Merzouga Rally, eve of the final stage


The start of stage 4

Well it’s been a tough few days.

I go into tomorrow’s final dune stage with so many time penalties that I’ll effectively have been riding for longer than I’ve been in Morocco.

Problems started on Thursday morning as I started the bike to head into the liaison for a two day marathon stage. This is an old fashioned two day stage with a bivouac in the dunes and no assistance allowed. Even the riders only had 15 minutes to work on their bike at the end of the day.

The starter motor made a funny squeal as I started up in the morning which did not bode well for a stage with over 100km of dunes to cross finishing up with 50km in the big dunes of Erg Chebbi. True to form at about 1pm with only 30km to go I crested a dune, stalled the bike and the starter refused to work.

Without a kick start the day was over, and worse, the rally as well as even if I could get a tow back to the bivouac the marathon stage rules would mean I had no way of getting a replacement part, even if I could fit it.

After an hour waiting in the dunes letting everything cool down except me, I had called the organisers for rescue. I was chatting in bad French to the Moroccan dude who inevitably pitches up anywhere you stop. Saif I think his name was. At one point I prodded the starter speculatively and we were both shocked when the motor banged into life.

The view from sitting in the shade of my broken bike

So now I had to decide whether to bail out of the dunes directly (about 1 km) or try to ride the rest of the stage. I chose to get out as at least the organisers could recover me easily that way.

As it was, I managed to get the bike to the bivouac although I missed a lot of way points in the dunes. Today I rode direct to the paddock at the rally hotel and did not attempt the course. I expect a huge amount of penalties but the bike is fixed, I’m still in the Rally and racing tomorrow.
The marathon bivouac at the foot of Erg Chebbi

Merzouga Rally Day 1 (ish)

So day starts off with a 122km warm up stage. Times don’t count but penalties for missing way points or speeding in control zones.

I managed a clean stage though some in the team have not been so lucky. I nearly missed check point three which was hiding in the dunes but I realised and went back to find it.

The day finished off with a very short prologue in the dunes which will decide the starting order for tomorrow. 2.5km was not really enough to get into my stride but I’d rather not start high up anyway as it makes navigation easier.

I’m now stuck in an interminable briefing in Spanish. Waiting for an English briefing to start. Should have just gone to the French briefing.

More soon or keep up to date on twitter @PaulCarlyle.

The bike sitting in parc ferme this morning.

Working on the roadbook.

The Merzouga Rally begins

I will be speaking in Moffat at the Moffat Motor Club on the 20th November and apparently my blog is out of date… Fair comment.

So at the moment I’m sitting in a hotel in Erfoud, Southern Morocco, after a Ryanair flight to Fez then a 6 hour taxi ride to the town where the Merzouga Rally will be based.

Tomorrow I start two days of training on the KTM 450 Rally, before scrutineering for the event itself on Sunday.

I will try to post some pics tomorrow. In the meantime here’s one from the window of the taxi.


Off we go again

After a fair bit of messing around, I am hoping to travel to Le Harve next week to collect a KTM 450 Rallye bike together with a spare engine.

A long way from Edinburgh to Le Harve but with luck everything will go smoothly and the road back to Dakar will have started. No doubt many photos will appear on the twitter feed as well as howls of anguish as everything goes wrong with “Expedition KTM Collect”.

Return of the Desert Blog

It’s August 2012. The Olympics are in full swing. I’m just back from a 43km ride on my road bike trying to do some long Zone 2 training and it’s time for the desert blog to start moving again.

I got married to Alison in June which was fantastic. Mike Robertson arranged for a few of us to spend the morning of the wedding on the enduro bikes blatting round a forrest near Elgin. Proper silliness. 3 weeks of honeymoon in Italy and Switzerland helped to kick start my training after a poor year in the Scottish Enduro Championship so far.

I was elected one of the Vice Presidents of the SACU (Scottish Auto Cycle Union) earlier in the year so am trying hard to put something back into motorcycle racing in Scotland which has given me so much. A few projects running there which I think will make a difference for us and could be very exciting.

The 2010 Rallye Bike will be at a demonstration day at the museum of transport in Glasgow (new building – not seen it yet – excited about that) on 23 SEPTEMBER. Please come along and say hi. I’m hoping to use that day as a soft launch for my next Dakar attempt.

The aim is 2014 but depending on how fund raising goes it might be 2015. I need a new 450 bike and all the funds to train on it and then pay for my entry and support costs. Keep an eye on this site as I’m hoping to find new ways of raising cash and all assistance is welcome.

I get a lot of spam on this blog so real comments are welcome.

Have Fun


Wedding Photo – can’t be avoided – sorry


Good Luck

Tomorrow my 2010 Dakar team mates Tamsin Jones and Craig Bounds are attempting to beat the current world record for riding motorcycles up the side of Mount Everest. What a totally  nuts and wonderful thing to do.

Also tomorrow the GB entrants for Dakar 2012 are running a parade through London to Canary Wharf.

Best of luck to all of them…..

….. I need to get out from behind this desk.

Tuareg Rallye Countdown

I’m not sure if anyone is still looking at this blog. Nothing has happened on it for some months but I’m in rally mode again so perhaps it is time for the DesertBlog to come back to life.

The Tuareg Rallye runs from the 27th of March to the 4th of April starting and ending in southern Spain and running down through Morocco to Merzouga then back up again. A 9 day Rally Raid that I did once before in 2008, it seems to have a much bigger entry and to have taken on greater significance in the Rally Raid world in recent years.

The KTM525 that I took to Dakar is being dug out of the shed for one final run. She needs a little bit of care and attention but (apart from looking a bit battered) is not in a bad state. The body that I took to the Dakar is not as fit as it was then but I’ve been doing a lot of mountain biking, running and duathlons in recent months so hopefully I’ll be fit enough.

Support will once again be provided by Patsy Quick’s Desert Rose Racing and I’m looking forward to meeting up with the team again. I’m also looking forward to racing alongside Mike Shepherd (Dakar 2009), Duncan Tweedy (Dakar 2010) and Mike Robertson (Enduro d’Agadir 2006/7).  Should be good fun with all of them.

It will be interesting to see how I feel about racing in the desert again. After the Dakar I largely lost interest in racing and although watching the 2011 Dakar made me feel a bit out of things, I didn’t really want to be in amongst the tough stuff again. I’d have been happy to do the photographs, sign the autographs and get the attention but not so happy to do the 600km special stages. However, now that I’m into final preparations for the Tuareg I’m beginning to feel “fired up” again. We shall see.

It is interesting to examine my motivation and wonder if others are the same. There were so many things surrounding the Dakar as an event that I didn’t really take in because I was so focussed on racing and finishing. Hopefully the Tuareg will be a bit more relaxed.

The key to the Tuareg as a race is the middle section. Days 3, 4 and 5 are all “loop” stages starting and ending in Merzouga and spent mostly in sand dunes. Day 3 is a long stage with three separate Erg crossings. Day 4 is the “King Stage” spent in the dunes at Erg Chebbi. In 2008 I took the race day by day but this time I will try to save some energy in anticipation of these tough days.

So, final tweeks to the bike need done – Crawford at CCA Designs is fitting some fresh graphics. Most of my kit from Dakar will get dusted down and used again – thanks to Kriega for replacing my R8 waistpack which for some reason didn’t make it back from the Dakar. One week to go then I’ll be trucking the bike south to Desert Rose.

The weekend after that I go to watch AJ in the Rome Marathon then the weekend after that the Rally starts. I will try to update when I can on Twitter and on the blog.

Have Fun


Dakar Review II

Took me a while to get to the second review I know.So for those of you thinking of doing the Dakar, also be aware of the post Dakar issue. Difficult to be back at work and not 100% focussed on a race. Too tired still to do anything but bored with not doing stuff. Still, I have a Duathlon to look forward to at the end of the month.So, final list of stories – less dramatic than the last lot The Rest Day The rest day started slightly oddly. The stage before the rest day was a long 600k stage. Racing against the sunset the last 40k or so were in pretty dunes with cacti looking like people as the light gave out. Finally finished and got to the bivouac. Such an amazing feeling to have made the rest day which was my target for the whole effort and which I really didn’t think I’d make. Rode up to the Team Desert Rose awning to find a note on the white board “Well done – we’re all in a hotel – see you tomorrow.” To be fair the mechanics really needed a good night’s rest and properly deserved a clean bed in Antofagasta but still it was a little bit of an anticlimax. Craig Bounds was already in and asleep and Tamsin had yet to finish (she finished at about 2 am) so a good feeling but no-one to share it with. On the rest day itself Craig told me not to laze about all day but to keep a bit of physical activity going. I went for a walk along the beach which was ideal. All of a sudden the project changed – I needed to find a new plan to get further into the race….No idea when I wrote this – it’s clearly been sitting in the draft section for months. Anyway I decided to publish.It’s now October and the Dakar fever is kicking off again. All the people I know on faceskive are prepping for Argentina in January again…. but I’m not.It’s hard to find the impetus to keep prepping but a new plan is starting to evolve as the year wears on and the finances recover and the boredom sets in. I’ll never be a top Dakar racer but I know folk who can be. I’ve done the apprenticeship and I know how to get there. Maybe I can marry my knowledge and more importantly my contacts with the guys I know and create a Scottish desert racing legacy.We need support to do this – and cash. I have a feeling it can be done.Starting point is getting my good friend Mike Robertson through the Tuareg Rallye in March 2011. More posts to follow on that adventure for anyone who’s interested.

Dakar Review I

Man it’s cold in Scotland! Glad to be home and caught up on some sleep.

I thought I’d try to post a few of the random stories I remember from my Dakar now that I have time to do so. Some silly stories, some tough points in the race and maybe some thoughts for anyone else daft enough to consider the Dakar – or any other desert race. It all seems to be a long way away now so these will be in no particular order – and probably spread over more than one post.

THE BIG CRASH. Those who followed twitter will have seen my low point posts at the end of Day 11 after my one big off of the race. Patsy had warned me the night before that it was too easy to start thinking about making up some places at this point in the Rally rather than continuing to ride carefully. She was right. About 100k in to the the stage the piste opened up to a wide flowing track in a canyon. Very pretty and very easy to ride fast with berms on either side you could slide into and launch off. I passed Tamsin and Phil then came across a train of riders and started picking them off one by one. Dust was the only issue but with the bikes I could move around across the wide piste and pick a way through where I could sort of see through the dust. Then I came up behind a quad. Quads make a lot more dust and this guy was really hard to see past. In the dust I didn’t see a 50cm wall of rocks built across the piste with arrow signs directing you around a washed out bit of piste – at least not until I was 1 meter from it at about 80kph. I tried to jump it but clattered one of the big arrow signs (now an ex-sign) and bike and I went somersaulting away. I reckon I was out for a minute or two but the bike was largely ok and I was able to get back on and ride to the end of the day. Very annoyed with myself for getting carried away and not playing safe. Total damage assessment was a couple of cracked ribs, a very stiff neck and a chipped elbow. Sore but nothing to stop me riding. A really stupid one but all in all I got away with it.

THE BLOWN ENGINE. On the evening of Day 12 I arrived in the bivouac to find Tony waiting for me with my spare engine out of it’s box. Apparently he had been worried about the inlet valves on my engine wearing badly and had chosen not to tell me in case I worried about it. He checked and the inlet valves had run out of adjustment completely so he recommended we change the engine and I agreed. Day 13 was the last hard day in the sand and within 5k my clutch was squealing. I nursed it to the end of the stage but was getting more and more worried about the new engine sounding rough – it also seemed to be running hot but it was a very hot day anyway. Trying to tell myself it just sounded different I took a break at the end of stage refuel then discovered the first 140k of liaison was on soft sand piste with lots of fesh fesh. The engine took me nicely through that and out onto the road section of 150k where we could get some speed up and get some air through the radiators (and cool the rider a bit). Happily grunting along at 105kph about 30k from the end the engine burnt the last of its oil and munched itself into bits. After a bit of waiting Argentinian Quad rider Santiago Hansen came to my rescue and agreed to tow me in to the bivouac. That went very well apart from 2k of soft rutted sand which even his Polaris struggled with. Imagine me hanging on for grim death behind. Nevertheless we made it in and Patsy and Tony did another engine change before the final day. There’s no doubt that Santiago saved my Dakar that day. How lucky I was that the engine didn’t go while I was still in the stage or in the soft sand liaison – that would have been me.

CRAIG BOUNDS. The top UK rider in the race by far went out in spectacular style on Day 13 – the second last day. It’s a story worth telling as it tells you a lot about Craig and the type of guy you have to be to be a top Rally rider. In the first set of dunes Craig 690 KTM developed both a clutch problem and a starter problem. The 690 has no kick start and because the problem was in the starter arrangement it couldn’t be jump started. For nearly 10 hours Craig tried to find ways of bump starting it but in the soft sand the rear wheel just dragged and wouldn’t turn the engine. He had two horses strapped to the bike pulling it along. Then he tried a 4×4 but no luck. When the sweeper truck got him he was physically lifting the bike up the dune hoping to run it down the other side. Craig then refused to go with the sweeper truck and give up. They thought he was suffering in the 40 degree heat and called a medical helicopter for him. He had to be wrestled into the helicopter by two or three Argentine army blokes. That is the sort of “never say die” commitment the top guys have – I can but dream. I’m gutted for Craig – he’s an amazing rider and could run with the top riders given the chance.

Craig Bounds