In a world awash with social media it’s my opinion that there are only so many true ‘influencers’ who are truly engaging and changing peoples’ perspectives, and nowhere is this more apparent than in our niche of off-road motorcycling. True influencers are doers rather than self-promotors, they’re grafters, racers, adventurers who get properly stuck in – doing stuff that’s very real, quite different to those quick-touch pieces you see from the pretenders showboating to the ephemeral click-and-flick audience.
And no question, authenticity comes at a price in our world…
Patsy Quick has earned her place as one true influencer having fronted up to some of the toughest global events (Dakar and Romaniacs included), not only competing for herself but equally her company, Desert Rose, has helped so many others fulfil their dreams, too. No gimmicks here, Patsy and Desert Rose are solid, real people with first-hand experience of what it takes to achieve your dreams.
Having just returned from a four-day off-road trip in the Algarve organised by Patsy and Desert Rose what I came away with is that this is not just another off-road motorcycle touring company, but rather an authentic organisation staffed with dedicated, experienced people who have a genuine desire to help clients realise their dreams.
The Desert Rose story began a long time ago with a woman chasing a dream. Patsy’s suffered serious injuries and setbacks but also enjoyed many successes while competing in major UK and European championships in enduro and motocross, but it was her years battling with the Dakar Rally that truly defined her. Starting in 2003 – when she crashed heavily, suffering life-threatening injuries – she was thwarted three times before finally finishing the Dakar in 2006. That’s, of course, years of effort and so many heavyweight trials and tribulations summed up in one lightweight sentence.
Patsy’s steely, determined character is born of these life experiences, yet it is her capacity to share her depth of knowledge, to support and empower others to realise their own motorcycling goals that marks her out as a special person. Desert Rose Racing started after that successful Dakar Rally, in 2007, drawing on her wealth of personal racing experience and bringing together a team of seasoned professionals. Over the years Desert Rose has in addition to race support developed a platform of progressive end-to-end services that helps riders of every level, whether at the very beginning of their off-road careers or realising their loftiest of rally and enduro dreams.
And if there ever was such a thing as ‘care givers’ in our world then it’s a title I’d bestow on Patsy, Harry, Paul and the team at Desert Rose. Every business needs to make money, sure, but from an outsider’s perspective the calm, nurturing and passionate involvement with each of their clients communicates genuine care and attention without the normal commercial overtones.
There is a quiet air of competence given off by the team that’s inevitably reciprocated by their clients. Each one of the team members has a stake in the business and this shows the type of leader Patsy is and the belief she had in her team. Leadership is a top-down thing and having spent time with Desert Rose over the years its evident that fostering skills and nurturing talent within the team is as much part of their business as cultivating their clients’ skills and dreams.
I really appreciated the relaxed, calm atmosphere that prevailed over the four days, even when things were not going exactly to plan which, to be fair, was not often and only on matters out of Desert Rose’s control.
So, to the four-day Desert Rose Portugal tour itself. This is no fly-ride tour and as a result the Desert Rose clientele is vastly different to the usual holiday trail riders – and this is the first of many differentiators to other tours I have ridden and reviewed in the past.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a good deal of very good Portuguese off-road tour operators that bring a uniquely Portuguese flavour to riding in their home country. They mostly offer great routes, hotels, food, and well-maintained motorcycle fleets for their fly-ride customer base. For Portuguese residents, options exist to ride events on their own bikes but none of the Portuguese tour operators (that I am aware of) offer a service to collect and return UK punters bikes from the UK (so difficult in this post-Brexit era). This allows Desert Rose and the Portuguese tour operators to operate side by side and collectively thrive since their offers appeal to a vastly different clientele.
Patsy and her team can of course provide a range of enduro bikes (Betas) but it’s evident that her clientele are true enthusiasts with the vast majority opting to have Desert Rose transport their personal bikes from the UK to Portugal for the experience.
Subliminally the tour starts well before they land in Portugal – Desert Rose introduces their clients to the logistics of adventure by having to think about overcoming the red tape of getting your bike across borders, thinking about bike prep, packing and maintenance for the trip. Of course, Desert Rose takes it pretty easy on them, but this adds a dimension to the tour that is a sort of free lesson that helps prepare their clients mentally to deal with these barriers to potential solo adventures abroad in the future.
I roamed the event over the four days, riding with different groups on different days, and what I experienced was intuitive guidance from the Desert Rose team. En-route training on how to deal with hill climbs, descents, log hops, navigation etc were all part of the day’s ride out for those who needed it and done in such a way that wasn’t overbearing. This was borne out by the skills progression seen in many of the riders and by the numerous thank-you’s and comments from the riders to the trainers over a few beers at the end of the day.
As riders progressed, they were offered the chance to free-ride, or not, and I liked that. As many opted for that option as not and in the end, as they say, the proof is in the pudding – not an unhappy note was to be heard from start to finish of the tour.
One of the best things about the whole experience was the community of riders. What a great bunch! There was a load of laughter and shared stories, but the kindness and support shown towards each other was lovely to see. Most of the riders had already ridden with Desert Rose in one guise or another and I have no doubt that they will again.
As for the amenities, the hotel was a blinder, the food and drink good and the routes were comparable with other touring companies in the region. I ride a lot in Portugal, so I’m used to the tracks and terrain here and I do think this is one area that can be expanded and enhanced over time, but they were appropriate for the various skill levels of the riders on tour, and everyone had a great time. Each day offered a different route with the option of roadbook or GPS to explore the tracks of the day. Routes varied in length from 160km on day one to 280km on day four, or anywhere in-between depending on the skill and stamina levels of the group. Somehow Harry and Paul managed to tailor routes and riding to suit everyone – not an easy task with a big group.
In closing, my final thoughts turn to my expectations of the ride and the clientele. I had expected the riders attending the Desert Rose tour to be more serious rallye riders using this as part of their training for upcoming events (and there were one or two). But the majority were on a holiday with a view to learning to read a roadbook in a relaxed way with a view to potential for as-yet undefined future endeavours. What I could not have anticipated was the broad range of enthusiasts on the tour, from road racers to engine builders, and everyone in-between, which made for some pretty interesting conversations over great food and a few beers.
So it is that Patsy and the Desert Rose are the real deal. To call them ‘influencers’ is inappropriate – that’s just a buzzword and, as said at the top of this story, frankly nine out of ten self-proclaimed influencers are nothing of the sort. Patsy and Desert Rose are real people making a real difference; inspiring, enabling and growing our pastime.