The Dakar is often referred to as the world’s toughest rally, with most of the attention focused on the factory riders battling for victory. But some would say they have it easy compared to the heroes that decide to enter the Malle Moto class. The Dakar rule book simply describes the Malle Moto class as a ‘challenge created for Bike and Quad Riders without ANY KIND OF SERVICE’. What that means exactly is that competitors have to do everything themselves. They ride their bikes, service and prepare their bikes, and receive no outside assistance throughout the event.
Lyndon Poskitt is one of those brave riders who has decided to take on the Dakar in its purest form. Read about the Brit’s experience of last year’s race and how he prepared for Dakar Malle Moto 2018 …
A challenge like no other
“In 2016 I decided to give the Malle Moto class a go and totally underestimated how hard it would be. I thought I would be ok, I thought if I stayed focused and rode sensibly it wouldn’t be too bad, but you would not believe how much it wears you down. Even when things are going well, you get more and more tired every day. When people ask me how it went and say ‘oh, you did really well, you came second last year’ – let me tell you, it was a struggle.
The spirit of the race is completely different in the Malle Moto category. Everybody is in the same boat, they have to do everything themselves. Of course, when something happens there is this huge camaraderie of everyone getting together, it’s like a big family helping each other out. When you see some of the guys coming in early in the morning when you are getting ready to go out, you feel so bad for them, they might get an hour’s sleep at the most before heading out again themselves.
Personally, I like the phrase Malle is Rally. The class is definitely the traditional way to ride the Dakar. That’s how it was originally, but now it’s evolved into this huge commercial event. While I do have some very good sponsors – I wouldn’t be able to compete without them – I do like to keep things traditional and that’s something I try to share in the media I produce.”
Lack of sleep and the will to keep on going
“Luckily, I only had a couple of those bad nights with no sleep. There was a huge landslide last year and they had to put a detour in place. The whole day was 1150 km long, we had already raced the stage, then had to do a 600 km liaison only to arrive at a road block and be told we had to go a different way. It was already 7:30 pm and we had to ride another 350 km. Even then I thought I would be able to get in by about 10 o’ clock, but the route was all offroad and so gnarly. It was full of trucks kicking up dust and was really tough going. I managed to get back to the bivouac at 1.30 am in the morning and was the only Malle Moto bike home – everyone else was still out there.
I prepped the bike really quickly, grabbed some food and was in bed by 2 am. We were due to be up again at 4.30 am but the stage ended up getting cancelled, so luckily all the other riders had plenty of time to get back. Despite only getting a couple of hours sleep, I was all set to go. I still got up and was ready and when I went outside there were only four other bikes that had made it back, five of us in total.”
Bike maintenance, solo bike maintenance
“Every day without fail, the rear tire and mousse have to be changed, the front can sometimes last for a couple of days. It’s the only thing we are allowed to have assistance with. It’s strange why that is, but the Malle Moto organization won’t let you take a mousse changer, you have to go to Michelin to have them changed. Even though they are happy to change them for you, I would prefer to be able to change them by myself. I am quite proficient at changing tires and mousses and the problem with having someone else do it is that you have to carry your wheels and the new tires and mousses anything up to 500 meters to get them changed. It’s an added stress, especially in 40-degree heat.
The bikes themselves are so strong. All there is to do is change the oil and filters and generally I only do that every other night. The air filter gets changed every day, then there’s small jobs like tensioning and lubing the chain and a general check over of the bike. It doesn’t sound like too much but what is crazy is how time runs away with you – just a few little jobs can easily take up to two hours. If you get in at 7 pm, it’s soon 9 pm and you still have to get some food, sort your roadbook and attend the riders’ meeting before even thinking about sleep. You’re lucky if you get to bed before midnight and then you’re up again at 3 am.
Last year I learnt to make the absolute most of my time – get things done, don’t talk, don’t go to see people, you haven’t got time for that. It sounds extreme but that’s how you have to be in that class. Last year, I wasn’t rushing to bed and that’s something that has to change this year. I need to get stuff done quickly and get to sleep. An hour’s extra rest each night will mean a massive boost for me.”
What’s in the box?
“For the 2018 Dakar my Malle Moto box is going to be way more organized than last year. I learnt the hard way that you need to have everything organized, again so you don’t waste any time searching around for something. This year I am properly prepared, with separate little boxes inside for various tools and everything sits in there really nicely.
Tool wise, I only carry what I need. When I was building up my bike in the workshop I tried to use the smallest possible tools I could, and then put it to one side. I knew when the bike was done I had every single tool I needed to take to the Dakar. In another section of the box I have all my consumables; greases, oils, cable-ties, all the things you need throughout the day to keep you going. In the bottom of the box I have all my electrical spares, not just for the bike but for the navigation equipment too, because without that, your rally is over.
I keep all my energy gels in there and hydration kits. I don’t take anything that I don’t really need. The box is pretty full but for this year I managed to squeeze a bike cover in too, which comes in handy overnight in the desert. One thing that is really important is a good headtorch. I have them hidden all over the place; one on my bike, one in my gear bag and a couple in my Malle Moto box because if you lose those, you’re in trouble.
You are allowed to have someone carry things for you, but it costs money so a lot of people don’t do it. I have KTM Racing take some oil and filters, things like that and I replenish my box at the rest day. My tires and mousses for example cost me about 1500 Euro just to have them shipped with another team.”
“It’s really important to stay strong. No matter how low you are feeling, because you are on your own. You have to keep pushing on. When I got to about four days from the end last year, I was completely broken. I was tired, exhausted and hurting. But somehow, I managed to get to the finish. You have to be really strong minded to do the Dakar, especially in Malle Moto.
I fell asleep on the liaison a couple of times last year, one of the hardest things is trying to stay awake. Once you are in the stage it’s fine because your adrenalin is up, but in the morning liaison, when it’s pitch black, cold and raining, you really struggle to stay awake. If you’re lucky you might just nod off for a split second and catch yourself, but twice in 2017 I ran off the road and onto the dirt and woke up riding along with an Armco barrier right next to me. That shook me up a little and so I stopped by the side of the road for a break. I must have slept for only about five minutes maximum and was woken up when the next bike came past, but that five minutes was all I needed, I set off again and felt much better.”
“Most of the other Malle Moto riders wonder how I do it, but if it wasn’t for the media side of things and the exposure that gets, I wouldn’t be able to compete. I’m not a factory racer, I’m not in a position where I’m going to win the event, but what I can do is relate to people. They can see I’m just a normal guy having a go at the Dakar. To be able to share my experiences is what is helping me to actually get there, and achieve my goals as well. I think now, that feeling of being able to share my adventures is 50 % of the drive behind wanting to do it. I love the social media side of things, I love the support and interest from people all over the world and it encourages me to do more.
What I’ll be doing this year with the daily video posts is a massive undertaking. We’ve got two people on-site and one person back in the UK receiving the data. It’s all got to be edited on the fly, which is super-technical and difficult to do. Other than the big teams with their big budgets, nobody has tried it before, so hopefully with a little luck we can pull it off and give the viewer a real taste of what the Dakar is like for a regular guy like me.
One of the key things for me is that the footage has to be authentic. It won’t change who I am and I won’t try to be something I’m not. I am always conscious about getting some shots though, even if that means stopping in the middle of a stage to capture something important. It takes a little time at the beginning of the day to set up the cameras, and then starting and stopping the cameras where I feel the best content is. There are a lot of riders on social media and YouTube putting together cool little edits now, but I’m hoping my videos will be more timeless than that. They’ll tell more of a story and show the true side of the Dakar.”
When it´s all over
“Following on from the Dakar, after everything is finished, things are still tough. I took a week off at the end of last year’s event, but the effects last a lot longer than that. I was struggling to sleep properly for ages, finding myself awake for a lot of the night and I just couldn’t get back into a healthy rhythm again. Hopefully at the end of the 2018 event, everything will have gone well and I will have hours of footage to share with my followers. The Dakar really is something special, something unique and to be able to share my experiences of riding it is a real honor. I just hope everyone else enjoys sharing my journey …”