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April 2019

Issue 32


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Please make no attempt to imitate the illustrated riding scenes, always wear protective clothing and observe the applicable provisions of the road traffic regulations! The illustrated vehicles may vary in selected details from the production models and some illustrations feature optional equipment available at additional cost.

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Photos: Alessio Barbanti, R. Schedl

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Please make no attempt to imitate the illustrated riding scenes, always wear protective clothing and observe the applicable provisions of the road traffic regulations! The illustrated vehicles may vary in selected details from the production models and some illustrations feature optional equipment available at additional cost. European specification models shown for illustration purposes only. *Restrictions apply. See website for full details. Offer ends 04/30/2019.


Issue 32 APRIL 2019

rietary information: These drawings contain information rietary to Upshift. Any reproduction, or transmittal of this mation without expressed written consent is prohibited by Any use partial or complete of the sord marks is prohibited punishable to the full extent of the law.

April 2019

Issue 32

LOGO SHEET

THE INSIDER

HANDSTANDS AT 100

Cover Marco Campelli Design Chris Glaspell Photography Editor Simon Cudby

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Contributing Writers Stephen W. Clark Simon Cudby Olivier de Vaulx Scot Harden Michnus Olivier

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Contributing Photographers Suzanna Bostock Marco Campelli Stephen W. Clark Justin W. Coffey Olivier de Vaulx Drew Martin Michnus Olivier

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ROCKIN THE CASBAH

KTM 790 Adventure R Global Launch

Story Editor Stefanie Glaspell

TADDY BLAZUSIAK

Business Development Brandon Glanville

Down TIME In MOAB

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The Resurrection of the Mint 400

23986 Aliso Creek Road P.O. Box 450 Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

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Upshift Magazine is published monthly by Upshift Online Inc. 2019. Reproduction of any material requires written consent from the publishers. All photos, editorial contributions and advertisements are accepted upon representation that they are original materials by the author and or advertiser. Opinions expressed in the articles are those of the author and may not reflect the views and opinions of the editor, staff or advertisers of Upshift Online Inc. Advertisers assume full responsibility for the entire content and subject matter of their advertisements.

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2018 BAJA 1000 CHAMPION

TURKANA

Africa’s Jade Desert Lake


Handstands at 100 INSIDER: SCOT HARDEN Back in the day the Mint 400 was the toughest off-road desert race in the world. It was part of a Holy Trinity of desert races that launched an entire sport and defined an era. The Mint 400, Barstow to Vegas and Baja 1000 were pinnacles of desert racing, races that defined careers and made legends. No one dominated this era more than JN Roberts. JN was then, and remains now, the absolute King of the Desert, winning multiple Mint 400s, Baja 500s and Baja 1000s, and a record four consecutive Barstow to Vegas Hare and Hound wins. No one rode a motorcycle across the desert faster than JN. No one! JN was my pole star, hero and archetype. I idolized him. While others looked up to stick and ball athletes, rock stars and celebrities I worshiped JN Roberts. At 15 I watched him, and Max Switzer win the 1971 Mint 400. The sight of JN mauling his Husky 360 through bottomless silt beds mixed with rocks and rain ruts, on the edge of control, is etched in my memory. Later that year I watched him win his last Barstow to Vegas Hare and Hound by over 20 freaking minutes. A vapor trail of dust streamed off his bike like a contrail of a jet airplane as he covered the last few miles heading to the finish. I dreamt about winning those races and imagined what it must feel like to go so fast, weaving my way at 80 mph through puck brush and creosote, dodging rocks, jumping ditches, cheating death and doing handstands at 100mph. I recently ran into JN at the 2019 Mint 400 where he served as Grand Marshall. At 78 he looks fit as can be with a handshake that will buckle your knees. For hours we talked about desert racing. I sat next to him like a kid around a campfire, hanging on every word. I looked back on my own life, my victories in Baja, B to V and the 4 Las Vegas 400s (the desert race that replaced the Mint) I won overall. Like a student reporting back to his master, I thanked him for all that he meant to my generation and me personally and for the inspiration he provided. There is power in dreams, but without “visualization” they can be hard to track down. The “vision” that JN created throughout his racing career inspired the direction of my career and countless others, and for that, I am eternally grateful. Thanks to the latest Mint 400; maybe some other teenager can visualize his/her racing career watching Ricky Brabec, Kendall Norman or Jacob Argubright ride. I hope they can, and in the process keep desert racing alive for generations to come. Dreams are mighty things; I am living proof that all one must do is conjure the appropriate dream, and it sure helps when you can “visualize” what perfection looks like. Thanks, JN!


GET OFF THE BEATEN PATH GET OFF THE BEATEN PATH

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2. Rottweiler SAS/Canister Removal Kit - Husky 701 (2017+) NEW! All of our SAS plates are now Thermocoated! This means that unlike other anodized plates, they will never fade from heat or UV and will look good for the lifetime of your motorcycle. This 2017+ Husky 701 specific kit contains everything you will need to remove the SAS and canister system and also includes both dongles to keep the FI light from coming on. All of the pieces you will need are contained in this very comprehensive kit. MSRP: $59.95 www.rottweilerperformance.com Features: • 2.5 Lbs weight reduction • More room for tools • No more popping on deceleration • Cleans up engine space

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Seat Concepts Comfort XL Seat This new XL seat design is wider than our standard comfort seat. It is wider at the widest point. This means more surface area, better weight distribution, and added comfort for those not worried about seat width. The XL is 8 1/2 inches wide and our standard comfort is 7 1/8 inches wide. Seat Concepts seats are constructed using a foam material that is a much higher quality than OEM seat foam. Our proprietary formula provides a more plush and active ride, while still offering the necessary amount of support. Our unique comfort shape maintains a similar contour to stock at the front of the seat so the rider’s legs are not spread farther apart, but tapers out towards the mid-point to distribute rider weight over a greater area. These features combine to offer a custom seat feel, and provide greater enjoyment and increased range on a long commute, or Dual-Sport ride!! Fits KTM (2016) SX/XCF (2017-19) XCW/EXC-F (2017-18) SX/SXF/XCF/XC Comfort XL. MSRP: $304.99 www.seatconcepts.com


504 / 505 Series Tire Made for soft to hard terrains, this combo tire offers exceptional traction, braking, stability, and control. ShinkoTireUSA.com


Upshift - April

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Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross Ax41 Connquer the world, any way you like. This performance is your new best friend. Tread pattern and block shape for both front & rear have been reworked. Carefully tuned performance and highly evolved durability let you to chase down your own adventure. The AX41’s high performance enables powerful off-road performance. More freedom, just the way you want it. A tire on which to discover the joy of conquering the unknown. www.bridgestone.com/products/motorcycle_tires Available sizes front: 100/90-19 M/C 57Q TL 110/80B19 M/C 59Q TL 120/70B19 M/C 60Q TL 90/90-21 M/C 54Q TL Available sizes rear: 130/80B17 M/C 65Q TL 140/80B17 M/C 69Q TL 150/70B17 M/C 69Q TL 170/60B17 M/C 72Q TL 150/70B18 M/C 70Q TL


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Wide Open

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Photo: Marco Campelli

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790 Adventure R Global Launch Erfoud, Morocco In early March KTM invited us to their global launch in Morocco for the bike we have all been waiting for- the 790 Adventure R. Would the new mid-size bike live up to all the hype? After a few days in the saddle on both the 790 Adventure and the 790 Adventure R, I’m here to say… yes! Having spent a lot of time on both the single cylinder 500EXC and the bigger twin 1090 Adventure R, I couldn’t wait to throw a leg over this 799cc machine and head out on the trails. Could this really be the best of both worlds?

By Simon Cudby


The KTM line of “You spoke. We listened” pretty much applies to this whole bike. With better suspension, lighter weight, TFT display, lower seat height, easier air filter maintenance, good power from a smaller motor, longer fuel range, better drive mode features, KTM has checked all the boxes. After a long few days of travel, we arrived in Erfoud on the edge of the Sahara Desert, close to the famed Merzouga dunes, where Dakar heroes like Toby Price and Andrew Short spend weeks at a time testing for the world’s most epic moto race. I was a little nervous about all the talk of riding in the dunes. I could handle it on a 500EXC, but wouldn’t even think about taking a 1090 into the deep sand; I’m just not that good of a rider in the deep stuff. This would be a good test for me to see where this bike would fit on my confidence scale offroad.


790 Adventure R Global Launch


790 Adventure R Global Launch


I ended up riding for the whole trip with Chris Birch as a guide, and once he saw that our group was of a decent skill level, he took us “off-piste” into some of the more sketchy trails. The day had a bit of everything trail wise from deep sand dunes, to sharp rocky ascents to cliff overlooks. Immediately I was more at home on the 790 than on a bigger adventure bike. The 48mm WP suspension is on another level compared to KTM’s bigger bikes. It really lets you attack some rougher sections that on a bigger bike would have a high pucker factor. As I said, my sand skills on big bikes leave something to be desired, so when we hit our first big deep sand wash, I had a big grin as I was able to keep my speed up and move the bike around with ease. The 5.25-gallon fuel tank on the 790 is placed much lower than a 1090 so that lower center of gravity had a significant effect on the bike’s handling for me. Finally… I can ride sand! Speaking of the fuel tank, the range on this bike is claimed at 450km or about 280 miles. Impressive.


790 Adventure R Global Launch


With a power output of 95hp, the parallel twin motor never left me wanting for more power. Even in the deep sand areas, I was able to leave the bike in 2nd gear, and the bike’s power delivery always seemed to be just right. On the road sections, there was also plenty of horsepower to keep up a rapid pace between off-road sections. The 790 Adventure R features three drive modes: STREET, RALLY, and OFFROAD. The bike’s TFT display is easy to navigate and changing these settings is very intuitive. The ride modes have different throttle responses and different level of MTC (motorcycle traction control) levels. STREET is best for, well, the street. It has a mid-level sporty throttle response and MTC for the paved surface. OFFROAD mode has a smoother throttle response, and the MTC allows more rear wheel slippage to break the rear wheel traction, allowing the rider to steer using the rear wheel.


790 Adventure R Global Launch


790 Adventure R Global Launch


RALLY mode is where it’s at though for me. Within this mode, you can pick between 9 Slip Adjust settings for traction control by just using the scroll buttons next to your left grip on the fly. Setting 1 is almost no TC, and setting 9 is the most. In soft sand I had the Slip adjust set to 1 to let the rear wheel keep spinning with hardly any TC intervention. For loose gravel, setting 3 is recommended, somewhere between 4 and 6 for dirt with good grip, 7 or 8 for loose chunky rocks, and all the way at 9 for slick dry hard pack. You also can turn the TC completely off, but I did not ever feel the need to do that. These RALLY Slip settings (except for MTC OFF) stay in place even when you turn your bike off and on again, so no more scrolling trying to get back to your settings each time you get on your bike after a break. Within RALLY mode there is also a throttle response option that lets you choose OFFROAD, STREET, or RALLY, which correspond to mellow, middle, and rapid throttle response. I actually settled on STREET throttle response for the most part. In the dirt, I set my ABS setting to OFFROAD, which disables the rear wheel ABS while modulating the front barely noticeably to allow a safer front braking action. On the street, I set STREET drive mode, and ABS in STREET also.


790 Adventure R Global Launch


790 Adventure R Global Launch

Ergonomics on the bike are great. All the little scoops on bodywork are there for a reason. With the fuel tank in its low slung position, the cockpit is narrower than the bigger KTM’s, again increasing rider confidence offroad. The handlebars are adjustable in six variations of position for that perfect comfort. To light up the trail after dark, LED lights are standard. Apart from all the goodness mentioned above, KTM has really listened to its customers when it comes to the air filter on the 790. No more removing multiple shrouds and the big fuel tank like on the 1090. The 790’s air filter is easily accessible by taking the seat off and sliding the filter out to clean or replace with a nice motocross style foam filter from KTM Powerparts. Simple. Our two days on the bikes were obviously a lot of fun. This bike just made me feel much more confident in a variety of trail conditions. The RALLY mode is a big hit for me having really felt the effects of the different settings in deep sand and on loose, sharp rocky hill climbs. KTM’s new motto of “Adventure Harder” hits home with the 790 Adventure R. Now you can get even more off the grid and on to those trails you’ve seen on your bigger adventure bikes, but never took. MSRP $13,499. For more information on the 790 Adventure R Click Here. Check out our First Ride Video Here.


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TADDY BLAZUSIAK ENDURO CHAMPION A true legend in the extreme enduro world, the multiple world champion and X-Games medalist Tadeusz Blazusiak came back from retirement to compete in the new WESS championship. In the middle of his preparation, the Polish KTM rider took the time to ride in Utah with his buddies from Fox. That was the perfect opportunity for us to ride with the champion and learn more about his life. Moab, Utah is a sun-burnt town surrounded by red cliffs that help the temperature climb to 3 digits in the summer. It’s one of the best spots to ride an enduro bike in Utah, as the red rocks are famous for their extraordinary grip. Lovers of motorsports make Moab come alive in the summer. Eric Peronnard, the father of the EnduroCross championship, gathered the best Fox resellers from North America and Europe for the two-day enduro ride with the most titled and renowned off-road rider in the world. A little bit jet lagged with the 8 hours of time zone between Andorra, where he lives, and Utah, the Polish Taddy Blazusiak has a big smile nonetheless when he arrives. Having won the EnduroCross championship 5 times, Taddy had become a very close friend of Eric. Totally relaxed and genuinely interested in everyone’s stories, the RedBull rider quickly makes everybody comfortable around him and the 12 dealers are soon exchanging jokes and riding anecdotes with the famous athlete. It’s only later into the night that we find the time to ask him some questions.

Words and Photos by Olivier de Vaulx


Upshift: You’re back to racing after a very short retirement. What made you come back to race? Taddy Blazusiak: “I wanted to start a family for a long time. I’ve been living with my wife for 8 years, and we had a son in June. His name is Max, and it’s awesome. I hope we’ll ride together for fun later when he grows up! I won’t push him to ride, though, we’ll see! I appreciate family life but I’m coming back to race because I got bored not doing really anything. Don’t get me wrong, I was still busy. I didn’t spend my days on the sofa. I’m lucky to have all these great sponsors that kept working with me, asking

TADDY BLAZUSIAK ENDURO CHAMPION

me to be part of the relationship with media or to help develop new products. But something was missing. I wanted to come back but without any pressure. I did not want to feel trapped by my previous successes. If I don’t win, that’s fine. I just want to get the pleasure of racing back.” Upshift: You’re always very humble, even after winning 11 titles of world champion, 5 X-Games medals and a lot of Xtreme races. Does that come from your upbringing? TB: “I don’t know. I don’t see why I should have changed my personality after winning races. I’m still the same guy!” Upshift: How is it to live in Andorra, in this small place hidden between France and Spain? TB: “To be honest, I’m not staying there a lot, a few days a month at most. If I visit there for more than 2 weeks, I go down to Barcelona, in Spain. That being said, I’m traveling so much that the place I live doesn’t really matter for now.” Upshift: What do you think about the fact that motocross receives much more attention than enduro in the media? TB: “ I think it’s normal. On the training aspect, we’re working as much as motocross racers. In comparison, the enduro riders are as talented, but our sport is not as popular. They can fill a stadium with 40,000 people in Supercross and we’re full with 8,000. It’s as simple as that.” Upshift: But Endurocross races are intense and it makes for great TV. TB: “Yes, it’s true that more media coverage would be appreciated, but we can’t complain. Motocross riders could also complain about not having the same salary than in MotoGP, where the riders train less and earn ten times more. On the other hand, you can look at these guys doing track and field, most of them are almost not paid and barely get free shoes. I think that in Enduro, it’s not that bad.”


Infinite Playground In the morning of the next day, everybody is enjoying breakfast in the hotel. Cereal for the champion, sausages and eggs for the others. After picking up some KTM motorcycles at the rental shop across the road, our little group is ready to explore the trails 2 miles from downtown Moab. In the morning chill, the tone is quickly set and we’re already sweating. Riding between sandy sections and big rocky steps, almost vertical climbs and endless descents is not for the faint of heart! The grip is true to its reputation, the sandpaper-type of texture prevents the tires from sliding. Our bikes, from the small EXC 150 two-stroke to the bigger EXC 500 four-stroke, can place like his own backyard, guides us through more serious trails. The obstacles are bigger, and every so often we find ourselves blocked, or we fall in our attempt to pass big steps. In this case, Taddy is always the first one to jump off his bike to come and help. Not even out of breath, this guy is jumping on different kind of bikes, riding with ease over any major obstacle, apparently indifferent to the engine bore or the suspension settings. When everybody finally stops to enjoy a great view of the exceptional landscape, drink some water and massage their forearms, he’s still doing stoppies and wheelies on the stones of overheated red granite. When Taddy removes his helmet, we take the time to ask him some more questions. Upshift: How is it possible that you’re still having so much fun on an enduro bike after all these years? TB: “To be honest, I was at a moment of my life where I couldn’t see a picture of a bike anymore. I was totally saturated, and that’s why I retired. But I rode bikes for such a long time that I quickly missed it. During a few months, I didn’t ride at all. Then I went back for fun, then more and more until I reached a time when I asked myself why I shouldn’t do this local race, and this one… Slowly, the idea of competing again emerged. It’s great to feel you’re good at something. I like having goals. Even the preparation is nice when you’re doing it right and you feel the progress. That’s why I decided to come back for at least two years, just to have fun. I love racing, even if entering the starting gate is not the most pleasant feeling.” Upshift: Did you try other sports during this time off? TB: “I didn’t do extreme things like base-jump or things like that (laughs). I tried car racing a little bit, but it’s another world. Talent doesn’t really matter, but rather how much money the guy is ready to bring to the team for racing. If you’re rich you have a better car the others have no chance to beat you. I didn’t like this mindset. With a motorcycle, if you’re a great rider, you’re getting paid to ride according to your own value. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m only talking about money. What I want to say is that in our sport, the performance is enhanced, and it allows you to deserve your job, your bike.”

TADDY BLAZUSIAK ENDURO CHAMPION

clear all the obstacles on the torque. We almost feel like good riders but Eric, who knows this


TADDY BLAZUSIAK ENDURO CHAMPION


Upshift: You talk about talent, so what is the most essential skill for an Enduro rider? TB: “That’s a great question. We all have different roots, whether it be motocross, Enduro, trial, but in the end, it’s all about riding a dirt-bike. It all boils down to this: how you control your bike, and how fit you are. To be a good rider you need to be good in all aspects of the sport. I have no idea why some riders can be better and even faster than me during weekday practices, but don’t do well in the race. It’s the mental aspect of the sport.” Upshift: Why do you think that people still want to ride dirt-bikes despite all the other options available today? TB: “I think it’s about the adrenaline, the type of pleasure you’re looking for at your age. If you’re young, you want to go fast, to get scared. Over time it changes, it’s about riding with friends, seeing some country, just

TADDY BLAZUSIAK ENDURO CHAMPION

like today… It’s a mix of all of that.” Upshift: What scares you on a bike or in real life? TB: “I don’t know. During a race we know what’s possible to do or not, so there’s really no reason to be scared. In life, options are more varied but there again, you decide. You need to take things as they come, day by day.”

Energy Break The day is well on its way, and the group’s energy levels are dwindling as fast as the water level in our camelbacks or the gas in our tanks. That being said, “We’re almost empty” would be an understatement. We pass the obstacles and everyone deals with arm-pump. The trail finally gets easier and winds towards the valley and a gas station. Taddy is awed by the price of gas: $29.00 for all eight bikes; it looks almost free for this Andorra resident! We follow up with a lunch break and large sodas for everyone: we need to rehydrate our bodies tortured with the heat. Taddy orders the burgers claiming that there’s no way he will eat anything else during his 48 hours in the States. Not stressed by any form of diet, he just wants to have fun, which doesn’t stop him from seriously answering our questions. Upshift: Why bother to come here in the middle of the training for the WESS? TB: “I’ve been with Fox for 12 years, which by the way shows off my long career (laughs). More importantly, with Fox there’s always something fun happening. This year, they needed me to help them reward their dealers, and even if the timing wasn’t perfect, I knew I had to go. I planned ahead by training a lot more these last few weeks, which allowed me to take this weekend as a break in my preparation. It’s not ideal, but they need me, and they’ve always been here for me, so here I am.” Upshift: You almost won the Superenduro championship for your comeback, at 35 years old. How does that make you feel? TB: “Cody Webb won his first title and I am really happy for him, he deserves it. The season is short, and I lost one race due to a crash, and another due to a mechanical problem. I knew I could still win, and that day I had confirmation of that. I would not have come back to finish tenth. I’m third with two DNF’s and one point from second which is encouraging.”


Upshift: Cody Webb is very tall. Does he have an advantage on you? TB: “All riders have a different style and even though Cody is definitely a bit old school, not really at ease with the jumps, he’s very precise and technical. He’s fast, he’s consistent. Height can help but if you’re a good rider, your feet don’t need to touch the floor, right? (laughs)”

TADDY BLAZUSIAK ENDURO CHAMPION

Upshift: With time, we become more resistant, gaining endurance. Is it an advantage for a championship like the WESS? TB: “While competing, it’s important to know where your strengths and weaknesses lie. At 35, it’s harder to sprint. But I rode in cross-country, in indoor, in extreme enduro, and this experience will help me compensate for the weight of the years. I know how to adjust the bike for different situations, for different types of terrain. Endurance comes with age, but experience also allows you to save more energy.” Upshift: Is there a championship or a discipline which define Tadeusz Blazusiak as a rider? TB: “I don’t know. I grew up as a rider at the same time as Endurocross and Superenduro. Eric met me at the beginning, and we never left each other. But I also did a lot of traditional Enduro. I do think that I participated in the development of the extreme side of Enduro.” Upshift: Today, you went from one bike to another without thinking twice about it. Will it be as easy for the WESS? TB: “It’s harder in a race, for sure. But I ran on so many different bikes that it’s definitely not a problem. I usually need a day to re-synchronize my brain with the bike, whether it be a 350 four-stroke or a 300 two-stroke. It’s easy from there.”


TADDY BLAZUSIAK ENDURO CHAMPION


Upshift: Do you regret the two-stroke? TB: “For certain extreme races, the two-stroke with injection stays very competitive, but as a rule of thumb the four-stroke stays in the lead. In very extreme specials, the two-stroke engine offers specific traction which can be useful. But the four-stroke is faster, more consistent. In indoor events, with the four-stroke, you can do all the laps at the same speed, give or take a couple tenths of a second. It’s not possible with a two-stroke motorcycle.” Upshift: You will get them back on the Erzberg Rodeo. Why do you like it so much?

it gets super technical at the end when you’re already dead-tired. You finish by seeking your last ounces of energy. Anything can happen there, you cannot plan anything. You have to give it all, from start to finish. It’s also an important race for Enduro, with 300 journalists, 50,000 spectators, a live TV cover… For off-roaders, it’s unique. ” Upshift: You created your own event, the MegaWatt. Why start such a project? TB: “To be honest, it might bear my name, but there’s a whole team working on it. It’s not like I do all this by myself! I help at the races, but I have people that have been working on it for 5 years and take care of everything. I’m happy to have seen it grow to the point where it is included in the WESS. I wanted to bring a different concept. For me, an Enduro rider needs to be able to go full throttle in 6th gear at 120 mph on the beach and be able to maneuver in first amongst boulders. He needs to qualify on a motocross track, then be good on a SuperEnduro track. Proof that people like this concept, it was sold out in three hours. In the end, there are three laps, with a bit of everything. The motocross part lasts 15 minutes, with very high speeds. The slowest corner needs to be taken in fourth! It’ll be fun, fast and technical.” Upshift: Is your training more varied than that of motocross, who do endless laps of the same track, followed by some gym time? TB: “Before, I trained exactly like them and it’s one of the reasons why I retired. Since I came back, I train as hard but with changes to keep some free time. But in the end, if you want to ride professionally, you don’t have a choice but to do a lot of laps. When we’re getting ready for the SuperEnduro we have an indoor track and we do mini-races. When we’re getting ready for an extreme race you still end up doing the same special over and over again. Doing laps can seem repetitious and opposite to the spirit of Enduro, but it’s the only way to get the needed intensity on race day.”

TADDY BLAZUSIAK ENDURO CHAMPION

TB: “It’s a peculiar race. It’s hard, you push your limits. It’s very fast at first, and


Without Shifter Back on track, thanks to our huge lunch. The afternoon seems more relaxed than the morning, thanks to Eric Peronnard who knows the place like nobody else, as he leads the group through a network of amazing single tracks hovering above cliffs over Moab. Enchanted by the gorgeous views, the riders speed up. But the trails are as technical as ever, so falls are numerous, often at low speeds on descents and giant steps. Up in the front of the group Eric is being pressured by the champion behind him, jumping a rocky seven-foot gap without seeing the landing and taking a spill. The fall is violent and the Frenchman stands up with wounded self-esteem and sees the 150 EX-C he’s riding has no gear shifter. Taddy tries to repair the bike with the few tools he brought but soon enough he needs to give in to the fact that the two-stroke will stay stuck in third for the rest of the journey.

TADDY BLAZUSIAK ENDURO CHAMPION

Not one to be worried, our multiple World Champion lends his 350 Factory Edition to his old friend and opens the trail with the amputated 150. While we all expected him to struggle at least a little bit in the steps or on long climbs or the clutch giving in, the KTM RedBull rider shows the extent of his talent and finishes the ride smoothly. Taddy even admits that his cardiac rhythm never went past 80 beats per minute, with about 5h 30min of riding. Not great news for the other members of our little group who wanted to brag about a hard ride! Seeing Taddy ride, we start to wonder if the laws of gravity are the same for everyone. Back at the hotel we raid the soda machine and sit down near the pool for the last discussion about his past and his future projects. Upshift: After seeing what Moab has to offer, do you think there are better places to ride Enduro somewhere in the world? TB: “There are so many good spots, it’s hard to choose. Moab is an amazing place for example. But if you go in Romania the dirt is just perfect! You can pass the corners at full throttle without taking your feet off the footpegs, with the handlebar almost touching the ground. Over there, it’s paradise. All the indoor tracks are also great places to ride. As long as it’s fun, I like it!” Upshift: What do you think about electric bikes? TB: “Today they aren’t as competitive as normal motorcycles. I rode with electric bikes; I did videos where we needed to change the batteries 20 times a day. If it’s the future, I don’t know, but it still needs a lot of development. I think that we still have a bit of time ahead of us and that bikes with an engine, an exhaust, and a nice noise aren’t obsolete yet!” Upshift: You talk a lot about speed. Did enjoy the rally experience and is that part of a possible reconversion plan? TB: “I did two small rallies and the Abu Dhabi challenge. I liked it, but I don’t think we can do this in parallel with Enduro. You need 100% dedication. The bike is bigger and heavier. It’s not like in enduro where whatever the discipline the bikes are similar. I also realized that the risk is really high. It’s easy to run fast, but if you have a problem you fall hard. Often you don’t see the dangers at high speeds. It’s some sort of sixth sense which warns you of that on the other side of the vertical dune. You need to learn how to read your surroundings, and you need at least two years to get this kind of experience.


Upshift: Could you then become a team manager with KTM? Or help with the development? TB: “I don’t think I can become team manager. I don’t see myself in such a role. On the other hand I like development. I have a lot of patience and good instincts when it comes to testing. When they design a new bike years before production starts they ask us to test them and help push them in the right direction. For Fox, I helped develop goggles for the Legion line for Enduro. I like these projects but I wouldn’t like to do it full-time. I want to keep some free time after the race.” Upshift: Could you take a big bike such as a 1090R and go on an adventure alone without

TB: “Oh yeah, these are the things I definitely want to do once I’m retired. Riding alone in nature, travel for fun and not for racing, yes, it’s part of my future projects.” Tadeusz Blazusiak: Born April 26, 1983, at Nowy Tard, Poland Sponsors: KTM/RedBull, Fox, Alpinestars, Airoh

CAREER MotoTrials: 7 times Champion of Poland of Trial between 1999 and 2007 European Champion of Trial in 2004 8th of the World Championship of Trial in 2006 7th of the World Championship of Trial Indoor in 2007

Enduro: 2018: Winner of Bessela Race Xtreme, 3rd in SuperEnduro Championship SuperEnduro Champion 6 times in a row from 2010 to 2015 EnduroCross Champion 5 times in a row from 2009 to 2013 Winner of the Erzberg Rodeo 5 times in a row from 2007 to 2011 4 gold medals and 1 bronze at the X-Games Endurocross between 2011 to 2018

TADDY BLAZUSIAK ENDURO CHAMPION

spectators or a stop-watch?


THE 2019 LEGION OFFROAD COLLECTION

FOXRACING.COM/LEGION


TESTED

BY S TEPHEN W. CLARK

MICHELIN ANAKEE ADVENTURE TIRE Much like the ADV bikes we mount them on, adventure tires are a balance of priorities. It seems like any benefit comes at the sacrifice of something else. Want more off-road traction? To get that you must give up on-road performance. Want them to last longer? To get that you must give up off-road performance. Michelin understands this balance as well as anyone so when they started developing the Anakee Adventure the goal was to stretch the performance characteristics of the tire in every way without any sacrifice. Michelin invited us out to Death Valley to learn about the tire and spend a few days riding the tire in a variety of conditions. Designed with large displacement ADV bikes in mind, the 80% onroad 20% off-road Anakee Adventure fills the gap in the Michelin Trail range between the 90/10 Anakee III and the 50/50 Anakee Wild. Using technology originally developed by Michelin for road racing, the Anakee Adventure uses 2CT and 2CT+ technology. This innovative construction and compound technology uses a harder more durable rubber compound in the center of the tire with a softer compound on the edges, this gives the tire increased wear resistance on straight sections while increased grip when the bike is leaned over. The tread pattern on the Anakee Adventure looks fantastic and gives the bike a rugged off-road look. But it’s not just about looks, there is a ton of technology packed into the tread pattern to make the tire perform. The tire is fully-grooved even in the center for enhanced traction on loose surfaces, bridge blocks are used between the outer tread blocks to stiffen the blocks for increased cornering stability and the tread grooves widen towards the tire shoulders to improve water and dirt evacuation. It’s a worthy stamp of approval when a manufacturer picks a tire as original equipment and BMW is using the Anakee Adventure on the mighty 1250GS as well as Moto Guzzi on the new V85TT.


PHOTOS: S TEPHEN W. CLARK & DREW MARTIN


TESTED: MICHELIN ANAKEE ADVENTURE TIRE

Ride Impressions Adventure bikes are so versatile and can be ridden everywhere from singletrack off-road to street touring, but while the bike itself may be capable of a huge range of terrain, it also takes a versatile tire to make it all work. During our ride in Death Valley we rode this tire on a variety of motorcycles ranging from a BMW 1200 GS Rallye on the large side down to a BMW F800 GS on the smaller side and a day on a Suzuki VStrom 1000 also. For me the Anakee Adventure tire makes a lot of sense on a 1200 GS, KTM Adventure S or VStrom as it’s a good match for the on-road/off-road capabilities of these bikes. And honestly in a way I like a less off-road focused tire on these bikes as it lessens the temptation to take the bike too far off-road and get into bad situations. That being said the Anakee Adventure offers good off-road performance, on gravel and packed dirt it is great. It has good traction and is very predictable when it slides. On asphalt the grip is also really good and the only complaint with on-road performance would be that the tire is pretty loud when leaned over. In sand and mud you definitely have to be really careful with this tire but to be fair that isn’t what it was designed for. I love the dual compound technology as that should really extend the life of the tire while still offering good performance. They say, “You can’t have your cake and eat it (too)” but with 2CT you kind of can. If I owned a GS the Anakee Adventure would be one of my first choices. If I had an Africa Twin/1090 and wanted to go on a street touring trip with my cruiser-riding friends it would be a great choice also.


TESTED: MICHELIN ANAKEE ADVENTURE TIRE Available Sizes and Launch Date Front 90/90-21 - 01/2019 100/90-19 - 08/2019 110/80 R19 - 01/2019 120/70 R19 - 01/2019

Highs: Excellent on-road traction and predictable off-road traction Good range of fitment for most new ADV bikes Good grip and longevity thanks to dual compounds

Rear 130/80 R17 - 08/2019

Lows:

140/80 R17 - 08/2019

Noisy at lean angles

150/70 R17 - 01/2019

Things get a little scary when you venture too far into sand or mud

170/60 R 17 - 01/2019 150/70 R18 - 01/2019

CHECK OUT OUR MICHELIN VIDEO HERE


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GRAVEL-T is a range of 100% waterproof soft bags, geared towards off-road and RTW use. The GRT709 Canyon soft panniers are the perfect alternative to hard side cases, as they offer 35 liter capacity each and they can be locked to their universal mounting plates. The provided mounts adapt to most side cases racks available on the market, although they work in perfect combination with the ones made by GIVI. • 100% waterproof • 35 liter capacity each • Lockable to their plates • Integrated M.O.L.L.E. system


Words: Scot Harden Photos: Olivier de Vaulx


noun: revenant; plural noun: revenants a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead. Life is full of surprises. Some good. Some bad. Some mystifying. Some mortifying like when you encounter someone you thought dead. Hugh Glass (legendary American frontiersman) and Jesus Christ are two examples that come to mind. Both given up for dead but somehow resurrected. So was the Mint 400. And while you might not fully appreciate the analogy as a life-long desert racer I can tell you the rebirth of the Mint 400 is a pretty big deal. After all, JC was dead just three days, and Hugh thought gone for little over a month. On the other hand, the Mint 400 for motorcycles was dead and gone almost 43 years. For a race that meant so much to a generation of desert racing enthusiasts; a race with so many legendary names and history attached to it, 1976 (the date of the last Mint 400) to 2019 seems like a lifetime. But now the Mint is back, and judging from the response from racers, manufacturers, and media it’s a good bet we won’t have to wait quite as long for the next one. The return of the Mint 400 might just have breathed new life into an essential segment of the sport, hailing a return to the glory days of desert racing as one of America’s more unique forms of motorcycle competition. For those of you that missed this modern day “revenant” here are some highlights.


The Pre-Race Festivities: When was the last time a major U.S. city, let alone the most significant tourist attraction on earth, shut down main street for a full week for an off-road race? Mint 400 pre-race activities are akin to Woodstock; only instead of rock music and hallucinogens, it was rock music and race gas. Off-Road racing owned downtown Las Vegas for three full days with manufacturer displays, pit crew competitions, freestyle exhibitions and millions and millions of dollars worth of exotic race equipment. For a brief period on Thursday afternoon, March 7th we owned the Las Vegas Strip as well. Watching the shocked faces of all the tourists as the most extreme off-road race cars, trucks, UTVS, and motorcycles paraded its length was worth every penny it took to be there.


Now Available 2019 CRF 450L 3,0 Gallon Fuel Tank

www.imsproducts.com


The Race Course: Talk about return from the dead. Based out of Primm, Nevada the crew at Best In the Desert dug deep to resurrect some of the most legendary desert racecourses of all time. Sections of the infamous Barstow to Vegas Hare n Hound, the Whiskey Pete’s World Championship Hare N Hound, Gold Strike Hare N Hound, Las Vegas 400 (the race that took the place of the Mint 400 from 1977- 1994) and last but not least the actual 1973 Mint 400 racecourse were strung together to make one epic motorcycle racecourse. Add in a few sections from the 2019 Mint 400 car/truck/UTV racecourse, enough to mimic the old Mint 400 races where motorcycles rode the same course as the cars/trucks, and every motorcycle competitor got a full taste of the Mint 400 experience and then some. Add in one of the wettest winters in Mojave Desert history, zero dust and unlimited traction and all the ingredients for an epic day of racing were in place.


The Race for the Overall: Let’s face it, desert racing is all about the overall win, the lone dust cloud across dry lake Chapala, the absolute fastest man or team that given day. From the start, you knew the race for the Mint 400 overall win would be special. The protagonists: the factory Honda JCR team led by US Dakar hero Ricky Brabec and AMA National Hare and Hound Champion Kendall Norman. Next came the other factory Honda entry, the SLR team consisting of reigning Baja 1000 champion Mark Samuels, Justin Morgan and Justin Jones. Last but not least was constant overall threat and recent BITD 2019 Parker 250 overall winner Jacob Argubright riding a Kawasaki and electing to tough it out and go the distance solo. From the drop of the flag, these three teams put on an epic battle for the overall. At the end of Lap 1 Brabec led by just seconds over Argubright. Argubright got past the Honda team when it stopped to change a rear wheel and led the start of lap 2. Halfway around Lap 2 Norman, riding in Brabec’s place, squeezed past Argubright for the lead but from then on the two teams would be connected at the hip all the way to the finish never more than a few seconds apart. And while a fresh Brabec led the charge going out on the third and final lap, Argubright hunkered down and kept Brabec in sight to the finish crossing the line a mere 64 seconds behind after almost five hours of racing. The SLR Honda team finished just 89 seconds behind Argubright with only 2:33 seconds separating first and third. No doubt JN Roberts, Mike Patrick, Phil Bowers, Rolf Tibblin, Jack Johnson, Mitch Mayes and every other former Mint 400 winner were proud.


The Race for the Masses: One of the benefits of being on the BITD staff is greeting everyone at the finish line and getting to witness firsthand the joy and sense of accomplishment every finisher and their support team felt at the end of the day. Make no mistake the best part about the sport of desert racing is the people that participate in it. If I had to describe the moment in three words or less they would be: Elation, Satisfaction, Anticipation! Elation for having just experienced a peak life moment and sharing it with teammates and family; Satisfaction for having finished one of the biggest desert races on earth; Anticipation for what desert races they can challenge next. I saw plenty of young faces, teenagers, veteran racers, female riders, and families. It took me back to my roots and my family growing up and all they did to support me as a young man and the aspirations the Mint 400 engendered in me. All together 169 teams and close to 500 riders competed in the 2019 Mint 400 making it the most significant long distance off-road desert race in over 30 years.

The Aftermath: If nothing else the 2019 Mint 400 proved that desert racing is not only alive and well but just might be catching a second wind. For any off-road racer, the opportunity to race a legendary desert race like the Mint 400 should be a bucket list item, and I have no doubt I will see many of these same teams competing at Vegas to Reno, the Parker 250 and Baja 1000. The 2019 Mint 400 was a great reminder not to write off the sport of desert motorcycle racing just yet because just like Christ and Glass, there is a second act and potentially it will be a lot more interesting than the first! Full results from the 2019 Mint 400 can be found here >


INTERVIEW MARK SAMUELS While riding with Mark Samuels on a few sections of the CA-BDR this winter, we couldn’t help asking him questions about his life and his career. The professional rider, who’s also the team manager of Slam Life racing, knows quite a bit about riding in the desert and is not a guy to dodge a question. Have you ever dreamed about running your own team and race in Baja? Everything you always wanted to know is here. Take a seat, relax, and enjoy the ride! Mark, tell us first how you became an off-road racer. My dad talked about Johnny Campbell all the time. He used to ride some XR650s and XR400s in the desert with his friends. But on my side, I grew up watching Jeremy McGrath on TV and all I wanted to do was Motocross and Supercross. I never considered off-road as a kid. I started racing, with somewhat good results in intermediate and pro-amateur. At this time, I was racing against Ryan Dungey, Trey Canard... But in 2007 and 2008, I tore my ACL two years in a row, just when the economy tanked. I lost my sponsors and I stopped racing for 2 years. When I got back on a dirt bike, I followed my father’s advice and tried some off-road racing. It went great and from there, I never looked back. What did you do during these two years off? Well, I did what everybody does, I had a normal job! For 2 years, I cleaned french fry filters in restaurants with my dad. I’d leave my house at 3am every morning to get in the restaurants before the kitchens were opened, even before the prep chef showed up. I worked on the machine filtering the 300°F oil. It was not a 9 to 5 job, as I was working from 3:30 to 8:30 every morning, 4 days a week. On days off, we just came to ride for training with my dad. Is this where and when you learned how to run a business as your actual race team? I stopped racing motocross when I was 18. I hit my head, I had a concussion. I came back home with big vision problems and I had to step away from racing. My dad made me try all the aspects of his business. I had to talk to the guys in the kitchen, run the van by myself. It might not seem like a lot but when you’re only 18, it’s a big step forward and a confidence builder. It helped later when I had to deal with my sponsors! When you came back to racing, did you build your own team right away? Not really. What I really wanted was to be a rider in the Johnny Campbell Racing team. That was my dream. I rode with them for a couple years on some endurance races like 24hrs, 12hrs, and other local events. But I was also filling for David Kamo and for Timmy Weigand. I was called when they crashed before the Baja. We won and I thought that I had my big break and that everything would go easy after this victory. But that was also the year Kurt Caselli passed away. And suddenly, Johnny decided he wanted to go to GNCC. I was left with nothing. I talked with Colton Udall, who had just bought a brand new 450x with his bonus check from the Baja 1000 and built it to race it all that year. That’s when we decided to make a team. The first season was tough, as we tried too many things. We were racing and doing good but we were losing races because of bad calls or because we were just overdoing it. The next year, we ended up winning everything… Looks like we learned our lessons! So yeah, Colton and I started the team together. I did all the business side of things, he did all the mechanical side of things. We worked on pit plans and strategies and stuff like that. That’s how it all happened.

By Olivier de Vaulx


INTERVIEW MARK SAMUELS Why did you choose the Baja instead of GNCC, WORCS or any other series? It’s not even in the US! I didn’t really plan it. Colton Udall noticed me at a race and talked me into it. My parents and grandparents were not afraid of going to Mexico, they had a house there. A lot of Americans are afraid to go to Mexico. It’s a scary place to go to race, as the course is pretty gnarly and you’re pretty far away from medics. But I saw how Johnny ran his program and I was hooked. This craziness suits me I guess. The deserts in California and in Mexico look similar but are still quite different. How do you explain it? The best way to put it is to say that over there it’s the wild wild west. I mean, there are no rules, at least compared to California. People let you race across their land, the government lets you race, there’s no way you could do that in the States. There’s nothing like Baja. Even compared to Dakar? People say that the Dakar is the ultimate race, and in a lot of ways I think that it is. Just by how long it is. But what you do in Baja puts you at higher risk. In Baja, you pre-run, which brings a safety factor but also brings a speed factor. You’re going that much faster because you know where you’re going. The dynamic in Baja makes it unpredictable. There are rocks that could have been moved by a truck during the pre-run that wasn’t supposed to be there, in the line you used to take. You can have horses, cows, and to make it worse, we’re usually the first bike. We’re starting the race wherever it is. No one knows that the race is coming until we run through them. Then they know… for the next riders! There are farmers who don’t know there’s a race going on, they don’t even care a race is going on! They drive on their dirt road because it’s what they do, they need to make a living going to town to get what they need and get back. That’s their everyday life and they’re just cruising on the course. They’re doing their job and it’s a wild dynamic. Luckily, we have helicopters which can radio to us, “trucks coming, etc...” But every 2 hours they need to leave to fill up, and they need 20 minutes to fill the tank, and then 10 more minutes to find us. So that’s basically 40 minutes with no way to know what’s in front of us. There are also flaws in the system of the helicopter, they can’t see a cow underneath a tree. On the other hand, in the Dakar, you have a 14-day race. That’s gnarly! The speed they are going is Baja speed, but they don’t know where they’re going… That’s crazy when you think about it! But I don’t feel that I rode any section of the Dakar that was as gnarly as Baja can be. Their course is more protected, you don’t really have to worry about cars going the wrong way. In Baja, with the trucks doing the pre-run, the terrain is chattered, there are more whoops, rocks, it’s like a MX track for miles. Do you think the Baja gets the attention it deserves? The best place to put it in perspective is to consider the movie Dust to Glory, the first one. It shows everything from the point of view of a motorcycle, but it’s still far from what we really experience. If you ask any SX guy if they want to race Baja, they will say no! They don’t even want to go down there! There’s a ton of respect from the moto people, but in the public, nobody really knows what it takes. It’s so hard to cover such a big race! You have one chance to take a photo every 60 miles, and that’s it. You need a huge crew of photographers, and helicopters, just for photos. And you have to understand that every one of the 16 pits has a different dynamic, as nothing will happen the same way at any pit. Each pit stop has its own story, and each rider has his own story for each pit. That’s an impossible story to tell.


Let’s go back to your career. How could you come out of nowhere and win this race so many times? I won the Baja 1000 four and a half times. I won the Baja 500 2 times and the Baja 250 3 or 4 times. But I don’t even consider myself a great Baja rider. My goal was to race MX and SX when I was younger. It didn’t work, I stepped back and was directed to off-road because I still wanted to race. I had the heart and the desire to race. I’d say that destiny is the best way to explain these wins (laughter). What skills do you need to win? I think the business mindset is a big thing. Baja is not about speed, about how fast your bike can go. It’s all about how to navigate through safely, how to juggle all the different circumstances that can happen in the race. There’s so much more than just racing in Baja. You need the skills to ride a dirt bike obviously, but you need the right team, the right pitters, to make it happen. It’s a bigger dynamic than just you and your bike. You have to be sure that your bike won’t break, that you can reach the next pit if a rock damages something, that you won’t have a light failure at night. The business side of things is what helps you to win. You still had a lot of injuries. Aren’t you scared? Oh, absolutely! I don’t get nervous before a Big 6 or a Worcs race. Maybe a little bit. But not that I can’t handle. But every time I race in Baja, I don’t know what can happen and that’s scary.


INTERVIEW MARK SAMUELS The trucks catching the bikes is a big problem for most riders. What’s your take on this? Well, they don’t catch me (laughter). We beat all the trucks this year. But that’s scary for sure. There’s a lot of people who come and race Baja because it’s on their bucket list and they do it with their buddies. Most of them are not that fast and it’s super dangerous. They’re also putting the truck guys in a bad spot. These trucks are going 140mph while these riders are maybe going only 20mph in the whoops or in the silt. That’s a huge gap! I don’t know how to fix it. If we were doing it in two days, with the bikes going first, it would be safer but it would take prestige away from the bikes. Everyone there wants to see the trucks, not the bikes. That’s why it’s important that we beat all the trucks this year! They have 40” tires, 2 feet of travel, 900hp, they go 120mph in whoops, and we beat them all (laughter). Is Honda asking you to help develop the bikes? No, but Johnny Campbell is helping a lot in the development of the CRF450X and RX. Back to this “half victory” in Baja 1000… It sucks to have a half win (laughter)! We had issues at the beginning of the race; we were 32 minutes back, with only 100 miles. I went back to 25 mins behind when I took the bike to 6 mins behind the leader. Then Ian Young had the ride of his life and he took the lead. He made it to the finish line and did a too fast and too long wheelie before the ramp. He hit the super slippery ramp, where many people felt during the day and he put everybody in danger. One young photographer jumped from the podium and broke his leg while landing. He was not even hit by the bike. But our rider did put them in danger and the whole team got penalized 30 minutes. It cost so much money to win this race, we won it, the accident happened after the line, and they penalized us for something that happened after the finish. I’d say that a fine to the rider would have been a fair assessment, but I understand too. They’re afraid that with such behavior, the race would never be authorized again. I understand that they wanted and needed to make a clear statement but we lost all the bonuses, and none of our sponsors paid anything. We get paid only for the win. It ended the team at that point, and I had to restart it by myself. Today I still think about it, I can even joke a bit about it, but it was a hard one to swallow.


Let’s jump to the Dakar. What is the main reason why Baja riders never won the Dakar? I guess the number one problem is the road book. We don’t have any navigating racing here. It’s a style of racing that just doesn’t exist in America. Kurt Caselli could have been the first one to win, but for us, there’s no help here. Nobody knows anything about road books. They don’t know how to build them, how to use them. That’s the main reason why Americans never won the Dakar Rally. They need to learn the skills. On the other hand, you have the KTM team, who reminds me of what Johnny Campbell had in Baja. They know everything they need to know to win. The other brands like Honda bring all their best riders to beat them but so far they couldn’t. They still try to figure out what it’s gonna take to beat them. It’s like the reverse of Baja, where Honda is still dominating the race and KTM struggles to beat them. The winning team is the team who knows the details, where to push and when to take it easy. If KTM won 17 times, it’s not luck... You went from Baja to Dakar with no rally experience. Tell us how it went at the beginning... I did the Sonora Rally and that’s how I won my entry. I didn’t do any rally before that. I had to learn everything during the Dakar race. And I really mean everything! I had to learn the controls and they even put my road book in Spanish instead of English! Man, I didn’t know what the damn thing was saying. It took me a few days to figure out how everything worked...I had to learn while racing. One day I lost one hour because of my inexperience on the bike. I lost a power wire and didn’t know how to fix it. With no more roadbook I had to follow the guy in front of me and at some point I passed him, not knowing that he went through a checkpoint. As I passed him, I went just a bit outside of the radius you’re supposed to be in while arriving on the checkpoint. I got penalized one hour. Without this incident, instead of 21, I could have been on the top 15. It’s all these little things you need to learn which make the difference. At the end of the race, I had a 7th place finish on one stage. Finishing the rally, when you’re used to doing long races like Baja, is it easier? Finishing the Dakar is tough. At the end of the first week, you’re halfway, you’re still ok. But then you reach ten days, and you really feel tired. The last 4 days are just too much. It’s a different animal. Everyday, by the time you reach the bivouac, take a shower, eat, do your roadbook, it’s 11pm. And you leave at 4am! And it keeps going like that. Even when you’re on the pavement, it’s for hours, and it’s really long hours sitting on the bike. And then you have to race the stage. It’s brutal. It’s not like pre-running for 7 days and then racing. It’s racing every day, with no time to rest. I didn’t expect it to be what it was. When you think about it, which memories are you bringing back? I still have flashbacks of some days. Bolivia was so cold! I was colder than I had ever been in my life. I also remember the big dunes, with trucks buried in the sand. One section was so soft, I was getting stuck every 20 feet. I struggled so much there, and I saw some pros going through this with ease just because they knew which lines to take. I also remember this big crash in the dunes. Everybody saw the YouTube video with Rodriguez over jumping the edge of this giant dune. But I actually crashed at the same place just a few minutes before him. You can see my landing zone on this video. I landed so hard I compressed my whole body. I kept riding, but the pain was so intense. It took me days to feel better and I still have problems in my shoulders. When Rodriguez fell, his bike was on the ground and the Sentinel system sent an alarm to the other riders who could avoid the trap. I got pretty unlucky on this one, but it comes back to the experience you need to do good on such a gnarly race.


INTERVIEW MARK SAMUELS Do you want to go back? Yes, once for sure. But maybe to go race trophy trucks. My heart is definitely in motorcycles but I’m 29, and I’m getting close to being old enough to be in a cage (laughter). Mark Samuels DOB: June 7th, 1989 at Lake Havasu City, Arizona - Grew up in Kingsman, Arizona. Home: Yucca Valley, California Food: Steak Music: Country, rap Dream car: I don’t really like cars beside trophy trucks. But I dream about these new adventure vans you can take on camping trips. Those are cool. Team: SLR (Slam Life Racing) Budget (in 2018): around $300,000 for the whole season Riders (in 2018): Mark Samuels, Justin Jones, Ricky Dietrich, Derek K ​ elly Sponsors (in 2018): Honda, FLY, Alpinestars, Scorpion, Monster Energy, Pro Circuit, STI

Career Team Slam Life Racing 2018: Baja 1000, Baja 500, San Felipe 250, 21st at Dakar Rally W/ Team OX Motorsport 2017: 2d Baja 1000 (winner but penalized), 2d Sonora Rallye, San Felipe 250 2016: Baja 1000, Baja 500, San Felipe 250 2015: Baja 1000, Baja 500, San Felipe 250 W/ Team JCR 2013: Baja 1000


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Africa’s Jade Desert Lake

PHOTOS AND WORDS: MICHNUS OLIVIER


We knew this stretch of our planned journey could potentially end our trip. There are two routes from Kenya to Ethiopia or vice versa: The main road through Marsabit which is about as exciting as watching paint dry and the most popular with travelers. And then there is the route which is the road less traveled via Lake Turkana. This route is more a track and can take days to traverse but much more fun and with incredible dramatic landscapes. Lake Turkana is the world’s biggest desert lake and Africa’s most saline. Fondly called the Jade Sea because of its breathtaking color, it is surrounded by an arid, seemingly extraterrestrial landscape that is often devoid of life. We were told at Jungle Junction, an overlanders oasis in Nairobi, Kenya, about the route from a few overlanders and with fair warning that they did not advise riding the route unsupported. Especially on motorcycles. What makes the route so dangerous, yet interesting, is that overlanders need to carry their own fuel and water for the nearly 900km of the road. Most travelers team up with 4×4 trucks to bring their fuel and water, and for added support, when things go wrong. Just to add some more zest to the mix for this adventure, the route follows the lava rocks and sand that is also crossing into Marsabit, making riding slow, dangerous and potentially a killer of tires. It is incredibly remote, and you can not just summons a helicopter or rescue effort if things go wrong. This is desolation valley! You are on your own!


We were entirely out of luck with any backup overlanders. This is Africa, and there are not hordes of overlanders and very few ever choose the Turkana route. Eventually, we decided to buy some fuel and water containers and go at it on our own. In addition to our bikes 18L fuel tanks, we each carried an added 15L of fuel, an additional 10L water with me and full water trippers on our backs. We started the route at Isiolo in Kenya, and the next stop was at Maralal. The last town we were sure to get fuel and water, we set out. Motorcyclists are a rare sight in the village, and with strange looks from the locals, we left late afternoon on very heavily laden bikes en route to Lake Turkana. Not 5km out of town the road slowed to technical rock climbing all the way up the slope. We only managed 25km for the rest of the afternoon and later that day set up camp beside the road. If it started like this, we were sure as hell going to suffer the next 5 days! Early the next day the road meandered over amazing mountain ranges and the most beautiful surroundings imaginable. The going was slow, and although it was partly overcast, it was as hot as hell. The entire road was severely eroded and corrugated, little did we know the 1st and second gear 20km/h riding was going to be the majority of the route to Ethiopia.


The route to Loiyangalani became a bit easier with its powdery sand tracks, and at some places, we could even use 3rd and 4th for a few hundred meters at a time. As the day progressed, the heat got really unbearable; it must have been well over 40’c. Just about 50km before Loiyangalani we rode into the lava fields. It was like being on the receiving end of a nasty sucker punch, you are suddenly wide awake focusing not to crash. Riding on fist-size marbles that throw your front wheel all over the place in a hollowed-out track and still trying to avoid the sharp-edged rocks requires your full attention. Riding out of the track was impossible and dangerous. I am sure this place is Satan’s home when even camels succumb to the terrain; it’s really not a good environment for people. How the tribes survive here is an absolute mystery, it is a brutal place. The huts resemble squatter camps more than anything else, and there’s no water, except lake water that is salty but drinkable, and some waterholes. Tired and thirsty late that afternoon we reached Shady Palms Campsite in Loiyangalani. We could not remember the last time we felt so tired. We each downed 1.5L of beer and at least 1.5L of water before going to bed and did not even go for a pee.


With a WTF expression on our faces the manager at the campsite told us there were showers with hot water! Well up until now we got used to mostly cold showers because that was all that campers got at campsites in Africa. But here, there was no cold water! In 40’ degree heat we had a shower, which was great but was scolding hot! We took a ‘rest-day’ and strolled through Loiyangalani village with its roughly 1000 inhabitants and home to three different tribes of people. It is an oasis in the desert; lots of palm trees and a hot water spring and nothing else. The heat was unbearable even with the wind blowing so we decided to relax in hammocks and drink beer. The next morning with the sun mercilessly beating down on us the technical riding started soon outside the village. There’s a strange exhilaration about traveling alone in such absolute desolation. Life and adventure is so much more prickly. In one of the dry river beds, we came across a group of men scooping water from a well for their camels. As we stopped under the trees, we were greeted with skeptical looks. It was only then that we saw the size of the water well. Roughly 6m deep and 5m across tapering down. They cut steps down to the water. The men stood in a row passing the bucket to the top man. They offered us one of the buckets. I tipped it over my head, damn, it felt good! Relaxing a bit like that makes it difficult to get back on the bikes.


We had to keep going a while before Karsa gate entering the national park as the road turned really nasty. The track turned into one bad rocky bed. Our hands took a beating from the vibrations and the bikes’ fans were working overtime in the heat. In the back of my mind I could not stop worrying about the tires, those rocks are sharp, and it does not take much to cut a tire. Eventually, late that afternoon, we rode up to the park gate and collapsed onto the cement floor under the cool shade of the grass roof. We were dead tired and dehydrated. The two guards just smiled at the two crazies and went on their merry way watching local soap operas on their solar-powered TV. We did not have the energy to ride anymore. The men at the gate told us 9km away there’s a small canteen where they might have a beer or two! After half an hour rest we dragged ourselves back to the bikes and headed off to find the bar. Shit! 9kms sand riding can be a lifetime away! As we sat outside the canteen downing some beers and drinks, staff told us all their food and necessities are delivered by boat from the other side of the lake. Nothing gets trucked or driven into the park by road; the road condition is just too beat up. Even their drinking water gets delivered in 200L drums. We stocked up on beers and eggs and pulled into a dry river bed under some big trees for a hot, long night. The first 10km just after sunrise was quite comfortable. We hoped it would last and that we we’d be in Illiret late the afternoon. Well, it did not last! One thing we learned was that planning goes out the window on routes like these. Our speed dropped to 20km/h average and our fuel consumption to a 16km/L which presented a fresh new hell. Our next place to get fuel would only be in Turmi or Granada, Ethiopia and still a good 500km away.


This is where the proverbial shit hit the fan in bucket loads. Exactly at the intersection to Koobi Fora research station, the track turned to a challenging sand track. This is why this terrain is so unpredictable, only 2mm of rain can turn it into a fast ridable track, or not. The weight of the bikes and the soft powdery sand made riding virtually impossible, and 4×4’s had dug up the sand to such an extent that it offered no grip. The bikes kept digging into the sand. When we got them to float, the track altered direction. Overgrown bushes and thorns hanging into the trail hit us on the face and body, and our progress slowed to a crawl. Neither of us is new to sand riding and can cope with most sand track with ease, but this was the first time that we got into sand tracks that were really difficult to ride. It took us over 2 hours to negotiate the 12km sand track to the research station. The bikes were starting to overheat, and we used all our water. This was as bad as it could get as we were smack in the middle of the route and recovering us or the bikes from there would be a considerable challenge. Eventually, when we reached the buildings, a man gave me much needed water in an old 5L oil container. The container was wrapped in a dirty old sponge, tied up with an electric cable as a homemade water cooler. It took us quite some time to cool down and feel normal again. The local staff offered to cook us some fried lake fish and rice as it would help restore our energy for the next day and we were going to need it! Gratefully, they filled our water bottles from their 200L water drums. Apart from being a scientific research station, the place is a graveyard to old Land Rover wrecks that in days gone by only made it there and died. We went to bed with trepidation knowing the next day’s riding was going to be challenging. While the coffee was brewing the following day and we packed up the tent, there was not much talking. The first piece out of Koobi Fora is sand and with the bikes warmed up, we stormed into the sandy field in a northernly direction trying to avoid the previous day’s route. By now it was a lot of fun riding the rocky roads, skills got sharpened up in a jiffy, progress was great, and we were in good spirits chasing over some of the dry pans that formed next to the lake. As we got closer to Illiret, we saw zebras and some other big buck trotting away as we rode by. At Illeret we needed to get stamped out at the police station before heading off to Omorate, Ethiopia, 60km away. God knows how the hell people make a living here and from what. The police were extremely friendly, even escorted us to the closest cold drink. There is no official border crossing here between Ethiopia and Kenya, and we made our own based on the GPS coordinates. Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, unknown to us, there was an early start to the rainy season and the only two big rivers we still had to cross, 25km before Omorate, were full flowing. The first river I walked and we managed to cross it quite easily but just 5km away the second big mother of a river nearly 500m wide in full flood left us dumbstruck. As a precaution I walked through and almost got washed away by the force of the water. The bad news was that the bank was washed away and too deep for us to exit the other side. As we stood there contemplating what to do, a local casually dressed man came up to us on a small Chinese bike with an AK46 over his shoulder.


Quite a friendly chap turned out to be a local policeman. We communicated via self-improvised sign language and smiles. We gathered that he had to get to Omarate himself and gestured we can follow him as he knew another route. We looked at each other with exasperated expressions but had no other choice. It meant riding back 20km and crossing the one river again then taking a northerly direction towards Omorate. He rode the small bike like a real pro enduro racer, and we made good progress via the cattle tracks. Around 17km before Omorate the policeman stopped indicating to me that his fuel tank was empty. We offered him our last 2L that were in our jerry cans hoping we could get a few liters in Omarate. As our next known fuel stop was still 200km away. The small village of Omarate is a busy little place with curious people, and we were soon greeted by the familiar “you, you, you…money, money” that all the other overlanders warned us about. As we reached the local immigration office, a small skinny man came over to greet us. Our names got dotted down into a book that resembled “the dog ate my homework,” and we were free to enter Ethiopia. We were quickly whisked away to the local hotel by a fixer. The only one in fact! A dodgy brothel, which was confirmed by loud moaning and groaning noises emanating from the rooms throughout the night. Cats mating made less noise. We opted to pitch our inner part of the tent outside the room and rather sleep in our own bed. The pleasures of travel. Our last issue was to get fuel as we had about 5L or 7L left in our tanks. We were up early the next day to try and find fuel, and since it was still 185km to the rest camp close to Granada, we wanted to get going while it was still cool. The problem was we would not make it to the Granada with the fuel we had. With some luck, a local at the hotel took us to a friend in Turmi, the next town, who had some fuel stored for himself in 200L drums in the back of his house. Fuel in these remote places is a precious commodity. He sold us some at quite an inflated price, but that is how it goes. We were happy we finally made it into Ethiopia!


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Profile for UPSHIFT

Upshift Issue 32 - April 2019  

We have the latest epic motorcycle journeys from around the globe and stunning photos that make you feel like you’re there. Welcome to the A...

Upshift Issue 32 - April 2019  

We have the latest epic motorcycle journeys from around the globe and stunning photos that make you feel like you’re there. Welcome to the A...

Profile for upshift