As the European rally racing scene is exploding, rally training schools and events are cropping up everywhere from the Balkans to Spain, too. But what if you can’t afford rally training or simply live too far away to attend?
Here is how to train for a rally race on your own:
Design Your Own Roadbook
First things first: if you’re planning to do a rally race, you’ll need to learn how to navigate using a roadbook. Sure, some rally organizers allow GPS navigation, and you can certainly stick with that, especially if you’re aiming for the Adventure Raid classes. If you’re hoping to compete in the rally class, however, roadbook is mandatory.
You can learn the basics by watching YouTube videos (or even playing the Dakar game – Amine Echiguer, a Moroccan rider and the winner of the Rallye du Maroc Enduro Cup, confesses the Dakar game was how he learned roadbook). Once you’ve got the idea of how it works, go ahead and design your own roadbook for your local trails, then try it out. Learning by doing is the best practice, so head on over to rallynavigator.com and get started!
Hours in the Saddle
Most riders assume rally racing is all about speed. Looking at Rally Dakar footage featuring factory riders like Daniel Sanders or Toby Price, it’s not surprising we assume speed is king. In reality, however, speed alone won’t get you across that finish line, especially if you’re doing your first rally race. Endurance, on the other hand, just might: instead of trying to outride your fastest friends, put in the hours.
Ride every day for as long as you can, and then some; during a rally race, fatigue sets in fast if you aren’t prepared, so train for endurance and stamina rather than open throttle alone.
Speaking of stamina: most rally racers train both on and off their bikes. Hitting the gym, running, and weight lifting are all valid ways to stay fit – but if you’re training for a rally race, add mountain biking into your repertoire. In addition to keeping you strong and agile, it will boost your balance and your finesse when riding your motorcycle, too. Hate bicycles? Get yourself a trials bike instead – although less physical, riding trials will significantly improve your skills and balance.
If you’re training for a rally race on your own, be careful not to push your limits too hard. If you see someone on social media boasting to have covered a thousand miles in 24 hours in preparation for a rally, don’t try to do the same if you’re not ready: for more experienced riders, a thousand miles of dirt in a day is doable. For you, it may be way too much, and you’re risking injury.
Do challenge yourself, but stay in control: if you can comfortably do 350 miles on dirt a day, try and do 450 miles – not a thousand. 450 miles will be above your regular limit and push your edge; a thousand may be too overwhelming, resulting in physical and mental exhaustion and potential crash if you don’t pace yourself.
Equally, if you’re out riding with friends, keep the speed in check – unless you’re on a motocross track or some other closed course. If you’re just hitting the trails with your buddies, don’t try to prove your rally mojo just yet – you never know what you may encounter around a corner on a public trail. Most of the time, perhaps nothing, but that one time it’s a cow, a tractor, or a pedestrian… You see where this is going.
Ride hard, but stay safe, and keep putting in those miles!