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We’re right in the middle of world’s biggest and greatest race, one of the toughest rallies known to mankind. We’re talking about the famous, or should I same notorious, Dakar rally.

Back in 1978, Frenchman Thierry Sabine (already know for organizing the wacky Le Touquet beach race) got lost in the Libyan desert on his motorcycle while racing in the Abidjan-Nice rally. He spent many days & nights digging himself out of the sand, and thought this could be a great idea for a motorcycle race. So next year he organized a race for his friends, all amateurs, to race from Paris to Senegal’s capital, Dakar.

Trucks were required to give assistance to the weary riders, and cars also entered the rally. A legend was born, the Paris-Dakar rally.

Although even today the majority of races have finished in Dakar, it wasn’t always the route Paris to Dakar. The last time Paris was used as departure was in 2001, and even before that, 3 times Paris was avoided. The reason for that was simple; weather. The Dakar rally starts in January, and often it snows at that time in France.

The routes were different each year, and eventually Dakar was left out of the destination. With more and more terrorist activities taking place in the Northern part of Africa, eventually in 2009 the organizers, ASO (organizers a.o. of the famous bicycle race the Tour de France), decided to move the race to South America, where it is still being held today.

Cyril Depres in the 2012 Dakar

Cyril Depres in the 2012 Dakar

The motorcycle portion of the race (the rally is divided into cars, quad, trucks and motorcycles) generates the most interest from the public. And there’s a good reason for it; the efforts required to ride a motorcycle through deep sand, dunes, mountains, plaines and the feared fesh-fesh (a thin ash), often for hours on end, are practically inhuman. Riders at times don’t get to see their beds (which are small pup-tents) for days, requiring major physical efforts to dig out their bikes from the sand, repair & maintain and provide their own assistance. And all that while high speed cars and trucks blast past them, often missing them by a hair (and sometimes they do crash with deadly results – 62 people have died in the Dakar, but not all in the race, sometimes in “normal” traffic accidents).

The dream of most is just to finish the race and arrive at the final destination in one piece. Forget about winning the race, that’s left to super professionals like Cyril Despres, Marc Coma and a few others. Usually more than 50% of the entered bikes don’t arrive at their destination, some even ending their dreams in the first day.

The professionals, all riding for manufacturers’ teams, require big budgets to win. Millions are spent on the race, since it’s a showcase for the motorcycle manufacturer if they win world’s toughest race.

Dakar-1980-Vespa

Dakar-1980-Vespa

Since 2001, Austrian manufacturer KTM has won every single race. Before that, the bikes that won most races were BMW, Honda and Yamaha. But all sorts of bikes have entered the race, Moto Guzzi, Cagiva and even a Vespa scooter.

Entering the race, even as an amateur costs a lot of money, so much that some have even mortgaged their homes to be able to race. ASO figure that you need a budget of €75,000 to race as amateur.

Alpinestars Tech 8   Gaerne Balance   Tourmaster synergy

Stephane Peterhansel is by far the racer with the most victories. He won the race on a Yamaha motorcycle 6 times, and then went racing in a car, winning the Dakar 4 times. It shows how tough the race is for motorcycles, since several motorcycle winners have gone to race cars in the Dakar.

Thierry Sabine had a slogan for his race, a slogan is means something to competitors and spectators alike: “A challenge for those who go. A dream for those who stay behind.”.

Unfortunately, Thierry Sabine died in a helicopter crash during the 1986 rally. Today, the legend still lives, and millions (according to ASO statistics, 1 billion people will have seen images of the race each year) enjoy and dream of this race.

Will you be one of the next competitors?

Alpinestars Tech 8

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We all do it when the new year strikes midnight. We make some resolutions, or promises to ourselves that we plan to do for the year.

Often they are about losing weight, doing more exercise, being nice to neighbors or learning to make that special meal for your loved one. But how about new year resolution for you & your motorcycle?

Here are a few you may want to consider. Don’t take all of them, since you’ll never get all done, and it’ll end a disappointment.

  1. Clean the motorcycle regularlyIt’s a pain, but it’s the best for you and your bike. Often we start cleaning at the beginning, but towards the end of the season, it’s quickly forgotten.
  2. Check your tire pressure before setting out – alwaysTire pressure is important, and even if it’s a visual inspection, it’s better than nothing. You should really do it every ride, but as humans we’re lazy. Better commit to doing it.
  3. Ride more, preferably to workNothing beats riding, even to work. But when we get tired from work, you get lazy and take a cage. But remember when riding your motorcycle you will feel so much better.
  4. Make those long awaited upgradesOften put off, why not get that extra gear or upgrade and install it. You’ll thank yourself afterwards?
  5. Learn to fix and maintain your bikeIf you don’y know how, how about a course to learn to fix your own bike? It’ll save you money in the long run, and it’s gratifying.
  6. Take advanced or refresher motorcycle riding courseYou can never learn enough or train enough. Be a safe rider.
  7. Get your racing licenseEven if you don’t plan to race, learning to race means you learn to control your bike under difficult circumstances.
  8. Do more track timeIf you like riding fast, knock yourself out (not physically please) on a track. Get your adrenaline flowing.
  9. Go to a big motorcycle event (Sturgis, MotoGP, Le Mans)If you’ve never been, GO! It’s like going to Mecca for your once in a lifetime pilgrimage.
  10. Ride a motorcycle charity run (like Toys for Tots, etc)Be good and help others.

New-Year-2013

No matter what your new year’s resolutions are, have a great and happy new year, and most important, ENJOY.

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The first decision you have to make when buying a new motorcycle is which brand and model. They are important decisions since the manufacturer and model have to please you since you’ll be riding them for years to come. But the second decision is probably as crucial as the first, namely what color.

PigeonIt may sound strange that color would be so important, but according to a recent survey done by British retailing group Halfords, depending on the color of a car, more or less bird droppings may be found. In other words, if you have got the wrong color, be prepared to be cleaning more.

The survey was made on cars, but it applies to motorcycles as well. The surface is just smaller for birds to make their deposits, but make them they will.

The survey of 1140 cars showed that 18% of cars that received bird poop were red. The next in line were blue cars at 14%, black at 11%, white at 7% and grey or silver at 3%.

The lucky ones? Kawasaki owners should be happy, since only 1% of green cars got hit by bird droppings.

Of course this is not a scientific study, but a survey. Color is not the only determining factor for a bird; location, shelter, threats etc all play a factor. But one thing is for sure, if your motorcycle has been targeted by birds, clean it off immediately. Paint will deteriorate if you don’t remove the bird droppings. You will start seeing discoloration, and that is a bad thing. And that goes especially for Ducati and Honda owners, since your motorcycles are predominantly red.

The only thing you can do if your motorcycle “sleeps” outside is put a motorcycle cover over it.

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If you are in the market for a new or pre-owned motorcycle, and you are not too fussy about the model, colors and options, the time to buy a new bike is now.

Since most people stop riding their motorcycle during the winter, many are longing for a new ride the next year. So they will try to offload their motorcycle now, raise the cash, and then in spring buy a new model.

Snowed-In-Motorcycle for sale

In other words, many bikers will be trying to sell their bikes, and the longer it takes, the cheaper the motorcycles become. Many bikers don’t think about buying a motorcycle when it snows, so the demand is low, but the offers are quite plenty.

Check the local newspaper listing, or check the on-line web sites like eBay or Craiglist. You’ll be sure to find some interesting motorcycles for sale at very reasonable prices.

If you are more into a new motorcycle, but you don’t really need next year’s model, now is the time to go through the doors of your local motorcycle dealer. They will be desperate to get rid of this year’s inventory, often giving big discounts.

Maybe you’ll not have the latest model, but in the end, do you really need that extra little gadget, or those 2 extra horsepowers the manufacturer has managed to squeeze out of the engine in next year’s model?

You will have less choice in terms of colors, usually your discounts will be limited to what is in stock. But you will not beat the price. And remember to negotiate. Don’t take their first offer, they need to get rid of their stock if they are getting new models for next year’s riding season.

The only problem you will most probably face is getting the bike home, especially if it’s snowing.

Happy hunting.

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Like any group of likeminded people, we have our own quotes and sayings. They can be what you will find in one of the many discussion forums, in books & magazines, t-shirts or on a bumper sticker. But wherever you find the saying, more often than not, the saying makes sense. There’s usually a lot of truth behind them.

One of the most popular sayings is “Four wheels move the body, two wheels move the soul”. And as will be the case with most quotations, the author is unknown. It’s just a term that grew. But in a simple phrase, the author summed up what riding a motorcycle is all about. Another one pitting cars (cages) against motorcycles is “only animals belong in cages” from an unknown author.

About the ride

If we do want a quotation from a known author, how about “faster, faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death”. That quotation sums up what often happens when riding. The author was none other than famous book author Hunter Thompson. On the same term, but from the other side of the coin comes this saying from an unknown author “never ride faster than your guardian angel can fly”., or how about “if you ride like there’s no tomorrow, there won’t be”, also from an unknown source.

Another beautiful one is “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey”.

About bikers

Another famous one with an unknown author is “only a biker knows why a dog sticks his head out of a car window”. And I always thought it was because a dog couldn’t stand the smell of the humans in the car😉 How about this one about bikers “you don’t stop riding because you get old, you get old because you stop riding” (unknown author). Another saying which is derived from the aviation industry is “there are drunks bikers, there are old bikers, but there are NO old drunk bikers”.

The difference between old and young bikers can be summed up with “young riders pick a destination and go, old riders pick a direction and go”.

About our gear

From an unknown author comes one about our leathers: “people are more violently opposed to fur than leather because it’s safer to harass rich women than motorcycle gangs”.

A quotation that mentions two of the most used items for a biker “it it moves and it shouldn’t, use duct tape, it if doesn’t move and should, use WD-40”.

About our motorcycles

Other very popular sayings are “keep the paint up, and the rubber down”, or just “keep the rubber down”, or “keep the shiny side up”, all from unknown authors. Another one you’ll see often enough from an unknown is “work to ride and ride to work” (or “live to ride, ride to live”). In the same category, that of riding to work, comes this one, also from an unknown “life is too short from traffic”.

As we all know, motorcycles sometimes leak oil, but according to this unknown author “bikes don’t leak oil, they mark their territory”. Another saying that is often a hot debate issue is “loud pipes save lives”.

This is only a very small sample of all the sayings and quotations you can find in the motorcycle world. There are hundreds of them. But they are all enjoyable. We’ll part with the last one, a safety quotation from unknown source “sweat wipes off, road rash doesn’t”.

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All bikers need motorcycle gear, even if it’s the minimum, and not all of us have the money to spend on top-of-the-line equipment. But that doesn’t mean that we have to do with bad equipment. It’s very possible to buy gear at low prices without sacrificing quality. Because quality is what we’re after when selecting stuff that will save our lives, not cheap and dangerous gear.

Just because a helmet or jacket is low in price does not necessarily mean it is bad quality. Not all manufacturers have enormous marketing & advertising costs, so their product quality is very good, but their street price remains low. Obviously you will need to look carefully when selecting gear on a budget. It’s tempting to buy something that is cheap just because it’s cheap. Make sure it’s cheap AND reliable.

The last thing you want is to buy gear that is cheap, both in price and quality.

For example, when buying a helmet – the essential safety equipment – low cost does not mean bad quality. One quick way of finding out if a helmet is to be trusted, is to check the English Government’s SHARP site. The British government does laboratory testing on many helmets, and will rate them according to predefined methods. Here you can see if the helmet you want is to be trusted, no matter which price. Even very expensive helmets can be of worse quality than cheap ones. There are other sites that test helmets, but this one is the most extensive and the most neutral testing organization.

UK SHARP site

Another way to find out if the helmet or other gear is to be trusted are reviews by web sites and discussion forums. Although individual reviews do not necessarily mean they are accurate (there may be biases or commercial incentives involved), if the product you are looking into on average gets good marks from reviewers, then you can be assured it’s a good product. The internet is your friend, use it to your advantage.

Take the webBikeWorld site for example. This web site tests a lot of gear every month and publishes detailed reports, often comparing the product with other ones in the same category. It will allow you to make a good informed purchase decision. They are not the only site, just Google reviews to find out how many, but as sites go, they are very extensive.

webBikeWorld

The other way to buy quality gear for a good price is a question of timing. If you can wait and have the time to buy your gear, why not wait for a) sales or b) a new updated model of the gear you want comes along.

Sales

Almost every store and on-line site have sales, sometimes several per year. That is when you can buy really good and upmarket gear for big discounts, often half price.

Check the major sale times at on-line stores, usually the holiday seasons like Halloween, Christmas etc. On-line stores are usually cheaper since their infrastructure costs are a lot lower than brick & mortar stores.

Model Updates

Manufacturer have to make new models or update older ones on a regular basis. It’s like sharks need to keep swimming if not they’ll die, manufacturers need new models if not they’ll disappear. And when they do bring a new or updated model, the current stocks of older models need to be gotten rid of quickly. So keep an eye on the motorcycle press, written or on-line. If a new model of whatever gear you need is announced by a manufacturer you like, you can bet your bottom dollar that within weeks you’ll find the old gear being discounted.

Check on-line stores which have closeout sales. That’s your best bet for find good quality gear at a lower price.

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Respect – David Barr

Riding a motorcycle on its own is difficult enough. Anyone who is just starting to learn how to ride one will know that. Even under the easiest of circumstances, you need to have a good control of your body in order to properly control your bike.

You can then imagine how difficult it is if you are someone like David Barr. David, a former professional soldier, lost both his legs when his car went over a mine in Angola. In order to save his life, the South African doctors had to amputate both his legs. But despite the fact that he no longer had any legs, David went back to active duty until his contract ran out.

When he returned to the USA, he took out to his “old” motorcycle, a 1972 Harley-Davidson Panhead which he bought just after returning from Vietnam in 1971. He restored to Harley, fitting it with devices that allowed him to ride his motorcycle with his prosthetics. He also fitted it with an electric starter, since there was no way he could start the heavy bike otherwise.

After getting used to the bike, he set out doing something that only a few people have done before him – all of them with no disabilities. He went and took his Harley around the world!

David Barr in China

During 3 1/2 years, David took his Harley-Davidson on an 83,000 miles journey around the world, often riding under extreme conditions and the most dangerous roads.

David finally returned home in 1994, and wrote a lengthy book about his ordeal. Called “Riding the Edge”, he describes, supported by many photos, his trip and all the memories.

In 1996, David finally put his trusty ride to rest, with 250,000 miles on it. He then set out in the same year on a new Harley-Davidson Sportser 883 with a sidecar, from France into the Siberian winter, traveling through a desolate Russia. The trip resulted in another book, called “Riding the Ice”.

David’s incredible adventures have earned him 2 Guinness World Records, and an induction in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2000.

With several books to his name, documentaries and worldwide recognition, David is now on the lecture circuit as a motivational speaker.

Click here to go to David’s website where you can read more about him and buy his books and/or DVDs.

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