Racing the Dakar Rally requires a lot of different skills, riding skills, physical skills, mental skills, and emotional skills. You don’t acquire these skills racing the Dakar, you train for them months and years before. By Christophe Barriere-Varju (Dream Racer)
Most everyone will wonder whether they are fast enough to race the Dakar, but apart from rally navigation I will argue that having and working on riding techniques is far more important. In stage 3 of the 2018 Dakar Rally you would have seen a massive sand ball that caught many riders and drivers by surprise – unable to climb out of it, ending their Dakar dreams.
Everyone can ride most terrain at a lower speed with a low level of technique. Sand however is a different story, it is more binary – you make it or you don’t – with very little in between apart from swearing and getting exhausted.
Of course, most Dakar Rally will have sand dunes. Sand dunes are different, different types of sand, hard or soft or slippery. The wind direction is key to understanding sand dunes and knowing what section of the sand is harder or softer. The sun affects the dunes as well and makes the sand softer in the later morning and afternoon. Cars, trucks and other bikes, make it even softer and more rutted.
There is however one advantage to sand (!), it does not hurt as much when crashing as long as you know (and you practice) how to fall and exit from the bike, but that’s for another article.
Coming back to training for the Dakar and honing on your techniques, sand riding is where you are likely to meet trouble with a big T. if you have not trained properly. In Dream Racer, you will see me training in some big dunes, hitting them face on. The purpose of all these training sessions was to approach sand dunes from every possible angle possible, going straight-up, up sideways, straight down, down sideways. Also simulating getting stuck half-way up on the left and right sides, burying the bike all the way down at the top, half-way through etc.
The purpose of all these training sessions were not to ride dunes, but designed to make my life miserable during these training sessions, including wearing extra-clothing to overheat and simulate riding temperatures in South America which can get pretty close to 50 degrees celcius.
The goal of all this is to make sure that whatever situation you face during the Dakar Rally, that you have a methodical way to approach it and get out of trouble as you don’t want to figure it out whilst in the middle of the race. And you want to do this using the least amount of energy possible!
The last thing you want to be is one of these competitors in the video below.
Riding Skills – What to do.
- Don’t just ride around all day, work on proactively exposing your shortage of riding skills then methodically practice them repeatedly;
- Identify your physical limits, and go past them. You will want to stop of course, but that’s when you mental needs to keep your emotional in check. Don’t stop, your body is capable of a lot more, your mind just plays the “insurance role”;
- Work on your mental clarity, knowing how to approach each situation methodically and with focus, removing all negativity and noise from your thought processes;
- Be emotionally resilient by managing the wave of emotions you experience and keeping positive, this include what you say and what you think.
For the Dakar Rally, the riding skills, physical fitness, mental strength, and emotional balance are all inter-linked but for training purposes you can isolate each one of them and simulate situations that would trigger a riding skills shortage, a physical breakdown, a mental breakdown, and an emotional breakdown. Remember, this is training so you are in control of how far you choose to go with each. I could go into a lot more details (including riding techniques) but for now here are some quick bullet points so that you can see what needs to be done during your various training sessions should you choose one day to race the Dakar Rally, compete at your local enduro or motocross event, or even simply training to become a better and stronger all-around rider (and person).
If you are interested in more information on this topic, you can head over to my Speaking and Business Coaching website, and read Powerful Ways to Overcome Challenges as well as Developing a Self-Inspiring and Motivational Mindset. Both of these articles will provide additional insights on how to prepare mentally and emotionally for an event such as a the Dakar Rally, or for anything life throws at you.
If you are a Dakar Rally fan, make sure to watch 9x Award Winner Film, DREAM RACER. Dream Racer is the only film in the Dakar History to have won any awards and it has now become the most awarded motorcycle film in history. Available on Blu-Ray or DVD, or you can watch it On Demand right away.