this year.

Over the following 24 hours, all the competitors and other teams arrived and set up, and our own guys busied themselves with final preparations:

Martin unpacking:


John checking & prepping the LC4-50:


John working on his own 690 Enduro, fitted with TracTive suspension:


Oh how we laughed!


Lyndon (Pyndon) also joined us in the Torque tent... having recently embarked on a mammoth 2-year round-the-world trip, he'd ridden down from the UK too, via Austria to meet up with LukasM, and both had entered the Hellas as part of their ongoing adventure heading east!



Like in Morocco, it's not hard to find a local kid who wants to help out with anything mechanical!

Team Torque Racing on a meal out prior to the start - that's inmates Stephan (Happe) on the right, and of course Chris 'Corky' Cork in the foreground...



An impressive line up of machinery at the Torque Racing paddock - including a factory 450 RFR, and a good handful of 690cc Rally Raid EVO2s...



cont.

JMo (& piglet) screwed with this post 06-09-2014 at 07:21 PM
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Old 06-09-2014, 03:32 PM   #19
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So I guess we'd better get on with a bit of racing eh?

The Hellas Rally begins with a huge party in the centre of the town on the eve of the start...

A podium ramp is erected, there a huge PA, music, lights, it's all rather impressive! Perhaps most impressive is the crowd of locals and presumably bemused tourists who turn out to welcome the event to town - the atmosphere is fantastic!



Riders waiting in a side street for their turn in the limelight:




Corky on the podium:


And I couldn't possibly mention the name of the guy on a brand new RFR who razzed up the ramp, skidded to a halt on the carpet, and promptly dumped his bike and himself in front of thousands of people!

Jx
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Old 06-09-2014, 03:58 PM   #20
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While Greece may be renowned for it's soft sandy beaches (on the whole), what it doesn't have is any desert to speak of... as such, the Hellas Rally is more akin to an hard enduro style of event - tight narrow trails that switchback up and down a series of knife-edge mountains, fast forestry going, gnarly rocky climbs & descents, and river crossings - bloody deep and full of boulders!

As such, the majority of racers tend to favour the enduro-lite style of rally bike - just a bigger tank and bar-mounted nav gear. Although the Hellas is run under FIM rules (on the whole), there is also a degree of flexibility and no requirement for a 3 litre water tank for example - just the requisite safety equipment. Also I was surprised (pleasantly I might add) to find there was no need for a GPS to be fitted - and having a CAP heading was by no means essential either, although proved handy on a couple of days, if only for reassurance.

The one thing I would like to emphasize to anyone considering this event is just how accurate the road-book was... The instructions were pretty much bang on your tripmeter distance, and only in a couple of instances did I find the tulip diagram a little ambiguous - otherwise it was perfect, and very comprehensive - with typically a follow up instruction a few hundred metres after a major junction for example, to reassure you you'd made the correct turning.

Each day, the rally would start directly outside the bivouac, and rather fortunately directly opposite a kiosk selling all manner of goodies, including decent espresso coffee - double result!

Calle (Hagenblad) ready for the off... most riders [who were looking for a decent result] knew that a lightweight bike was the key to success at the Hellas:




As for my own campaign, my priorities were slightly different of course...

Not only was this the first competitive rally I had raced since my accident at the Dakar in 2011, but I was extremely mindful that what John and Rally Raid needed most of all from this event was a 'finish' - anything else would be a bonus.

As such, my plan was to start off easy - hell, I'd only actually ridden the LC4-50 off-road for maybe an hour and a half in total in Tunisia, so this would be as much about me learning the bikes' characteristics in the first few days, and also trying to preserve as much energy (or at least not expend it unnecessarily) so early on in what would prove to be quite a technical event - especially for someone on a 'big' bike.

So, in no particular order - a few photos of the LC4-50 in action from both Alessio Corradini and Marcel Vermeij of Rallymanics... enjoy!







This one made me laugh... I spotted Alessio crouching on the far side of a muddy water splash - and could see where previous riders had wicked it up and blasted through for the camera... At the last moment, I jammed on the brakes and crawled through the mud waving, and no doubt saving him from a dousing or at least having to jump out of the way!




And another instance, this time where keeping going was more important than waving!



cont.

JMo (& piglet) screwed with this post 06-14-2014 at 11:49 PM
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Old 06-09-2014, 04:13 PM   #21
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Great images and great writing. Thank you!

Can you tell us a bit about that blue vest you're wearing? What is that for?

I know the bike is the main focus but can you share a bit about what protection gear you chose to run during the race?
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Old 06-09-2014, 04:38 PM   #22
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The first day of the Hellas featured a relatively relaxed start (10am) and shortish 160km special stage billed as a 'prologue' - it certainly gave us all a taster of what to expect in the coming week...

However, Day 2 was a rude awakening, with a 4.30am start for the front runners, and three special sectors, the first of which featured a series of increasingly gnarly river crossings, even the first of which could catch out the unwary (and did) who went blasting through for the assembled cameras... Arriving mid-pack, I elected to walk the LC4-50 though - the last thing I wanted to do was have to dry out a drowned bike!


(photo by Marcel @ Rallymaniacs)

There is plenty of video showing just how deep the subsequent rivers were (over knee!) and how fast the water was flowing after recent heavy rain... Suffice to say, even the Dakar god that is David Fretigne drowned his bike that morning, and spent over three hours trying to get the huge behemoth of the 12000 Super Tenere going again!

As for me, as the week drew on, I was able to pick up the pace where the long and stable 690 chassis paid dividends:


(photo by Marcel @ Rallymaniacs)


(photo by Marcel @ Rallymaniacs)

And curse those sectors that featured gravel strewn tight [and especially downhill] hairpins on the side of a cliff... not the 690 chassis' forte by any stretch of the imagination!


(photo by Marcel @ Rallymaniacs)


(photo by Marcel @ Rallymaniacs)

By the start of the third day - which featured a particularly gnarly rutted and boulder strewn climb at the start, I was increasingly confident with the LC4-50's handling... and other than it's weight when fully fuelled (I soon learn to only put in as much fuel as the short technical stages required - typically just the rear tank), found it surprisingly forgiving in such conditions.

Unlike the full-fat fire-breathing 690cc version, the reduction in capacity has softened the power delivery sufficiently that you really can ride it right off the throttle, and tickle it up rough climbs in first gear if you wish - almost like a trials bike - the excellent fuelling and inherent torque of the over-square piston never giving cause for concern that it might cough stall on you - rather just a steady stream of controllable power - nice.

Conversely, where the terrain allowed, I was also impressed with just how damn rapid the bike could be in the middle and higher revs... of course this is no 10,000+ rpm screamer, rather it has the same grunty short-shift style power delivery of a larger capacity single, and other than around a 20% reduction in outright power, hasn't really lost any of the characteristics that makes the standard 690 Enduro such a blast to wind on where space allows!

Mindful that the primary objective was to get a solid (and hopefully uneventful) finish for the bike, and acutely aware that not only was the competition serious and on far more appropriate machinery for the conditions... I was content to take it easy, get to grips with the bike itself and racing again - and specifically with how I might manage my energy over the course of an event.

Certainly throughout the week I saw a lot of faster and harder riders beginning to suffer - with both physical exhaustion and mechanical issues. I like to think that my intention to keep my nose clean early on (and indeed throughout the rally) paid dividends in the long run, and certainly the prospect of having to ride the 2000+ kms home again was a great incentive not to take any stupid risks, for what would only have ever been some modest glory.

As it was, I was able to stay comfortably ahead of the other competitors in the ladies class throughout the week, which was a pleasant bonus come silverware time.

cont.

JMo (& piglet) screwed with this post 06-09-2014 at 06:30 PM
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Old 06-09-2014, 05:24 PM   #23
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Will you choose the red pill, or the blue pill?

Ultimately the return journey home was uneventful - save some pretty intense snow and sleet in Switzerland! - and having covered over 4000 kilometres of liaison either side of the rally itself, I consider that a pretty good indication of how both I and the bike might fair during the Dakar.

Indeed, with typically 40% of the Dakar distance liaison, I feel the LC4-50 positively cossets you compared with riding a 450cc enduro based bike, and that can only help preserve your energy and your sanity, going into the special stages each day.

At no point during the rally, or indeed on the ride there and back did I feel anything approaching 'exhausted' - and that included a couple of back to back 800+km days. OK, so then perhaps I could have tried a bit harder [during the event itself]? - sure... but then I'd start to risk everything I'd set out to achieve... and for what, a few places higher in the overall standings? What would that realistically have meant, compared to the shame & disappointment of not actually finishing the event at all?

I think what a lot of rally racers, and Dakar racers particularly forget is that multi-day rallying is the long-game - it's not enough just to be fast over a special stage, you need to manage everything - your personal energy, your time, and not least have mechanical sympathy for your bike (or a bike that can really take abuse at least!) - it is after all, meant to be an endurance event...

I'd suggest that unless you are an exceptional rider, once you begin to treat a multi-day event as a 'race' [or with a racers' mentality], you start to take risks that ultimately compromise your primary goal which is to actually finish. Sure you might be lucky... but with the Dakar particularly, the odds are not in your favour.

Therefore I would suggest that any bike for an event as varied as the Dakar has to be a compromise - and in which direction ultimately dictated by what you personally want out of the event...

While it is not impossible for a talented privateer to make significant inroads into the top thirty or even top twenty given a competitive bike, I would suggest that for the vast majority of the pack, a finish is all they can realistically ever expect - so your priorities need to change towards a sense of preservation, and almost certainly budget is going to be a major issue in your decision too?

Of course the LC4-50 does weigh a little more than a 450cc enduro based rally bike - but actually, when you add everything up (not least the fuel load), there really isn't that much in it - you are realistically looking at 150-160Kg or more for a fully prepped bike, so the 8Kg weight 'penalty' of the LC4 engine over an MX derived lump is really only a small proportion... while the inherent strength and reliability of the LC4-50 engine will, for the vast majority of the time, more than make up for the any physical weight advantage you might desire during a technical section on a special stage.

Conversely of course, the longer stable 690 chassis of the LC4-50 is a joy to ride over fast undulating going (especially with the TracTive suspension fitted - I can honestly say it saved my arse on more than a few clumsy occasions during the Hellas! - very impressive control and traction), and for the vast majority of Dakar stages, this is exactly the kind of going you are likely to encounter... same goes for all those endless early morning and later afternoon/evening liaisons.

Therefore, if for those reasons alone we consider that the KTM 450 RFR is still the benchmark 'Dakar bike', then I think the LC4-50 has a lot more in common with that than any other option.

As Neo once said: "Where we go from here is a choice I leave to you..."

Toot toot!

Jenny xx

JMo (& piglet) screwed with this post 06-09-2014 at 06:33 PM
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Old 06-09-2014, 06:21 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gen View Post
Great images and great writing. Thank you!

Can you tell us a bit about that blue vest you're wearing? What is that for?

I know the bike is the main focus but can you share a bit about what protection gear you chose to run during the race?
Hi Gen - sure!

The vest in the photos is actually my 2009 Alpinestars Venture jacket, with the sleeves zipped off...

I like the Venture as it has a good combination of pockets, including a large rear pocket that is primarily to stow the sleeves in, but ideal for spare googles, gloves, maps and any snacks you might want to carry...

I also like the way it has three flaps over the main front zipper - that way you can leave it half open and increase venting around your chest/neck area - or ultimately do it right up if it's a cold or wet ride. And of course if it's really hot, you can just unzip the whole thing like I did in Greece!

However, the primary reason for wearing it (especially as a vest) is that there is a rear internal pocket for a camel-bak bladder, and I find it far more comfortable to wear my water like that rather than the straps of a backpack that can get uncomfortable... it's is also useful to have pockets for your wallet, time card, phone etc all easy to hand.

It is not 100% waterproof, however it is a very good 'three season' jacket as it shrugs off most bad weather unless it's a real downpour... the upside is that it also dries out quickly if you do get a soaking. I have used one of these pretty much the whole time while traveling and racing - supplementing it with a fleece or windstopper style zip-through jacket underneath when traveling in colder climes.

Actually, here was the same jacket (with the sleeves on) on Heroes-Legend in 2009, somewhere in Mauritania en route to Dakar!



I also wore the previous version (new old stock) red/black version during Dakar 2011:



And with the sleeves off:


In hot weather it really is a god-send to be able to remove the sleeves for maximum ventilation...


As for the rest of my gear - for Hellas I wore Klim Dakar pants and gloves, and an Arai VX3 helmet. Unless it's really dusty I prefer sunglasses (polarised) to goggles - again, mainly for temperature but also a better field of vision. The glasses I use are Dirty Dog 'Big Dog', which fit my eye sockets very closely and offer really great protection other than in really dusty conditions.

My body armour is Dainese - the Wave II jacket/pressure suit (that includes a long back protector and kidney belt), plus the Dainese V-Knee guards that have decent shin protection as well as over the knee...

In fact for Heroes-Legend and again at the Hellas, I actually ended up wearing my shorty Alpinstars Tech 2 boots rather than full height - again, I prefer the mobility of the shorter boots (that basically offer the same foot and ankle protection as the Tech 3 on which they're based), while the shin-guards tuck nicely into the top of the boots and continue up to protect the upper part of my lower leg and over the knee - so the only potentially exposed part is your calf.

Personally I find this combination of gear the perfect compromise for impact protection, weather resistance and temperature management.... I think it is as important to feel comfortable on the bike as it is to be well-protected - after all, you are less likely to get distracted and/or make a mistake in the first place if you are comfortable and can concentrate fully?

Hope that helps explain things!

Jx

JMo (& piglet) screwed with this post 07-01-2014 at 01:37 PM
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Old 06-10-2014, 04:58 AM   #25
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Great story, great work.

Love it...............
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Old 06-10-2014, 05:24 AM   #26
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New Thread

Jenny,
Great to see your new LC4-50 thread, it was good to travel to Greece for the Hellas Rally and see the interest in the new bike.We are in Sardinia for WRC Rally and FIM World Bike Rally, but great news is we will have an announcement when we get home regarding our first LC4-50 Rental Rider for Dakar, let's get this show on the road and prove there is a "third way"
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Old 06-10-2014, 06:13 AM   #27
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Awesome work Jen and gang, lovin the RRRR (ride,race,rally report).
And I was trying to keep the Dakar excitement low, well at least till August.
Anyway back
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Old 06-10-2014, 10:31 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by ktmmitch View Post
Jenny,
Great to see your new LC4-50 thread, it was good to travel to Greece for the Hellas Rally and see the interest in the new bike.We are in Sardinia for WRC Rally and FIM World Bike Rally, but great news is we will have an announcement when we get home regarding our first LC4-50 Rental Rider for Dakar, let's get this show on the road and prove there is a "third way"
You bet!

Yes, to confirm what John has said - we already have a rider who has signed up for the rental/service package for Dakar 2015, and this isn't some desperado with a stuffed toy pig in her jacket, but a bona fide competitive racer who was immediately able to see the benefit of the rental package, and support on offer from the team that actually built the bike!

The info and various options is all there on the dedicated LC4-50 website: www.lc450dakar.com, but in a nutshell, John is so confident that the LC4-50 will get you to the finish line, that he is prepared to underwrite any mechanical issues with the engine during the rally (or indeed any rally where Rally Raid & Torque Racing are supporting you).

Furthermore, the Dakar 2015 rental package also includes use of the bike in an event prior to the Dakar itself at no extra charge - other than the separate assistance fee for that event of course.

So in effect, you get two rallies for the price of Dakar - and the perfect opportunity to get plenty of competitive bike-time before lining up in Buenos Aires this coming January.

Furthermore, this rental package isn't just limited to UK or European based riders - as a further incentive for US riders particularly, Rally Raid Products (in conjunction with Rally Management Services) are prepared to send a complete LC4-50 engine and TracTive Suspension set for any US based rental customer to fit to their own 690 to use as a practice bike for the rest of this season - again, FOC included in the Dakar rental package!

Anyone taking up the Dakar 2015 package will not only benefit from having all of the event logistics taken care of, but fundamentally, a lot of the pre-event preparation is also taken care of and included in the price...

There is no need for you to try and second guess and source those spares you might need to take with you - Rally Raid will have a full set of spare parts for your bike with them on the Torque Racing truck - and similarly those little incidentals (such as a spare fuel injector - not to be sniffed at at over $140 USD) will be included as part of your personal bike prep.

Similarly all service consumables for the LC4-50 will be included, and you get your own mechanic (shared between two LC4-50 bikes) each night to ensure the bike is ready to go again the next morning... remember that Rally Raid Products have as much incentive to see their bike on the finish line as you do - and will do whatever it takes to ensure that happens... the rest is up to you ;o)

The only 'extras' not included in the rental package - other than your personal entry fee to ASO, plus your travel expenses to South America either side of the event - are your tyre & mousse requirements... although each rental bike will come equipped with a brand new set of Pirelli Rally tyres & mousses at the start of the event.

Obviously there are some riders who will have their personal tyre preferences, and similarly some riders like to change their tyres/mousses every day, while others will want to eek out a couple or more days per set. Therefore, this element is in the individual's hands - although of course any rental riders can benefit from an excellent deal via the team's tyre sponsors & partners, and even if you decide to supply your own, Torque Racing will of course handle all the transport and fitting as part of the service package.


Let's talk money!

Although we still have six months to go before Dakar, John was particularly keen to set out his stall with firm prices (in GB pounds) so there were no surprises further down the line - something very few other rental and assistance teams are prepared to do (and certainly publish online) - helping prospective riders manage their Dakar budget precisely, which in turn helps with your own personal fundraising - no need to go begging for an extra few thousand here and there at the 11th hour!

So, for those of you who want to know the numbers - this is the package on offer (in GBP - obviously you need to adjust the prices at a ratio of approximately 1.6 for USD, and 1.2 for Euros), including UK tax.

Bike rental (including a second one-week event prior to Dakar 2015) = 8500 GBP.

For that you get the exclusive use of an LC4-50 built to Rally Raid's specification (see website for full spec details), which can be further customised with your own preference, such as bars/risers/tyres/nav gear etc.

Essentially this comprises a fully refurbished KTM 690 Enduro fitted with an LC4-50 engine, the RRP EVO2 tank and fairing kit, TracTive Rally suspension f&r, full navigation gear and the requisite FIM safety kit, plus a brand new set of tyres and mousses to start the event on.

This heavily discounted rental price is available for this first year (Dakar 2015) is based on the partnership with Torque Racing Services, who will provide full logistical and mechanical support for the Dakar, including the initial bike build and subsequent final preparation prior to shipping and scrutineering, then prior to the start in South America and for the duration of the event itself. This combined service and rental package includes access (at no extra cost) to the full spares inventory, and regular service consumables (oil/filters etc.) as part of the daily servicing. The price for the full service assistance package is 12,000 GBP.

That's it - a complete bike, ready to race, including a full spares inventory and a dedicated mechanic and full service assistance for the duration of Dakar - for 20,500 GBP (or a little over $34,000 USD, or €25,000 Euro).

The only extras you would have to pay for is any accident damage to the bike itself (eg. wheels, bodywork), plus the tyres and mousses you intend to use - which can of course be negotiated beforehand and your own personal supply carried on the service support truck.


The fastest car, is a hired car... (P.J. O'Rourke)

I probably don't need to tell you that while there is a certain romance in owning your own bike - especially one that you actually finished the Dakar on - the reality is, after a full Dakar, any bike at the very least requires a complete overhaul - including a major engine rebuild and suspension refurbishment/replacement, and from a cost-effective point of view, more often than not, really ought to be considered little more than scrap... it's an expensive garage ornament for sure!

So renting a bike actually makes an awful lot of sense in that regard - in that you have neither the [complete] up-front costs, preparation costs, or refurbishment costs to consider - never mind the time and effort it takes to do all of that, especially when Martin Wittering of Torque Racing can build you a bike to your exact requirements as part of the rental deal - and fundamentally that you can then simply hand it back at the end with no further expense required.

However, John is also mindful that for some riders, especially those that actually finish the Dakar - there is often an inexorable bond made between rider and machine over those two weeks, and is of course more than happy to offer you the bike for a final value fee of 6500, should you wish to keep it at the end of the event.

I really hope that by laying out the prices and package like this, that prospective Dakar 2015 riders - even those who have already applied and/or have their own bike in mind, will give this option serious consideration?

They say the hardest part of the Dakar is actually getting to the start line - and certainly for many, the initial fundraising (and subsequent sponsor commitments) and the multitude of preparation elements can overshadow you own personal training and as importantly, mental focus on achieving your goal.

As I stated at the beginning of this thread, the two main reasons riders (and especially first time riders) fail to finish the Dakar is through fatigue and mechanical failure - and I sincerely believe that this comprehensive rental/service package on offer goes a huge way to minimising those risks.

If you've only got one shot, then I do believe this is probably the best way to achieve that goal - remember, you will have the backing of the team that actually built these bikes, and are looking for a result themselves - so have every incentive to see as many as possible of their bikes finish the 2015 event...

Similarly, if you've already tried and failed - then you'll know just how expensive and time consuming a privateer Dakar campaign can be. This rental package gives you a fixed all-inclusive price to work towards, and, I might suggest, at a price that would be very hard to match if you embarked on an individual campaign using a 3rd party service team?

Certainly having had my own Dakar campaign cut short in 2011, I can honestly say that this is the most realistic and affordable way to be back on the start line, together with the support required to reach the finish.

Toot toot!

Jx

JMo (& piglet) screwed with this post 06-11-2014 at 01:40 PM
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Old 06-11-2014, 01:24 AM   #29
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Old 06-11-2014, 04:37 AM   #30
ROKIT_71
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If the package includes Donna's cooking then it's a great deal!
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