Bespoke Rallies Retraces the Original Paris-Dakar Steps

MotoGP may offer exciting motorcycle racing, but bikes compete in more places than paved tracks. Some of the most extreme races take place in off-road locations such as Baja, Mexico. And then there’s one of the most iconic races in the world: the Paris-Dakar Rally. Over the decades, the Dakar Rally route has changed significantly. But now, UK-based Bespoke Rallies is returning to the race’s roots onboard some vintage machines.

The Dakar Rally hasn’t raced from Paris to Dakar in years

Red-clad Cyril Neveu on the red-and-white 1982 Honda XR500R Dakar Rally bike racing through the desert
Cyril Neveu on the 1982 Honda XR500R Dakar Rally bike | Honda

These days, the Paris-Dakar Rally’s name is a bit of a misnomer. When it started in December 1978, the race did begin in Paris, France, and end in Dakar, Senegal. And although the precise route varied year-to-year, the Dakar Rally always started in Paris and ended in Dakar. Right up until it didn’t.

In 2008, several days before the Dakar Rally was about to start, four French citizens and three Mauritanian soldiers were murdered in Mauritania. Terrorist acts escalated shortly thereafter. As a result, officials canceled the 2008 race completely.

Since then, the Dakar Rally hasn’t returned to its original ‘home.’ In 2009, the race moved to South America, where it stayed until 2019. And since 2020, it’s been held in Saudi Arabia. That’s also where the 2022 race will take place.

However, while the Dakar Rally itself hasn’t returned to Africa, that hasn’t stopped intrepid riders from going there. Fuel Motorcycles’ annual Scram Africa, for example, was inspired by the Paris-Dakar Rally. The upcoming Bespoke Rallies event, though, isn’t just an homage to the race, but a partial recreation.

Bespoke Rallies is bringing classic enduro motorcycles back to Dakar

The route map of the Bespoke Rallies' 2022 Dakar Enduro Rally
Bespoke Rallies’ 2022 Dakar Enduro Rally map | Bespoke Rallies

UK-based Bespoke Rallies has been organizing rallies for vintage and classic cars for more than two decades, MCN reports. The company has led events in Sri Lanka, over the Pyrenees, through the Amazon, and across Norway, to name a few. And for 2022, Bespoke Rallies has a new event: the Dakar Enduro Rally.

To be fair, the Dakar Enduro Rally doesn’t start in Paris, RideApart notes. Instead, it starts at the Brooklands Museum in Weybridge, England. But over 21 days, Bespoke Rallies will lead participants south through England, France, Spain, and Morocco. From there, the route snakes through Western Sahara and Mauritania. And the finishing point is indeed in Dakar.

A white-blue-and-red RD03-gen 1989 Honda XRV650 Africa Twin by a gray building
1989 Honda XRV650 Africa Twin RD03 | Bring a Trailer

All told, the Dakar Enduro Rally covers over 4000 miles of pavement, gravel, and sand. And while the event is open to cars, Bespoke Rallies also has a class for motorcycles. But not just any motorcycles.

Technically, this rally is open to any adventure bike. However, in the spirit of the original Dakar Rally, the Enduro Rally organizers encourage riders to show up on vintage or vintage-inspired models, RideApart explains. That means motorcycles like the original Honda Africa Twin and ‘80s BMW GS bikes. Indeed, Evo founder and YouTuber Harry Metcalfe, having previously ridden on a Dakar Rally stage, is taking part on a 1988 Africa Twin.

How can you join in?

Although previous off-road riding experience isn’t required, Bespoke Rallies encourages potential participants to learn the necessary skills. Participants will also need spare parts and tools, a Brantz or similar trip meter, and a skid plate is strongly recommended. However, you don’t need a competition license to take part, just a standard lone with an international riding permit.

The Dakar Enduro Rally kicks off on February 28, 2022; entries start at roughly $8250, MCN reports. That fee includes hotel stays, food, GPS trackers, a full support crew with a medic, and rally clothing. Plus, shipping for whatever ADV you bring along.

To be sure, the entry fee isn’t necessarily cheap. But it’s arguably one of the safest ways to retrace the earliest routes raced in the Paris-Dakar. And riding a classic Africa Twin through Africa has a certain appeal.

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