Could you imagine riding North and South America on a dual-sport bike with almost zero experience, then embarking on an expedition of riding across Africa, and ending up racing one of Europe’s biggest rally races?
It may sound nuts, but that’s exactly what Peter Solnor, a Norwegian rider, has accomplished in just six years.
In 2016, Peter and his friend Christian bought two Kawasaki KLR’s in Alaska and rode them to South America.
“We didn’t have much experience back then, but we also didn’t have any strict plans: we just winged it for the most part and went everywhere we wanted to instead of sticking to a pre-planned route. That was my entry into adventure and off-road riding, and I was very green at that point. But we figured it out as we went along, people helped us, and despite some hiccups, we had a great time”, Peter shares.
“In Peru, Christian had a crash and had to go home; I continued for another two months, managed to roll my bike off a cliff somewhere in Ecuador, and got into all sorts of trouble. I was aiming for Patagonia, but in the end, it was already late in the season, so I stopped in Santiago, Chile. Both bikes were broken at that point, but we had a blast!”, Peter remembers.
The next year, the intrepid adventurers bought bikes – a KTM 640 and a BMW X Challenge – in Cape Town and rode them to Nordkap, Norway, in 11 months.
“The biggest difference from the Americas trip was better mechanical knowledge, better gear, and frankly, better bikes. You have a lot more fun when your bike isn’t falling apart every few hundred miles, and you’re just more comfortable in good gear. In terms of planning, we didn’t plan much as we wanted to be flexible and just explore.
I’d say, prep is important, but then, overpreparation can be a trap, too. Just set a deadline and go – whatever you’ve got, it’ll work. There’s a lot you simply figure out along the way”, Peter tells us.
To avoid getting carnets de passage (motorcycle import passports that are typically costly), Peter and his friends rode southern Africa, then turned eastward until they hit Ethiopia.
“From there, we couldn’t go any further without the carnets, so we shipped the bikes to Turkey and continued home. Visa-wise, Africa was all pretty easy – I’d even say it was easier than Central America. The riding surprised us: what we wanted more of after South America were these huge, vast open spaces like between Bolivia and Chile, more wilderness, more expedition-style riding, but the reality is, more and more roads in Africa are getting paved, and fast. It’s also more populated: you could find food and fuel just about everywhere. We did find wilderness in Namibia in Kenya, but overall, Africa is fairly easy to travel”, Peter shares.
Taking It Up a Notch: Hellas Rally Raid
During his travels, Peter had discovered Lyndon Poskitt and started watching his rally racing content. “We were in South America just after the Dakar had finished there, and the locals were still very excited about it. I got intrigued, and when I returned home after the Africa expedition, I began watching a lot of content and reading as much as I could find about rally racing. I fell in love with off-road riding during those bike trips, and I confess I love riding fast and having the challenge of tough terrain and higher speeds, so rally racing and roadbook navigation seemed ideal for this.
I started following Rally Dakar and other races, and then decided to go for a rally race myself. I got a roadbook navigation kit, stuck it on my KTM 690, and entered the Hellas Rally Raid this year. And, well, it was awesome!
I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy it, but Hellas exceeded all my expectations. The riding was great – challenging here and there, but doable – and some of the stages were really long, but I got through it all and felt pretty good every morning. I was a little worried whether my body would cope with the stress and whether I’d have enough endurance, but it all went well. Navigation was fairly straightforward, and the life in the bivouac was really cool: meeting people, hanging out, helping each other…The camaraderie is really amazing – out on the tracks, you’re competing, but back at the bivouac, you’re rooting and supporting each other”, Peter says.
In addition to having a ridiculous amount of fun, Peter came in 3rd in his class – an amazing result for a rally newcomer.
“Now, I feel like I’m hooked. This whole rally business is addictive – it’s the perfect combination of enjoyment, challenge, speed, healthy competition, adventure… it’s both hard and fun, as well as nice and sociable.
I’m hoping to do another race next year – maybe Hellas, maybe some other European rally, and then hopefully move on to bigger desert races at some point”, Peter shares.
Crash-Testing Rally Footpegs
For Hellas, Peter had installed a pair of Cross Country ADV rally footpegs – and became the first rider in history to break them.
“I did really well on day one keeping a good pace, but then made a navigation mistake and got lost. I had to turn around, met other riders, everyone was confused, so I started second-guessing myself. I followed other riders thinking they knew what they were doing, we all figured out that it was wrong, so it was a lot of back and forth; it was very frustrating, I was mad at myself for losing all this time…
A few miles in, trying to make up for lost time, I had a crash downhill. It’s probably because I started riding above my ability, but I lost traction on a rutty downhill section and low sided down a steep bank, the bike sliding downhill front wheel first – and that’s when the footpeg broke. It’s was a freaky angle, and footpegs just aren’t made to take a hit like that. I zip tied everything back together and limped to the bivouac, where Tamas had replaced the footpegs for me no questions asked – but he was very intrigued on how the hell did I manage to break them. Apparently, no one’s done that before”, Peter laughs.
“The Cross Country rally footpegs are well made, and Tamas is a great guy. It’s cool to support people who are passionate about designing great products for the community, so I’m sure I’ll continue to use the footpegs”, Peter shares.
Currently focusing on local bike trips in Norway and Sweden, Peter is already plotting his next adventure – and it’ll probably be a rally race. Follow his adventures on his Instagram page and see what he gets up to next!