As the saying goes, “With age comes a ’cage.” but that’s not always true. Many off-roaders start off with dirt bikes and eventually end up behind the wheel. Those competitive and dedicated enough end up surrounded by inspected-and-approved rollcage tubing and other hardcore competition hardware. Greg Gilbert of Desolate Motorsports, on the other hand, swam upstream and bucked the trend. For the 2012 Best in the Desert Vegas to Reno desert race, Greg decided the best place to be was not inside a truck but behind the handlebars of a Honda XR650r.
On the surface, trading a rollcage for a set of handlebars seems like regression. It’s quite the opposite. While the cost of the race vehicle decreased (a lot), the personal challenge increased exponentially. As if racing a dirt bike wasn’t enough, Greg chose to enter the amateur Ironman class, meaning he’d be the only one on the bike for the race’s entire 535-mile length.
Greg wasn’t the only one taking on the Ironman challenge. Friend and fellow rider Dave Sanchez was also throwing his helmet into the Ironman ring, running the race aboard a Honda CRF 450x. Greg and Dave were both racing under the Desolate Motorsports banner.
The two riders faced 535 miles of rocks, whoops, dusty lakebeds, mountain passes, and heat. Vegas to Reno happens during August. Personal challenge? Big time.
Even though they’d be the only ones riding their respective dirt bikes, Greg and Dave weren’t running Vegas to Reno alone. There are 15 pits along the course and a total of five Desolate Motorsports chase crews would leapfrog along the pit route, making sure the two riders had enough fuel, water, food, and mechanical support to go the distance.
The two riders had years of riding, racing, and desert driving experience between them. Their bikes were well prepared, and they’d both spent many hours doing fitness training. While experience, practice, and preparation are important, they’re not the final factor that determines if and when you cross the finish line. That final factor is luck.
Luck is always an unknown, and it seems that at the beginning of the race, each rider is imbued with a certain amount of it. Where and when the luck runs out is anyone’s guess. There’s only one way to discover your personal luck factor. You’ve got to show up and cross the starting line with everything you’ve got.
We tagged along, offering chase truck support, and got the real race experience for ourselves.
Read on as we talk about how the race unfolded.