Alone and sometimes afraid.
Something something rallies are difficult—I’m not the first one to use these words and I’m not the last one. When you look up the word “rally” in the dictionary, “difficult” is listed as a synonym. I have a tremendous amount of respect for anybody who chooses to put their body and sanity on the line to conquer thousands of miles in some of the world’s most rugged terrains. Because apparently pulling through as a team isn’t hard enough, some people decide to do it all in solo. Welcome to the insane world of the Malle Moto class.
My own personal (and limited) experience of rallies has allowed me to come face to face with the beauty of the challenge and also the harsh reality of navigating the unknown. That was on a road circuit. Now imagine adding a level of difficulty by making your way through the desert without as much as a road to help you figure out the way. That, already, is no small feat and one celebrated each year in such events as the Dakar or the Baja. This is the kind of achievement that looks good on a resume regardless of the job you’re trying to get.
While most competitors in these historical and famously brutal rallies team up and receive the support of a flight of sponsors, others make the conscious choice of flying solo. No fancy tech crew to keep the bike in riding conditions, no teammates to share the the ups and downs with. It’s only the rider, his bike, and his gear. This is what the Malle Moto class is all about and it’s brutal.
The most notorious rallies offer riders the opportunity to compete in the Malle Moto class. Getting sponsors can prove challenging and some riders still want to prove themselves on the trails without having to assemble a team and pay the hefty registration and traveling fees for everyone (registration for a single, first-time rider in the 2019 Dakar will set you back $18,800).
In 2018, the Dakar changed its nomenclature and starting next year, will refer to the “Malles Motos” class as “The Original by Motul” category. The description of the class, however, remains unchanged: “This category refers to bikes and quads pilots competing WITHOUT ANY KIND OF ASSISTANCE. A driver accompanied by someone in-race or as assistance will not be eligible to participate in this category.” Entries are limited to 30 competitors. The Baja also offers a Malle Moto class and while both events promote the class competitors’ full autonomy, they do provide minimal assistance by offering transportation of the solo competitors’ gear at an extra cost.
What do they mean by “without any assistance” exactly? It means that the rider is not only in charge of actually riding the bike and navigating on his own through the various stages while trying to stick to the timing, he also has to carry his own gear (including camping material, tools and spare parts), plan for accommodations and food, as well as service the bike and repair it when needed without losing precious time. This usually results in late nights and early mornings which, understandably, takes an additional toll on the competitor.
That’s the challenge former aerospace engineer, seasoned racer and motorcycle traveler Lyndon Poskitt has tackled on a number of occasions: doing the Dakar rally on his own. He documented his experience in the documentary Malle Moto: The Forgotten Dakar Story that provides intimate insight of participation in the 2017 Dakar, from the preparation to the physical strain on spending days competing against the clock, against the terrain, and against himself. He also recorded a series of YouTube videos that follow him on his 2018 journey as he attempted to win in the Malle Moto class after finishing second in 2017. He exposes all the challenges and difficulties related to the challenge, but also all the beauty and the fun that make it all worth it.
If you’re a fan of rallies, I definitely recommend a watch—the landscapes are breathtaking, the emotions are raw and it gives us a little taste of what the life of a Malle Moto competitor is like behind the scenes. We usually see the smiles at the beginning of the the event and at the end as the riders reach the finish line, but we rarely get to see what happens during the rally.