This guest post was kindly contributed by Lyndon Poskitt of Lyndon Poskitt Racing.
Living in the south of Spain now we get 320 days of sunshine and riding opportunities, then there’s the 45 others that are overcast and about 20 of them that have rain. Today is one of those 20 so what better way to spend it than sharing content and my thoughts on different topics. I’ve been thinking about this one for a while, looking back at how I consider my Adventure Riding learning and experiences have contributed to the success I have had Rally Racing. While the article may talk a lot about my experiences, it is aimed at giving you some food for thought of how you can make your rides more successful by being more reliable and generally being better prepared and ultimately making your rides more enjoyable.
Rally Racing can be brutal, but so can Adventure Riding and I have to say that when things go bad (which they have many times for me over the years) these times made the greatest stories, the greatest learning and the best videos however, things could have been different if I was not able to get out of those situations successfully. Off the top of my head I think about situations like complete electrical failure on the KTM950 in the middle of the Sahara Desert in 2009, breaking my axle clamp on the bottom of my fork leg in Dakar 2013 leaving my front wheel no longer connected to my fork on the left side, getting stuck in the jungle in Thailand in 100% humidity and 100F and one more, crashing in Tanzania and breaking my hand and damaging my knee, unable to ride and knowing Lions were in the area. In all of these situations I was alone, yet in all of them I was able to make a plan and successfully get out of the situation. These were big issues that are typically infrequent and may never happen to you but there are many smaller ones that happen on a much more frequent basis such as getting punctures, small mechanical issues with the bike and knowing how to manage / understand your personal ability and limits, fitness, hydration and energy levels, something we should all be really mindful of.
I attribute a large percentage of my preparedness and success in Rally Racing to all the adventure riding that I have done, both in groups, with friends and alone. While it is great riding with others, there’s nothing like riding alone to get the mind thinking about “what if” situations and getting yourself prepared for the desert. Riding solo and being properly prepared ultimately means carrying a bit more stuff, something I suffered with on Races to Places but I was happy to have spare parts and things I needed to keep the wheels turning. If you ride in groups, you can limit the stuff you need to carry by sharing between you to some extent but personally I like to think I am self sufficient, you never know when you might get split up.
I’m going to break it down into 5 elements:
Machine preparation is really important to ensure reliability and success in your adventures. You want your machine in a mechanical and electrical state that is fit for the journey intended. Sure, my bikes are not always perfect, even moreso when I travelled around the world using the same bike day in – day out and not cleaning it for months on end however, I know their current state, I understand their weak points and moreso, have a good idea what to do to fix them. One rule I have always given myself (actually it was my Dad that started this with me) is to always do any work on the bike yourself, or at least as much as possible. Even if you are not a mechanic you can learn the basics and it’s the basics that get you out of a lot of situations. Working on your own bike means you get to know it and understand it and this comes in so handy when you cannot just call on a recovery service, for example when remote adventure riding. Being able to jump on issues on the trail or during a rally stage means you can maintain progress without losing too much time or even having to wait for the next guy to help you, impacting their ride also.
Now, we all have those mates that say “it’s ok, it’s a new bike” or “it’s ok I’m with someone else” and I’ve even been that guy myself before but we all know that there’s nothing worse than that guy than breaks down or gets the puncture or needs something from someone else and is not prepared. Punctures without tubes and levers, mechanical issues without tools, dehydration without water, exhaustion without any physical training are just some of the things that will slow a group down or even completely ruin what could have been a great days riding. I’ve pulled up to so many people with issues at Dakar or on the trail and they are simply not prepared; injector problems with no spare injector, asking for a tow without a tow strap and even out of fuel with no way to get it across to them. Carry a simple piece of 1” webbing as a tow strap and use footpeg to footpeg wrapped around so if you lift your foot off the peg it becomes detached quickly. It makes so much difference if you are the guy that is prepared, more people are willing to help knowing you made every effort to minimise time or demand on others, be in one person or a group. I learnt this while adventure riding and it goes a long way in Rally racing too. Know the weak points on your model of bike and carry appropriate spares, especially on longer, remote adventures and don’t think because it’s new it won’t have a weak point.
My travel / racing tool kit is prepared in my workshop at home by using the smallest lightest tools to do all the jobs I might need to do on the bike. Using the bare minimum I then pack those into my tool kit. It’s a great kit for KTM’s and has got me out of a few tricky situations. Use your tool kit at home and you’ll soon find out what’s missing that you might need. Also, make sure you check it regularly, it’s a bummer when you are on the trail to find your friend borrowed the 8mm wrench and didn’t put it back!
One final note, and especially if you are new to Adventure Riding or travelling on your motorcycle for an extended period of time, do a short trip with your setup to test it all and even get an experienced friend to look over it for you. When I started I carried far too much stuff. For a look at what I carried on Races to Places, check out this video.
Personal Preparation and Training
Know your limits and respect them. Going on a massive technical ride with 10 hour days knowing you easily get tired after 2-3 hours of riding is not going to work. If you know you are going to be “blowing out of your arse” for example because you are going to race Dakar, then you better spend lots of time doing just that before you go, be prepared for it. The more I train, the more I enjoy my riding because it becomes easier and I get less tired. I know when I’m not doing enough and I know when I need to top it up. Even now at 41 years old I have to force myself to train and eat healthily, it’s important and makes a difference. I still get exhausted from a good adventure ride today, in fact, it’s the sign of a good, challenging ride.
Know your energy consumption and consume appropriately. I saw a guy eating instant noodles at Dakar when there is perfectly good food available in the bivouac with all the right energy and goodness required each day, needless to say he didn’t finish. Eat well before you start the day and keep topping up as you go along, don’t leave it until it’s too late.
Drink! We’ve all been dehydrated, it’s not fun! Know the signs and respect them, always carry more water than you think you need, you’ll be sorry not to have it. During my travels around the world I just drank water in my backpack but when I race I know I sweat a lot more so I add electrolytes to add those vital supplements back into my body. Always fill up and if you can and always try to have two bladders or water containers, this is a requirement in large FIM cross country rallies like Dakar and a good reminder that Adventure riders should too. You never know when you can spring a leak and lose your water, if you are close to places it’s no issue but if you are remote and water is scarce be prepared.
Clothing and protection is an area where it is all too easy to get caught out. I think of all the guys that started a Dakar stage in Bolivia in the sunshine and high temperatures in motocross pants and jerseys only to climb onto the altiplano where it was sleeting and snowing and freezing temperatures and had no protection. I stopped and put on my Klim Stowaway windproof / waterproof jacket and pants and finished the stage in comfort. Also the guys that rode through the freezing liaisons without any heated underclothing arriving at the start of the stage frozen to the core, their shivering bodies sapping their energy reserves. I used an Avade heated base layer so I could just leave it on during the stage. Even if you think you won’t experience adverse weather, hot or cold / wet, if there is a chance, be prepared for it in some way or another. I learnt all of this from my adventure riding days and over the years I finely tuned what I was comfortable with, all culminated in my layering approach I used on Races to Places and while racing, base layers, mid-layer, armour, protective shell (mesh or cordura) outer shell for adverse weather. Of course there are other approaches but I found that mountaineering approach to layering also works exceptionally well for the Adventure Rider. For gloves, have the right gloves for the temperatures and conditions you ride in and if it’s cold, I much prefer heated gloves for long distance adventure rides than grips. Heated grips heat the inside of your hand and therefore make you grip tighter to get more heat and this can cause hand pain, arm pump and tendonitis issues (I’ve suffered from it all) whereas heated gloves heat the back side of the hand and therefore create a barrier between your pinkies and the weather, it’s all the small things!
Carry a first aid kit and get some basic first aid / first responder training, I’ve had the unfortunate need to give first aid to someone on the trail and I’ve also been the recipient, having the essentials and training is important. It is now mandatory now for all motorcycle riders at FIM cross country rallies including Dakar to have a first aid certificate.
Just for info I have included below the basic FIM minimum requirement of first aid / safety equipment required on an FIM cross country rally. This is a good start to have some important equipment with you. I fit all of this into a small Enduristan “Lyndon Organiser”, a great little organiser with lots of pockets and holding solutions.
Each rider must provide himself with a first-aid medical kit composed of:
- A water disinfectant for 40 litres (hydrochlorazone or micropure)
- Eye lotion (Boroclarine, Piroftal or equivalent)
- An antalgic (Aspirine, analgesic or equivalent)
- Two anti-diarrhoeic (Immodium, Ercéfuryl, Bimixin or equivalent)
- Antibiotic (Oracilline, Totapen or equivalent)
- Unguent, disinfecting compresses, two bandages, plasters, 5 safety pins
- One skin disinfectant (Betadine or equivalent)
- One sun screen for skin and lips
- Vitamin C tablets
- Salt tablets (Enervit or Nergisport sodium or similar)
- A soothing cream (Biafine) 80.28
In addition to the above I’d also recommend adding disposable gloves and face shield in case you need to ever do CPR on anyone, it’s not on the list but worth it in my opinion, especially with the current pandemic.
The compulsory survival equipment, for the Rallies held in a desert environment is the following:
- A soft water tank of minimum 3 litres carried by the rider, of a “Camelbak” type.
- At each refuelling, riders must fill up their Camelbak with water.
- One survival supply of rations
- A pocket lamp, if possible flashing
- An emergency mirror
- One compass besides that which is on board the motorbike
- A lighter
- A general map of the country crossed (Michelin type), satellites maps are prohibited (while electronic maps are great, it can be worthwhile carrying a paper may in a zip-loc bag in the event your devices fail and you may need it)
- One aluminium survival blanket (about 2 m x 1 m) serving as an isothermal covering and an earth to sun signal
- A klaxon of the Vehicle to Vehicle Alarm system (example Sentinel) – Not for Adventure riding obviously
- A Tracking System (I’d recommend Garmin InReach for Adventure Riding)
- A GPS (for racing only waypoint management and tracking device is allowed)
- A distress beacon, provided by the organiser (again I’d recommend Garmin InReach with GEOS service for Adventure Riding)
As you can see there are some things that are always useful to carry and I typically take my tool kit, safety and survival kit and Garmin InReach on every ride with me. Small things to carry but could have a huge benefit in certain situations.
Route Preparation and Planning.
Knowing where you are going and the dangers of the route, the remoteness, the terrain and the weather. Giving people an idea of the route you intend to do and the timing, especially if it is remote and there is a lack of connectivity but you should make a habit of doing this regardless. We will come onto satellite tracking devices and communication later but for now let’s discuss locals and friends in the area close to where you are riding. For example, when I crossed the Simpson Desert in Australia, I informed friends at either end within a 2 day drive, when I was crossing and gave them my tracking information. This way, if I have an unrepairable failure but I’m physically fine, I don’t have to scramble expensive emergency systems to come and get me, thus removing them from service that somebody else may need also. It never hurts to make a call and let people know where you are going, a few minutes beforehand it might just save lives later. Obviously in racing there is an organisation looking over you but the principles of that are also applicable to adventure riding.
Knowing the terrain, we’ve all followed that dotted line on the GPS and got into trouble…que the time myself, Lukas and AntWare headed down a steep google track only to get stuck and have to come back the same way….not so easy, 10 minutes down, 10 hours to get back up! See R2P Season 9 Episodes 4 & 5. Learn to look at contour lines and google earth and research remote less travelled routes well, it can give you a lot of information about what is going on there rather than just following your GPS, which I found myself doing lots of times of course. In Africa there were roads (tracks) that were only passable in one direction, which made it very interesting when approaching in the other direction, travelling alone.
Travel communication is becoming more and more easy all over the world with cell towers and coverage covering the majority of the land mass today. I was blown away with the cell coverage I had in Russia and all of Africa for example, in fact I’ve always been pleasantly surprised all over the world how much coverage there actually is but we shouldn’t take that for granted, especially when pushing into remote less travelled places. Nowadays, we have affordable satellite solutions which work off satellite networks and therefore cover almost all of the world, be it sea or land. There are devices which track and relay location and speed, devices that allow you to message, even directly from your cell phone via a bluetooth connection to the satellite device and then there is of course a satellite phone allowing you to make calls. When I travelled around the world solo for 5 years, I carried an unlocked cell phone and got prepaid cards in every country, I carried an InReach (now Garmin Inreach) to track and plot my route, share my location with others and also text message when there was no cell service and finally I carried a Satellite phone to make calls should the need arise. The one I used least is the satellite phone, I literally only used it to make a few birthday calls to my family when I didn’t have any cell service. The cell phone I used almost every day to post social media and keep on top of my video series and businesses while on the move. However, the one that I think is most important and the one I don’t ever leave without is the InReach as it provides a solid text communication device from anywhere in the world and also relays locational information which is critical for recovery. Finally, the InReach has the GEOS emergency button which, to be honest, for the price of the GEOS contract annually, is something that every adventure rider should consider, especially when travelling in remote or hard to reach locations.
In World FIM rally racing, they pretty much have all the same systems as above included in the safety systems at the rally and had them way before these sorts of systems were available to the public affordably. They are installed onto your bike at the rallies so you can communicate with the organisation and they know where you are at any one time and what the situation is. Why? Because safety comes first.
With all the above taken care of, you are pretty much set for the adventure ahead and every time I ride, be it adventure or racing, it’s important to leave the start line knowing I am as prepared as I can be for the adventure ahead. For me, Rally Racing is just an extreme adventure ride against the clock, if you remove the timing element then it’s really no different to the adventure rides I do on a regular basis.
Please also remember, we all started somewhere, including myself. Take the time occasionally to help those with less experience, ride with those that need advice and help to grow the sport we all love.
I hope this gives you some ideas and thoughts as to how you can help yourself to be better prepared for your adventures by simply sharing some of the things I have learnt over the years and the challenges along the way. Be ON IT – Be Adventure Ready!