More and more, as travelers look for new challengers and rally organizers are happy to accommodate newbies, it seems adventure riding goes hand in hand with amateur rally racing. That’s certainly the case for Yann Charron, a Paris-based IT specialist obsessed with adventure travel and, recently, amateur rally races like the Hellas Rally Raid and Dinaric Rally.
“My job allows me to take long vacations, and while it’s a little more complicated with my family, they understand my need for adventure – the only condition is that I’ve got my tracker on at all times. I’ve always been attracted to motorbikes, even though no one in my family is a rider. I got my 125cc license when I was sixteen, and I’ve been riding almost every day since!”, Yann shares.
At first, Yann was into track riding and racing. Then, discovering a passion to travel by motorcycle, Yann covered some long two-wheeled miles across Europe which inevitably led to more off-road riding. “I started riding enduro about two years ago to improve my technique. Frankly, it’s still poor, but I’m enjoying it, so I did my first rally raids this year (Hellas and Dinaric) and finished a long-distance trip to Senegal with a friend a little while back”, Yann explains. His garage now contains a KTM 350EXC, a Honda 450CRF-L, a GasGas 700ES, and a KTM Duke 790.
Currently, the rider is off to another adventure – a trip around Africa on his GasGas 700 with his riding buddy Jose aboard a DR650. We caught up with Yann to chat about his Africa trip prep, his rally experiences, and his reasons to keep exploring.
What’s your plan for the trip – and why Africa?
I don’t really know why, but it is a very alluring continent. In some ways, it’s a bit scary, but also terribly bewitching. I know Morocco, Mauritania, and Senegal very well, and I’ve been wanting to discover what’s next for a long time!
The plan is to start from Paris, take the boat to Morocco in Sète, ride down the entire West Coast to South Africa, then continue up to Tanzania. As much as possible, we will aim to ride small roads and visit villages rather than stick to the main routes. Jose and I already rode the length of Morocco to Senegal on a previous trip, so this adventure will only “really” start in Guinea.
What did your preparation look like?
What preparation? In all seriousness, it was all a bit last-minute. We’ve applied for visas for Ghana and Nigeria, and as for the rest, we have an idea of the itinerary, but we’ll see as the trip goes on. We’re planning to spend five months on the road and be back in June.
I’ve done several mods on my GasGas for this trip: crash protection, luggage racks, an additional Rade Garage tank, larger headlights, a small dashboard for the GPS and USG sockets, and rally footpegs. The footpegs fit perfectly on the GasGas and I love how much more comfort they provide when standing up for long periods of time.
We’ve checked the bikes thoroughly before we left and we’re carrying some spare parts that might be hard to find along the route.
What do you love most about traveling by bike?
The feeling of freedom and the absence of constraints compared to daily life. We can just discover people and landscapes at our own pace – and I love riding my bike.
In addition to adventure travel, you’re also into the rally scene. What attracted you to amateur rally racing and how were your experiences in Hellas and Dinaric?
I have always been attracted to rallying. For a long time, I’ve kept the images of the African Dakar rallies of the 90s in my mind, secretly dreaming of doing it one day.
European rally races like Hellas and Dinaric are an accessible gateway to this world. There is roadbook navigation, long stages, and elite riders who overtake you as if you were not there. At the same time, it remains very accessible for beginners. Amateur rally racing is physically challenging, especially with skills like mine, but if you navigate correctly, you’ll be surprised at your overall ranking.
For the rallies, I chose my Honda 450 CRF-L. It’s a great bike with low maintenance, although I feel it’s a tad too powerful for me!
What would you say to people who would like to participate in a rally or do a long bike trip but feel hesitant or a little intimidated?
Stop hesitating and go! In the end, it’s not that complicated – and not that expensive – if you’re a little organized. Amateur rally racing is feasible even if your technique isn’t perfect, and you don’t need that much preparation on the bike. There is nothing impossible or extreme in the specials, you just need a little endurance.
As for long-distance adventure travel, you just have to ride at your own pace and have fun!
Follow Yann’s adventures on: Le Quasi Tour