It started in college, before I’d ever ridden a motorcycle. I was visiting a friend’s house, and on his TV screen were some bikes blasting across the Sahara. The shot was from a helicopter, and as the shot pulled back the perspective showed their speed and distance. I was completely gobsmacked. It never occurred to me that I might one day be in that shot.
Shortly thereafter, I got the chance to try riding a motorcycle (streetbike first), and it was everything I hoped and more- the most involving and fascinating thing I had ever done. Actually, that is still true today (sorry, ladies). I started riding with every spare moment and every spare cent, and things happened fast- the transition to off-road, racing enduros and then in the desert, the Baja 500 and 1000, etc.
Through it all, I wondered how what I was doing compared with what I consider to be the granddaddy of off-road- the Dakar. I studied the race, spoke with everyone I could who had been, and thought about how I would prepare and what my strategy would be, but somehow, there was always a gulf between me and the race. I never let the connection happen in my mind that I could go, whenever I would start down that path I would think about the budget and back away.
What bridged the gap was a bike. I had the chance last summer to buy #25 from 2007, Jonah Street’s ill-fated bike that blew up on Day 4, ending Jonah’s race. The bike is awesome- capable, fast, fun. Suddenly, there was a bike in my garage worthy of a rally. I started down the slippery slope- looking for a rally that I could enter with my new toy.
If I was going to enter a race, I wanted to make sure some of the big names would be there, which means it has to be part of the FIM Rally schedule. The races in this series are diverse, but all of them have entry fees much lower than Dakar. Unfortunately, the rest of the costs are pretty much the same- travel, preparing and shipping the bike and spares, etc. In addition, support for these lesser races is harder to come by, so while the costs remain daunting, there is less available to offset it.
As I did the math, I found myself staring at a decision I’d been avoiding for years- whether to enter the Dakar. Unfortunately for my bank account, my decision coincided with the race taking place this January. Another shot from a helicopter, this time of Coma and Despres, and the hook was set.