Simon Pavey is riding this year’s UAE Desert Challenge that opens this week. Having schooled actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman for their two-wheeled odyssey across the world in The Long Way Round, Pavey also joined Boorman on his 2006 attempt to finish the Dakkar rally. For the Desert Challenge, he’s joining the Gecko Honda team, Time Out caught up with him days before the event.
All set for this year’s challenge?
Big time. I’ve been to the UAE a few times, and for me that’s part of the attraction and especially with Sean [Linton, manager of Gecko Motorcycles] and the guys from Gecko. I came over for the Desert Challenge in ’06 and we also did the training for Race To Dakar [Boorman’s attempt to complete the Dakkar rally for TV] for eight days there, training and testing the rally bike for the race.
Tell us about the bike you’re riding in the event
Gecko Honda 450, fantastic – I can’t wait. For me I’m normally riding big BMWs and that sort of stuff. I’ve just been on another rally called the Trans-Orientale, from St. Petersburg to Beijing, and there was a guy out there riding one of Shaun’s 450s. Watching him and seeing how well the bike was put together, I’m dead excited to get my leg over that.
How does the event shape up to something like Dakkar?
The best thing for me is that the Desert Challenge is a really fun race. It’s definitely hard, but Dakar is so relentless that sometimes the enjoyment goes out of it. In the Desert Challenge, the navigation is always good even though it’s high speed and that makes it safe. It’s a good atmosphere as well, because you’ve got the bivouac all going into one place. You get time for a bit of banter with the other riders and drivers, in Dakar it’s hard to get that because you’re always shattered at the end of each day, whereas at the Challenge you are tired but you’ve got recovery time.
Got any tips for riders taking part this year?
I think the best tip for anyone, especially if they’re new to rallying, is that it’s important not to get over-excited and ride over your head. You have to remember that these are long events and usually the best thing to do is keep a calm head, and not think that you’re gong to win it on day one. Hopefully I‘ll listen to some of my own advice! You get out there on that first day and you try and go a bit faster than you need to. Every day is long, 100s of kilometres, and there are five or six days to go. The best feeling in any rally is being on that finish line, at that point it doesn’t matter if you’re first or last. If you finish then it’s what you’ve fought for all week.
UAE Desert Challenge, October 23-31. www.uaedesertchallenge.com