Follow team Hog Wild Racing as we take our unique Harley powered racing
  sidecar through the grueling Dakar Rally.   That's 6000 miles of torturous
  off-road racing through some of the most desolate regions of the Sahara desert.
  For us the race begins in January 2009 in Europe, and finishes two weeks
  later in Dakar, Senegal in Africa.   From the struggles of bike construction
  and testing, through our last kilometer in the race, the story goes on . . .

Dakar Rally Stage 1

Posted on 22/01 13:14
Race day began early with our 5:30am arrival in the Lisbon start area.
Parc Ferme
Dakar 2006 Motos
Geared up and psyched up, we waited outside the parc ferme area where the bikes are held beside the start podium. We were not allowed into the area until our start time approached. They assured us we would have plenty of time once we were let in to get everything ready for the race. The quads were first to start Dakar, followed by the sidecars, solo bikes, then cars and trucks. There were 10 quads starting ahead of us, then the two other sidecars behind us.

Once we entered parc ferme, we quickly began installing the roadbook sheet (roll) into the roadbook. That can be quite a task, given the roadbook sheet is so long it barely fits in the motorized machine.
Dakar Roadbook, ICO, GPS, Sentinel, Iritrack
You have to tape the end to the roller bar, and roll the super long paper all the way in. Just as I got started with that task, it began to rain. If the paper gets wet, it weakens and might rip once we start the race and start turning the roll. So I sped up my task, feeling a bit more urgency. We were already nervous from the grandness of this huge event, and the rain just made it worse. As I抦 rolling the paper in, I realize my goggles are laying out collecting rain on the inside. Damn, I don抰 need that. Eventually I get the roadbook rolled in, and the clear plastic cover attached.

Now it抯 time to install the GPS and Iritrack. They are bolted together into a brick sized cube, with a bunch of electrical connectors along one side. The whole thing slips into a bracket assembly that抯 mounted in the center of the handlebars. It takes a bit of finesse and force to get the thing in. As we struggle with that, an official steps up and says it抯 time for us to ride up to the podium for our start. Damn, we抮e not ready yet. It抯 raining, the connectors to the navigation instruments are not connected, my goggles are off, my gloves are off, and it抯 time to start the biggest race of our lives!

Duane and the official fight with the electrical connectors as I put my goggles on and try to slip the gloves onto wet hands. It抯 too late, the gloves will have to go on later. We motor up the podium, and stop for the cameras, officials, and crowd. The announcer walks up and asks a question and shoves the microphone up to me. As I struggled to get my gloves on, I responded with some stupid comment I can抰 remember. What a nightmare, I抦 thinking!

Dakar 2006 Start Podium - Lisbon
This was supposed to be one of the memories of a lifetime. We REALLY are doing the Dakar! But I抦 stressing like never before, and missed the joy of the moment. The announcer steps back, the start official gives us the 321匞O, and we抮e off. Down the podium, past the crowd, around a right turn, and onto the streets of Lisbon.

It抯 dark, rainy, and immediately my goggles start fogging up from all the rain left inside. Just 1km from the start there抯 a gas station, and half of the quads that started ahead of us were in there gassing up. That抯 strange, didn抰 they fill up before the start of the race? I guess it doesn抰 matter. This is just the liaison, and time doesn抰 matter as long as you get to the start of the special by your start time. We continue on, mixing with cars in normal city traffic.

Course Route
Following the instructions in the roadbook, we soon are on the 揻reeway, then heading out of Lisbon on our way South. We have 186km (115 miles) of liaison before we see dirt and real racing. The rain comes and goes as we travel down the freeway. We抮e going the speed limit of 120kph (75mph), passing some cars, and being passed by others. At every overpass there are crowds of people waving and cheering us on. We also see cars and people stopping all along the roadside doing the same.
Dakar 2006 Liaison
Soon after leaving the Lisbon area, my wife Adriana and friend Jack pull up beside us in their rental car. We had arranged that they would follow us through the liaison in case something unexpected happened. They had skipped the start, and waited along the freeway for us to come by. That was a good feeling having them following.

After a gas stop and several toll booths, we are routed off the freeway and onto a narrow rolling country road. The farmers and other locals don抰 seem to be in much of a hurry, so we start passing them every chance we get. At this point it抯 starting to feel a bit like a race, as we take a few risks passing in some questionable spots. Adriana is driving right behind, and I抦 amazed she is staying right on our tail. She抯 not the 搑acing type, and I抳e never seen her drive like that!

End of Liaison
Eventually we arrive at the end of the Liaison, and the start of the Special. We figure at the pace we held, we should have a half hour or hour to wait for our start time. Just 5 minutes after getting off the bike, the race official came up and direct us to go to the start line, a few hundred meters up the dirt road. Wow, we thought the Liaison was supposed to be easy going, but now we抳e just learned one of our first Dakar lessons; don抰 waste any time on the Liaison. On the next Liaison, the posted speed limit will be ignored!

The start line sits on the top of a hill, with the road dropping immediately into a muddy rutted mess below.
Course Terrain
Crowds of people are gathered all around. We pull up behind a couple of quads, and I concentrated on resetting our ICOs (odometers), and rolled the roadbook to the correct position for the start. The quads go off a minute apart, and I have just enough time to watch two of them go down the road before it抯 our turn.

Finally, we are actually going to 搑ace! My nerves are doing much better than back at the podium in Lisbon. Duane is his usual calm self. I thank him for joining me in this grand adventure, we shake hands, and 321 we抮e off!

Oh what a good feeling that was, hitting the throttle, shooting a bit of a roost, and looking forward to thousands of kilometers of fun.
Dakar in Portugal
Down the road, through some rain puddles, and into a bit of mud. Woooooo, ruts, mud, slippery, front wheel in one groove, rear wheel in another, we抮e in trouble!!! The next thing I know we are completely sideways sliding down the road, out of control, on the edge of a big crash. More throttle, and we skip out of the ruts, and we抮e back in control. Whooow, that was close! I could just see the reports, 揌arley Sidecar Crashes Out of Dakar in First Kilometer. Ok, settle down, I tell myself. We have to ride smart, and stay out of trouble.

The road continues over green grassy rolling hills, through small forested areas, and along farm lands. Direction changes are numerous. There are crisscrossing dirt roads all over this area. The mud at the start was actually the worst thing we saw the whole day. There were constant water puddles, but nothing that caused any problems. Along the way we would be zipping along with no people at all, then suddenly around a corner there would be a thousand people spread out watching and cheering.
Other places it seemed like the locals walked across their farm lands and hung out in small groups beside the dirt road.

We were having fun slipping and sliding around the corners, holding a fast but safe pace. Eventually we caught a quad and went on past. Over time the solos (bikes) started passing us. It wasn抰 exciting like side-by-side racing is. It was more of a deep warm feeling that we were in the first stages of a big adventure, and all was going well.

The crowd takes cover from the roost
We threw a little extra fun in when we came to a few right turns with crowds gathered close around the outside. This was a perfect opportunity to introduce them to a little Harley-Davidson V-Rod horsepower! I would dive in a little extra hard and wide, apex the turn, and hit the throttle hard. I think Duane knew what was going on and he gave a good hard lean to help. The result was a nice muddy roost shooting into the crowds of people. I don抰 think they expected that from a sidecar, and looking back we could see them diving for cover. As our friend and fellow Dakar racer Charlie Rauseo would say . . . Fun Fun!

Harley Dakar Sidecar
Just after one of those 揻un fun right turns, another good friend Kevin Heath passed us on his KTM 660. He waved vigorously, and started to pull away. Just as Duane and I figured out who it was and told each other so, he came up on a left turn, laid it down, and slid into a ditch. He must have gotten over excited seeing us, and lost his concentration. As we passed him back, he was already getting up and was obviously ok. A moment later he came blasting by again, with another friendly wave. And again, there was a hard left turn, which he over-shot, almost flying off the road. We cut in tight and passed him on the inside, in the spirit of racing you know!

It wasn抰 long before we were at the finish of the Special. Bikes were lined up to have their timecard stamped, as proof we each had reached this important point. We took our place in line as the race officials picked up the time cards one at a time, and stamped them. When we reached the front of the line, the next official walked right past us, going to the next bike behind us. I thought, what抯 that about? He did it a couple more times, ignoring us completely, and going to the bikes behind us. So we forced our timecard on him. I don抰 know if it was our American flags, or what, but it was very clear this guy was not our friend.

On the Liaison headed for Portimao, the end of the stage, we passed a carwash where several bikes were lined up washing all the mud off. That seemed like a good thing for us to do. That way the bike would be clean when we worked on it at the end of the stage. There was no close deadline for arrival at the bivouac at Portimao, so we had time. Kevin Heath was there, and we had some good laughs about his off-track excursions back in the Special.

Along this liaison, Charley Boorman (star of 揕ong Way Round, the great adventure TV series) and his fellow BMW teammates slowly passed by on the freeway. They had a crew car following with cameras rolling. The crew car took an interest in us and fell back for some camera time on us. We later saw them stopped on the side of the freeway. Charley had run out of gas. I抦 sure we抣l see that little embarrassing moment on TV sometime in the future.

Once we arrived in Portimao, and found our support crew,
Our Harley Sidecar in Parc Ferme
we quickly went over the bike looking for any problems. We only had about 30 minutes before we had to have it placed into parc ferme (locked up) for the night. We adjusted the chain tension, and took it directly to parc ferme. We had to park it there for the night, and were not allowed to work on it or reenter until race time the next morning. Clearly not many had stopped at the car wash for a cleanup. It was good to see that Sandy and Ruedi, the Swiss team on the Aprilia sidecar had made it through the day too.

Swiss team - Aprilia sidecar
Parc Ferme in Portimao

A later check of the times showed us as the quickest sidecar, 6-1/2 minutes ahead of the Swiss sidecar, 30 minutes ahead of the French sidecar, and ahead of 36 other bikes. That was nice, but the only thing that really mattered was that we were still in the race.


More of the story:
> Dakar Rally Stage 2 - photos only, story coming soon
> Problems Stage 3 - the full report, with photos
> Christmas in Lisbon
> Dakar Prep in Lisbon - photos only


Thanks to members of the Nomads' Trail Moto Club of Portugal, Jo鉶 Pulqu閞io, and others for many of these excellent photos.
Author: scott

Problems - Stage 3

Posted on 11/01 13:17
It抯 early morning now, and we wake in our ferry cabin for another day of Dakar. We put on all our riding gear and head for a 5 minute breakfast. While grabbing a piece of bread, a juice, and cereal, there is an announcement that we must got to our vehicles to prepare for unloading. We slam down breakfast in 2 minutes and head for the vehicle deck.

After unloading from the ferry, we installed the roadbook sheet and lined up for the start of the Liaison. It抯 freezing out, and we think of putting our rain suits on for added wind protection. But no time for that now, we had just enough time to put on a new chain. The used one looked ok, but slightly loose, which would only come from stretching. This chain uses press on rivet links for maximum strength. We used the fancy press tool we carry in our tool kit.

After removing the front sprocket cover to help guide the new chain in, my heart sunk to the ground and I think my face went pale. The teeth were almost completely gone from the front sprocket. Before I said anything Duane asked how it looked. I said 搚ou don抰 want to know. I think he knew exactly what I meant, as he must have seen it in my face. He didn抰 even look at it, as he knew what the consequences were. For a split second I thought 搊ur Dakar is over right here, but no, there had to be a solution. I would make new teeth one at a time with a welder if I had to, but we were not giving up here.

Dakar 2006 Stage 3 Map - Nador to Er Rachidia
Most mornings at the start of a Liaison we would be at a bivouac where our assistance vehicle and all our spare parts are. But this was an odd case. All the assistance vehicles were sent directly to Er Rachidia, our end destination for the day. They were not allowed to see us here in Nador at the ferry landing. So, in a way it抯 like a marathon stage. Here we were, with a badly worn sprocket, and 672km from our spares. We had six new front sprockets in the assistance truck, and no way to get at them.

Two minutes after getting the new chain on our start time was up, and we headed up the road in the port city of Nador on the Liaison. The whole time I抦 thinking 揾ow are we going to fix this. It抯 6:00am in this town I know nothing about, the businesses are not opened yet, and we are riding on borrowed time. All the while I抦 visualizing building up teeth with a welder one tooth at a time. I look for power poles to see if they have electricity here, because I think an arc welder is going to get the job done faster and better than gas. But does this backwards place even have a welder? If it takes long, we抣l never make it to the next bivouac in Er Rachidia in time for tomorrows start. Are welded on teeth going to fail someplace out in the desert where there is no help? We still have that used chain, so if the kludged teeth trash the new chain, we can put the other one back on. Maybe we can limp it the whole way . . . 672km, no way! Maybe if we bypass the Special and stay on the highway we can make it, but does that put us out of the race or just give us a hefty time penalty? I can抰 remember that detail from the lengthy rules. We snaked our way through the streets and eventually slipped out of town.

I抦 real easy on the throttle but once in a while we hear a snap sound which must be the chain jumping a tooth. It happens more in left turns when the rear suspension is offloaded and the chain slack is at its maximum. So I tell Duane to keep more weight on the rear end to help with this.

Our sprocket BEFORE the problem
A while later we pass a Dakar sweep truck that抯 stopped beside a bike. I抦 thinking maybe those race organization guys can tell us if it抯 ok to bypass the Special. Or maybe they know of some other trick that will get us out of this situation. We turn around and go back for a quick consultation. The biker has burned up his rear mousse, and the tire is coming off the rim. He抯 in trouble too. In French he asks if we have some big zip-ties to strap his tire on. We don抰 understand the words, but hand signals and a look at his tire says it all. Sorry, I indicate we only have small ones. The sweep truck guys don抰 speak much English, but they indicate that there is an 揳uto garage 13km ahead, where we might find help.
Another view
One guy looks at our sprocket and looks genuinely concerned. He knows we抮e screwed! I抦 struggling to block out the growing image of our sidecar loaded on the back of that truck. As we walk back to the sidecar the sweep guys wave down a passing pickup truck and ask the driver if they can load the French guys bike in the back for a ride to the next town. I抦 thinking, hey, you can抰 do that in the Africa stages without being disqualified. And the sweep truck guys are the ones suggesting it. Another race vehicle is allowed to tow you, but not an outside vehicle. Great, they seem a bit flexible with the rules, so maybe we抣l be ok if we can somehow just get to the bivouac before our start time the next day. We leave them behind and head on up the road looking for the auto garage at 13km.

At 13km we are in a small village. About the only thing that looks remotely like an auto garage is a gas station. One look there tells us they don抰 even have a screw driver let alone a welder. We stop anyway to see if they can tell us where to find a welder. A few shady guys gather around as we try to explain what we need to people who don抰 speak English. I point to a nice feathered weld on our frame, and make a hand gesture like I抦 holding a welding torch. They shake their heads and point down the road. There抯 nothing more down the road but more empty kilometers.

I feel like we are a ball of string, unwinding, just waiting for the end to come up. Where are we going to be when that time comes? This Liaison is 237km, and we pass through one more reasonable sized town, Oujda, before the start of the Special. I calculate that by the time we get there, the businesses should be open and we might find a welder. As we approach Oujda I start looking for power lines again. They are there! The first business we see is a tractor store. Wow, that抯 just the kind of place that might have a welder. But they are closed. We press on. In town, people line the streets watching the race vehicles pass by. Lots of local cars too, swerving all around, apparently in a rush to get to work. We pass all the way through the town without seeing another good welder prospect.

At the edge of town we turn around and go back to look more for a place with a welder. We stop at a roundabout where there抯 a traffic cop doing his thing. He doesn抰 speak any English, but another cop walks up and he slips out a few words in English. Fantastic, now we have a guy that might have the answer to our question, and he speaks a bit of English. We ask about a welder and explain our problem. He doesn抰 seem to understand it all, but he starts talking to some other guy there. That guy runs off looking like he抯 on a mission from god. The cop pulls out a cell phone and makes a call. He also starts talking a lot on his radio. Wow, this is looking good. Crowds of people start gathering around looking at our strange machine and our strange attire. If it were not for the cop, I would have started feeling a bit nervous with all these people swarming us. We had heard plenty of stories about bad things happening in situation like this. Duane and I still keep a close eye on everything, especially our strapped-on-the-sidecar backpack with all our maps, satellite phone, emergency beacon, and other goodies.

Suddenly a tow truck pulls up behind us. The guy jumps out and talks to the cop. The cop jumps in the tow truck and tells us to follow him. As we snake back through town we see race cars and the big T4 trucks going the opposite direction. And here comes Robby Gordon in the Hummer. I know his navigator is Darren Skilton, who I had spent some time with just two weeks earlier. Darren is the Dakar Rally rep for the USA, and provides a helping hand occasionally when dealing with the race organizers. I waved thumbs up to them, and with a quick hand gesture I indicated our bike was dead. At least they would know one place where we were if we disappeared that day. Robby waved back.

Moments later the tow truck pulled up to a small shop with us just behind. Half that blood that ran out of my face back at the start of the Liaison came back in an instant. There was a red Suzuki 揝 logo on the door of the shop. Wholly crap, there is a motorcycle shop in this little town! Flashes of candy lollipops danced in my head. Maybe they have a sprocket we can weld on in place of our almost smooth circle of a sprocket. The idea of building up teeth with a welder was completely crazy, but it kept me motivated enough to get us to this point. I was really hoping I could let that stupid idea slide away.

A mechanic comes out and talks with the cop and tow truck driver. The tow truck guy starts speaking to us in fairly good English. Damn, everything is going our way now. The mechanic brings out some wrenches, and we start to remove the sprocket. Looking at it, it was amazing it still turned the rear wheel! Then another guy, apparently the shop owner runs out and looks the sprocket over. He drags us into the shop and pulls out a wooden box full of assorted old sprockets. Wow, the candy lollipops come with ice cream too! Some of the sprockets belong on a tractor or something, but some are clearly off bikes. We dig until two or three are set aside as possible candidates. One in particular isn抰 even rusty and worn out. It抯 got 16 teeth, and looks to be the 520 size as we need. Our front sprocket is 19 teeth, but a 16 will do just fine in this predicament.

Now the next problem. Our current sprocket is welded onto a flange that presses onto the transmission output shaft. We have to cut or grind that sprocket off, cut a large hole in the new sprocket, slip it onto the flange, and weld it. The sprocket is hardened steel, and we have dulled and broken a number of lathe bits doing this ourselves back at home. It had taken us several hours just cutting the round hole in the original sprocket. Plus, what抯 the chance there抯 even a lathe within a hundred kilometers of this place?

The shop owner grabs our sprocket/flange and the replacement sprocket, and jumps in his car. I try to get in with him to oversee whatever he was going to have done. He throws me out of the car and tries to drive off. I stopped him and tried to explain mechanically what we needed done to the sprocket. I had taken hours to design this custom part, and he had all of about 30 seconds looking at it before he was out of there. Somehow with the tow truck driver抯 translations, and lots of hand gesturing with the parts, I got the impression he knew what he was doing. What was my choice? Our whole Dakar race was in the hands of some guy I had just met a few minutes earlier, and he was driving off to who knows where with our lifeline in his hand. It was a strange moment.

While waiting, the cop and tow truck guy started to leave. I offered to pay the cop to stay for our protection, and the tow truck guy to stay for English translation. They agreed, and stuck with us. We BS抎 with them for a while, waiting for our part to come back. Both guys were pretty cool and seemed to enjoy talking with a pair of crazy Dakar competitors. Then the cop pulled out his cell phone and pushed a few buttons. James Brown抯 voice singing 揑 FEAL GOOD blasted from the phone. Duane and I almost fell over laughing. What a perfect gesture to relieve some of our tensions. He explained that he loves James Brown music, and that the stuff these days is all crap. We laugh a bit more and carried on with the BS抜ng. A few moments later the cop starts with the phone again and this time one of those classic tunes from a Clint Eastwood movie plays. Duane and I look at each other and start laughing again. This is one of those moments you never forget. Crazy fun!

An hour later the shop owner returned without the parts. The tow truck guy said it would be another hour before it was ready. Meanwhile two other Dakar bikes came to the shop. One was the guy with the burned up rear mousse, and the other needed a battery. Both were out of there in about an hour.

Soon the shop owner drove off again, and returned with our new sprocket. Amazingly, they (I have no idea who) had perfectly removed the old sprocket machined the new one and welded it on exactly as was needed. We quickly installed it, and paid him 150 euros (he asked for 132). It was probably worth 100 times that for us. The cop and tow truck guy refused payment, explaining it was an honor to be helpful to Dakar competitors. Earlier the cop had explained that he worked 揾and-in-hand with the tow truck driver. You see, this cop was a parking ticket cop! We were really happy about the whole deal there and would have liked to stay and chat some more, but we hit the road immediately, bound for bigger adventures.

The sprocket worked perfectly, though the lower gearing limited our speed to about 120kph. We pressed on for the start of the Special, about 100km further on. We were getting low on gas, and stopped at a place just short of the Special. We had planned this stop the night before while going over the roadbook. They had diesel, but were all out of gasoline. Damn, this could be bad. The first gas stop in the Special is a long ways from here. A quick look at the roadbook shows another gas station just down the road. We blast on down there and filled up.

Another 10km, off on a dirt road, and we see lots of big T4 trucks parked ahead. It抯 the start of the Special! As we pull up to the starting point, there are trucks already starting the Special. The official sees us, and waves us up and to the side. He clearly wants to have a talk with us. He waves on another truck through the start and comes over to talk.

揧ou are REALLY late. I can not let you start. Shit, this isn抰 good. We hadn抰 really though about not being allowed to continue. One moment we are on cloud nine having pulled off a miracle MacGyver repair, and the next moment we are apparently out of the race. Even Disneyland doesn抰 have a rollercoaster ride like this one! The blood starts leaving my face again. Per the rules, we had a one hour window in which we are allowed to start the Special. We missed that window, and could be thrown out of the race right there. No matter that our problems were fixed and we were 100% ready to race.

But the official tells us today is our lucky day; he抯 giving us a joker. I guess that means he抯 cutting us some slack, and all will be ok. He says we can not ride the Special, but he will give us the timecard stamp for the start of the Special and we must go via the highway to the bivouac and sort things out there. We figure we抣l get a huge time penalty, and be allowed to continue in the race the next morning. No problem, we抮e just happy we are still in it! He says he will tell them (Race Control) what we are doing, so they know what抯 going on.

We check the map for our new route via the highway, and head back down the road. Just then a guy waves us over. It抯 one of the guys from the sweep truck we talked to early in the morning. He takes a look at our sprocket and with a big smile seems amazed at what he sees. We head off again for 400km of road to the bivouac.

Along the road we can see dust not to far away, near the mountain base parallel to us. It crosses my mind that we could simply exit the road and jump back on the race course. But I remember that the official told us specifically that we were not allowed on the Special, and Race Control would be aware of our instructed route. With IriTrack GPS system, they can see exactly where we are all the time, so it would be clear to them if we didn抰 do as we were told. I didn抰 want to piss them off by disobeying their direct instructions. I figured that would surely get us thrown out of the race. So we continued as we were told.

The highway goes on for ever in a straight line. Sleep creeps up on us both as we make good time towards our goal. It抯 mid-day and we are freezing more than ever. We stop and put on our rain suits for more cold protection. A break for a few M&M抯 and a piss help us stay awake. A few hours later we pass some camels along the road. I guess we have time for a photo here, and a short break for our asses. We race on as the setting sun blinds our view.

Along this area there is a dirt road cutoff that leads directly to the end of the special and the start of the second Liaison. It sort of parallels our highway path, and it crosses my mind again, that we could head off that way and catch a checkpoint there. I mention it to Duane and we decide we better stay on the route we were told to follow.

Suddenly in the dark we see lots of bright lights moving down a mountain heading for the highway. It抯 the other racers on the second Liaison heading for the bivouac. Some race cars and T4 trucks pass us on the highway, and we pass a few of them. It抯 a good feeling being among the other racers again!

Eventually we reach the bivouac at the Er Rachidia airport. As we enter, we are stopped at the check point. We hand over our timecard, and receive our roadbook for the next day抯 stage. Wow, that抯 a great feeling. We made it to our goal despite our serious problem from the morning. We are back in it!

We find Rally Raid UK, our assistance crew. My dad Ralph has setup our tents, and everything looks good.
Duane and Kristen Gum
We describe our ordeal to some of the experienced crew and they are all optimistic we will be allowed to stay in the race. That抯 good to hear!

We take a break for dinner, and meet Kristen Gum from OLN while eating. She抯 amazed by our ordeal and says that what we just went through in overcoming our problems is the essence of what Dakar is all about. Unfortunately, she says she is not allowed to interview us per higher ups direction. She also says she is lobbying for an interview of us, and can probably get it if we make it to day 5 or 6. That抯 cool, or that sucks, I抦 not sure which.

Dakar Bivouac
Duane and Ralph jump on replacing both sprockets with a pair of our many spares, plus a new chain. Other than the sprocket issue, the bike seems just about perfect. Besides one missing screw on the roadbook holder, we can抰 find any other problems. Meanwhile, from the central competitor抯 board, I write down the long list of changes that need to be made to the roadbook. Then I sit in the tent for an hour marking up the roadbook, figuring out our gas stop strategy, and dealing with other logistical details for the following day.

Now, how did this disaster with the sprocket happen? It seems several things came together to put us in this situation.
1) The chain has excessive slack because the geometry of the location of the sprocket relative to the swigarm pivot, combined with the long travel suspension requires lots of slack. At the half way point of rear suspension travel, the slack is completely gone, and the chain is tight. There is no easy way around this. Because of the slack, the chain is allowed to flop around a lot. When the chain stretches a bit, and the sprocket gets a bit worn, the chain can end up jump a tooth. We could hear this happen a few times towards the end of the second Liaison on day two, but at that time we didn抰 know what the sound was. Once it starts happening, the teeth wear down REALLY quickly. We believe one good solution is to add a spring-loaded chain tensioner. The evening following our problem, Duane and Ralph fabricated a tensioner from a steel plate and a chain roller wheel scavenged from our supply boxes, plus a KTM kickstand spring from Team Rally PanAm. That was completed by 2:00am, making the bike better at that moment that it was at the start of the race.
2) At the end of the Stage 2 Special, the aluminum rear sprocket showed some wear, so we replaced it. We wanted to replace the chain at the same time, but didn抰 have enough time. We had to hit the road quickly to make it to the ferry before our cutoff time. We exceeded the posted speed limit most of the way, and arrived with a small time margin. Had anything gone wrong, we would have surely missed the boat. Back at the end of the Special we knew we had a spare chain on the bike, so we figured we would change it at the ferry. We did that the next morning as described earlier. When we replaced the rear sprocket, the front sprocket showed no serious wear, so we left it alone. It抯 steel, and should last way longer than the aluminum rear sprocket. We had no reason to believe the front would go bad so quickly, and planned to inspect it again at the end of the next stage in Er Rachidia.
3) The Liaison after the Stage 2 Special was pretty long, at 387km. This Liaison and the following stage were different logistically than other parts of the race. Competitors were allowed to load their race vehicles onto trucks and trailers to transport them the 387km to the ferry in Malaga. Most competitors seemed to have that luxury all arranged, so they got to sleep along the way, and not put more wear and tare on their vehicles. We did not have such support. We tried to arrange it, but nothing worked out. So, we had to ride our sidecar the whole way. It was near the end of this Liaison that we heard the snapping sound that was caused by the chain skipping a tooth. Those extra 387km are just a bit shorter than the Stage 3 Special plus final Liaison. Had we trucked our sidecar that 387km, the front sprocket may well have lasted all the way to the end of Stage 3.
4) Normally our assistance vehicle with our spare parts is waiting for us each night at the bivouac. There was no bivouac between Stages 2 and 3 because we were on the ferry that night. Plus, the race organizers forbid the assistance vehicles from providing support at either end of the ferry, or any place except at the end of Stage 3 in Er Rachidia. That left us without spare parts for an extra long period. In hindsight, we should have carried a spare front sprocket with us through that section. But that抯 a tough one because there are a hundred other spares we might also like to have, but we can抰 carry them all.
5) A poorly welded sprocket could soften the heat treating, softening the teeth. The front sprocket that went bad was one of the earlier ones we fabricated, and was not as well done as the later batch. We believe part of the reason the sprocket wore so quickly was because the weld may not have been done well. If that was the case, it was my fault.

So, given all that, we made our way to the bivouac in Er Rachidia, fixed the problems, and were ready to go in the morning of Stage 4. We expected some conversation from the officials at the start about receiving a big time penalty for our forced detour the day before. As we rolled up, the official shook his head and said 搚ou can not start; you are out of the race. He said we had missed three checkpoints in Stage 3, and that results in exclusion from the race. And 搕here is nothing that can change that decision.

Here we are 100% ready to go, the bike is better than ever, we followed their instructions the day before, and yet our race is over. Wow, that抯 a tough one to take. But how could we argue. It was true that according to the rules we should be out of the race.

The guy giving us the bad news is the same guy who gave us 揼rief in scrutineering several days earlier. In conversations with Dakar veterans during our scrutineering troubles, we learned that this guy isn抰 a good one to mess with. They said there is absolutely no way our situation will improve by arguing with him.

Apparently the officials had discussed our situation the night before, and made a decision then. I later learned that an official had talked to my dad earlier that evening, and told my dad he had talked to me about our problem. In fact, no official ever talked to me about it until we were at the starting line and received the bad news.

While sitting there in shock, another official said we better get our sidecar over to the airplane right away or it would miss the flight out. I had already had nightmares of being forced to leave the sidecar out in the desert to rot if it broke down. No they won抰 necessarily pick it up. The rules actually state that sidecars and quads will NOT be picked up if broken down in the desert. It抯 our own responsibility to deal with that if it happens. Hello this is the real Dakar, the one nobody tells you about!

At that moment, getting the sidecar back home and looking towards Dakar 2007 were my only slivers of positive and constructive thoughts. I was surprised that they were offering to take the sidecar out of there, to France, rather than forcing us to deal with it ourselves. So, I turned the handlebars hard left, and eased on the throttle. That was the hardest turn I have ever made! Our Dakar was over.


More of the story: Dakar Rally Stage 1

Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Dakar Rally Stage 2

Posted on 11/01 13:16
Story to come...

Photo by Andy Fewtrell:

Author: scott
Category: What is new

Dakar prep in Lisbon

Posted on 10/01 16:54
Story to come...

Hotel Room
For security reasons we kept the bikes in the hotel rooms.

Once the bikes were moved out, the supply boxes took over.

Author: scott
Category: What is new

Christmas in Lisbon

Posted on 26/12 22:05
We arrived in Lisbon, Portugal on December 22. To our surprise, there was a sort of Dakar sidecar right there in the Airport. So, we took it out for a practice ride:
Airport Sidecar

Carlos and others from the local Nomads Trail Moto Club helped us greatly in getting the bikes from the shipping warehouse to our hotel rooms:
Hotel Room

On Chrismas Eve, even McDonalds was closed, so we had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with coke and beer for dinner. Everything about Dakar is rough!
Christmas Eve Dinner

Much of our days here in Lisbon are spent sorting out things on the biikes:
Hotel Garage

The locals have been steady visitors to our hotel work area:

If time allows, I hope to post one more report here before the race starts. If not, we'll be back in mid-January!
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Dakar Tech

Posted on 19/12 23:06
It's pretty interesting seeing all the electronics that Dakar competitors carry on the bikes. Here's a rundown:

- Roadbook, mandatory, supplied by competitor.
Holds long "roadbook paper" sheet that has directions of where race course goes.
New paper roll supplied to each competitor by race organization the night before each stage.
This is the only way to know where to go, as the GPS provides very little information.
Switch on handlebar to turn motor to advance paper as you travel.

- Rally computer/odometer (ICO), mandatory, supplied by competitor.
Tracks mileage, resetable, manually settable to adjust for errors.
Normally two units are installed, one for incremental mileage (reset OFTEN), one for current total mileage for the stage.
Used extensively to compare with mileages listed in roadbook.

- GPS, mandatory, supplied by race org.
No mapping, or even current position displayed.
Only provides current heading, to make navigation difficult.
All other helpful functions disabled.

- IriTrack, mandatory, supplied by race org.
Has internal GPS, and satellite voice/data link via Iridium system.
Transmits current location to race organization, every few minutes.
Allows race org to call, listen, and talk in case of crash or other emergency.

- Nav Assistant (heading repeater), optional, supplied by competitor. (not shown in photo)
LED display gives current heading in large digital readout.
Repeats same info from GPS, but mounted higher for easy reading while riding.
We don't have this, many others do.

- Sentinel, mandatory, supplied by race org.
Allows larger/faster vehicles coming up from behind to warn you that they want to pass.
Has loud buzzer and/or bright light to signal rider.
Also has "Danger - vehicle crashed and may be hidden behind dune" mode, to help avoid oncoming vehicles from hitting stopped vehicle. Stopped vehicle pushes button to trigger this mode.

- Distress Beacon, mandatory, supplied by race organization. (not shown in photo)
Satellite transmitter with on/off button.
Alerts race organization that there is an emergency situation at that location.
Exact location is determined by satellite system.
Helicopter or other quick transport will be sent immediately.
If you push the button, you're out of the race!
If you find another competitor seriously hurt, you push THEIR button, and wait until help arrives, then leave.

- Satellite Phone, optional (we have Iridium phone).
For us, to be used in case we are broke down and want to get the word out where we are.
Many competitors do not carry independent satellite phone.

- Cell phone, optional, supplied by competitor.
For cheaper communication while in urban areas.
Not very useful in Mauritania or other remote areas.
Only GSM European bands work.
We carry small Cingular quad-band phone.

Other mandatory items:
- Lighter
- Strobe Light
- Torch (flashlight)
- 3 red shooting smoke flares
- compass
- distress mirror
- Drinking Water, 2 liters on body (Camleback), + 3 liters on bike. (double for sidecars)
- Back and Front Body Armor

A few other electronic items we carry:
- V-Gauge, provides speed, RPM, coolant temp, km/liter average.
- Spare ECM (fuel injection / ignition computer).
- Spare electronic sensors (intake air pressure, intake air temp, throttle position, coolant temp, crank position).
- Spare ignition coil.
- Spare voltage regulator.
- Spare fuses, wire, switches.
- Miniature digital voltmeter.
- Extra LED flashlight.
- Electrical system schematic!

Not listed:
- All non-electrical items (an endless list).

Not allowed:
- ANY GPS or other electronic navigation device other than that supplied by race organization.
- Use of radios, phones, or other outside communication devices while on race course, unless you want to be disqualified.
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Pre-Running Dakar

Posted on 02/12 08:09
Well, actually pre-running 6000 miles of Dakar isn抰 really practical, so I抦 learning a few details about the rally route in a different way. I抳e taken the roughly drawn maps of the route already published, and overlaid them onto paper maps, and satellite images available on Google Earth. Combining these tools I mapped out as best I could the complete route of the first stage in Africa (stage 3).
Dakar Stage 3 satellite view
The route passes through north-eastern Morocco, covering 672km (417 miles) from the coastal town of Nador to Er Rachidia, deep in the Atlas Mountains. We抣l be racing this stage on January 2. Since the exact details of the route are not made available until the night before we enter that stage, I have made a best guess at the roads and trails followed. Parts of my route are surely correct, while other parts may well be off by a few kilometers. It抯 an amazing route traveling on paved roads out of town, onto dirt roads, into massive canyons, across barren desert, through huge sand washes, across rivers, and more. You can see the whole stage in video form as if you were flying a helicopter a few hundred meters above a super fast competitor. Put your helmets on and take a wild ride:

Pre-Running Dakar - Video
Size: 50 megabytes !!!
Format: .wmv
length: 10 minutes
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Entry list and Satellite photos

Posted on 25/11 12:54
The complete list of competitors in Dakar 2006 is now on the Dakar website. As reported earlier, there are three sidecars entered:
Bikes by Brand:
  1 - ALFER
  1 - URAL
  4 - KAWASAKI 2%
  6 - SUZUKI 3%
  11 - BMW 5%
  19 - HONDA 8%
  23 - Unspecified 10%
  56 - YAMAHA 24%
  109 - KTM 46%

- Sandro Lanardo / Rudolf Howard | Aprilia | SUI
- Jean-Claude Morsillo / ? | Ural | FRA
- Scott Whitney / Duane McDowell | Harley-Davidson | USA

In total, 239 "motos" are entered:
      3 Sidecars
      10 Quads
      226 2-wheelers

Now that the stage start/end names are known, I set out to look at these places and get an idea of the terrain in the area. Using Google Earth I took the published names and did my best to mark those locations. It's a bit tough given the race organization (ASO) only provided a city or regional name. Nearly all points are my best guess of the approximate bivouac locations based on the minimal info provided by ASO. I looked for the closest airport to the name they provided, and placed points there. In each case, there is no other airport within 80km (50 miles), so I have some confidence that these locations are correct. Bivouacs are placed at airports because much of the supplies for the race are carried in each day on airplanes.

Since ASO plans on tracking every single competitor via GPS, and putting that data on their website, updated every 15 minutes, YOU can see where your favorite racer is all the time. And with Google Earth, you can zero in on those locations and see what the terrain looks like in that area. COOL! It's a bummer that we'll be out of town during the race, and unable to check out the internet!

Sample Sat Photo (Tan Tan)
Satellite photo of Dakar 2006 bivouac
Click the links below to see satellite photos of the bivouac locations. You can zoom and pan to really check out the area.
Stage - Date - Start>End - Length
1 - Dec 31 Lisbon > Portim鉶 370 km
2 - Jan 1 Portim鉶 > M醠aga 567 km
3 - Jan 2 Nador > Er Rachidia 672 km
4 - Jan 3 Er Rachidia > Ouarzazate 639 km
5 - Jan 4 Ouarzazate > Tan Tan 819 km
6 - Jan 5 Tan Tan > Zou閞at 792 km
7 - Jan 6 Zou閞at > At鈘 521 km
8 - Jan 7 At鈘 > Nouakchott 568 km
Rest day - Jan 8 Nouakchott
9 - Jan 9 Nouakchott > Kiffa 874 km
10 - Jan 10 Kiffa > Kayes 333 km
11 - Jan 11 Kayes > Bamako 705 km
12 - Jan 12 Bamako > Lab 872 km
13 - Jan 13 Lab > Tambacounda 567 km
14 - Jan 14 Tambacounda > Dakar 634 km
15 - Jan 15 Dakar > Dakar 110 km
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Route details

Posted on 22/11 07:41
Route - Dakar 2006
Announced today on the Dakar web site:

"This will be the philosophy for the 2006 edition of the Dakar. Because we have chosen to mix and alternate difficulties so as to make each stage a 揷oncentrate of what a rally is and of all the qualities required to make a good rallyman, or rallywoman. There will be tracks, fast or stony, sand and crossings. And navigation. A lot of navigation to find the numerous first-time passes throughout the route. Because in the term rally-raid, there is the word raid. Because, also and above all, the Dakar is the extreme event."

You can see details of each day on their Flash page.

The Route:
31/12/05 Lisboa > Portim鉶 370 km
01/01/06 Portim鉶 > M醠aga 567 km
02/01/06 Nador > Er Rachidia 672 km
03/01/06 Er Rachidia > Ouarzazate 639 km
04/01/06 Ouarzazate > Tan Tan 819 km
05/01/06 Tan Tan > Zou閞at 792 km
06/01/06 Zou閞at > At鈘 521 km
07/01/06 At鈘 > Nouakchott 568 km
08/01/06 Rest day - Nouakchott
09/01/06 Nouakchott > Kiffa 874 km (546 miles) longest day
10/01/06 Kiffa > Kayes 333 km
11/01/06 Kayes > Bamako 705 km
12/01/06 Bamako > Lab 872 km
13/01/06 Lab > Tambacounda 567 km
14/01/06 Tambacounda > Dakar 634 km
15/01/06 Dakar > Dakar 110 km
TOTAL 9043 km (5651 miles)
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Dakar Sidecars of the Past

Posted on 19/11 08:06
Dakar 1980:
Sidecars have been competing in the Dakar since the second year of this great race, 1980. In that year, two sidecars entered, but neither finished. The popularity of sidecars grew significantly through the 80's. In 1985 there were 13 sidecars that started, but only 1 finished. Last year there was only one sidecar competing. I think the difficulty of finishing the race on a sidecar, combined with the huge expense of competing in the race, have discouraged many sidecar teams from taking on the challenge. For Dakar 2006, I've been told there will be 3 sidecars. Here are some photos of the old Dakar sidecars.

I see some strong similarities and some big differences between these bikes and our Dakar rig. All of these have typical motocross style front wheels/tires (our front/rear/side are wide auto wheel/tire). Many are based on EML MX sidecar frames, as is ours. Some carry a spare wheel, some don't (we don't). In any case, it's interesting seeing some of the Dakar sidecars from the past.

Dakar 1984:

Dakar 1985:

photos from Dakar d' Antan

Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

More still to do

Posted on 06/11 20:02
[Comment from KiLeR650 at]
Sucks you have to loose the whole month before the start just getting you stuff there. Those euro entraints have a leg up! Did you ever figure out that pesky 'rear tire falling apart' problem?

Here's a shot from the shipping warehouse,
just before the bike when into the container.
For the previous three weeks I had been doing
16-18 hour days in the garage, and was pretty
beat at the end.

Scott with sidecar
photo by Kevin Heath
We could have really used that extra month. As it went, a lot of things got done in a huge rush at the end, and I still have a list of about 30 things that never got done. Some will be done as soon as we arrive in Lisbon, and a few things will just never get done. Fortunately, I think all the important things will be finished in time. I wish we could have got things done on our bike as quickly as these car guys did this thing: Cool car video I think our paint booth is about as good as theirs though! This video is from Rally Raid UK. They are the group transporting most of our supplies through the race (at about $12/pound).

Regarding the flat tire issues, we have a number of solutions, none of which are perfect. Actually, the tire doesn't seem to be the problem. It was leaks at the bead of the wheel that have caused our two recent flats. In one case the wheel was bent due to a hard hit, and in the other we believe the tire was spinning on the wheel allowing air out at the bead.
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

The sidecar is gone!

Posted on 03/11 11:33
We packed the sidecar into the shipping container and sent it off. First in was the Team Rally PanAmerica F350 support truck, then the sidecar, four KTM抯, a pile of tires, and finally our boxed supplies. After all that work last week fitting our stuff on a pallet, we found that everything didn抰 fit into the container. With the truck in, and all the bikes on pallets, we were three feet short in the container. The easiest fix was to ditch my pallet and roll the sidecar in tightly beside Kevin Heath抯 KTM. Eventually it all fit.

We now have a month and a half before we fly out.

Charlie and Rob of Team PanAmerica
with their three bikes
Charlie & Rob

Final closing
Final Closing

At Aladdin Freight in Oakland
Packing bike

Fitting it all in
Packing bike


[Comment from fehrc at]
Thanks for the update, I always enjoy reading them. So...what are you plans for the next month and a half until you leave?

Here are some things still to come:
- Obtain travel visas for Mauritania, Mali, Guinea.
- Order special navigation and safety instruments and mounts (GPS, IriTrack, Sentinel).
- Check if beautiful wife is still living in house.
- Get AMA and FIM racing licenses.
- Rent satellite telephone.
- Start going to bed before 2:00am.
- Design and have printed all stickers/artwork for sidecar (with sponsor logos).
- Order some additional spare parts.
- Print and mail certificates for all those who helped us, plus update list on website (THANKS everyone who has joined us).
- Clean kitchen sink of grease and other workshop debris.
- Warm up resume so I can get a job when I return from race.
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Final Preparations

Posted on 29/10 10:42
Pallet fit check
Pallet fit check
Pallet fit check
Pallet fit check
In final checkout of the bike a week ago, we found the lower rear shock mount was bent. That's a 3/4 inch (19mm) chromoly steel shaft that the shock slides onto. The only thing I can think of that could have done that was when we hit a 10 ft (3m) wide washout on a road at 40 mph in Death Valley, and we had to jump it. We hit the other side really hard, and it seems the rear end didn't like that! Anyway, in a rush we had to fabricate a new set of parts. Two days ago we took the sidecar out for its final test ride. We had planned this last ride for the previous weekend, but the shock mount troubles delayed us a few days. We drove out to Gorman at 7:00pm Thursday night, rode in the dark, and got back in the morning at 3:00am. This crazy schedule is no fun. Fortunately the bike is working really well, so we're looking good for Dakar!

For the next three days before this all goes onto the boat to Portugal, we will be fabricating more spare parts, working out some of the instrument mountings and final bike prep, throwing in a few last things into the boxes, then driving it all from Los Angeles to San Francisco for shipment.


One of the last tasks is to load everything up on a pallet. It looks like it all fits! All on a 6'x9' Pallet (2m x 3m), 6' tall (2m), nearly 2000 pounds (900kg).

Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Dunes & Dyno

Posted on 26/10 15:07
We made another trip to the dunes, but this time it was in Mexico. This was a HUGE place with monster mountain dunes. Two days of riding gave us some valuable new experiences, much more than can be told here. I'll stick to photo captions. We joined up with Kevin Heath (returning to Dakar on KTM again), Ronn Bailey (Dakar buggy guy), Alan Roach (Baja Designs), James Embro (preping for 1st time Dakar), and several support folks.

Just the bike guys...
The bike guys
Buggy got lost, but later found via radio.

Lots of really cool dunes here
Cool Dunes
Part of the group at secret base location
Group at secret base camp

Hangin' loose on the sidecar

Kevin Heath took a brief spin with me on
the sidecar. This was his first ever ride
on a sidecar.
LOOks like he's having a FUN time!
Kevin on sidecar

Tire problems again! The large 10 pound chunk of melted plastic from inside the tire is not supposed to look like that. I'll explain some other time. Thanks to Kevin and James for helping us get out of the dunes with our flat tire.

Tire problems

Quick service at the Mexican Hotel
Mexican Hotel Garage


After the dunes, we put the bike on the dyno for some tuning adjustments. Got 108 horsepower out of this stock Harley V-Rod motor:
Dyno tune Dyno tuning


The sidecar goes onto the boat next week with Charlie's team bikes, Team PanAm truck, and Kevin Heath's bike. We won't see it again until late December when we arrive in Portugal, a few days before the start of Dakar.

If you're thinking about doing Dakar a year from now, you better be getting going with your planning NOW. All the preparation stuff is almost a full time job, and has just about killed me. Oh, and don't build something yourself for the race. Just buy one of those orange bikes and have a fun time!
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Dakar Newsletter

Posted on 17/10 11:14
Dakar Newsletter (.jpg)

The official Dakar Newsletter came out today. It's five pages of assorted news about the upcoming event. The last page is all Hog Wild! Our Press guy is really getting the job done!

See our feature on the final page in the full newsletter here: (Dakar Newsletter - PDF).

Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Death Valley Rally

Posted on 03/10 15:47
Charlie's camp
Charlie's Camp

Ronn Bailey's camp beside ours.
High contrast!
Ronn Bailey Camp
We spent 4 days out in Death Valley and Dumont Dunes riding Charlie Rauseo's Death Valley Rally. Charlie had much of his team there (Mike, Rob, and others). Pedro never made it up from Mexico. James Embro came out from Georgia. Kevin Heath was booked up with other tasks. Ron Bailey showed up with his practice buggy and a deluxe support setup. Overall we had a nice group to ride with. Charlie had setup two 150+ mile routes, and Duane and I had mapped a 41 mile short loop. We all rode those routes over a two or three day period, mixed in with dunes practice, working on bikes, talk of Dakar, ond more. Each route was fully mapped out on large format roadbooks including GPS waypoints, cap headings, and other navigation info. All went fairly well, with no injuries, and only a few 搇ost in the desert moments. There were plenty of mechanical issues, though none seemed to stop anyone from getting through each day. Photos and captions help tell the story.

Death Valley Rally
Charlie working on his bike.
Don't tell his wife he stole the
cutting board from the kitchen to
space his skid pan lower!
Charlie Working

Interviews for possible OLN TV show
Charlie Interview

Duane Interview


Duane making repairs
Forks Repaired

The exposed guts
The Guts
After our pre-run a few weeks ago we ended up with a nasty crack in the front forks. We believe this was caused by a 10ft wide washout that we tried to jump at 50mph. We survived it, but the bike was hurt.
Cracked Forks

Broken exhaust rubber mounts. A new design for mounting will solve this problem:
Broken Exhaust

During the first day 170 mile route in the Death Valley Rally,
we had rear tire problems and limped in:
Blown Tire
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Death Valley Pre-run

Posted on 29/08 17:55
Over the weekend we were out in Death Valley and Little Dumont mapping out a portion of the route for the "Death Valley Rally" (to be run next month). As reported earlier, I had prepared a 100 mile (160km) route on paper using standard maps, Google Earth satellite photography, and associated GPS coordinates.

Once out there we quickly learned that what looks like a good dirt road on a map and satellite photos may not be a very good road at all.
Who are these crazy people?
The Team
Portions of the route we had planned were nearly impassable with a sidecar, or even a solo motorcycle. There was significant erosion that turned roads into nasty rock and boulder paths, with regular wash-outs 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 cm) deep. In some parts the roads had completely disappeared, forcing us to navigate only by GPS. To add to our difficulties, it was 103F (40C) degrees in the shade, and the sun lit ground was 150F (66C) degrees!!! It didn抰 take long riding and pushing through the boulder patches and wash-outs at 2mph (3km/h) in this heat before we started looking for ways to shorten the route utilizing only the somewhat improved roads. We returned to camp for some rest and a review of the maps.

Duane baking in the sun
Duane on sidecar

Tools for the weekend
On the maps we found what we believed were more realistic roads, and set out to see close up. We had some success, and by mid-day Sunday we had mapped out and documented in roadbook format a tough but passable 40 mile (65km) short route. After a bit more rest and refreshments we headed back out to see if we could add a bit more to the route length. Two hours later we returned with more nightmare experiences of horrible terrain. We came to appreciate the simplicity of rolling sand dunes. As difficult as dunes may be, they don抰 compare with cactus infested boulder gardens with wash-outs thrown in to bring you to repeated quick and complete halts. In early January, a really tough crew might be able to follow our original route, though at a very slow pace. But mid-summer in Death Valley makes even smooth dirt roads miserable. There was a reason there were no other people parked out at Little Dumont, and there was a reason we never saw a single vehicle on any of dirt roads and trails we traveled. IT扴 CRAZY!!!

Overall we chalked this one up as a moderate success. We learned the sidecar could be ridden across some really nasty terrain. We proved the sidecar chassis and V-Rod motor were up to the challenge. And we learned not to ever try this again in mid-summer in Death Valley.

Next time we'll be ready for the heat!
Ice Chest sidecar

Sorry, no photos from the route. The camera broke out on the bolder trails, even though it was in a padded bag. Just the few photos from early Saturday above.

p.s. BFG tires are holding up very well. Gas mileage averaged 17mpg over this very nasty two day period (plenty good for Dakar).

Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News


Posted on 23/08 13:05
[Comment from northjeepster at]
What kind of rally racing have you done? Have you done any training with anybody that has done the rally?

We have never done a rally race. We have done desert racing (and lots of other racing). Plus, Duane (my passenger) has done many very challenging navigation events through his eco-challenge type adventure racing.
Last years training
Dakar Training
Last October we "trained" with Charlie Rauseo, Dave Rauseo, and Kevin Heath, who all did Dakar 2005. This "Death Valley Rally" is sort of a repeat of the training we all did last year, but with a lot more miles, and a few new people. I'm learning a lot about how the roadbook and Dakar navigation works from Charlie, Kevin, and anyone else I talk to who knows anything. I'm also learning a lot while creating my own roadbook route. Lots of credit goes to Charlie and Kevin who have been very helpful to us, and generous with their precious time.
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

What's new, What's coming

Posted on 21/08 23:32
We took the motor out a few weeks ago to inspect the insides and replace anything that looked worn. It looked pretty good inside, and we found no real problems. We replaced one shifter fork with a new improved version. The old one looked fine, but the new one is supposed to make the shifting a little smoother. We also put in a new water pump and a new clutch.

The motor went back into the frame last week, and we took the sidecar out for a test yesterday. That went well. We had no problems at all except when I stepped out of the trailer and cut the top of my head on the doorway. Lots of blood, but no pain. Duane said I needed stitches, but we just put a few band-aids on and went out for one last ride.

We have a new toy on the bike (V-Gauge, just below GPS in photo). It gives us lots of good data, like coolant temperature, air temperature, RPM, MPH/ Km/h, altitude, gear position, and miles per gallon (Km/liter) of fuel usage. The mileage (Km/l) is calculated every second based on the fuel injector pulse widths, and it provides very accurate measurements.
Dash with V-Gauge
We can see the instantaneous MPG (Km/l), so we know exactly how much fuel we are using at every moment. It also calculates the average MPG (Km/l) so we know how well we are doing between each fuel fill up. And finally, it tells us exactly how much fuel we have used, so we always know exactly how much is still in the tank. The bad thing about this is what we saw while riding. I have known for a while that the motor was running too rich. But little did I know how bad things were. We are now getting about 10MPG (4.2 Km/l) in the sand dunes, and 20MPG (8.4Km/l) while riding fairly easy on good roads. That doesn抰 seem very good. So, I抦 going to get the bike on a dyno and re-map the fuel injection. We should end up with more power and less fuel usage.

My roadbook sample
Roadbook Sample

Satellite photo
Satellite Photo of Route
On another subject, we are working with Charlie Rauseo on setting up a mini rally in Death Valley to help us prepare for Dakar. Charlie has two other Dakar teammates who we'll join for this 揇eath Valley Rally, as well as James Embro who, like us, will be going to Dakar for the first time. The Death Valley Rally is scheduled for September, but we have to create the whole route ourselves before then. Charlie and his buddy are setting up most of it (it's his creation), but Duane and I have committed to putting together about 100 miles (160km) of it. It should end up being 400-500 miles (600-800km) total, spread over a couple of days. We will create roadbooks just like what is used in Dakar for navigation (see sample below). I'm using Google Earth to find and mark roads in the desert to make up our portion of the route. The satellite photo below is a very preliminary view of my 100 mile route. I have created an Excel spreadsheet that takes Google Earth exported files and automatically generates the roadbook with distances, notes, and GPS waypoints. I have to then draw pictures showing which way to go at intersections and such. Soon we抣l be going out there to pre-run the route so we can make corrections and additional notes to the roadbook. When we do the whole mini rally for real in September, a TV crew will be there to capture some of the fun for a possible Dakar related television mini series on OLN TV.


I want to again welcome O'Neal USA as a sponsor to our racing effort. They offer the industry's best riding gear, head to toe. We first connected up with Jim O'Neal over 20 years ago, and we've carried the O'Neal name ever since. Thanks Jim O'Neal and Chris Honnold for your continued support.
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Hogin' the Dunes

Posted on 05/08 17:46
Hogin' the Dunes
Here is a video "Hogin' the Dunes" from our latest ride at Dumont Dunes. Some of the dunes we climbed are 300ft (100m) high. Go V-Rod!!! It's a very large file (27 megabytes), and 5 minutes long:

Hogin' the Dunes Video

Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Wires and Hoses and Parts, oh my!

Posted on 01/08 12:28
Wires and Hoses and Parts, oh my!
This weekend we pulled the motor out. We're going through a few things to be sure the whole motor is 100% ready for the big event. Thank you Brent Thompson (H-D) for the technical advice and spare parts. After pulling the motor out I took a photo of the bike carcass. It looks like an electricians and plumbers nightmare. :eek1 It all came apart so easy, NOT. Who抯 going to help put all this back together?

More curiosity photos:
Engine Out Cam Cover

Front Sprocket Fins Cut

Water Pump Mod
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Vegas and the sand dune casino

Posted on 09/07 23:11
About licensing problems, I eventually got permission from Harley-Davidson to go forward with the street licensing. All I had to do was write H-D a letter stating that I would not use the sidecar on the street after Dakar. No problem there!

Press Conference (Charlie Rauseo on
right hanging with the other big boys)

Press Conference

Dinner after Press Conference (Ned,
Duane, Charlie, Me, and KTM gang behind)
Vegas Dinner
On Wednesday the Dakar 2006 press conference was held in Las Vegas. It was ten times bigger than last year. All went quite well, as we met lots of nice people, and many important ones too. Thanks Ned for the hotel room, hospitality, and entertainment.

For all you critics of the OLN coverage from Dakar 2005, be aware they are cooking up something REALLY BIG for Dakar 2007 (not this coming 2006 event). They've already started planning it, and have been talking with all the potential American competitors, including the Amateurs. We little guys may get equal time with the big boys! They plan to start filming some preliminary stuff pretty soon. The show Producer talked with all of us at the press conference in Vegas. Remember the KTM/Redbull rider selection show last year? Think bigger!

On Thursday heading back from Vegas, Duane and I went to Dumont Dunes for more testing. It was well over 100 degrees out there (Sand Dune Casino), but ya gotta do what ya gotta do! We'll have a few video clips soon.

We tested this MONSTER knobby tire (Greenway Aligator 205/75R15). It's nearly 8 inches wide. Awesome results!
Aligator Tire

Aligator Tire - Again

Sitting on bike

Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

It's a Long Road to the start of Dakar

Posted on 01/07 00:54
I've been working on getting the sidecar licensed for the street. All Dakar vehicles must be street licensed since they travel on some public roads and highways in the event. I expected some troubles since our sidecar is such an odd vehicle, and clearly not something the DMV has ever seen.

My first two visits to DMV went pretty well, since it was all paperwork, and they never saw the bike. On the third visit they were to inspect the bike to verify serial numbers and other stuff. The moment the inspector saw the sidecar, he said he couldn't inspect it, and I needed to take it to the Highway Patrol (CHP) for inspection. After a month of waiting for my appointment, I arrived with the sidecar. The CHP inspecting officer was a no-show and I had to reschedule (%#@&!). Another month of waiting, and an officer showed up this time. He took one look at my declared value ($5600), and said I had a problem! I explained the motor was free from the factory and I only paid for shipping ($250), and showed him receipts for the frame and wheels. He was still not satisfied, and said I needed ALL the receipts for EVERY NUT AND BOLT on the bike. I said no problem, I'll collect all that (not really) and up the value accordingly. I also explained what the purpose of the bike was (Dakar), and asked if he was familiar with off-road racing, or the Dakar. He said he has 搕oys himself, and was familiar with the Dakar. WOW, now I figured I had a fair chance of getting through the actual inspection!

We wheeled the sidecar into their fenced inspection area, and I had to go outside and wait.
That got me worried because I had no way of explaining how the blinkers worked, how the passenger seat worked, or any of the other odd characteristics. I sweated for nearly 2 hours waiting for him to do the job. When he came out he explained that everything looked ok, but he was still waiting on verification of the engine numbers (he had called Harley-Davidson, but had to leave a message). Yahooooooo, all the lights, and other street legal stuff were ok. He and some other guys from the CHP office were drooling over the sidecar, and asking all kinds of questions about racing it. That relieved a lot of stress!

But OH NO, now I have serial number problems. It抯 a long story, but lets just say the numbers on my motor are identical to someone else抯 motor because the used motor I received from the factory (saved from the crusher)was previously returned from a customer (small warranty issue) and replaced with a new motor with the same serial numbers. Damn, I抦 screwed! I already knew whoever he called at H-D would have no clue how I got my motor, and may suspect it was stolen. But, since at that moment the inspecting officer had no knowledge of that, he told me to take the sidecar home, and call him back in a day or two to complete the paperwork portion of the inspection (after he receives an 搊k from H-D regarding the motor number). Unfortunately, I knew he was probably not going to receive an 搊k from H-D. I could see the troubles coming!

Early the next morning I received a phone call from Harley-Davidson. It was the guy who sent me the motor over two years ago. He said the sh*t was hitting the fan over there, and I was at risk of having my bike confiscated by the CHP because of serial number problems. He asked what was I doing trying to street register my race bike? The motor was provided to me through back channels at H-D, 揊OR RACING PURPOSES ONLY. I explained that in order to compete in Dakar, all vehicles must be street legal. He then understood the problem, and promised to do what he could to straighten out the serial number issue.

So, either the CHP is going to show up at my home to arrest me, or the inspecting officer is going to call me and tell me my paperwork is all approved.

It抯 a long road to the start of Dakar!
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Is it street legal?

Posted on 21/06 10:14
Too bad this one is already taken
License Plate
Our challenge for this week is to get the Dakar sidecar prepared for a CHP (California Highway Patrol) inspection. The bike has to be street legal to do Dakar, so one way or another we have to pass the inspection. My first attempt at DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) was unsuccessful. When they looked at it, they got real confused and told me I had to go to the CHP to get inspected. I抦 hoping for a moto-patrol officer who will be open minded about our not-so-normal machine.

Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Indiana Jones on a V-Rod?

Posted on 16/06 11:15
Photo by Irl Sanders
Well, it may not be Indiana Jones, but that's what it feels like sometimes out there in the open desert. This is a few video bits pasted together from our latest testing. Thanks to Irl Sanders for the video, and fitting audio selections. Irl is working on a somewhat more professionally done piece from the raw video, hopefully to be completed soon.

VIDEO - 10 megs

Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Accepted into the race!

Posted on 07/06 16:45

This "Long Road to Dakar" began for me in July of 2000. We were at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb going for a win against a tough sidecar team from Sweden. In practice we were struggling to keep up with them. We just didn't have the horsepower compared to their GSXR 1100 powered rig, and our chassis was not well suited for that kind of race. A quarter of the way up the mountain in the race, just behind the Swedes, our Sportster powered rig blew up. We had given everything we had, and it still was not enough for a win.
New sidecar for Pikes Peak
new rig
While sitting on the side of the course watching all the other competitors blast by, my thoughts drifted towards building a new sidecar that could beat the hot Swedish team at Pikes Peak. In the weeks that followed I began to see that my other dream, competing in the Dakar Rally, could be fulfilled by the same very custom built sidecar. It took a year but we completed the just in time for Pikes Peak 2001. We fulfilled the first half of my dream by beating the Swedish team, and setting a new record time for a sidecar at Pikes Peak. Now five years later, after many changes to the sidecar (including new motor), many "bumps in the road", years of testing, and picking up a new partner, we are on track to fulfill the second half of this dream. The letter below means we are one step closer, and it抯 got me totally psyched !!!
Dakar Acceptance Letter
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Fly in the Dunes

Posted on 01/06 13:46
Flying the Harley in the Dunes
Duane and I went out to Dumont Dunes for some more testing and training. It was a bit hot out there, 127F (53C) sand temperature! That made for a good test for our dual radiator three fan cooling system. We were joined by Irl Sanders (from and Tom Bridgeford who both brought their camera equipment. Irl was bold enough to jump on the sidecar and ride around a bit til we found some good photo and video locations. We tried to knock him off and wear him down, but he hung in there to the end. I think he got some cool video and photos. We'll have to wait a bit for that. Tom got this cool shot. I gotta say, we had a GREAT time!

Also, today is the opening day for Dakar 2006 entries. I got my first payment and entry forms in early. ASO (Dakar race organization) sent me an email today saying everything looks good, but they didn't say we have been accepted. I guess we have to wait a bit more for that.
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Duane McDowell joins the team

Posted on 24/05 22:29
I am pleased to announce the addition of Duane McDowell to team Hog Wild Racing. Duane will fill the very difficult 損assenger position for the upcoming Dakar Rally.
The Team
Along with his enthusiasm, Duane brings a strong athletic and off-road racing background which matches well with the broad needs for competing in the Dakar Rally on a sidecar. He has over 15 years of off-road sidecar racing experience, both as a driver and passenger. In recent years he has been competing in 揈co-Challenge type adventure racing, as well as Mountain Biking, Ultra-Running, and other physically demanding competitions. Duane抯 knowledge in mechanics, navigation, sports nutrition, sleep deprivation, pain management, and his 搉ever give-up attitude will all be valuable assets in surviving the difficulties encountered in the Dakar.

We have already been out riding together, and will continue testing the sidecar and training until November when the sidecar will be shipped to Portugal. The race begins on December 31, 2005.

Bartels' Harley-Davidson
I want to also welcome Bartels Harley-Davidson as a major sponsor to our Dakar effort. Bill Bartels was instrumental in helping us get the two V-Rod motors from Harley-Davidson, and has backed up our earlier racing at Pikes Peak and other events. Bill抯 support makes a major dent in our Dakar funding, and is GREATLY appreciated.

The initial open entry period for Dakar begins next week (June 1). Our entry and initial payment will be submitted immediately to help assure our acceptance. My understanding is the Swiss team on their custom Aprilia sidecar will make a second attempt at the Dakar, giving us some very tough competition.

Next ride; this Saturday, May 28, at Dumont Dunes.

Marketing partnership opportunities still available:
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

To tow, or be towed

Posted on 17/05 17:53
[Comment from lastplace (Charlie) at]
Scott, you'd better bring a tow rope. I may need you out there.

Burned Up Clutch

A photo of a Harley towing a KTM would be a real sight to see!

We do carry a 30' tow strap. But I think it may be more likely to be connected to the front of our bike than the rear. We tested that once, just to be sure!

Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Tire Balls, clutch tricks, and more

Posted on 15/04 18:09
With the shoulder recovery going well, I抳e been spending a lot of time in the garage working on the bike. A couple of things I抳e been working on have come together, so here is what's new:

I抳e been looking for something that would help with flat tires. If we get a flat, the sidewalls collapse, and we end up running on the rims and tearing up the tire. The bike doesn抰 go very well that way, and I can抰 imagine going 200 miles across the desert with that kind of flat. If I get a small puncture, I can fix it quickly with a tire plug. But if I get a slice from a sharp rock, that抯 not really repairable out in the middle of nowhere.
Tire Balls
It would be nice to carry a spare tire, but we just don抰 have the space for that. So, one innovative solution is Tire Balls. It抯 basically putting many special inflated plastic balls inside the tire (see photo). If the tire gets slashed, most likely only one of the balls would be cut, so all the others take up the slack and allow us to keep going without fixing anything. Once in to the bivuac,we can replace the slashed tire and one punctured tire ball, and be ready to go again. The problem is these Tire Balls are a very new product and nobody has tried them in the type of tires we have. So, once again I have to be the guinea pig, and test the concept myself. I抳e got the appropriate sized balls installed, and everything is looking good. The next step is to take the bike out and thrash it to see if they will hold up in our unique application. Hopefully next weekend my shoulder will be ready for some serious riding, and we抣l see how the Tire Balls do. If they prove worthy, it will be about $1200 to buy all the balls I need for the bike and spares (~$200 per tire).

Another issue I抳e been looking at is the clutch lever and master cylinder.
Slave Cylinder Mod Plate

Clutch Mod

Clutch Mod
We use a master cylinder off another bike (non-Harley). The problem is its big, heavy, sticks up high, and has a plastic reservoir. If we crash the bike and it rolls over (not uncommon), that clutch reservoir is going to get smashed and probably loose all the fluid. If that happens in the middle of nowhere, we could be calling the helicopter to take us home. It would be better to have that reservoir less vulnerable. And if we do have problems with it, it would sure be nice if it was the same unit used by all those KTM bikes and carried in associated support vehicles that will be passing by. So, I set out to see if I could replace the clutch master cylinder with a trick light-weight off-road Magura unit, as is used on the KTMs. In addition I wanted to do something with the slave cylinder to allow for easier adjustments. This has been an issue for some stock V-Rodders who end up with burned up clutches. I found a nice brand new Magura unit on eBay that included the master and slave cylinder along with the hydraulic cable, all for just $95. To fit it, I had to design and fabricate an aluminum mounting plate to adapt the slave cylinder onto the clutch cover in place of the stock unit (see photos). As part of the custom adapter, I fabricated a 揵utton shaft with a bolt that can be adjusted to create the desired length. This allows me an easy added adjustment to adapt to different numbers of clutch plates and clutch wear. One odd thing with the Magura unit is that it uses mineral oil instead of DOT 3/4/5 brake fluid. I抳e got the whole thing completed and installed, and it seems to be working fine. It has a really smooth feel at the clutch lever!

Likely next project: Install a Dynojet Wideband Commander for tuning.

Likely next ride: El Mirage, April 23 or 24.
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Post Surgery

Posted on 28/03 14:06
Just a few staples!
Two weeks after breaking my collar bone and having screws and a steel plate installed, things are going very well. My whole upper left side is still pretty stiff, and my ribs seem more sore than my shoulder. But overall I feel pretty good.

On Saturday I took a short ride on a street bike, and it went quite well. I'm not ready to get on the sidecar, nor go off-road, but I see that coming sooner than expected. Maybe another two weeks and I can take it out for a light off-road ride. Hopefully by then Doc will pull these damn staples out!

Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

More Pics

Posted on 23/03 11:49
[Comment from scorch at]
Wow, this is pretty damm cool. Love the pics, and hope for the best in the 2006 dakar!!! Post some more pics!

More pics can be seen on our main web site:

Here are two more vids from El Mirage 2 weeks ago:
Failed Hill
Trail and Hill Climb

Does anyone like that view looking backwards from ahead of the bike? I'm playing with different camera angles.

Here are a couple of vids I posted before, from different views:
Whoops, seen from rear mount
Parker 250, passenger helmet mount


These are from the Sidecar-Cross World Championship in Europe, featured on my other web site
Happich 2004, photo by Don Harte Wittman, M.Willemsen, Sergis; photo provided by Team Wittman

Plus a video of this huge jump from Jump Video

I used to do some big air stuff, but then I got old. This big ass Harley sidecar for Dakar will never get air like these. Now THAT would be scary! They've got real light weight sidecars with 700cc 2-Strokes.

And here's a video from last weeks 1st round of the Dutch Sidecar-Cross Championship, all sand!
Dutch Championship Vid


My Dakar dreams evolved after doing sidecar motocross for 30 years. I guess if you抮e crazy enough to do this, you抮e crazy enough to try Dakar! Our Dakar sidecar is basically one of these motocross sidecar frames specially constructed to fit the big motor and big wheels. Then there's all the special stuff for Dakar, like monster gas tank, supplies box, roadbook & GPS, etc.
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

2WD Sidecar?

Posted on 23/03 09:31
[Comment from northjeepster at]
Just a crazy idea but you could have the side cars tire powered via a drive shaft too. like the URAL bike from russia. I've heared that they go really good off road.

Ural 2WD sidecar
Good idea if this is what you want to experience (thanks Charlie):

Ha Ha. Actually, several teams have tried various 2WD systems on sidecars in Dakar. I've heard of too many reliability problems.

At the moment I've got my eye on the 2WD hydraulic system YAMAHA ran in Dakar 2 years ago. It looked really good, but I heard they had to rebuild it every day to keep it going. I can't deal with that on my limited budget and limited mechanic support. If that system improves, I'll consider it again.

The way my rig was working the last time out, I'm not sure I really need 2WD. You wouldn't believe how well this tank of a sidecar goes in the sand! It's MUCH improved from earlier testing. It's killing me that our video camera wasn't working while doing the dunes. We would have had some really cool vids, including our crash. When my shoulder heals, we'll go back and capture some dunes videos.

Over a year ago when we filmed the SpeedTV piece at Dumont, we couldn't make it up into the highest dunes. The following video clip shows a piece of that SpeedTV segment. Notice how big the dunes are in the background. Well, two weeks ago we took the sidecar to the TOP of that highest dune! If a 2WD Ural sidecar can get to that point, I'll have to eat my pants!

In addition to the above, I don't have time this year to make such a radical change to the sidecar as 2WD would be. Especially given the troubles other sidecars have had with it in Dakar. It will take a lot of engineering, lots of testing, and likely lots of redesign. At least that's been my experience so far on this rig. I've built many items on my rig two or three times before they worked the way I wanted. It's not easy pioneering these kinds of things.
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Why the V-Rod Motor?

Posted on 21/03 07:36
[Comment from Steve Pickford at]
What made you choose the V-Rod motor, it's not the lightest lump available?

I originally picked the Suzuki TL1000R motor. If I recall correctly it's about 20 pounds lighter than the V-Rod. The V-Rod (and KTM V-Twin) didn't exist at that time (2001).
Broken Suzuki
Broken Suzuki
In testing, the TL1000R blew the transmission out in the sand dunes of Dumont. As it turns out, the cases were just a little too light weight in a critical area. With all the extra weight of the sidecar and passenger, and serious stresses put onto the motor in off-road racing, I went looking for something that had a little more meat on it. And for Dakar, reliability is top priority. As it turned out, the V-Rod looked like a really good choice. I looked it over very carefully and was very impressed. It's a complete departure from Harley's past. Good power, all the latest technology, and THICK where it counted! The electronics are more advanced than anything I've ever seen on a motorcycle, and very friendly to performance tuning. When the factory offered to GIVE me two motors for FREE, that sealed the deal. So, out with the Suzuki, and in with the V-Rod. Since then it has performed great, and never let me down. I'm very happy with the switch. And as I've said before, all that chrome scares the lizards off the trail!
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Passenger Seat

Posted on 20/03 22:12
[Comment from JNRobert at]
Interesting project. Does your passenger have to stand? The reason I ask, the FIM sidecar roadrace championship used to allow a design of sidecar that essentially placed the monkey in a seat and he didn't move. They eventually banned them as being too close in spirit to cars (a German or Swiss guy called Webber I think came up with the design).

Whoever is going to be your passenger will to have to be one tough SOB to make it throught the Dakar (I know I couldn't do it). Your current design wouldn't allow a seated passenger I assume, but it might give you a competitive advantage unless its precluded by rules or off-road handling issues.
Good luck.

JN, you are correct to describe this as a "project". I've been designing, building, testing, and upgrading this thing for a couple of years. It's a real challenge to build something that will hold up in Dakar, and perform well in all sorts of terrain, especially for one guy in a small home garage with limited funding. In the early going, lots of stuff broke or didn't work well. It's been a long progression getting to this point where stuff is holding up pretty well. It's a completely different path than plunking down a bunch of money for a well proven KTM, and doing it the way hundreds of others are doing it. I抎 surely do it on a KTM if I wasn抰 a sidecar guy.

Regarding the seat, there is no FIM or Dakar rule that I'm aware of regarding a seat for the passenger on off-road racing sidecars. The FIM rules are different for roadracing sidecars, motocross sidecars, and rally/enduro sidecars. But in real OFF road conditions, a seat is pretty useless. The passenger has to take whoops (see videos above), and move around a bit to put his weight where it's needed. The passenger is not 搄ust along for the ride as is the case on street sidecars, or the three-wheeled 揷ar of Steve Webster (GB). I can抰 go very fast or very far without the passenger keeping the whole rig balanced. Right turns are nearly impossible without a passenger. The only time sitting is really practical for a passenger is on a smooth straight road, dirt or paved. Imagine a passenger sitting behind you on a two wheeler in the Dakar Rally. It wouldn't be long before the passenger got pogo'd off on a medium size bump. Same for a sidecar. And a real cushy seat would get in the way of the passengers movements when bumps did come along. But, you are correct in thinking it would be real brutal to go 6000 miles without ever sitting down. So, I've done my best to provide a seat. There are actually two places for the passenger to sit. One is on the low sidecar fender. But that puts a lot of weight far from the bike centerline which is not good for handling.
So I have also provided a small seat on the supplies box on the left side of the sidecar beside the rear wheel. This aluminum box holds lots of handy things for repairs. And the lid is hinged to flip out into a very crude seat (see photo). When there are long smooth road sections the passenger can flip out the seat and have a bit of a rest. In Dakar, some road sections can go on for many hours, particularly in the transfer sections (liasons). This sitting position also allows the passenger to benefit a bit from the "fairing", keeping him somewhat out of the wind at speed. I just finished building this new box last month. Early testing shows it works ok. Previously I had a large ammo box there, which was creating other problems for the passenger.

Good question, thanks!
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Picking up the story mid-stream

Posted on 20/03 16:30
I continue with preparations for Dakar 2006. Most things are well on track, a few others still need to be worked out. Following are some of the things I抦 going through these days.

I抣l try to post occasional updates as things move along. At the moment, I抦 pretty optimistic I抣l make it there this time. There are links to some new action videos below for you thrill seekers!

The two primary open issues are my open passenger position, and money. I still have not made a final decision on who will be my passenger. My younger brother (Eric) has offered to be my backup if I don抰 find someone else, so that takes some of the pressure off. I have one person many of you know who will probably join me soon for a test ride to see if he likes passengering. He抯 never been on an off-road sidecar, so that should be interesting. But as a Dakar finisher and obvious real tough guy, he抯 really high on my list of candidates. I just hope I don抰 scare him off during his first test ride. As I see it, doing Dakar as a sidecar passenger is the hardest way to take on that event. It抯 probably best to leave it at that until he makes a decision.

Obviously money is a problem for nearly all amateurs aiming for Dakar. This year looks much better for me than past years, so hopefully that will hold true. We are providing a way for supporters to help us out, and get something back for the help: Join the Team
And we get more than our share of media exposure. If there抯 someone who wants their company logo seen by millions worldwide, maybe we can work out a sponsorship deal: Press Clippings

Now to the current activities

Swiss team's Aprilia sidecar

New Tire
Every time I see the Dakar TV coverage of the sand dunes in Mauritania I get worried we'll be stuck out there for days. Here's a photo of the unfortunate "end of the line" for the Swiss sidecar team in Dakar 2005.

So, I have fitted even larger tires to help with the sand (see photos below). These are 215/75-15 BFGoodrich Mud Terrain T/A tires, which are now on front and rear. The side tire remains a smaller 13" Michelin rally car tire. I also just reworked the rear suspension because I keep bending the 12mm lower shock mount bolt. The rear shock spring is 1000 pound/inch (178kg/cm) with about 4 inches (100mm) of travel. Counting the rubber bumper and damping, that means we get upwards of 5000 pounds (2270kg) through that shock when we bottom. Now the rear shock has a inch (19mm) 4130 steel shaft for the lower mount. I think that bending problem is solved!

Our first test of these upgrades was Feb 19/20 at El Mirage and Dumont Dunes. Unfortunately, it had been raining for days and the sand at Dumont was wet under the surface, so it was too easy riding around. The new larger front and rear tires seemed to work better than the previous tires in the sand, but we wouldn抰 know for sure until we test again when it's dry. We had to schedule another trip there, as described later.

Other Results:
The suspension upgrades worked well. The Works Performance rear shock now has a circulating dual-hose reservoir to help keep it cool. Now I don't have to worry about the rear shock overheating.

Supplies Box
Our new aluminum spare parts box allows more space for passenger to stand. That is working well. But, it's also smaller than the previous box, so I've had to eliminate some things that we have been carrying.

1) The front shocks were lengthened to raise the front of the bike a bit (more ground clearance). One result from this is the "trail" in the steering increased to the point where it is too difficult to turn the handlebars. I have to modify the front forks to move the front wheel forward slightly.
2) The oil cooler got a leak, and made a mess of the bike. Will replace with a new one.
3) Broke three teeth off rear sprocket. I have no idea how that happened???
4) The rear tire went flat after three hours of riding. There is no puncture in the tire. I think the bead area on the new tires is thinner than the previous tires, and the bead-lock rims don't seal as well. I'll figure something out to fix that. Another problem with these tires is that the sidewalls are not nearly as stiff as the rally tires we had before. So, when we get a flat, it's really difficult to continue riding. With the rally tires we could ride on a flat without any problems. We can't really fit a spare wheel/tire on the sidecar the way the Swiss team does.
5) Even with the wet sand, we still have a hard time climbing the largest dunes. I think it's mainly the weight of the bike that makes it so difficult.
6) At Dumont, the BLM Ranger stopped us out in the dunes and told us there is a rule that if there are two people on one bike, BOTH riders must have a seat and foot pegs. He said he would be nice and let us go this time, but we should be aware of this rule. Obviously he has never seen an off-road sidecar. We got a good laugh from that one.

Overall that testing went well.


The steering was very heavy because the front wheel had too much "trail" due to the longer front shocks. To fix this I added 30mm length to the front swing-arm (see photo link below). It seems to steer much better down the street at my home. A real off-road test is needed to know for sure. With the longer swing-arm, I also had to install stiffer springs.

Front Swingarm Front Wheel

With the larger diameter tires, the gearing changed a lot, making first gear way to high. To solve that I changed from a 62 rear sprocket to a 69. It's huge (almost as big as the wheel - see photo below), but there is nothing else I could do. I can't go smaller on the front sprocket.

Rear End

For a long time I have been having problems with slow leaks in the tires. Most of the time the leaks are in the bead sealing area. The beadlock wheels don't seal very well. Now I have installed very large diameter O-rings between the tire and the wheel, and the leaks seem to have stopped.


I've been in contact with Marc van Huik from Netherlands. He wants to build a new sidecar for his Ducati for Dakar 2006. Maybe we can have the "Battle of the V-Twins" with Aprilia (Swiss sidecar team) - Harley - Ducati !!! CH - USA NL
Anyone rooting for the Hog Wild crew?


El Mirage
El Mirage

Dumont Dunes
Dumont Overlook

My left shoulder, badly broken bone
Broken Shoulder
We went out to El Mirage and Dumont Dunes for a second time a week ago. We needed to do more testing of the tires, suspension, and steering. The bike performed great in the hard rocky areas of El Mirage. At Dumont, the big tires worked really well, allowing us to climb to the top of the highest sand dune. Later we had a big crash, unfortunately I found that my shoulder is not as strong as the ground that I hit, so you can see the result in the X-Ray below. On Tuesday I had surgery for screws and a metal plate in my collar bone. This is just a minor bump in the road. No change in plans other than no riding for the next few weeks.

Below are a few videos from El Mirage. The sad thing is our buddy was right behind us when we had our nasty crash on Sunday at Dumont, and he had the helmet-cam running, but we later found that the power wire had come unplugged, so the video was blank. Major bummer, as it would have been a great video with my feet going over my head just before slamming the ground. Enjoy the somewhat less dramatic videos!

Videos approximately 5MB and 1 minute each. If anyone wants to see more, let me know.

Somehow in our crash the engine cover got a huge dent. I don't think my balls are big enough to do this, so I'm not sure how it happened. My not yet broken shoulder went over the bars, so it could not have been that.

Dented Engine Cover

It may not be the greatest work of art, but it sure works well for what it was built for:
Left View


Coming purchases:
520ERV2 X-Ring Chain (qty 5).
Custom rear sprockets (qty ?).
Precharger air filter wraps (qty 2).
Roadbook (qty 1).
Rally Computer (qty 1 or 2).
Flat tire solution.
Additional HID lights from Baja Designs.
Complete set of spare shocks from Works Performance.
Spare beadlock wheels from Keizer.
Spare sidecar parts from EML Sidecars, Belgium.
Spare electrical sensors from H-D.
Spare oil coolers from Earls (qty 2).

Activities in coming weeks:
Rookie passenger tryout.
DynoJet WideBand Commander EFI tuning.
Data logging with Daytona Digital TwinScan88.
Testing of Bridgestone Dueler Mud Terrain D673 tire.
Testing of home made sand ladder.
Get bike through DMV and CHP inspection for street legal license.
Testing of Greenway Alligator tire (from UK). Check out this 8 inch wide knobby for my 15 inch rear wheel:

Greenway Aligator Tyre

With over 100hp from our V-Rod motor driving this tire, you better not get behind us in the rocks!!!
Author: scott
Category: Dakar - Past News

Who, What, When, Where, Why

Posted on 01/01 09:00
About Dakar Rally 2006:
The Route
The Route
The Dakar Rally is the largest, most popular, and toughest off-road rally competition in the world. This year the rally starts in Lisbon, Portugal, and travels through Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, with the finish in Dakar, Senegal. With its popularity, the event enjoys worldwide TV and other media coverage. There are various categories for cars, trucks, motorcycles, quads, and of course sidecars. Just finishing the event is considered a great accomplishment.

Start date: 31 December, 2006.
End date: 15 January, 2006.
Official rally web site:

Why are we racing this event:
We are attracted to this great event because of the huge challenge. Beyond the basic "competition" aspects, this race is a huge challenge physically, mentally, mechanically, organizationally, financially, and more. A successful result in the Dakar Rally would be a crowning achievement in any racers career.

Though the Dakar Rally is difficult for all competitor, it is particularly difficult for sidecar teams. On average only about one or two sidecars compete in this race each year. Over the past 27 years, only one or two sidecars have finished. This extra difficulty is particularly motivating for us.

Why this crazy machine:
A journalist from a British magazine asked me (Scott) this question about my sidecar; "Why have you made this amazing creation?".

Here is my answer:

Old Sportster Sidecar

Frame Construction

Pikes Peak setup
with Suzuki Motor

Dakar setup
with Suzuki Motor

V-Rod Motors

New V-Rod Sidecar
Pikes Peak setup

Dakar Setup
with V-Rod Motor

Flying in the Dunes
The idea for this sidecar began in 2000 when our Harley Sportster powered sidecar blew up in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. We had won there the two previous years, but we finally reached the limits of our machine in 2000. The sidecar we ran there was an old modified home-built motocross sidecar with a heavily built up Harley Sportster motor (with nitrous-oxide). We needed more horsepower, more reliability, and a chassis setup that was better suited for that smooth and fast dirt road.

At the same time I was dreaming about doing the Dakar Rally on a sidecar. I've been a sidecar guy for over 30 years so that's the way I want to do it. These two races are about as different from each other as can be imagined. One lasts 15 minutes on a smooth dirt road with the finish at the 14,000ft (4,300m) peak of a snow-capped American mountain. The other lasts for 15 or more days through the most desolate roadless hot desert regions on earth, with the finish at sea level on the beaches of Dakar in Africa. But they are both great World-Class events that just about every race enthusiasts has dream about doing. I am fulfilling my dreams, but I had a dilemma. I needed two new sidecars, each with very different and specialized requirements. You can not "buy" a sidecar that is made for either of these types of races.

As I thought through how to build a new Pikes Peak sidecar AND a new Dakar sidecar, it slowly became clear that deep down they really were the same thing. Everything started with the tyres. Rally car tyres were ideal for both events. As I thought through the concept it all fell into place. I selected the Suzuki TL1000R as a good reliable high-horsepower motor. I bought a 15 inch rally tyre, a matching racing wheel, and designed and machined custom wheel hub pieces. I stuffed all the wheel pieces in my baggage and jumped on an airplane from Los Angeles to Belgium where the EML motocross sidecar factory is located. A week later we had most of the basic bare chassis completed. It was a modified version of an EML motocross sidecar, with special features to meet my special needs. I spent the next 6 months in my garage fabricating all the bits and pieces to pull it all together.

For Pikes Peak we use smaller 13 inch rally tyres, short shocks, very low driver's seat, small fuel tank, low mounted handlebars, aerodynamic front shield, etc. It was fantastic at Pikes Peak where we pulled off another win in 2001.

Oh, by the way, I'm the passenger. My brother Pete had been my driver for the last 20 years of sidecar motocross. He was never much into building bikes, and he also was not into doing Dakar. He liked wheel-to-wheel racing, not the man against Mother Nature thing. So, for Dakar only, I temporarily promoted myself to driver. Unfortunately, in July 2003 Pete died in a car accident. It's been a very difficult thing for our whole family, but racing continues. Pete's son Craig has been my passenger for some recent events here in the States. For Dakar I have selected Duane McDowell of Los Angeles as my Dakar passenger. He's an experienced sidecar motocross driver and passenger, and has been competing in "Eco-Challenge" type adventure races and mountain biking in recent years.

Following our win at Pikes Peak on the new Suzuki sidecar, I set my sights on setting up for Dakar. The cost for Dakar is outrageous (around 60,000 dollars). We need some serious sponsorship to meet that budget. Unfortunately, our Suzuki was not attracting any attention. At the same time, Harley had come out with the new V-Rod. I took a long look at it, inside and out. It really blew my mind. The V-Rod is unlike anything Harley has ever made. In almost every way it was superior to the Suzuki. It has the horsepower I need, and careful studies suggested it would be even more reliable than the Suzuki.

Meanwhile I had converted the Suzuki sidecar over to the Dakar configuration with tall suspension and many other changes. We had begun doing some real off-road testing out in the desert. I was also talking with Bartels' H-D and Harley-Davidson about our project and goals, and how they might be able join our effort. With encouragement from Bill Bartels, the factory eventually committed to sending us two V-Rod motors. As they were boxing them up for shipment, the Suzuki motor had a catastrophic failure while testing in the sand dunes. We now had a huge hole in the transmission and oil gushing out into the sand. That was the end of the Suzuki motor, and it could have been the end of my Dakar plans.

The timing was almost perfect though. Out with the bad motor, and in with a good one. Unfortunately, the V-Rod motor is a bit bigger than the TL1000R, and it didn't fit. It took me a couple of weeks working on the frame to get it in, but the final result was excellent. It came together just in time for Pikes Peak 2003, where we pulled off another win. It was a great debut for the new V-Rod!

Next we reconfigured the bike for the Dakar setup again, and set off for some desert and sand dunes testing. We've been out many times without any serious problems, and will continue testing through 2005. The V-Rod has already gone farther that the Suzuki did, and with fewer problems.

Now crowds gather around this beast like dogs on meat. It's definitely an eye catching machine. But with the huge expense of the Dakar, we still need more help. We have large panel space for big sponsor logos, so we can get some great media exposure for anyone who gets on board with us for the coming Dakar Rally.

Who would have ever believed that a Harley would be a good choice for off-road racing? Well, it sure is a blast flying through the desert on a Harley with a hundred horsepower to play with. And all that chrome scares the lizards off the trail ahead of us!
Author: scott
Hog Wild Racing home page