British Driving Culture

We’ve been in the UK for almost a week and yesterday spent the day skulking about London.  Like the rest of England, London makes demands on a vehicle operator’s attention that many North Americans would find onerous.  The small lanes, lack of shoulder and volume of traffic conspire to create a very intense and focused driving environment.  Efficiency of motion isn’t an option, it’s an expectation.


A few years ago they set up a roundabout in our small town in Southern Ontario.  The locals used to bring out lawn chairs and sit and watch the circus as Canadian drivers tried to negotiate an intersection that didn’t have lights telling them what to do.  At a roundabout in the UK you tend to accelerate into an opening.  If you slow down (or stop as many Canadian drivers do) before entering it, you’re going to create a chorus of honks behind you.  You can expect others to see you coming and make space, but you need to be attentive and collegial in your approach.  Ignoring others by cutting them off doesn’t fly here.  Being a waffling idiot and not taking an opening won’t make you any friends either.  A demanding kind of efficiency and cooperation that is foreign to many North American drivers is the expectation.


London traffic is that kind of urgent efficiency turned up to eleven.  Oddly, British drivers are still very polite, waving thanks and making eye contact when they are facing a problem, like cars parked on an otherwise busy road blocking an entire lane of traffic, which seems to happen constantly.  If the obstruction is on your side of the road you’re supposed to wait for traffic in the clear lane to pass, but people often pull over to let through cars that are stuck if it improves the flow of traffic and doesn’t slow them inordinately.  This kind of consideration is another aspect of North American driving that is vanishingly rare, especially in the Greater Toronto Area where drivers tend to take on more of a ‘get yours and screw everyone else’ mindset.


Based on what I’ve seen, even a hesitant, relatively slow British driver would be considered near the pinnacle of driving talent in Canada, which is one of the reasons I find driving a car there tedious.  Given a choice, Canadian drivers are content to give over about half of their attention to driving effectively, mainly because the massive roads with constant shoulders, signalling that tells you what to do rather than take initiative and minimal traffic volume encourage it.  When things do get busy, as in Toronto, asshole is the default rather than let’s all work together to make this go more smoothly.



Even with steep congestion taxes London is a constant flow of traffic, but it’s all moving, and usually quickly.  Into this maelstrom, thanks to demands of space and emissions requirements, motorcycles thrive.  My first view when we got above ground and out of The Tube was a blood delivery bike effortlessly cutting through traffic on a busy Thursday morning.  An older guy on a Suzuki Vstrom, he handled his machine with the kind of effortless grace you see of people who have a lot of miles under them.  He seemed to see everything at once and disappeared through the delivery vans and cars in a flash of effortless speed.



Two wheeled delivery vehicles thrive in London, with couriers of all shapes and sizes on everything from 50cc scooters to big BMWs making the rounds.  As we were walking toward Camden Market a rideere pulled into one of the few unused pieces of tarmac in London (the small triangle a car wouldn’t fit in before a curb) and carried out an animated conversation over bluetooth head piece with his dispatcher.


The efficiency of small vehicles like motorbikes isn’t ignored in England like it is in Canada.  Bikes can squeeze through gaps that would cause a queue otherwise and split lanes.  Parking is more efficient for bikes, so half a dozen commuters can and do park in the space taken up by one SUV.


Being a dispatch rider in London is considered a badge of distinction by motorcyclists here.  If you can survive that you’re a good rider with exceptional awareness and control.  If you weren’t, you wouldn’t last.


We’re now on a train to Norwich (my dad’s hometown) where we’re picking up a cousin’s car and driving in the UK for the first time.  I always look forward to it because it’s engaging and challenging.  You can’t eat or drink and drive here like you can in Canada, but you wouldn’t want to.  You seldom stop due to a lack of traffic lights and a plethora of roundabouts and the roads are tight, twisty and require your attention.  To top it all off everything is backwards.  For the first couple of days I chant that like a mantra inside my head when I’m driving here.  It keeps me on the right side of the road and gets me used to indicators and wipers being on opposite sides more quickly.  Within a day or two I’m acclimatized and accidentally cleaning my windows way less.



I might try and find a motorbike rental while I’m home and see if I can find out where my Granddad Bill took that picture on his Coventry Eagle and get a photo of myself on something similarly English and iconoclastic, perhaps an Ariel Ace?


The other night I was in the car back to my cousin’s house and we were intent on making time.  With the twisty, tight roads it felt like navigating a rally stage  As we thrashed down the highway a Porsche 911 blew past us like we were going backwards.  I love UK driving culture.

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Affidavits & Broken Ownerships

The XS1100 is finally mine.  After buying it off a clueless millennial who had managed to lose all useful paperwork associated with the bike, I’ve been able to re-establish ownership.  Here’s how you do it:

In order to reconnect continuity of ownership you need to get a signed affidavit from a legal notary.  Your local town government will have a notary on hand that can sign, stamp and date your declaration of ownership (they’ll offer this as a service).  I stopped in at the Centre Wellington Town Offices in Elora and explained the situation (clueless kid was previous owner, etc).  I showed them the ownership history the MTO had printed out for me (all six pages of it!), and the letter of sale from the previous owner.  I also said I’d made repeated attempts to find the last legal owner (I suspect he’s deceased).

The county clerk (who is a notary) signed, dated and stamped the affidavit I provided (that’s it above), and I took it back to the MTO office the next day.  In just a couple of minutes I paid the taxes on the sale price and the bike was attached to my name and a new ownership was printed out.  They keep all the relevant paperwork, including the affidavit.

It’s a bit of a pain in the neck to reestablish ownership, but it’s not particularly expensive (twenty bucks to get it signed) and just takes a bit of leg work by the new owner.  I’d argue a hundred bucks off the price for your time and costs to get the bike sorted – more if the previous owner is a tool (which they probably are if they lost all their paperwork).

Riding In the Desert On an Iron Horse with No Name… for reals this time

I’ve been through the desert on a lousy rental car with no name,
now I’ll do it properly on two wheels!

I landed a free trip to Arizona a couple of years ago for an educational conference.  I’d never been to the desert before, it was a great trip but the cunning plan to rent a bike fell apart when I discovered they don’t rent over the Easter weekend when I was flying in.

Ever since driving a lousy Nissan rental car through the Superstition Mountains, I’ve wanted to go back and do it properly on two wheels.  My time has come!

We’re doing a family trip to Arizona over the Christmas break.  Opportunity never knocks twice, except when it does, like this time.

Eaglerider’s selections look all of a kind,
a kind that doesn’t really grab me.

Eaglerider has a huge selection of bikes, but AZ Ride has exceptional customer ratings.  I’ll end up looking into both and seeing which grabs me.

AZ has the Indian Scout, which tickles a fancy (riding in the desert with an Indian Scout, c’mon!), along with the ZG1400 Concours, which I’m curious about for obvious reasons.  

Eaglerider has a lot of Harleys and a smattering of other very heavy offerings from other manufacturers.  In other locations they offer Triumphs but not in Phoenix.  Scraping floor boards doesn’t make me think of spirited riding, it makes me think of a poorly designed motorcycle.  Lugging a massive hunk of iron that can’t corner around the desert doesn’t strike me as a good time.

Looking at what’s on offer, and taking into account the customer ratings on Google, I think I’ll be giving AZride a go.  They’re both up the right end of Phoenix to get to easily, so location isn’t a factor.  I’ll be aiming at a Concours if my son wants to come with or the Scout if I’m solo, then it’s off into the Superstition Mountains for a day… or is it?


309kms/192 miles, with that many bends should make for a good day of riding


The road to Roosevelt is something else.  I skipped it in the Nissan rental car, but on two wheels it might be reason enough to live in Phoenix.  It’s about 80kms of serious switchbacks through breathtaking high desert, except it’s a dirt road!  All my day dreaming about riding switchbacks of smooth Arizona tarmac aren’t happening unless I go the long way around and stay on paved roads.

Once up on the plateau I’ll make a point of stopping at the Tonto National Monument, which is a magical place.  The ride back down the other side offers a couple of nice stops, but also some tedium.  If that road to Roosevelt is as magical as it looks, I might just come back that way.




How do you say no to a road like that?  AZride has a BMW 800GS Adventure, but a ride like this would be the perfect time to try the new Triumph Tiger Explorer – alas, no one rents it.  I’ve been eyeing the 800XCx as well as the new Explorer, but no one rents ’em.  There is a Triumph dealer in Scottsdale.  Think I could convince them to let me have a 300km test ride along that crazy road?

*** 


In a more perfect world I’d rent bikes I’m curious about owning.  A short list would include:

The new Triumph Bonneville with the Scrambler package (favourite classic) – It’d also look awesome in the desert!

Kawasaki Z1000 (favourite naked bike), though Kawi just came out with a Z800, which I’d also like to have a go on – but I’d be trapped on pavement.


The Kawasaki H2 (because it’s bonkers) – but not so good on a dirt road in the high desert…

The Ariel Ace (because it’s sooo pretty) – but I suspect it lacks off road chops.








I’m in a conundrum now.  I really want to ride out of Apache Junction on the Apache Trail, but the bikes I want to ride are all pavement specialists while the adventure bikes I’d want to rent aren’t available to ride.

Meanwhile Triumph cruelly taunts me with their lovely new machines.










Damn it!

FOLLOW UP

Instead of turning left before Globe,
head on towards Show Low.  The
roads be magic there!

All is not lost.  If we’re on pavement for the ride there is a nice triangle that’ll make for a fine high-desert ride.  The road north out of Globe into the higher mountains looks like a corker too.  I don’t think I’ll be suffering too much if I can’t ride the Apache Trail.  Either of those would be a blast on a big Connie.

Now to find a day when the weather is cooperating and see if I can make this happen.

Midnight Thoughts

What we have here is a Yamaha XS1100 ‘Midnight Special’.  It looks like it needs some love and is for sale for $500 along with some extra parts.  The flash from the phone makes this ’70s bike look pretty disco!

The XS1100 is a late ’70s/early ’80s ‘super’ bike.  From what I’ve read it’s Yamaha’s Vincent Black Shadow.  You’re spoiled for choice as far as customization goes with the XS1100.  It’s a big, air cooled engine with the old fashioned dual rear shocks.  It begs to be café racered a bit.

As a tear down/rebuild, this makes a pretty good basis for a winter project.  It would be my first air cooled bike, as well as my first tear down/rebuild.

The Clymer manual is readily available (I’m finding Haynes manuals lacking in covering many motorcycles).  This could be a winter sanity thing.


Parts on Order Makes me Stop & Consider

Over the Easter long weekend I’ve rebuilt four carbs and put them back together again.  Unfortunately they won’t go back on nicely thanks to two decade old rubber boots, so they’re on order.  It’s nice to have a forced day off.

If you’re ever rebuilding carbs on a ZG1000, and the airbox on it is more than ten years old, it’s a good idea to get some airbox ducts (that connect the airbox to the carbs).  Supple, soft rubber is important when connecting these up.  I tried for a frustrating couple of hours to get them to join properly.  This is especially difficult when the inner boots are rock hard, even when warmed up.  Steve suggests new carb boots to cut down on swearing, he ain’t kidding:


Sixty bucks and should be here by
Wednesday.

I contacted my local dealer and they can have boots here by Wednesday.  They’re charging less than they are going for on ebay or online retailers.  Score one for my local.  Sixty bucks means less swearing and an easy install.  Wayne, the Yoda-like parts guy at Two Wheel, says you’re lucky to get two decades out of a set as they harden over time and eventually split.

With the weather going sideways again, there won’t be much of a chance to ride any time soon.  Hopefully this means I can get this odyssey finished and the bike back on the road by the time the weather clears again.

The airbox ducts/boots that need replacing – the old ones are not only beaten up, but they’ve gone hard.
Even putting heat on them doesn’t soften them up.  Note the flat spots up by the airbox that show you which
way to turn the boots.
Heating up the airbox boots – but they’re too old!
A big empty where the airbox and carbs usually go





This ordeal has me rethinking things.  My wife suggested I unload everything except the old XS1100 and buy a regular motorbike that is more dependable.  When I started riding I got a dependable bike that just needed some cosmetic work.  It was so dependable it was tedious.  Since then I’ve gone back in time and enjoyed the world of carburetion and two decade old rubber, perhaps a bit more than I wanted to.

I genuinely enjoy mechanics, but never when there is a time demand on it.  I’ve already missed three riding opportunities because of the stuttering Concours, and this irks me.  The idea of wiping the slate clean and moving forward appeals.  I started riding late and moving through a number of bikes seems like a way to catch up on my lack of experience.  Maybe it is time to put sentiment down and move on.  I didn’t start riding to watch the few lovely days we have in a too-short riding season pass me by.

A Tiger?  In my garage?


The little Yamaha and the KLX are gone now, netting me about $3000.  As it happens, a 2003 Triumph Tiger is available just over an hour away for about that much.  Come the end of the week I might be able to say, “a tiger?  In my garage?  Must have escaped from a zoo!”



Drivetest: Everything That’s Wrong with Ontario

When I think back to the late ’80s (the last time I had to involve myself in driver testing), I recall reasonable wait times, full time employees invested in what they were doing and a general sense of competence.  I left with my driver’s license feeling like my time wasn’t wasted and the people there knew what they were doing.

The lost souls trapped in the beige, fluorescent lit hell that
is Ontario’s Drivetest Centre.  I got in trouble for taking
this picture, I hope you like it.

Since going back for my motorcycle license in 2013 I’ve had to attend Drivetest Centres several times and each one has been worse than the last.  The stone eyed ‘funployees’ of Drivetest struggle to handle massive wait times and angry citizens whose time doesn’t seem to matter at all.

While waiting for more than ninety minutes yesterday in an overcrowded holding area I looked up Drivetest and discovered a poster child for why Ontario is failing like it is.

Up until 2003 Driver training was handled by MoT employees.  These would have been unionized, government workers who make enough money to pay a mortgage and tended to stick around, meaning they have a vested interest in what they’re doing.  In 2003 Mike Harris (aka: ass-clown of the century) decided to privatize driver training in Ontario (because the mess they made giving away the 407 wasn’t enough).

In a matter of months hundreds of full time employees were laid off in the name of efficiency.  At the time the six week waiting list to get a license was considered proof of government incompetence and the private sector would come to our rescue!  The current backlog is over sixteen weeks.  Feeling that private efficiency yet?

At the Drivecentre yesterday I heard one of the employees say that they have a lot of people away on vacation so they are short handed at the busiest time of the year.  Another came back after taking only 10 minutes for lunch.  While reveling in this Kafkaesque corporate efficiency I thought I’d look up who we pay millions to now for driver testing.

Privatization seems to feed into globalization.  Just as he sold off the 407 for a fraction of what it’s worth to a Spanish company, so Harris sold off driver training to another overseas firm, in this case Serco, a billion dollar a year multi-national out of the UK.  Their spiel on the Drivetest website is exactly the sort of MBA drivel that makes me sick in my mouth:   

Positive change and continuous improvement! All’s good in corporate speak fun-land! Based globally? That sounds tricky.


Ah, the countless possibilities.  Fortunately, thanks to Serco’s crap-tastic personnel management I had a lot of time to consider countless possibilities.  The Ontario Government is supposed to oversee the efficiency of this subcontract, but like most privatization they simply turn away from what IS the role of government and takes no responsibility for what has been and continues to be an out and out disaster.

You’d think it would be fairly easy to make licensing a zero-sum game.  You charge for licenses whatever it takes to cover the cost of licensing and you keep that money in Ontario instead of shipping off millions of dollars overseas.  You then offer bonuses based on accident rates of new drivers and the wait times in Drivetest Centres.  The lower the rates and better the wait times, the better the bonus.  Or… you could just give it all away to an off-shore concern that couldn’t give a damn about Ontario citizens, their safety, or their time, but sure knows a lot about business.

Meanwhile, we’re all sitting here wondering why Ontario is in the biggest financial mess in its history.  Efficiency doesn’t mean off-loading responsibility and doing things cheaply unless you’re in the private sector, then that can be your reason for being.  Efficiency and cheapness are not the same thing, though the private sector and conservatives often confuse the two.

Get your finger out Ontario.  Stop off-loading important government services to incompetent multi-nationals and keep our money in-province!  Fix this!

LINKS

The Dark Side of Privatization
Who we’re paying to administer Ontario Driver Training
Serco quality
We should farm everything out to these guys!
Actually, just do a google-news search of Serco and revel in the excellence

The real costs of privatizing hydro
Privatization: generally a really bad idea
The 407The 407 again, The 407, it never ends, The 407, WTF?

Commuting on a Motorcycle

It isn’t a giant commute – about a 15km round trip each day.  Our strangely summery autumn here in Ontario means I’m commuting on two wheels every day.  Over two weeks and ten commutes I’ve put over 150kms on the bike (I sometimes go the long way home).  What is commuting on a fourteen year old Triumph Tiger like?  Glorious.

In addition to actually looking forward to my commute each day, I (and the planet) are also enjoying the fact that I’m barely using any fossil fuel to do it.  In the past ten days I’ve used 6.88 litres (1.82 gallons) of gasoline to get to and from work; I’ve still got three quarters of a tank from my fill up two weeks ago.


The Tiger is currently getting better mileage than a Prius and didn’t make anything like the hole in the world that the Prius did in manufacture.  My 0-60 in under 4 seconds Tiger is very nature friendly.

Other than a light rain on the way home one day it’s been a dry time.  The bike has been fire-on-the-first-touch ready every day.  If I won’t get soaked on the way in I’ll take the bike (being at work with wet pants is no fun).  I could attach panniers and have rain gear with me (I’ve done that before on committed 2-wheeled commutes), but being only fifteen minutes from work means I and the Tiger travel light.  Riding home and getting wet means being uncomfortable for fifteen minutes, no big deal.


How long can I keep it up?  With the current forecast it looks like I’ll be car-less until well into October.  The most recent forecast suggests a drop into the teens in the upcoming weeks, but I’ll keep going until ice is a threat (I won’t do that again on purpose).  Warm, never ending autumns are a lovely thing.

Unlike driving to work in the car, when I commute on the bike I arrive oxygenated and alert; it’s difficult to cultivate the same level of alertness sitting in a box.  Showing up at work switched on and ready to go is a great way to start the day.  


With no morning radio I’m not as plugged in to the world, but that’s no bad thing either.  Instead of pondering the latest human generated catastrophe (aka: the news), I’m gulping down morning mist and beautiful sunrises; it puts you in an expansive state of mind.


Soon enough we’ll be into the long dark teatime of the soul (Canadian winter).  In the meantime I’m going to keep drinking from the commuting on a motorcycle fire hose.

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Triumph Tiger 955i Rear Brakes

I came home last weekend to a lot of noise from the rear brakes.  A closer look showed virtually no pad material left, so it was time for new pads.  I thought I had some at the ready, but it turns out they were for the Concours.  A quick online shopping trip to Fortnine got me sorted out.  Surprisingly, the rear pads are the same as the front pads – I think the Tiger is the only bike I’ve owned with the same pads front and back.


Everything went smoothly until I got to the caliper pin – it’s the bar the brake pad hangs on as it it presses into the disk.  The end of the pin was (rather bafflingly) a slot screw, which isn’t a very nice choice for something like a caliper pin which will get hot and cold over and over again for years between service.  Slot screws aren’t famous for great purchase and tend to strip easily, like this one was.


It was only after looking at the parts blowup that I realized the slot screw I was trying to remove was actually only a cover and the hex-head pin underneath was actually hidden away.  Once I realized I was only removing a cover, I applied some heat with a propane torch and got the thing loose.  I wouldn’t have tried that had it been the pin itself – too much thread resistance.


With the cover removed, the pin, with its easily grippable hex-head came out easily.  Once disassembled I soaked the retaining clips and calipre pin, both of which had years of dirt and rust on them.  The next morning I greased everything up and reassembled the caliper with shiny retaining clips and pin, along with the new brake pads.  I had to force the caliper piston back to make space for the new pads, but this was relatively straightforward with the rear brake fluid container cap removed.  The fluid back filled into the container as the piston pushed back with little resistance.


With the new pads on, I put the two body panels I’d removed for access back together and tightened it all up.  The caliper was still moving freely – not bad after seventy thousand kilometres on it.  Judging by the rough edges of the caliper pin cover, I wasn’t the first one in there.  Before I put it back I used a hack saw to deepen the groove.  Hopefully that’ll make it easier for getting into it next time, that and some judicious lubrication.


I took it for a few loops around the circle in front of our house and bedded in the pads.  After a minute or two they were biting so hard I could easily lock up the back wheel, so them’s working brakes.


A ride up and down the river to double check everything showed it all to be tight and dry and working perfectly.  No drag with the brakes off and quick response when I applied them.


That’s how to do your rear brakes on a Triumph Tiger 955i.  I’ve got the front pads on standby.  Hopefully what’s on there will last until the end of the season then I’ll do the fronts over the winter.  Should be a pretty similar job as the pads and calipers are identical.

The Tiger stops faster than that guy…


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For Whom The Bell Tolls

Once you’ve discovered riding a motorcycle, especially if you do it later in life as I have, you quickly come to realize that this isn’t something you’ll be able to do forever.  Motorcycling is physically and mentally demanding and you’d be crazy to do it without your faculties intact.  The thought of not being able to ride after discovering how freeing it is isn’t a comfortable one.  If you get so decrepit that you can’t do the things you love, what’s the point of being here?  Melissa Holbrook Pierson does a wonderful job of conveying that feeling in The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing.  If you’re looking for a pensive, profound motorcycle themed read, that one will do it for you.

***

The other day my buddy Jeff was finally able to make a deal for an old BMW R100RT that has been sitting in a shed in the woods for over a decade.  My son Max and I burned out of school on Friday afternoon and followed Jeff and his lovely wife up to their cottage on the shores of Lake Huron.

A neighbour five minutes down the road had purchased this BMW back in 1999 and had ridden it until 2005.  On a cool September day eleven years ago he rode back to Kincardine from a conference in Peterborough and parked the bike, it hasn’t run since.  Jeff discovered the bike a year ago while over there at a garage sale, but the old fellow didn’t want to part with it.  There was hope that he’d eventually get it out, clean it up and feel the wind in his beard again.  Jeff gently persisted, letting him know that if he ever did decide to sell it he had a buyer.

While over there getting the bike out of a shed hundreds of yards back in thick trees the owner told me, “I came to the realization that I’m not riding any bike, let alone this bike.  When that happened I finally decided to let it go.”  He’s still physically active even though that activity has landed him with metal pins where his bones used to be.  Struggling against old age is a pointless exercise, but I was right there with him – I’ll be him in thirty years if I’m here at all.  The real tragedy is that he’s as sharp as a whip; the mind is willing but the flesh is weak.

We were both enjoying the stories he was telling of how he went down to North Carolina to pick up the bike, and what it was like to bring it back across the border in the pre-internet age.  This guy had always wanted a BMW but when he was younger he couldn’t afford it; this was his dream machine but it has been sitting in a shed as the seasons spin by outside, alone but for the sound of creeping rust.  It turns out this Bimmer was Jeff’s dream machine as a young man as well, but you can’t buy a $3500 bike when you’re making six bucks an hour.  You can when you’re older and it’s under a decade of grime though.

We were both so excited going over there to get this bike out of the woods, but Jeff had said the owner was having a hard time doing it and our excitement quickly turned to ambivalence and then reflection as we heard the story of how it ended up parked under the trees.  While we struggled with conflicting feelings we were at least confident in the fact that we could bring this old machine back to the world.  Machines can sometimes offer this kind of immortality.

If you never take any risks and lead a sedentary life of caution, being old is just another day like any of the others in your tedious, careful life.  It makes me wonder what you hold up as your accomplishments if fear drives most of your decisions; I bet it’s nothing good.  However, if you get out there and take risks and live, perhaps the memories of that life well lived, the chances you’ve taken and the adventures you’ve had, will make easing into old age less onerous, and perhaps even rewarding.  To me motorcycles are a symbol of that belief in embracing risk.  I hope anyone who has ever looked at me with a disapproving frown when it comes to riding is very comfortable in their old age; I imagine it looks like any other day in their beige lives.

Knowing me I’m going to be very bad at old age if I get there at all, but I’m trying to take care of that now, on two wheels.

 

 If you’re looking at another clear eyed examination of death and our society’s inability to deal with it, check out:  https://temkblog.blogspot.com/2020/06/a-psychologicalmetaphysical-one-two.html

Dakar Dreams

I just finished this year’s Dakar and it always starts the itch.  As a bucket list item it’s well beyond my ken, but I still sometimes think about it.  The cost is in 1%er territory and a school teacher from Ontario isn’t likely to find support from advertisers that would allow him to compete.  But hey, what’s mid-life for if not your last chance to do the impossible?  The other day a buddy said, “you don’t want to be sitting around when you’re old wondering what you might have done.”  Even an attempt at a Dakar would be special.  Finishing one would be a crown jewel in a life well lived.


In an interview during Charlie Boorman‘s Race to Dakar, one of the competitors says he does it because it’s two weeks of singularly focusing on one thing, which he found relaxing.  Simon Pavey, Charlie’s teammate, said he does it just so he doesn’t have to do dishes for two weeks.  I get the angle.  Being able to singularly focus on something is a luxury few of us can afford.  Life is a series of compromises and multiple demands on our time.


I’ve been watching The Dakar long enough to not harbor any illusions about winning it or even placing well, but I would certainly hope to finish.  Having a Dakar finishers medal puts you in a very small circle of excellence, and toughness.  The people who know what it is would have mad respect when they saw it.


To get there you need to take on the almost religious piety of a professional athlete.  I’d give myself two years to get the experience and fitness levels I’d need to give it an honest try.  I know I wouldn’t stop unless circumstances stopped me (I’m perverse like that), so it would simply be a matter of preparing as well as I could for it.  I turn 48 this spring, so I’d be doing a Dakar in 2019, the year I turn 50.  My goal would be to complete a Dakar and document as much of it as I could in the process.  From the beginning to the end I’d be making notes that would eventually turn into a book:  Mad Dogs & Englishmen: A Middle Aged Man’s Dakar.

A Zero electrically driven Dakar Rally bike?  Yes please!

Maybe by then there would be an electric motorcycle that could manage the stages with quick battery swaps at the stops.  Maybe I should be asking Zero if they’d like to consider a Dakar run.  Being the first electric bike to finish a Dakar would be something.  Electric cars are getting there now.


Finding sponsorship with companies I already have a relationship with would be a nice way to make this attempt a more personal one.  Everybody runs KTMs, Hondas and Yamahas, but I’d love to ride a rally prepped Kawasaki, Triumph or maybe a CCM; all companies who have had an impact on my motorcycling career.  Getting some degree of factory and dealer support in that would be fantastic.


A lot of riders gopro their experiences from within the Dakar itself, but I think it would be cool to get some next level media out of the event.  Running a 360 degree camera would be a goal.  Having a small, agile, media production crew along who could capture drone footage and support the 360 footage from inside the race could eventually lead to an immersive video of the event that gives some idea of how it feels to be in the Dakar; an everyman’s view of the race.  Dreamracer does a good job of this.  I’d try to emulate that approach with newer technology.  Since not a lot of Canadians participate in the rally, I might be able to drum up local support that other rally riders could not.


Deep winter, mid-life dreams about doing something impossible… all I’d need is an opportunity.

LINKS



Where to find your rally kit:  Rebel X SportsNeduro

Sample Dakar budget, another sample budget


A 2017 Dakar how-to video series by Manuel Lucchese

What Dakar riders wear article



Dakar advice on putting together an entry:


Before setting off in an active search for sponsors, it is important to define your project clearly by

answering the following questions:


Why am I taking part in the Dakar?
What are my motivations?
What are my objectives?
What are my assets in achieving those objectives?
What sort of crew do I want to set up?
What resources do I need to achieve this?
It is important to detail the various cost items in order to have a clear idea of your expenses (Vehicle preparation – Registration – Trip – Visas and passports – assistance vehicle(s) – mechanics registrations…) After this stage, you must have answers to the following four questions:


What is my budget?
How should I present it to my potential partners/sponsors?
What are my available funds?
How much should I ask for from my potential sponsors?
Your potential sponsors must be targeted : better to count on your relational, personal, professional or regional fabric rather than “major sponsors” who may be less inclined to support you. Make a list of your potential partners and characterise them:


What do they do?
Why would they be likely to help me?
What specific arguments should I put forward?
What funds do they have available?
Which companies should I see as a priority?
“Do not make mistakes in what you say or who you target”. There is no point in talking about your potential sporting achievements if you are taking part in your first Dakar! Your aim is to finish, not to be placed! So, assess what you say and in particular your media exposure: amateurs will be the subject of one-off reports, they are frequently mentioned in the local and regional media but do not promise the TV news or a daily sports newspaper!


Prepare a personalised dossier to present your project. This presentation must be clear, concise, persuasive and imaginative; it must make them dream of the rally but also convince them of your personal qualities.


You need to highlight your special features, your motivation :


What is original about your entry?
Why are you passionate about motor sports (and cross country rallies in particular)?
What previous experience do you have?
Consider presenting your sporting profile: draw inspiration from statistics on Dakar 2015. Put yourself into the rally: in terms of age, type of vehicle, number of entries, status (professional or amateur). Stress your nationality and your region! Identify potential media spin-off: media statistics can help you identify press, radio or even TV spin-off in your region.


Regional media are frequently looking for a potted history of amateur competitors; so do not hesitate to contact them and suggest an interview, your potential sponsors will only be more impressed!


Present your arguments to justify sponsorship:


To give out a good image of the company at local, regional or national level thanks to media spin-off. The company’s name (and/or one of its brands) is associated with your entry and the adventure of the rally.
To change or strengthen the company’s image internally. To advertise the company’s main values, the directors can use event sponsorship to motivate employees and/or associate the company with values such as courage, surpassing oneself, competition, human adventure,… which characterise the Dakar.
To build a relationship with their suppliers/customers. Sponsorship may be a way for one of your suppliers/customers to build strong links before or after the conclusion of a partnership.
To involve your sponsors indirectly in the adventure. The Dakar is a mythical trial in which everyone who is interested in motor or extreme sports will want to take part one day… These fans, potential sponsors, will be all the more inclined to help you in this challenge if they can live the adventure by proxy.
To enable the partner company to enjoy tax relief. Depending on the country, sponsorship offers tax breaks. Consider putting forward a small sales pitch to demonstrate these tax breaks according to the legislation in your country.


Highlight the benefits of financial support or support in kind :


Visibility of their brand/company name on your vehicle, your clothing, your helmet, your Leatt-Brace, your trunk, your assistance vehicles…
A free trip on a rest day or on arrival: for the most generous sponsors, a day at the rally is a weighty argument for those who want to taste the atmosphere of the Dakar!
Event organisation: exhibiting the vehicle before or after the rally, or a photo exhibition…
Finally, do not forget to…
Keep them up to date with your exploits during/after the rally (sell IRITRACK!)
Give them a DVD collection of Dakar articles, or a detailed press review, or a photo album to thank them.

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