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AltRider's Third Annual Taste of Dakar w/Jimmy Lewis

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"Taste of Dakar" began back in 2012 when AltRider decided they wanted to do a couple of things.  One was establish a relationship with the riding community through a destination type event.  The other was to literally give riders a taste of what riding the Dakar rally might look like.  Now of course the Dakar is run by professionals on custom designed 450cc rally bikes over severe terrain in stages that are sometimes 1,000 km or longer.  This was designed to be more for the weekend adventure bike rider and has levels of difficulty depending on what type of rider you are (A, B, C).


The first was held at Shoshone RV park in Shoshone, CA.  This was really more of an experiment and it's clear AltRider has learned much because each event has been better than the one before.


Here's a video from that first one.




I got my tracks jacked up because my 60 CSx won't handle tracks of over 500 points so it truncated most of the "intermediate" tracks I wanted to ride and I think I ended up routing us on one of the advanced sections because it was a very long and loose sand wash.  Luckily, Jimmy Lewis rode by and showed us an easier way out and we finished without too much trouble.


The 2013 event was moved over to Pahrump, NV to the Lakeside RV resort.  This wasn't really ideal since there was only one shower and the ducks from the lake crapped everywhere and were quacking all night long.  It got really cold too, like 25 degrees.  The tracks seemed better this year, at least the intermediate ones I rode.  They asked me if I'd let two journalists ride in my group and I said "sure as long as they can ride."  They could ride for sure!  The highlight was ending at Big Dune and riding my 600 lb pig in dunes for the first time ever  AND... with none other than Johnny Campbell and Jimmy Lewis.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven!



But this ride report is for the 2014 Taste of Dakar.  In so many ways this event exceeded the prior two.  For one, they held it at the Wine Ridge RV resort, which has MANY hot showers as well as a jacuzzi, laundry, car wash, wi-fi, etc...  The tracks were AMAZING.  And of course the weather was a treat; we had a major rain/snow storm blow through that actually made for epic desert riding conditions.


Since the event, this video by Ride of My Life's Brad Barker, has really taken the event to mythical status.



I rode up on Thursday with Rich and we had planned to ride the day before.  We ended up riding the intermediate tracks in reverse order (no big deal really) but in the afternoon, the storm really intensified and we got caught in a flash flood and for a while, it was a bit dicey exactly how we would get ourselves out of that area...

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Like I said before, Rich and I arrived a day early because we were coming back Sunday and wanted more than just a day to ride.  We figured we'd try out this year's tracks and see what they were like.  We could have just as easily done a prior year's tracks but who really wants to do that when you have new tracks to ride?  Exactly!


Someone I was with (who shall remain nameless) thought it would be a good idea to stock up on fireworks for his 4th of July celebration.  He lives where that's legal (as far as you know) but hey, this is Nevada and that's just one of those things that are legal here (among many others we'll discover).


At first I didn't really know we were riding the tracks in reverse.  Rich said we were supposed to go the other way but I insisted we were going the right (wrong) way  :lol:   Okay, he was right but it turns out to not have mattered that much.  I guess when you consider what the late afternoon rain did to the class Jimmy was holding on the "dry" lake bed that day, then I guess we probably did make a better choice.


We headed south towards that lake bed and I knew that a Friday class was part of the Taste of Dakar experience for those who wanted it and that they were probably all assembled at Jimmy's place as we passed by.  We headed out over the lake, then turned south and then west into some more rocky single track that was very interesting.  The rain threatened us a few times but we never got more than a few light sprinkles.  Great photos though.






You can see a bit of rain on the gate




Always close a gate after you pass through if you had to open it to pass.  If there's a lock on it, then chances are it's private property and you should definitely go no further.  Of course, some nuts like to padlock some public roads but that doesn't always happen.




These tracks were SO much more interesting than the prior year's tracks.  There were many changes in scenery, track type (single, two track, dirt road), surface type (gravel, loose gravel, rocky, sandy, deep sandy, washouts, etc...).  We made our way to just outside what I think is Sandy Valley and saw this old wind mill




There was a spooking remnant of a cattle station there but the tracks sort of meandered through this tangled brush of old and mostly dead trees.  I was like "are we supposed to be going through here?"  We were.


Sure we're in the right place?






We made our way out to what looked like a farmer's field but is actually some kind of strip mining they are doing for certain types of minerals on this particular dry lake bed.  The tracks kept going but there was no road.  We just sped off over the furrows that had been plowed in the sand, which was kind of tricky on the bigger GSA.  We got to the edge of the "field" and saw where the road resumed but saw the field had been excavated about 5 feet lower.  We later realized that the next day when riders ride the course, they're going to experience a sudden 5' dropoff if they're not paying attention, so we made note of it.


After that, there was an area of sand dunes we got to play in for a while.  It had been raining so the sand was very firm.  No problem at all.




After that, there was still quite a ways to go to get to lunch at the Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings but we made it just as the rain started to come down harder




We kept forgetting this is Nevada because when that gal in the yellow on the barstool flashed us her boobs I was like &%$#@!?  Oh right, it's NV.  She's a "professional."  :lol:



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This sweet young lady is a professional but not the kind I mentioned before.  She's the bartender and said she loves motorcycles, so I got this picture.




So add a bit more water than the ground can absorb and suddenly everything changes.  We were going up this relatively easy single track section and my rear wheel slid out to my right due to it being muddy and sloped too much.  You can see later in the video I was trying to pull my boot out from under the bike and Rich was trying to get his side stand down to come help.  It was pretty funny.  Then 30 seconds after I get it back up, I go down again.  We were definitely going to have to use more caution because of the rain.  And it kept raining and raining and raining...


We went through a few rain-swollen mini-creeks already before we got to this monster






I just turned around to look at Rich and he shakes his head "nuh uh."



At this point we were basically stuck.  I grew up in AZ and have a lot of experience with flash floods and they aren't a good idea to get involved with.  The thing is though, we couldn't exactly go back either because we'd already been through a few relatively deep water creeks already and they were likely even deeper now.  Our best best was to either wait it out or ford the wash on foot and test it out.


Rich went out with a long stick and determined it was barely knee-deep, so what we did was both of us would walk one bike at a time across.  So we both walked his bike then we both walked my bike across.  It was really no big deal luckily.




We got back to the Wine Ridge RV resort and were just covered in mud.  We registered, got our packets and then rolled back to our campsite to find this




The rain had softened the ground and the wind blew the tent enough to pull them out of the ground.  Luckily, everything inside was still bone-dry.  Get yourself a Redverz tent!  This actually happened again later that night and Kurt Asplindh was kind enough to make a trip to the WalMarts to get me a set of those longer thicker tent stakes that I now use every time.  Thanks, Kurt!


That night was mostly just dinner, drinks and socializing but the rain (and snow nearby) just kept coming down all night.

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The next morning came with clear skies and lots of snow in the foothills.  This was the official "Taste of Dakar" day where we'd all go out on our respective routes and then ostensibly all return to camp that night.


Brad Barker and his crew were going to come with us on the intermediate route.  At the end of the day they ended up having with the A group, they probably regretted not coming with us, but then their video would have never been the same!


I will inevitably piss some people off by saying this, but here's another interesting thing I learned at this event; that there are more riders than ride leaders and I paid too much to ride this event to wait all day.  We ended up with about 4-5 riders who did not end up finishing with us by the end of the day for one reason or another.  Some may have had a better time on the C route, some may have had a better time on a smaller bike (one guy rode home nearby at lunch to grab his XR650) or with real knobby tires (and not worn Heidenaus).  Basically what I learned is that in rides I organize, I normally don't mind who comes along (if there's no other ride leaders).  But for an event I'm paying to ride, I will not go again in a group larger than a handful of riders I'm already comfortable with.  I just don't want to pay that much to assist someone who should have bought new tires or picked a different route is all.  On the other hand, if a group of riders wants to pay me $50 a head then I'll wait on them all day!


So off we went!  I can't recall how many started, maybe 8 or 9.  The first thing I noticed is that the flash flooded section we finished on the day before looked a lot better today and it wasn't even slippery.  We made progress, but not the kind I was hoping for.  We took our time getting across a few sand washes and then more time over some relatively steep hills, but we finally got to the Pioneer Saloon for lunch.  That was less than half the day's distance though, so we had even more to do after lunch.


Here's Scotty "Breauxman" (Baja Rally) on his "butter bike," an F800 GS kitted out with AltRider (of course) protection, Konflict Suspension, Flexx bars, steering damper, Woody's Wheels, etc...  He had just picked this bike up the day before, so this was its maiden dirt ride (as far as I know).  Nice guy and great rider.  Quite a few articles have shown up in print about this bike since.  I will post some later.




Some of us felt we'd eaten too much at lunch and needed more exercise to burn that off, so we spent some time in those dunes.


Tim's bike getting sleepy




My attempt at a sand circle






It was quite a lot of fun.  We were making pretty good progress on the remainder of the tracks but the light was fading, so we cut out this relatively short loop around a mountain for time.  I had totally failed to notice this the whole ride but it was about at this point I realized that Michael was riding his GS with a STREET tire on the front!  Are you kidding me?  That's ballsy!  Good riding skills too.


We were making our way back across the "dry" lake bed and that's when Tim apparently thought he'd like to turn his GSA into a "convertible."




What's funny is that on top of this oil cooler is stamped: "KTM made in Austria" 




He caught the lip of a rut with his front tire and went down hard.  He was able to ride it back but because the forks were bent and other stuff, they totaled it and now he rides a 690 R.  He also bought himself a chest protector.  I fell in nearly the same place just a month ago in some slick mud.  I hate mud.


Great views




I hope AltRider can go to another form of adhesive this time because the name/number thingy was really hard to get off.




These Karoo 3's really were great too.  That's what Scotty had on his "butter bike."






Here's that video


I eventually made it up that dune on a subsequent trip after just getting some more speed at the base

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Eric - 


First of all, I appreciate the leadership and time you have invested in bringing this site up - well done!


Next, you shouldn't worry about upsetting anyone when posting a ride report with your considered opinions.  Lots of guys and gals appreciate straight talk and it brings the health of the team up a lot when we know all talk is straight talk.  (of course - flaming someone is not considered straight talk)


Loved the look at the tires, equipment, and gear.


Any lessons learned regarding safety or equipment?  I know you've had some recent issues with your steed - did that all get resolved?

Edited by Grabowski
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Thanks, Greg.  I appreciate the support but having done this long enough, I find I'm always going to offend someone and I'm okay with that after the standard caveat.  I left out that there's also the other riders who felt they got less than they paid for when they find they weren't able to get as many miles in as they thought.  We will have plenty to populate a riding etiquette thread later on all the best practices for riding, following, leading, sweeping, trail etiquette, first aid, etc...  I almost started in on that in this thread and cut it.  I'll save it for the other thread.  I'm also not the world's best ride leader by any measure.  I'm constantly learning and want to learn from my mistakes.  There are many here who can remind me should I forget  :lol:


For safety and equipment on this particular event, I'd say Tim certainly learned the value of a chest protector.  I think he cracked a rib but I don't recall now for sure.  I got one of those Fox Titan armored vests that I wear all the time when it's warm but when it's cold I've just been wearing my jacket, which has all the padding except for the chest and torso area.  I have a chest-only vest I got a long time ago that I will start to incorporate but it will be giving me double the back protection.  We'll see how that works.


Another is caution in slippery surfaces.  You really need to gingerly proceed through the slick stuff.  Also just speed, in that on the very last few hundred yards of dirt on Friday, I hit a washout a bit too hard after just having my shocks rebuilt.  Jimmy taught me better!  Gotta use your eyes and be good with emergency braking.  Who knows, that hit may have contributed to the rear shock later breaking on the AZBDR, I'm not sure.


That we had actually pre-run the tracks the day before I think was a huge benefit.  One was that I had seen that huge drop off at the dry lake bed strip mine.  The other was I knew where the washouts were.  I just re-ran that a month ago and there's all new washouts.  We could not have run as quickly as we did at TOD without having pre-run it.  I also knew which sections to go around and which section was best to cut out given the sun was going down.


This stuff is never perfect and none of us are professional ride organizers, but I do recall an unfortunate incident (not at TOD) where the guy who designed the route had not actually run it himself in its entirety.  I don't see how he could given all he had on his plate but he ended up routing us down a very long road with very deep sand and this was a group of noobs.  Why the ride leader sped off into the distance (on his small bike) for so long is another matter.  One of the riders fell, broke his foot and now he no longer rides at ALL!  He was also wearing street boots and not enduro boots (his fault), but at least for me it pointed out the value of actually riding the track before you take others on it.  Doesn't always happen but good when you can.  When you haven't, then you need to use more caution, go slower and have a plan to bail out when you need to.


Another observation is more in hindsight given the popularity of Brad's video.  I think Brad did a great job but some take issue with his supposed over-emphasis on the danger aspect of what we do.  I sympathize with that take as well.  I don't actually think what we do is all that dangerous at all.  It certainly doesn't have to be.  I had my own injury (thankfully only one) and I've seen others be hurt but honestly, my buddies who mountain bike and even road bike get hurt WAY more than we do.  Even some of my softball friends are getting hurt all the time.  I recently went horseback riding.  Now THAT's dangerous!  We're grown-ass men and women who know the risks and are relying on learning from each other and certain professionals (Jimmy Lewis, etc..)  how to do this safely and with a lot of fun.


We're not racing.  We're not actually in the real Dakar.  There's no reason doing this should be any more dangerous really than driving down the street to pick up a quart of milk.  My opinion, as well as others' on this is that what contributed to some of the injuries some riders experienced at TOD is more the choices of those individual riders than the nature of what we do.  All I can say is how I ride and how I make my own decisions.  I don't choose to ride with a group I'm ill-suited for.  I don't choose to ride at a pace I'm not comfortable with; or maybe I take counsel when someone tells me "hey man, you might want to slow it down a touch."  I don't ride with anything I'm trying to prove to anyone.  I ride knowing that I need to ride myself home and try to keep that in mind at all times.  I've gotten to the point where I hear of a particular route and don't think "wow that would be cool to attempt," but more "I could, but why would I want to?"  I do like excelling as a rider and having the feeling that I can take my bike just about anywhere, but I also do it soberly and a healthy cost/benefit approach that has seemed to keep me out of too much trouble (knock on wood) but still provide me a lot of fun.  Jimmy teaches his class as a "safety class" for a good reason.


I think Brad gets that and you'll see that reflected in his "Ride of My Life" journey as it unfolds in future adventures.  I tell him he's still "Grasshopper" and hasn't yet snatched the pebble.   :lol:   I think it some way it's the perception of danger that's exciting and romantic.  It's what draws people to go have an "adventure."  Interesting, the duality of adventure being both "dangerously" perceived while in reality quite safe.


Those are just my opinions.  It would be nice to hear what others think about it :)

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