Here at Cross Country ADV, we’ve already talked about rally bikes, rally budgets, and even rally mindset. But what about a topic that’s often overlooked – gear? What gear do you need to race a rally?
While there are no official requirements or guidelines for most amateur rally classes (with the exception of races like the Dakar), it’s good to be prepared – and not just with your bike and fitness levels. Good protective gear is essential for rally racing, even if it’s your very first event or you’re doing a short rally.
Here’s what’s essential:
Make no mistake, crashes do and will happen during a rally race – some of them, at speed. To stay protected, it’s best to opt for full body armor -chest, back and shoulder protection, plus a kidney belt. That’s because you’ll be covering all sorts of terrain over long distances, so a solid body armor set is vital. We love Leatt protectives since their quality is unparalleled, but there are plenty of brands to choose from.
Helmet and Goggles
It’s up to you which helmet brand to choose, but don’t skimp on head protection: after all, that’s your most valuable asset. Pack a spare pair of goggles, and if you’re facing a marathon day, it’s usually a good idea to have a spare clear goggle lens in your backpack in case you’ll end up riding in the dark.
Some riders are still on the fence about neck braces, but the reality is, it can help prevent neck and spine injury. We love the Leatt neck braces as they are adjustable and compatible with a multitude of other gear, but, once again, brand decisions are up to you – just be sure you’re riding safely.
Knee pads may be enough for trail riding fun, but during a rally, you want to be protected as best as possible. Consider getting a pair of sturdy, highly protective knee braces that will protect your knees and shins in case of a crash.
If you’re racing in an Adventure Raid class, you may assume your adventure riding gear will be enough. It might be, but when it comes to boots, motocross-type boots will always offer more protection than the ADV selection. And, sure, they’re not waterproof, but if you happen to crash on rocks or the bike lands on your foot, having solid protection is more important.
Most rally races are organized in hot places (or during the summer months), so lightweight motocross-style gloves should be enough. Pack a spare pair, though – you might shred them faster than the rally’s over.
Pants and Jacket
When it comes to rally racing pants and jackets, we stick with Leatt – they make a great Enduro GPX pant that’s lightweight yet durable and has sizeable pockets at the front, perfect for your time card, some cash, and an energy gel or two.
A jacket may not always be necessary – most of the time, you’ll probably be racing in your body armor and a jersey over it. However, it’s smart to pack a lightweight, windproof jacket: on long liaisons or times when you’re returning to the bivouac late, it’ll prevent you from getting cold and/or wet if it rains.
Becoming a sweat bucket during a rally race is pretty much the norm, but using moisture-wicking base layers helps. Use ultra-thin, quick-dry base layers made from fabrics that absorb and evaporate moisture. Have at least two pairs, especially if the rally is longer than three days.
Don’t make the mistake of going to a rally with gear that’s brand-new: test it beforehand. You will be spending lots of very intense hours on the bike daily, and ill-fitting gear will soon start to chafe or rub and then, hurt. Walk your boots in before the race, make sure your gear fits well, and clean it well before the race – you’ll thank yourself later!