"That's an awesome question," answered Simon Pavey this past weekend at AltRider's Taste of Dakar where he was the signature guest.
I had posed this question last year and took a lot of heat for it. Honestly, I feel the jerk in retrospect for asking it too, but Simon was a good sport and shed some never-before-heard insight into this matter in ways that made not simple good sense but in a quite endearing way that, given the fact I have my own son of 14 years I hope to ride with one day too, made me a bit teary-eyed.
I see that I had a point after all, though, because Simon did reveal that they did in fact intend to race separately at first. He said it's just easier to do it alone given his previous experience and besides, Lel is a faster rider than he now.
I don't want to give the whole story away for you just yet; you'll have to read the transcript for yourself...
“On Adventure Bike TV the first question you were asked on there is okay is this all for one and one for all or is it every man for himself? And you said kind of jokingly oh it’s every man for himself. Well then in the Dakar you finished together so I’m curious was that the plan the whole time or did it change or what was the thinking there?”
“That’s an awesome question. What happened is we definitely set out to just do our own race and a little bit because of my experience before of trying to ride with teammates and other people. Obviously Race to Dakar is a great example of that but have done it on a few other occasions. Actually it’s really difficult and dangerous to ride together, you know you interfere with each other just trying to look after each other all the time. You can’t ride your own pace. In a 14 day race everyone has a day where they’re on it and everybody does a day when they’re not riding well and on the day you’re not riding well you gotta just chap off and do your own things.
And for sure he’s (Lel) faster than me now. So we set out at the start absolutely just to both do our own thing and then what happened was I definitely came a little bit … I was really comfortable when he was a little bit faster than me everyday if I’m honest you know. It was a really comfortable place for me to be riding at my level and my pace. But you know I was usually just ten minutes behind him in pace by the end of the day so that was a real comfort thing really.
And then there was that scene you saw where we were both a bit lost and came together and he went in front again and then I think later that day he had quite a bit of a crash and just by pure chance I was the one who found him crashed really. Um there’s a little scene in the medical car there. We rode in together that day because you know it really didn’t matter if it was Lel that day or someone else. You know when you find someone crashed and the medical guys send them on their way.. well we kinda just rode in together.
And because of that when we started on the lake in a mass start, and we started side by side then we were together in the bivouacs and stuff… and you know our bikes are identical so when his bike died on the salt lake luckily I was there so that kind of just changed the whole dynamic because we were then both in survival mode really. We spent four hours in the middle of a salt lake working on the bikes. So the whole result for either of us was out the window. The only result that became important was for both of us to get to the finish. I think at that stage we both have our problems and neither of us was going to leave the other one. It has just totally changed.
And in the second week of the rally it’s easier to go on together because some of the madness is gone.
Yeah it was definitely not what we set out to do but it was an awesome result. It made it a much better experience… you know we had to tow each other three times and there was loads of times when we were in difficult situations in here when he lost all his engine oil one morning because of the salt lake and we spent a long time fixing his bike on the side of the road and then when we got to the start of the special they wouldn’t let us take the start because the cars were about to start so I got into a massive argument with the French organizers and it was really nice because he (Lel) turned out to be the adult, calm one and kind of calmed the situation down when I was trying to kill this French guy (laughter) . You know that was a massive change for me because he was the calm one and I was the hot head which hadn't really happened before. (laughter)”
Simon Pavey is a 10 time Dakar racer and heads up the Off Road Skills BMW school in South Wales, UK
Llewellyn (Lel) Pavey also races motorcycles off road and is editor of Brake Magazine