Judging by the comments on the Blitz Travel vs Slow Exploration article, most inmates here at ADV Rider prefer to go slow and see more rather than race around the world. However, a comment from inmate @Mrstig caught my eye: “I wish there was more safe exploration at speed”. And the good news, there is: amateur rally racing. Lyndon Poskitt may have started the trend with his Races to Places project, traveling around the world on his bike and racing rallies, but judging by the growing amateur classes at almost every Dakar-format rally race, the trend may become a movement. In many ways, amateur rally racing is an almost natural evolution from ADV to Dakar-style riding; and let’s not forget, the original Rally Dakar was, more or less, born out of ADV, too. So can exploring at speed be safe, fun, and add to the overall ADV experience?

Racing Around the World…

The beautiful thing about amateur rally racing is that it is open and accessible to all riders on all sorts of bikes. Rally races like the Baja Rally (not to be mixed with Baja 1000), Hellas Rally Raid, and even desert rallies like 1000 Dunas in Morocco all have adventure and enduro classes open to riders aboard everything and anything between 250cc and 1200cc (Sonora Rally now even has a class aimed specifically at the new generation of ADV bikes like the Tenere 700 or KTM 790).

Exploring at Speed: Racing Around the World // ADV Rider

Photo by Actiongraphers | www.actiongraphers.com

In other words, you do not need to be a pro or an FIM-licensed rider to race – you just need to show up. Your results, of course, may be all over the place, but the fun factor and the challenge are certainly there. In essence, amateur rally racing is an awesome way to play Dakar even if you don’t own a race bike, improve your riding by leaps and bounds, and see foreign countries up close and personal, all while chasing the dust and the glory.

… Safely

Another great aspect of amateur rally racing is that it’s exactly what Mr Stig was wondering about: safe exploration at speed. Rally organizers ensure that you’re bike has a tracker and a communications system in case of an accident, and there are teams of paramedics on standby along the rally route to make sure you get help immediately if something goes wrong. Consider this: how many times you wanted to really open that throttle on some dirt trail, but couldn’t because you knew there may be animals, people, fences, a fallen tree, or wildlife on the track, or it was so remote help wouldn’t get to you in time? Rally tracks are usually either cleared of all human and four-legged traffic and obstacles, or your roadbook will warn you of dangers well in advance; and, in case you do crash, a medic will be with you in a short period of time. Rally racing is, of course, inherently dangerous, but riding at speed in a rally race is much safer than ripping it up on the trails on your own.

Exploring at Speed: Racing Around the World // ADV Rider

Photo by Actiongraphers | www.actiongraphers.com

Costs and Options

Because of the astronomical entry fees for races like Rally Dakar, most people assume other rallies also cost a fortune – but that isn’t the case. Rally Dakar, Merzouga, and Africa Eco Race are the big desert rallies that do cost an arm and a leg to race; but smaller events like the aforementioned Baja, Hellas, and 1000 Dunas, among many others, are more than affordable. Entry fees start around $600-$700; if you’re racing on your own bike and maintaining it yourself, there are no assistance and support fees, and most of these rallies have a static bivouac – that is, the race always comes back to the same place after the stage – which means the logistics are dead simple. Other expenses include your food, fuel, and accommodation (unless you camp in the bivouac, which is usually free), and shipping your bike if you’re not riding there. All in all, an entire rally race like Hellas may costs you somewhere around $1,200 – $1,500, entry fees, fuel, and spare tires included.

Exploring at Speed: Racing Around the World // ADV Rider

In addition, as amateur rally racing grows, so does an entire support industry around it. If you want to race, say, Baja Rally, but you’re based in Europe and do not want to ship your bike to Mexico just for one race, you can rent a KTM450 with assistance from the rally partners. If you choose this option, all you need to do is fly in, jump on your rental KTM, and race; and every time you get back to the bivouac, you leave the bike with the support team and go grab a cold one while they work on it. All rally organizers from North America to Europe to Northern Africa offer bike rental and assistance options, so a fly-and-race is more than possible.

Exploring at Speed: Racing Around the World // ADV Rider

Photo by Actiongraphers | www.actiongraphers.com

Amateur-friendly Races

So what are some of the best entry-level rally races you can do if you’ve never raced before, but want to give it a go? Here’s a list of some of the most amateur-friendly rally races around the world:

North America:

Baja Rally 

Based in Baja California, Mexico, Baja Rally is a unique blend of desert riding while mainly staying on tracks; it’s a great way to try out a rally race – the navigation will not be overly complex, but you’ll still face a decent challenge covering crazy distances and chasing after the pros.

Sonora Rally

Sonora is the biggest rally in North America and a Road to Dakar race, but it’s open to amateurs: they have an Adventure class open to newbies, and it can be an awesome way to start your rally racing adventures.


Hispania Rally

Hispania Rally is a five-day race in Andalucia, Spain, and it’s ideal for your first rally. The route is mostly tracks and riverbeds making navigation easier, and the static bivouac means you won’t need to think about logistics. It’s a great entry-level race for a first-timer.

Hellas Rally Raid

Hellas is the biggest and oldest rally race in Europe, and its much tougher (and longer – it’s 7 days) than Hispania, but because Hellas have an Enduro Cup class open to amateur riders with 70% of the route and a GPS allowed as a backup, it can be a seriously awesome way to try out rally racing.

Greece Rally (former Serres)

Gnarly, rocky terrain and seven days of suffering: Greece Rally is not for the faint of heart, but they do have amateur classes where even adventure bikes are welcome.

Dinaric Rally

A new rally race in Europe, Dinaric Rally in Croatia is rough, tough, yet thoroughly awesome: the Dinaric Alps provide seriously rugged terrain and it’s more technical than Hispania or Hellas, but it is open to amateur riders in several different classes and is growing into a five-day race with both roadbook and GPS options available.

North Africa:

1000 Dunas

Seven days of pure desert racing: 1000 Dunas is no walk in the park, but the rally is open to amateur riders on a variety of bikes. If you have some rally racing experience and want to go for a full-on desert race, this is it.

Would you consider entering a rally race on your adventure bike? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Images: Actiongraphers.com

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