Bosnia Rally, a cross-country roadbook navigation event held annually in Kupres, Bosnia, is designed to provide riders with a chance to try out a rally format without the pressure of a timed race. Bosnia Rally mimics real rally conditions: navigation is roadbook (although Adventure class riders are permitted to have a GPS as a backup, or run with GPS entirely), there are liaison and special stages, and the terrain, the length of the stages, and the layout of the event is identical to that of an actual rally race. However, stages are not timed, and the bivouac in Kupres is static which means the logistics are simple and easy. You can either stay at the hotel or camp (while having access to the hotel’s facilities), and each day, you come back to the same bivouac. For privateers or malle moto riders (without assistance), this makes it easy to camp and work on the bike in one place.
The average stage length at the Bosnia Rally is around 200-220km, and you need a 150km fuel range. The event is open to pros, semi-pros, amateurs, and complete newbies alike. The terrain is varied – from rocky mountain trails to plenty of fast, open tracks, and the rally is great fun as well as a good experience for those looking to get into rally racing.
This year, our very own Tamas Esch has ridden Bosnia Rally – here is his account on what it’s like:
– Bosnia Rally is a training event, but you rode it like a race. Was it a close format to an actual race?
There are a couple of things you can handle flexibly: there is no fixed starting order – you simply have a time interval in the morning when you can line up and start the liaision, then the special stage. So you can start early or sleep more, or, if you still have to work on your bike in the morning, you can decide to start later. The staff will start the riders every minute, but you can choose to start together with your teammate(s) if you are riding together. One important thing is different compared to an actual race: the ORGA does everything to let the locals know that there is a rally on the mountain and forest roads, but the crossroads are not closed, so you have to be much more careful (compared to a race) when you can’t see what’s next after the corner.
Of course, it’s important to keep your eyes peeled on an actual rally race, too – you have to always expect traffic from the opposite direction or from the side because a rally stage never ever goes on a closed track, and you can expect excited spectators or lost riders trying to find the way back to the stage.
– How was the navigation at Bosnia Rally?
Navigating with only a roadbook and a tripmaster is always a challenge and great fun, especially when the navigation is tricky and you have to carefully select which track should you choose. Stefan Rosner and his team did a perfect job: the roadbook was very accurate and I was navigating very well. However, when I tried to push a bit more – and more – I got lost at a point.. it wasn’t fun, the weather was pretty hot (around 39 degrees Celsius), and I was struggling in the forest on a single track. Once I could finally turn back, found out what I did wrong and found my position in the roadbook, corrected the tripmaster, and learned my lesson, but it cost me an hour and a lot of energy. This isn’t typical, but when I got lost, I stopped, thought about the previous sections, and I was pretty sure that I hadn’t made any mistakes. After a couple of minutes, I heard other riders somewhere on the track behind me, so I decided to go forward to see if the next tulip in the roadbook will be the right one or not, but then, the single track turned to a hard enduro track and that was the point when I began to suspect that this kind of track should be marked in the roadbook, especially because Bosnia Rally always has a Lite Track detour option for big enduros if there is a very difficult or technical section ahead.
– How was the Bosnia Rally terrain?
The terrain is mostly gravel roads with stones, sometimes rocks, and four out of five days the tracks go up and down in the mountains, sometimes on serpentines, sometimes even straight up (on day five, we were riding on ski tracks), so it’s more technical then fast However, you can handle it on a 690-701cc bike quite well. It’s more fun on a 350-450-500cc enduro bike, and it’s a big challenge for a large GS, but thanks to this “competition simulation” training format, you can always have fun while challenging yourself physically and mentally during the five days of the rally.
– What was the hardest part about Bosnia?
The third day’s stage was very long – 381km. I don’t have much experience how much can I push it on such a long stage and how to schedule my energy for the whole day. It took me ten hours to finish, and I didn’t feel that tired, but I was very exhausted mentally – I had lost my focus several times. When I successfully crossed the finish line on that day, it felt amazing.
-What sort of bikes were the most popular in Bosnia?
Probably half of the riders had small (~450cc) enduro bikes or KTM/Husky 690/701, the other half had 800/1200GS, some Africa Twins, some oldies (e.g. Suzuki DR Big), and there were a couple of special beauties such as BMW HP2 Enduros and KTM 690 and 450 Factory Rally Replica bikes. So relaly, you can do Bosnia Rally on whatever bie you currently own – you can either do the full rally version, the Lite class, or switch between classes as you go along.
– Would you recommend Bosnia training to new riders and riders who want to try a rally without timing?
I would recommend this event to every adventure rider and beginner or amateur racer who wants to do a proper long-distance offroad rally training. Everyone can find the challenge for their level: riding skills (no rush), bike (Lite track option – not just for big bikes), navigation (roadbook, GPS, or both), and the organizers take care of everything to help you feel comfortable and to help you learn how to navigate with roadbook. Stefan talks about the next day’s stage and explains tricky parts in the roadbook during the briefing every evening, so this is the perfect event to learn.
According to Tamas, he enjoyed Bosnia Rally so much he’ll be back next year – the event is very well organized, and it provides a great balance between a tough challenge, a steep learning curve, and an absurd amount of fun.
If you’ve always wanted to try rally racing, Bosnia Rally may be the event for you.
More information: Bosnia Rally
Images: Bastian Brusecke