I wrote this a few weeks ago for Outrider Journal to use online, and got their permission to repost here, thinking we might get an interesting discussion started while many of us suffer from inhospitable weather. ---------------------------------------------------- The Dakar rally is here, and for me, its the best event of the year. I like it for an odd reason- its so long, and so arduous, that it does not favor merely the quick, but also the smart and the tough. Its a full human experience, embodying both the highest highs and the lowest lows for everyone who chooses to participate. No one has an uneventful Dakar, it simply cannot be. In other words, I like it because its not simply a race. So, the people who participate in the Dakar transcend the word racer to me. In my mind, a racer is someone who thrives so much on competition that they would stuff an old lady in the grocery store if they could get their shopping cart on an inside line, who never smile except on the top step of a podium and who pump iron and eat spinach. That description almost perfectly fails to match me, and I bet it fails to describe you too. Most people I know who are enthusiastic about riding adventure bikes, are not racers. Im not a racer, but I do race from time to time, and I think everyone who cares deeply about riding should give it a try if they are able. Heres why: 1) Its a hell of a good time: its a closed course, and youre actually allowed, even encouraged, to go as fast as you want. This is magical, because no matter what anyone says, fast is better than slow and this is a fine way to prove it to yourself. Add to that the emotional cycle that starts with excitement, builds to nervous anticipation, and finally becomes euphoria out on the course, and you have a really fine way to break free from the shackles of the inane. 2) It helps you know your place: Often, when Im on a particularly fun stretch, I imagine that I could be one of the fast guys. No one, I imagine, could possibly go any faster. Racing will tell you whether youre right or not. Finding out Im wrong, and seeing what fast really is, is one of the most enjoyable experiences I ever have, it seems like it should be depressing but instead it lets you realize what a wide and wonderful world we live in, and how much quicker someone else can get across it. 3) This leads to my third point: You will be a part of something with people who share your passion. If you wake up in the morning thinking about motorcycles, you need to go try a race, because the entire event will be filled with people just like you, and being among them will make you realize that the world is a pretty good place. And getting to share an experience with all those people, and especially the ones who are really good at what you share, is a wonderful experience. 4) Losing isnt a bad thing: Our culture is very focused on winning, and its easy to fall prey to the second place = first loser T-shirt slogans. These make sense to us because the public image of racing is the battle for first place, as it should be, and the guy who got second is often crushed. The guy who got second is also, most likely, a lot faster than either of us. The guy who got tenth was thrilled to achieve it, which leads to my rule of racing- satisfaction comes from exceeding expectations. As a non-racer, our expectations can afford to be set pretty low, so its likely we can leave the event satisfied. After all, if it were about winning, only a few people would have any legitimate reason to show up. There are a hundred reasons not to race, and in some cases they are pretty good ones. But many people overestimate the difficulty of taking part in an event- you arent trying to win your first time out, so its OK not to have the latest and greatest. If you have a small bike, try an Enduro. If you have a larger one, try a rallymoto. Dont worry about buying stuff to be competitive, just get to the start line and take a swing at it. You are guaranteed to place ahead of all the folks who didnt try it, and you might just find something that changes how you view fellow shoppers at the grocery store.