Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rally Racing

When most people think of motorcycle racing, the first thing that comes to mind is either MotoGP -- the motorcycle equivalent of Formula-1 racing -- or motocross. For the last year, I've also been intrigued by gymkhana, similar to autocross, which is a timed race around obstacles on a course that emphasizes balance, coordination, and handling skills more than outright speed.

All of these types of races are awesome in their own right, but I've been drawn towards Adventure motorcycling pretty much since I started riding. Therefore, it is no surprise that the race that has drawn my attention the most is not MotoGP, nor motocross, nor even gymkhana, but the rallies such as the Dakar Rally or the Baja 500/1000. I like the idea of a multi-day race (the Dakar is roughly two weeks long). I like the fact that it's not just who can go the fastest, but who can cope best with the different environments and terrain encountered in the race. I am drawn to the endurace required to finish such races. Furthermore, I am drawn to the idea that the race is difficult enough to finish, much less to win. In fact, I would love to participate in such a race, not because I believe I have even a snowball's chance of ever winning, but rather because simply finishing the Dakar or Baja 1000 is a major accomplishment. In MotoGP or motocross, one guy is the winner, and everyone else is an "also-ran" (not that I am disparaging the other riders -- they are far more skilled than I to even earn a position on the race track). However, it is no exaggeration to say that every person who crosses the finish line in the Dakar Rally is, in the truest sense of the word, a winner. If you disagree, then in defense of my claim, I humbly recommend that you watch the BBC Race to Dakar series. Roughly two out of every three racers quit the race. That's an incredible attrition rate!

Unfortunately, for a working-class schmuck like me, it's probably not realistic to enter the Dakar Rally due to costs (one participant in the 2012 race estimated his budget to be about $50,000 -- yes, fifty THOUSAND dollars -- to run the race) as well as the time required to prep for and run the rally. (However, if anyone wants to fund a complete unknown racing n00b, riding a rather inadequate rally bike, shoot me an e-mail, lol)

However, I can't help but wonder how difficult would it be to put together a much more modest, local event?

Yesterday evening, I decided to look up a term I had heard used at several motorcycle gatherings. What, exactly, is a "poker run?" (Answer: a rally-type ride to several locations where you gather "cards" to make a poker hand -- best hand wins, regardless of time to reach the destinations). Researching a poker run led me to a couple of Wikipedia entries about similar, non-motorcycle races, such as Rogaining (hint: has nothing to do with hair loss, lol) and Adventure Racing. Reading about these types of races as well as signing up for the Equinox-to-Equinox Rally got the wheels turning in my head a bit. Suppose, rather than orienteering, or multi-sport races, one were to design a rally where various sites in a geographic area were assigned points based upon how easy or difficult they were to reach, and participants had a period of time -- say a weekend, or maybe an entire week -- to score as many points as possible. Some of the checkpoints could be single-track trails; others could be long-distance endurance rides, so that no one type of bike had any particular advantage over any other. Checkpoints could be distributed so that participants in different cities would have destinations distributed as equitably as possible, or perhaps the competetion could be categorized so that riders in one area -- say, Anchorage, for example -- only competed with other riders in their area, while riders in another location -- say, Fairbanks -- only competed with other Fairbanks area riders.

Seems to me that such a rally would be great fun. What do you say...any takers? :)

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