Here’s a list of RUST’s favourite – achievable – overseas events you might like to try. Go on, you know you want to…
If you ONLY ever do your racing in Britain, then you are missing out on a whole world of competition riding. Whilst Britain has plenty to offer in terms of great dirtbiking events, just like holidaying abroad, the world is a big place full of different cultures, and amazing race experiences just waiting to be discovered.
Sure, it’s going to cost you more to get there and participate, but nothing beats the exhilaration and experience of taking part in a major overseas event. Let alone the bragging rights once you get home and tell your mates about how cool it was.
So we have put our heads together and come up with a varied list of ‘achievable’ overseas events designed with the hobby rider in mind. And somewhere in this list there is an event for you…
Riding a desert rally can be a daunting prospect, though for some people it’s the ultimate in off-road racing. And if you’ve got designs on the Dakar then you need to have a proven finishing record in rallying. The Tuareg is widely recognised as the place to start…
Make no bones about it rallying is rarely easy, even though the skill level required is not technically that high – a good trail rider can easily complete the Tuareg rally. What you need is a sound head, reasonable navigational skills and the ability to cope under pressure. Mix that in with some mechanical sympathy and you are well on your way to a finish.
Whilst individuals can – and do – enter the Tuareg on their own, our advice would be to team up with a well respected rally support team such as Desert Rose, who can hand-hold you through the entire process from start to finish, whilst making sure your bike is fixed each evening. Remember this is eight days of racing in North Africa, so it’s unlike anything you will have raced back home!
Rallying is one of those rare sports where you find yourself competing against the world’s best riders on the same course at the same time. And the thrill of riding fast across open ‘desert’ terrain (sand, stones, tracks, rocks and more besides), is an exhilarating experience, that you won’t find in mainland Europe.
One extra bonus about the Tuareg is that you don’t need a costly (purpose-built) rally bike. You can compete on a tweaked four-stroke enduro bike with an extra large tank, beefed up suspension and some rally navigation gear.
Rallying is about so much more than just desert riding: it’s about the sheer scale of the event, being in Africa (and all that brings with it), and the whole bivouac experience. But the best thing about the Touareg, is that it’s the ‘friendly rally’.
Event: Desert Rally
Where: Morocco, North Africa
When: 03-10 March 2018
RUST Tip: Successful rallying is all about smart navigation, conserving energy, and protecting your bike. If you ride it like a three-hour hare and hounds then you won’t finish the first day. Ride smart, ride safe and be there at the finish…
No-one puts on enduros quite like the French. Their ‘Classique’ series of events manages to combine the very best elements of traditional timecard enduros using the most awesome terrain but with a thoroughly rideable course and a huge element of fun and enjoyment. Each stand-alone event seems to be a celebration of our sport, and it’s no wonder all the events are oversubscribed despite a 500 rider entry!
Not surprisingly a lot of ex pro-riders come out to join the fun and along with the massed ranks of clubmen and experts their enjoyment at participating in these enduro ‘festivals’ is plain to see. There’s always a very relaxed time-check at lunchtime allowing riders plenty of chance to enjoy a sit-down lunch with their pit-crew, and it’s not uncommon for the local town to lay on entertainment – like marching bands or funfairs – in celebration!
There are usually five or so of these ‘classic’ events every year in different parts of France, and despite the word Classic in the title, riders are on modern machinery (though there’s always a few masochists that roll up on their vintage iron). Most ‘Classics’ a re two-day events but the king of them all is the three-day Trefle Lozerien in Mende. Essentially all use a similar format with a flowing course of between 100-120 miles per day (one single lap) with five unique special tests to complete. These may be anything from regular enduro cross-country tests or grassy taped-out specials, to mini extreme tests, supermoto tests on carparks or closed roads, to stadium motocross (don’t worry, you can ‘roll’ the jumps).
Pics above and below are from the Trefle Lozerien 2017. There is also a complete RUST Magazine issue which chronicles Team Rust’s exploits on the 2017 Trefle Lozerien, just click on the link below…
While Clubmen riders make up the majority of the entry, the standard of average rider in France is like a Clubman-A over here, so you will need to be fairly confident in your abilities, well-prepared (there’s a comprehensive scrutineering process to pass), and you’ll definitely need a support crew to assist with refuelling.
If you can get your head around all that then you will get to experience a truly great form of motorsport in some spectacular surroundings. The nearest one to the UK takes place in Alsace (four hours drive from Calais) in spring. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be able to speak fluent French, but a smattering of the basics usually helps…
Event: Traditional timecard enduro
Where: Various locations in France
Contact: Try googling Rand’Auvergne, Val de Lorraine, Trefle Lozerien, Grappe de Cyrano…
RUST Tip: You can enter over the internet but you need to be fast as most events fill-up rapidly. Also you will need an insurance document showing that your policy covers road use (overseas), plus your bike’s V5, and a doctor’s certificate pronouncing you fit enough to ride in competition.
Pictures above and below are from the Grappe de Cyrano (de Bergerac) event… There are two other articles about riding the Grappe de Cyrano, just click one of the links below…
Stella Alpina Motociclistica Internazionale
The Stella Alpina Rally, as the event’s become known, isn’t a rally in the competitive sense as there’s absolutely no racing at all. Instead it’s based around a mass trail ride…
Every year, on the second Sunday in July, Turinese rider Mario Artusio heads up into the mountains surrounding the Italian Alpine town of Bardonecchia, close to the French/Italian border. The Col de Sommeiller, almost 10,000ft up, is where he rides and those who follow him up there earn themselves a pin badge and a T-shirt.
The track starts out as tarmac but soon degrades into a dirt and rock trail, best suited to dirtbikes and big trailies. However, alongside hordes of GSs and Adventures you’ll also see Gold Wings, FireBlades and all manner of tackle trying to get as far up into the mountains as the riders’ skill, and their bikes’ ground clearance, allow.
Whilst this trail ride is the ‘main event’ of the weekend, the Stella’ is just as much a fabulous social gathering, with riders camped out in the town over the weekend all having a great time. For once forget the competitive element, load up the big trailie with your missus and the camping gear and head to the Alps. You won’t be disappointed…
Event: Rally gathering for big trailies
Where: Bardonecchia in the Italian Alps
When: From the 8 July 2018
RUST Tip: Whilst the event takes place in Summer, Bardonecchia sits at over 4300ft and therefore it can get pretty chilly at night. So pack a warm sleeping bag…
The VINCE – Very Interesting Navigation Challenge Event
Previously known as the Horizons Unlimited Mountain Madness, the VINCE (as was the HUMM) is the brainchild of the infamous adventurer Austin Vince.
Essentially a two-day team trail bike orienteering event, riders are tasked with finding a number of waypoints strewn about an area in the Spanish Pyrenees, locating small brass plaques which Austin has placed there, and noting down the numbers stamped into them. The plaques can be on trees, rocks, walls, signs, telegraph poles, small mammals… Rather than tallying the number of plaques you find, each is worth a certain number of points and you have a time limit to find as many as possible.
To help you, Austin sends out a map of the area, and a photo-book showing the general location of each waypoint, two months in advance. Whether you study the map in detail, studiously researching the area on Google Earth and working out a plan of action, or simply turn-up and wing-it (as we did) is up to you. But it will have a direct bearing on your result!
The Pyrenean trails (and the roads for that matter) are wonderful, though you’re unlikely to use any that are so tough you couldn’t get a big trailie along ‘em. So expect to see everything from Serows to Adventures taking part. Indeed, Austin also runs a twin-shock only event (called the Twin-Shock Trailfinder) in September, to exactly the same format.
The event is as much a social gathering as it is a competition, and evenings are usually spent with a group meal and a mid-event standings update from Austin, before everyone hits the bar!
Event: Trail orienteering
Where: Oliana, Spanish Pyreneans
When: September 5 and 6 September 2018
RUST Tip: If you’re in-it-to-win-it then you’ll need good preparation, fantastic organisation and fine map-reading skills. It’s also worth knowing that Spanish cops are sticklers for detail. You must have your headlight switched on during the day and having at least one mirror on your bike is a good idea if you want to avoid a tug.
For many motorsport fans, the word ‘Baja’ is enough to conjure up images of classic Huskys blatting across cacti-ridden plains. For those with less grasp of off-road heritage it merely elicits pronunciation problems… ‘Bar-jar?’ ‘Badger?’
The Baja (pronounced ‘Bar-har’) 1000 originated as a Honda publicity stunt and has developed into arguably THE biggest and most important off-road event in the USA. Well, that’s partially true as it actually takes place in Baja California, a Pacific coast peninsula which is part of Mexico.
Each year the 1000 alternates between being (roughly) 1000 miles or 1000km – the shorter of the two generally being a loop from, and back into, Ensenada, whilst the big ‘un takes competitors from Ensenada all the way down the peninsula to La Paz. If you’re the kind of person who can’t be bothered to take a look around a five-minute enduro special test beforehand you’ll be shocked to hear that ‘pre-running’ the course, or at least sections of it, is the norm for those looking to do well!
The desert race is usually tackled in teams (though you can ‘ironman’ it if you’re truly mental!) as even the quickest competitors take 13-20 or-so hours to complete the course, depending on its length. And it’s open to both two- and four-wheeled machines, with classes allowing for anything from a small-bore trailie or standard VW Beetle to a single-seater buggy or big-bore dirtbike. However, top of the Baja food-chain are the ‘trophy trucks’ – V8-powered monsters that make a Dakar rally car look as mean as a G-Whizz. Their Nascar-spec engines, huge suspension travel, and lightweight bodies atop tubular chassis allow the drivers to maintain unbelievable speeds across rough terrain and they often announce their presence behind each other by simply driving into the back of the car in front!
Pictures above from the Baja 1000…
Bikes are generally big-tanked enduro/MX machines with modifications such as increased oil capacity and QD lighting kits for when the sun goes down. For years the (overall) bike class was dominated by Honda’s XR650R, before the CRF450 arrived on the scene and took over the mantle. (The last time a Honda DIDN’T win was 1996, when a KX500 took top honours!)
So why would you want to ride the Baja? Because it’s one of the world’s greatest motorsport events and there’s nothing like it in Europe. Because it takes you through some incredible scenery and areas such as the famous dirtbiking paradise of Mike’s Sky Ranch. Because you get to ride flat-out desert, wide sandy beaches and technical hill trails. And because it could be described as a cross between a desert rally and the Wacky Races!
Viewed from afar, it’s easy to think that the Baja isn’t achievable for riders from this side of the pond. Not so. There are companies (such as Chris Haines Motorcycle Adventure Co.) who provide hire bikes and full assistance – so all you need to do is fill-in a few entry forms, arrange some flights, and bung it all on the credit card..! Or if you don’t fancy the full 1000, you could always opt for its little brother, the Baja 500…
Event: Desert race
Where: Baja California, Mexico
When: October 8-13 2018
Contact: 001 818-225-8402 www.score-international.com
RUST Tip: Look out for crowds of people. They’ll be gathered around some kind of obstacle (often a big jump) and it’s not unknown for locals to ‘booby trap’ the course with obstacles to add a little extra excitement! And give way to trophy trucks…
Okay… we confess, we haven’t actually participated in an Irish enduro (though we have ridden over there), but it’s at the top of our ‘must-do’ list for the following reasons. First of all the Irish are a great bunch of people who really know how to enjoy themselves, and by all accounts put on a fabulous enduro. That has been confirmed to us countless times. Secondly, they have fabulous countryside with mountains, moors, bogland, and glorious scenery that is quite sparsely populated and close to Britain. Thirdly… they all speak English! Kind of…
We understand TORC is the main club in Ireland for time-card enduros and most of the events are run in Wicklow and Wexford, only an hour or two from Dublin. Laps can be anything from 30-55km long (and depending upon which class you ride you may have to ride anything from one to four laps), and they are mainly run on forestry land with some open mountain and lots of steep climbs and descents.
There are various different classes including expert, clubmen and senior as well as three ‘novice/beginner’ classes: Trailbike, Novice and Sportsmen all of which do fewer laps and don’t get awarded points.
It may not be very far away, but no other country can offer you the combination of lush scenery, challenging events and the best Guinness in the world…
Event: Traditional timecard enduro
Where: All over Eire and some in NI
When: All year round
Contact: Try TORC club in Eire and Foyle in NI, plus www.enduro.ie
TBM Tip: Like any overseas event, make sure your bike is in tip-top condition, and you’re carrying a few obvious spares. It’s a long way to go to fall foul of a broken clutch lever.
Austria’s Red Bull Erzberg Hare Scramble is often top of the ‘wish list’ for hobby riders looking to take part in a foreign extreme event. And why not? I mean, it’s arguably the ultimate extreme enduro. Here’s why not: To take part in the main Hare Scramble event you need to qualify, and to do that you must finish within the top 500 in two timed sprints to the top of the mountain. That means beating roughly 1000 other riders, just to scrape it into the main event. Unless you’re very quick, and confident riding absolutely flat-out on the dirt, then you’ve no chance!
No, if you want to take part in an achievable extreme event then may we recommend Portugal’s Extreme Lagares. Jump on the Plymouth (or Portsmouth) -to-Santander ferry and the Portuguese village of Lagares is a six-hour drive the other side. There you will find an incredibly welcoming dirtbike club who run a tough, but rideable ‘hard enduro’ on a well-designed course with some unique obstacles.
While the event does attract some top names – Lampkin, Birch, Jarvis, Bolton, Lettenbichler etc – there’s still an emphasis on creating an enjoyable race for lesser riders, and there are classes for both expert and ‘amateur’ riders. So not only do you get the buzz of competing alongside some of the world’s best, but you also get to really relish the riding, with a large enthusiastic crowd cheering you on.
That’s not to say that there won’t be some pushing, shoving, sweating and swearing involved – this is a top flight event which is designed to push the world’s best riders – but in the lower leagues you ride as a team of two, and don’t complete as many laps as the pros. And once the race is run you can make a real holiday of it and hit the beach or the wonderful Portuguese trails…
Event: Extreme enduro
Where: Lagares Penafiel, Portugal
When: 18-20 May 2018
RUST Tip: If you don’t fancy a roadtrip, you can fly to Porto and then hire a bike to compete on. Make sure you walk the prologue course (that determines your start position) so you know what’s coming up…
Others to consider…
Red Bull Sea to Sky 2018
Rideable Turkish extreme event that takes riders from beach to mountaintop. This year it takes place 26-29 September in Kemer, Turkey.
Four-day Moroccan timecard enduro run by the Swiss Federation (mainly because they can’t hold such events in Switzerland!). Expect sand, mountain tracks, rocks and riverbeds. Takes place at the start of March (so get your entry in quick! You might be lucky…). Wilderness Wheels will rent you a bike and help with support.
Pics above are from the Agagdir Enduro. You can also read a feature about the Agadir Enduro by clicking here… https://rustsports.com/life/the-agadir-enduro_5246.html
Crazy seven-day extreme ‘raid’ in the dirtbiking paradise of Romania. Hobby class riders don’t have to tackle the real hard stuff, but there’s still plenty of tough riding to be done. July 24-28 this year and KTM 350 (Freeride or EXC-F) hire is available through www.actionland.ro