Here at Cross Country ADV, we know a thing or two about transitioning from adventure riding to rally racing. If you’re thinking of doing your first rally, it can be a little intimidating as the rally racing world still sometimes feels like it’s only reserved for professional riders. However, the rally scene is starting to open up to amateur riders worldwide, and the time to try a rally is now: most international rally races now offer Adventure and Enduro classes aimed at amateur riders on different bikes.
Whatever you ride and whatever your goals are, getting into rally is now easier than ever before, and we’re here to help you every step of the way.
So what do you need to race your first rally as a complete newbie? Let’s break it down.
Racing Licenses, Entry Fees, and Amateur-Friendly Rallies
First things first: most riders assume that to enter a rally race, you need a racing license and a mountain of other paperwork just to be able to compete. The good news is, that’s not the case if you are entering ADV or Enduro classes designed for rally newcomers. Most European and North African rallies now offer amateur classes for those who want to try a rally but aren’t professional racers, so if you are aiming to do something like the Baja Rally in Mexico, the Hellas Rally Raid in Greece, the Iberian Rally in Portugal, the Hispania Rally in Spain or the Panafrica Rally in Morocco, you do not need a racing license. All you will need for your first rally race as an amateur is your bike’s documents, your driver’s license, and racing insurance (basic moto/travel insurance does not cover racing). If your insurance company doesn’t offer policies that include racing, you can buy your racing insurance from the rally organizers when you show up at the rally bivouac. It typically costs around 120-150 euros for the entire event, and you can purchase it at the rally admin office before the race.
The next thing a lot of riders worry about is a rally motorcycle. Do you need a rally replica bike, the perfect rally build, the most professional set up? If this is your first rally race ever, don’t overthink it. Most rally races have different classes for bikes ranging from 250cc all the way to the big 1200cc machines, so whatever off-road capable motorcycle you currently own will do the job.
As a rule of thumb, the lighter, the better, so a single cylinder (4 stroke) 250-350-450-500cc enduro bike would be ideal for a rally race. However, if you ride a mid-range (e.g. KTM 690 Enduro, Husqvarna 701 Enduro, Suzuki DR 650) or large adventure motorcycle (e.g. Honda Africa Twin, BMW F800GS, R1200GS, etc.), you can still finish a rally in the big bike class.
Before you race, just make sure your bike is in top shape and serviced recently, throw a pair of off-road tires on, and you are ready to go. If you finish your first rally and realize you’re hooked, you can start thinking about building a rally bike then. For your first race, however, just go on whatever you currently own and see what happens (we bet you will get hooked, but that’s a blog post for another time).
Have you ever ridden with a roadbook? If you haven’t, chances are, it can sound a little intimidating. In reality, though, roadbook navigation isn’t that complicated at all and it is possible to figure it out in just a few hours or so. If you can, do a one-day roadbook navigation course or training; if you can’t, simply watch some useful YouTube videos and test it out for yourself. It’s much easier and safer to navigate with a roadbook than a GPS, and you’ll figure it out in no time.
When it comes to roadbook navigation equipment, the price point can be a tad painful for most: you will need your roadbook holder, an Ico tripmaster, and a wheel sensor for the most basic setup. However, you can either rent an entire kit, borrow it, or buy it second-hand from other riders to save costs.
Do you need an entire team of mechanics looking after your bike during a rally? Not necessarily. If you are mechanically minded, know the weak points on your bike, can change your own oil, clean the air filter and fix most general issues on your own, you can go at it alone. If you own an adventure bike, it’s not as highly strung as the racing machines, so chances are, you won’t need to do oil changes daily; simply go over your bike once you get back to the bivouac, keep an eye on the tire tread, and you should be fine. If you run into more serious trouble you can always enlist the help of the rally mechanics on the spot and pay per job as needed.
Having support does make life easier, however, especially if you’re not into fixing bikes yourself. A support crew will maintain your bike for you, change your tires, and generally make sure your bike is in perfect condition every single day. You will be able to get more rest and spend more time with your roadbook instead of working on your bike, and it can offer some peace of mind knowing that your motorcycle is being looked after by professionals. If rally support is something you can afford, by all means, go for it – it will make your rally experience much more manageable. If you can’t, however, go anyway – we have no doubt you’ll make it.
Have questions? Need more support? Leave a comment below or shoot us a message (firstname.lastname@example.org), and we’ll try to help!