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ADV RidesGetting Lost and Found Riding Taste of Dakar 2018

Getting Lost and Found Riding Taste of Dakar 2018

If you want a clue on how Dakar tastes, just lick the beach.

Published on 04.18.2018

Sand. Bottomless, soft, powdery, blowing-everywhere, power-sucking sand. Gritty and crunching in my teeth, the sand was both blown into my helmet and shoveled in when I lost control of my bike, hit the ground, and sunk elbows-deep. Oh, I got a taste of Dakar alright.

It was about three quarter mark of our day of riding when we hit the sand leading to the dunes and at first I was surprised at how well the 2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan was doing (not the first bike that comes to mind when thinking about Dakar, but more on that later). By keeping my momentum up and staying in (a tall) second gear, I cut across the soft stuff pretty well.

2018 Taste of Dakar on the Royal Enfield Himalayan Adventure Motorcycle


Only after we stopped for photos did the Himalayan succumb to the deep grit. I had to get off to push at certain points because the bike was just digging in with me on it. Trying to cut a new line through the bushes wasn’t much better than the churned up trail and paddling with both feet, just barely inching along, for about a mile had me worrying that the bike, and my body, were going to grenade.

What Is Taste of Dakar?

AltRider’s Taste Of Dakar is a rally that attempts to give off-road-oriented ADVers a tiny slice of what it is like to race the infamous Dakar Rally. While it is impossible to feel what those racers feel (and I don’t think regular dudes like myself really want to) the Taste Of Dakar is a fun way to get together with fellow riders and put a lot of miles under your tires.

Three routes are offered (Scenic, Intermediate, and Advanced) with gpx files to download. Saturday is the main day of riding with self guided groups deciding which route to take. At 180, 200, and 300 miles respectively, the routes offer a ton of riding, though it was made clear that highways were close to cut back if the day was running short.

Testing DCT on the Honda Africa Twin

Pinning it in the dunes on the Africa Twin DCT at AltRider #tasteofdakar
Honda Motorcycles & ATVs

Posted by ADV Pulse on Saturday, April 7, 2018

Escaping The Jungle

Backing up to Friday morning when our adventure began, we had about 400 miles ahead of us to get from LA at Gold Point, Nevada on our Africa Twin and Royal Enfield Himalayan and, off course, we chose the route with an ample amount of dirt. This lead us through the lowest point in North America, Badwater Basin in Death Valley at 282 ft below sea level. Lining the valley on the east side are rock flows pouring forth from craggy cliffs that are beautiful in their own desolate, lifeless way. If you are coming from So Cal, this is the way to go.

2018 Taste of Dakar on the Royal Enfield Himalayan and Honda Africa Twin DCT
Our rides for the weekend were two very different machines — the 2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan and Honda Africa Twin DCT.

Pulling into the nearly abandoned mining town of Gold Point, we were greeted with broken down down mining equipment, weather-worn wood buildings, and a bunch of ADV bikes with tents around them. After setting up our own mobil dwellings we headed into the center of town for the nightly festivities, including an overview of the event and a presentation by off-road/Dakar racer Scott Harden. For those who get there during the day on Friday, there are KTM Demo Rides and obstacle courses with instructors from Black Swan Moto to help you get warmed up for the next day of riding.

2018 Taste of Dakar on the Royal Enfield Himalayan and Honda Africa Twin DCT
For two years Taste of Dakar has been held in the living ghost town of Gold Point, NV.

Long Day In The Dirt

A not-too-chilly dawn welcomed us on Saturday as we ingested coffee, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and bacon. The irony was not lost on us as Dr. Jonathan Edwards, endurance specialist and Dakar Rally doctor, gave a presentation on proper fueling and hydration. Our group of five riders elected the Advanced route and I knew I had my work cut out for me on the (claimed 24.5 horse-powered) Himalayan. What it lacked in speed and acceleration it made up for in looks. Most fellow participants gave it a second, sometimes third look as I passed by.

2018 Taste of Dakar on the Royal Enfield Himalayan

AltRider Taste of Dakar 2018 - Gold Field Nevada
Event organizers included some interesting stops along the way for sightseeing as well.

Unfortunately, my plans went quickly astray as the members of my group were on much larger and faster bikes. They whizzed passed a pack of slower riders while I had to pick my way through. Once on the other side, there was no sign of my group, yet I put faith in the GPS tracks and stayed on the blue line. What I nor Rob, fellow ADV Pulse editor, knew was that the file in my Garmin didn’t load properly and I had the Scenic Route for the beginning of the day.

2018 Taste of Dakar on the Honda Africa Twin DCT

Needless to say, once separated without cell service we were on our own since I was convinced I was following the right track and I’d run into my group around each next turn. On the plus side, the Himalayan was very well suited for the Scenic route and I was picking off groups of riders on GSs and KTMs left and right. For anyone that is scared by the name of this rally, the Scenic route is very doable, even for the off-road novice, yet still rewarding. The route meandered through open desert onto slowly-climbing dirt two-track leading through tree-lined canyons. Not really Dakar-like but fun, flowing and with a surprising amount of traction.

Finding New Friends

After about 25 miles, the Scenic route connected with the Intermediate and Advanced route until lunch. This overlapped section has some semi-sandy/gravely washes that were a bit of a challenge on the Royal Enfield, but nothing too taxing. Since I was on my own, I hooked up with a small, three-rider group. Within five minutes I looked back to check on two of my new groupmates and I only saw one and a large cloud of dust. Doubling back I came up on the last rider in the the group who was standing next to his downed BMW G650GS looking a little lost. We got him going again though he planned to head back to camp the first time we got close to pavement.

2018 Taste of Dakar on the Royal Enfield Himalayan

After some really fun, windy dirt roads that undulated in the foothills of the mountains, I finally found cell service and connected with Rob. “Meet at the lunch stop” was our agreement and I beelined it 30 miles on the pavement to the sleepy town of Tonopah. After inhaling sandwiches, Rob and I had some miles to make up. Now was the chance to take the Himalayan on the Advanced route.

AltRider Taste of Dakar - Emergency medical Help
A few riders did have mishaps out on the trail. Luckily, emergency medical personnel were quick to respond.

When we peeled off the highway I was thinking the Advanced route was a bit of a misnomer until we hit the dreaded, aforementioned sand. Dear lord was this soft. If this is anything like the dunes that face Dakar racers, it is easy to understand why so many people get stuck, or worse, flung off their bike violently as their front wheel does an impression of a scuba diver. After getting through the sand and to the base of the dunes, Rob had some fun on the Africa Twin DCT he was riding but I just caught my breath on the Himalayan. Nonetheless, both the Honda and Royal Enfield completed the Taste of Dakar in their own fashion. (keep a look out for a more in-depth story on the off-road capabilities of these machines!)

In The End

Honda Africa Twin at Taste of Dakar 2018

Some things are just plain hard to encapsulate – the worlds hardest and most prestigious off-road race, the Dakar Rally, being one of them. Yet AltRider’s Taste Of Dakar did just that. It offered riders just a taste, a tiny inkling of what Dakar racers face in the relentless miles of grueling riding they must endure to finish each day. And I really did have a nearly solo navigation challenge, but I had GPS and the peace of mind that a sweep would get me if things got really hairy.

Author: Sean Klinger

With his sights set on doing what he loved for a living, Sean left college with a BA in Journalism and dirt bike in his truck. After five years at a dirt-only motorcycle magazine shooting, testing, writing, editing, and a little off-road racing, he has switched gears to bigger bikes and longer adventures. He’ll probably get lost a few times but he’ll always have fun doing it. Two wheels and adventure is all he needs. 

Author: Sean Klinger

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April 21, 2018 7:31 am

What kind of tires was the Enfield fitted with for this ride? They look kinda close to a 50/50 tire, maybe a Shinko 700. Were they the stock tires?

April 25, 2018 6:30 pm

I see my mighty 9fiddy SE made it to the galmour shot of Goldtown! Woot! Goosntimes, shits n giggles and a bent leg for a mate (also photo’d) rounded out a TITs weekend. Nice write-up too.


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