Sunday, January 31, 2010



January is always an awesome time of the year for hardcore off-road fans with the staging of the annual Dakar Rally, which now has a spectacular new home in Argentina and Chile.

But let's not forget that achieving the dream of racing the Dakar can come at the ultimate price.

On January 9, 2006, Aussie off-road legend Andy Caldecott was tragically killed in Mauritania in South Africa during the ninth leg of the 28th staging of the gruelling Paris-Dakar Rally.

A true professional and great ambassador for dirt bike racing, Andy always retained his humility despite his great achievements -- which at the time of his accident included racing for the powerful KTM factory race team.

Andy is survived by his wife Tracey and children Caitlin and Mitch in his home-town, Keith, in South Australia.

With the support of the local community, the Andy Caldecott Memorial Project Committee has been formed to develop a lasting memorial to Andy.

The committee is a not-for-profit organisation serving the community of Keith, and aims to raise over $65,000 to complete a fitting memorial to this great motorcycle competitor.

As part of the fundraising campaign, engraved pavers that will form part of the memorial in the township of Keith are available for sponsorship by individuals and businesses. The paver contributions range from $50 to over $150 and are now available through the Andy Caldecott Memorial Project.

For full details check out the web site or email and gain a unique and lasting record of your support of a true Aussie dirt bike riding legend.

R.I.P. Andy Caldecott.

-- Clubby,

Tuesday, January 26, 2010



Hi there guys: As you can see this is a pretty schmick Super Tenere. Apparently it was found on its side in a shed with the tyres flat and in a fairly poor condition. The owner, Gavin, did the restoration and is a motorbike mechanic in the Coffs Harbour area -- he's a mate of Tom Foster at TBAM. Gavin may be a good contact when you restore your Super Tenere. This photo was taken at Ebor Falls on the way to Narrabri across country. Feel free to contact me if you are coming to the NSW South Coast as we have a group that rides regularly, both short and long rides.
-- Steve Guthrey, via

Thanks for the offer, Steve, as I'll need all the help I can get with my S10 as it begins its rehab program over the next 12 months. It actually goes in for corrective surgery this weekend, where chief surgeon Clive Ward from will get the beast roadworthy, assisted by myself on the tools. We don't expect any long-term side effects other than skin off my knuckles. Gavin's Tenere looks good and I'd be keen to have a closer look at it. You blokes should all try and make it to the Hunter Valley Adventure Rally on March 20/21 this year. It should be an awesome event and I may have the Super Tenere there, contrary to the rumours Clubby is currently spreading. We're working out our calendar for this year and I'd be keen to come along for a ride on the South Coast in the near future, so please let me know well in advance of any rides. Also keep an eye on for a new web site I'll be launching soon.
-- Lance Turnley, for TRAIL ZONE Magazine.


Hi Guys: I read your magazine all the time and have paid attention to the recent Husky TE610 Project Bike articles, because I have a 2008 TE610. This is my second bike having upgraded from a 2004 DR-Z250. I am really happy with the Husky, it does everything that I want it to and has the capability for a heap more than that. Anyway, I recently bought a Giant Loop Coyote bag. I have mucked around with the fitting of the bag and while it’s pretty easy to install, I could probably do better with the fastening location for the longer fasteners. In mucking around with the fitting of the bag, I ended up connecting to a bit of frame under the airbox, this looked a bit agricultural and I couldn’t get a good bit of tension in the fastener. I have not yet used the Giant Loop and wanted to know where you fastened the bag to. Did you use the pillion pegs as the mounting point? I’m sure these would be strong enough. Thanks in advance for your help!
-- Mario Buterin, via

Thanks for your email, Mario.The Coyote bag is pretty easy to fit and I strapped it directly to the pillion pegs. More than adequate even when fully-loaded. It was very secure and on the rare occasion that Clubby was able to keep up, he said that it didn't budge an inch. What you do have to watch out for is the abrasion on the rear guard, sidecovers and muffler. Put some thick clear 3M contact over the back guard to start with. The Coyote kit also contains additional heat guards with the bag for left hand mufflers. Make sure you have a double layer where the bag rests against the muffler. Plus be careful of what you pack in that section of the bag: rubber thongs or shoes will never be the same after a day on the road. The Fandango Bag simply loops through in front of the tank and the rear straps under the rear of the tank and around the main backbone of the frame. The whole kit stayed secure on every ride. Finally, enjoy the TE610 -- it's the best fun I've had for a long time!
-- Lance 'Russ' Turnley, for TRAIL ZONE Magazine

Monday, January 25, 2010



Yamaha Motor Australia has secured naming rights sponsorship of the 2010 Australian 4-Day Enduro (A4DE) being hosted by the Oyster Bay Motorcycle Club (OBMCC) from April 8th to 11th at Portland, NSW (near Lithgow).

OBMCC President Chris Dodd said preparations for the iconic race were on schedule and the club had received tremendous support from the motorcycle industry and riders.

“Everyone’s really excited about the race and we’re working tirelessly to make sure it’s an A4DE for the history books,” Dodd said.

“The industry’s been really supportive and we have a fantastic sponsor line-up: we are very pleased to announce Yamaha has come on board as naming rights sponsor for this year’s event.

“Riders are also showing a lot of interest and enthusiasm and I can assure anyone out there who is keen to experience an A4DE that the trails and special tests at the Portland A4DE will be a blast to ride.”

The OBMCC have been hard at work putting the finishing touches on plans for the event, including mapping out and pre-riding the course and special tests - which are tipped to be some of the best in many years.

The A4DE is one of the world’s biggest and most prestigious enduro motorcycle events and contributes more than $1.5 million annually to the economy of the host area.

Now in its 32nd year, this year’s Yamaha A4DE will see 350 riders (ranging in ability from clubman-level to the country’s elite) battle for the Outright crown and national class titles.

Last year’s A4DE was held at Orange, NSW, and saw Jarrod Bewley take the Outright victory over rookie Toby Price. Bewley will have added competition this year, however, with five-time world champion, Yamaha’s Stefan Merriman (pictured), ready to race the A4DE for the first time since 2005.

Merriman, from Nelson’s Bay (NSW), was forced to withdraw from the 2009 A4DE at the last minute after suffering a broken bone in his shoulder at a state championship round.

A4DE Course Coordinator Rick Braico said riders would enjoy fresh trail every day and a total of eight special tests.

“Four of the tests are grass tracks and four are enduro tests, each will only be ridden four times to ensure they don’t get too rough or worn,” Braico said.

“We’re making the course so riders have an honest day’s ride. When they get off the bike they’ll be tired, but it won’t be impossible.

“It’ll be the way an A4DE is supposed to be: a tough endurance race that most riders can finish and those who do finish will feel a real sense of accomplishment.”

Braico said the course would include a “good mix of terrain”, including single track, forrest roads and technical (but rideable) sections.

He said the terrain in the area had “a bit of a hardish bottom” and would be shaley in sections. Intermediate tyres would be recommended - “a couple of the tests are in paddocks so should be loamy,” he said.

Competitors and their support crews will also have access to all the creature comforts of home, with the staging area for the race (at Portland) located just 30-minutes drive from Lithgow and 40-minutes from Bathurst.

The 32nd annual A4DE will be held at Portland (near Lithgow, NSW) on April 8th to 11th, 2010.

Entries will be capped at 350 riders, supplementary regulations will be available from later this week. The event boasts the following classes: E1 (100cc to 150cc 2-Stroke & 150cc to 250cc 4-stroke), E2 (175cc to 250cc 2-stroke & 275cc to 450cc 4-Stroke), E3 (290cc to 500cc 2-stroke & 475cc to 650cc 4-stroke), Veteran's (Over 35-years), Master's (Over 45-years) and Women All Powers.

The Yamaha A4DE is the second largest enduro motorcycle race in the southern hemisphere and will attract 350 riders from across Australasia.

Hosting the event is the Oyster Bay Motorcycle Club. The OBMCC is made up of more than 300 enduro-passionate members and is arguably one of the most successful and longest running enduro clubs in NSW.


Yamaha A4DE info and news can be found at the official website:

Sunday, January 24, 2010



Hi guys: Love the mag, it’s always a great read. I currently have a Kawasaki KLX450R 2009 model. I'm looking at getting a larger fuel tank, as I do some long rides out in the deserts of Roxby Downs, SA. Do you have any ideas on what brand would be best? I was looking at some US suppliers like IMS and Clarke, mainly for price. I can only get info for tanks that fit the old KLX 400 and 650s. Keep up the great work with mag.

-- Tim Dixon, via

Thanks for your enquiry, Tim. We've actually had two Kawasaki KLX450R Project Bikes over the past three years and have used an 11.7 litre fuel tank from IMS on both of them. The tank is actually for the KX450F motocrosser, but can be fitted to the KLX readily, however you have to get a set of KX-F radiator shrouds to fit, and then run KX-F graphics. IMS tanks are distributed in Australia by C&R Imports in Melbourne, so call them on (03) 9587 5077 to find the name of your nearest IMS stockist. If you want a heap more info on set-ups and preps for the KLX450R, then call the TRAIL ZONE office on (02) 9905 ZONE and order back issues 14, 15 and 16 ('08 model) and issues 24, 25 and 26 ('09 model), to get all the details on the mods we made to our KLX450Rs. Ride on!

-- Dr Phil,

NOTE: Email your Ask Dr Phil questions to:

Friday, January 22, 2010



Hi guys: I saw Jay Foreman's Suzuki DR650 with the DR-Z forks in TRAIL ZONE recently and was just wondering if you’d be interested in my current build project? I got back into bikes with a DR650 over a year ago at age 45, kids being all grown up. I’ve been trail riding my DR650 for around a year and was pretty disappointed with the suspension, as is anyone who tries riding one off-road. I have had it down to the local bike club and ripped around the enduro track and kept pace with other old farts on 450s but the suspension was just killing me. I’d done the new springs and Gold Valves, but it still not what I wanted. It went a lot harder around the track but still wouldn’t jump without damaging the bashplate. I didn’t want to trade up to a 450 because of the cost, and because I lose the advantages of the 650 when it comes to riding to the trail head. So after some research and patient nights on ebay, I fitted an RM-Z front end complete and have an RM-Z rear coming. I figured an RM-Z was the way to go because they are sprung so hard compared to a trail bike/enduro bike. It is far stiffer than the upgraded DR forks. I got a brand new set of forks and triple clamps for US$400 and US$202 postage. Winging its way to me as I type are a brand new front wheel for US$162 and a brand new rear shock for US$180, with both shipped for US$200. The ride is so much better than it was that it’s hard to describe. I should have the rear all fitted up real soon.and then I'm going to play all up in the Brindabellas and do a write-up. Just wondering if you’re interested? By the way, love the mag!

-- Adam Usher, via

Hi Adam: Thanks for your email -- nice job! We're actually taking delivery of a Suzuki DR650 at the end of next month which will become our next adventure Project Bike in TRAIL ZONE through this year. The DR Project Bike build-up will be completed by Lance Turnley from over the course of three issues mid-year. Re your offer of a story and photos of your DR650, YES, send us some brief info and a couple of pix of the finished product, as we'll find a spot in the mag to feature what guys like you are doing with your DRs, alongside the mods we make to our own Project Bike. Thanks for your interest in the mag; now go play in the Brindabellas, you lucky bugger! Ride on,

-- Clubby, TZ Inc (email me:

Monday, January 18, 2010



25 years is a heck of an innings for any business, but that's precisely the milestone Australian Trail Bike Tours trail boss Klaus Mueller racks up this year.

A very good mate of the TRAIL ZONE team, Klaus has to rank as one of, if not THE longest running tour operators in the country, having kicked off his business back in 1985.

All these years later he's still going strong, although we have to admit we're almost flabbergasted to see he's actually parked his much loved DRs and TT-Rs and stepped into the 21st century and now parks a cutting-edge new BMW G 450 X beneath his very well travelled backside. And from what Klaus has told us, he and his new BMW is a match made in heaven -- he loves the Bavarian beauty!

Anyway, Klaus has just released his 2010 schedule of ATBT rides and a quick scan down his calendar has us drooling at the mouth -- and chances it will have the same effect on you, too.

ATBT rides concentrate on the magnificent Victorian high country and the equally special Mallee country of the Victoria/South Australia border district.

Klaus offers a variety of one, three, four, five and six day rides, with the big daddy of them all being the new Kosciusko 1000 ride that kicks off from Mansfield and traverses the very best of the high country, before finishing just before the Australian Moto GP event at Phillip Islnad the next weekend.

Now that would make the ultimate week away for any serious moto fan: six days in the mountains followed by a weekend cheering on Casey Stoner's rubber-laying Ducati -- too good!

ATBT rides are very competitively priced and include good standard commercial accommodation and meals, and, of course, the impeccable guiding services of Klaus himself, one of the true elder statesmen of the Aussie dirt bike scene.

For more details and information, check out the Australain Trail Bike Tours calendar on the web site or call Klaus at ATBT direct on (0407) 42 4831.

And tell him TRAIL ZONE sent ya!

-- Clubby,

Saturday, January 16, 2010



Attention all adventure bike riders: the crew at that organise the mega Watagan Trail Bike Rally and Buladelah Trail Bike Rally events each year are turning their hand to adventure bike riding.

Rod Cartwright, Clive Ward and the crew at are hardcore adventure bike riders themselves, so it's no surprise they should want to put their skills into an adventure bike based event.

So without further ado, the inaugural Hunter Valley Adventure Ride is all set to fire into life on the weekend of March 20/21, based from the plush surrounds of the Crown Plaza Resort at Cessnock in the very heart of the Hunter Valley wine country.

The ride will include two dedicated adventure bike loops, one north of Cessnock in the direction of the Barrington Tops, and the other south in the direction of the Watagans. Both day rides will feature self-guided navigation loops, with route-sheets supplied.

Saturday night will feature a mighty shin-ding in the form of a gala dinner at the Crowne Plaza Resort, which will include guest speakers and a raft of trade displays -- and yes, the TRAIL ZONE and crews will be there with bells on.

The press release for the ride follows, so check it out and then we'll see you there!

-- Clubby,


March 20 & 21 2010 based at Crowne Plaza, Cessnock

This is a motorcycle adventure ride open to all brands of dual purpose motorcycles from 200cc to 1200cc, with a wide variety of riding terrain and suitable for riders with at least, basic off-road riding skills. Bikes should be fitted with dual purpose tyres for dry conditions. Pillion passengers are welcome but should only accompany an experienced off-road rider.
We aim for a minimum of sealed roads (weather permitting) with many main forest roads and hard packed minor roads linking the spectacular scenery of the Hunter Valley and Barrington Tops on Saturday and the magnificent Watagan Mountains on Sunday.
This is a navigational ride with comprehensive route-sheets and full back-up support

Saturday night will allow riders to relax and enjoy a buffet dinner at the Crowne Plaza, during the evening you will be able to chat with motorcycle dealer’s check out dual purpose motorcycles from Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, Ktm, Kawasaki and BMW as well as motorcycle accessories specifically designed for dual purpose bikes.
Special guest Adrian Scott, Adventurer and Author of "The Road Gets Better From Here" will be speaking about his incredible solo journey from Magadan to Istanbul. Find out more about Adrian
To go to the Gala dinner Bookings are essential: Entry forms must be received 14 days prior to event to provide for catering, entries received later or on the day will not be able to attend the Gala dinner

Get more details from the web site or please call 0427 277 888 or email

DON'T Forget the Hunter Valley has lots too offer, so bring the family! Imagine saying this to your partner. 'How would you like to spend two days at the Crowne Plaza Cessnock nestled amongst the vineyards in the Hunter Valley'. Once you get the nod you can then break the news that while she is sipping on the valleys finest wines you'll be carving up adventure loops from the Hunter Valley to Barrington Tops. For full activity details and more info about the Hunter Valley visit

Don't have a bike, then call our friends at Ozrider, they have bikes for hire: call 1800 GO MOTO

Tuesday, January 12, 2010



One of the really great things about the Aussie dirt bike scene is the number of awesome people involved in the industry.

And when it comes to Aussie off-road racers, one bloke who ranks high on the TRAIL ZONE top bloke list is Queenslander AJ Roberts.

Why? Because we reckon AJ is one cool cat and back when we kicked off the magazine nearly five years ago, he took time out to come trail riding with Popgun and me up to Rainbow Beach on the Queensland sunshine coast for some stories in the mag.

AJ was racing Huskies for the Paul Feeney Group back then, so AJ tagged up with then PFG marketing man, Adam Forrester, and joined Aussie MX legend Glen Bell (another gun bloke!), Dr Phil and me for a lap of the beach on one of those ripper days that you wish could last forever – and that get etched in your memory bank as a top-shelf dirt bike riding good-time that you just want to do again one day.

Since then AJ has been around the world a few times (literally!), carving up the Aussie off-road and world enduro championship scenes in factory-backed rides with Husky, Yamaha and Honda.

Just lately racing a Honda in Australia has been like riding on shaky ground, as Big Red has been undergoing some major budget cut-backs in the wash-up from the gnarly GFC -- so we were wondering where AJ might pop-up in 2010.

Well, we're stoked to say the news is out and AJ is riding red again, and has launched his very own race team -- so go hard at it, son!

The press release announcing AJ's team follows ...

-- Clubby, via


Anthony 'AJ' Roberts will be riding red again with the announcement that he has formed his own Team to take on the Australian Off Road Championships, Australian Four Day Enduro and other key events on the calendar.

"I'm excited to say that for 2010 I will be racing for the Force Honda Thor Michelin Off Road Team," AJ said.

"Honda Australia has given me a great opportunity to represent them at the highest level in Off Road Racing and along with major support from Force Accessories, Gas Imports and Michelin Australia, they are giving me the best opportunity to put together a great race season." AJ will also be contesting the Finke Desert Race under the guidance of former Finke Champion Michael Vroom, owner of Desert Edge Motorcycles in Alice Springs.

"This will be my first year racing Finke so there is a lot to learn, but riding under Michael's new DERT Team will give me the best chance I can get out there." The 27 year old rider will also take on The Australian Safari with the help of GHR Honda, who have backed numerous winners over the years.

"The Safari will be a priority of mine and with the help of GHR Honda, the long haul to Western Australia will hopefully be a trip to remember; it's definitely one of Australia's most gruelling events." AJ has launched a new website - - including video of the multiple Champion taking out his 2010 CRF450R for its inaugural ride.

The website will also be kept up to date with race results and other news on a regular basis.

"The number 36 on the website address is the number I had for my first AORC in 2005, and it will also be my race number for the 2010 season."

"I'm looking forward to lining up on the start line of the first round of the AORC's in Port Macquarie, NSW on the 13th-14th of March," AJ said.



Hi Dr Phil: I have been riding dirt bikes for many years but mainly racing Motocross – I was second in the Victorian state champs in 2000, so can still ride at A grade level these days. Now a bit older at 32 and living in Broome, WA, I’m doing a lot more trail riding and have purchased an '08 CRF450X with 1100km on it. I fitted a full Yoshi system, Hot-Cam stage 2, rejetted with standard 450R jets (165 main, R needle one clip up from middle position and standard pilot jet), plus I've also opened up the air box as much as possible, and did the pink wire mod, which I don’t think did anything. It does seem to hit the rev limiter easy. Are they limited lower than the R model? I'm still doing some local club MX these days and I still want more snap out of it, to clear obstacles. I raced an '05 CRF450R for a couple of years and still ride my mates' 450Rs – I just want that same sort of power out of the X. Can you help with any other suggestions?

-- Cameron Schultz, via

We couldn’t think of anybody better to answer your questions, Cameron, than legend Honda tuner and GHR Honda race team boss, Glenn Hoffmann, who promptly fired back this reply:

"The 450x is certainly capable of making equal power to the R model, Cameron, as our Safari X model race bikes are every bit as quick as our Finke 450 R models. GHR has never used a Yoshi or Hot Cams so I cannot comment on these personally. I would suggest that the ignition is still standard and that big gains could be had from calling Richard at Vortex ignitions. On a second note you have mentioned that the bike is hitting the rev limit quickly, yet is having trouble clearing obstacles on the MX track. I don’t know what gearing you have on the X, but if it is original you may find that it is to short at 13/51. Instead 13/48 may give you more drive with less gear changes and allow you to be carrying more speed at the take-off point, which should help clear those obstacles. AJ Roberts has spent a lot of time on CRF450Rs in enduro trim and he was amazed at how quick our Rallye 450X models are. The 450X is an amazing bike that continues to surprise us with its reliability and outright performance. The power is there, but it might still be hiding a bit without the ignition to match the other goodies you have purchased. Big reliable power is achieved when all components are working together. Good luck with it!"

-- Glenn Hoffmann, GHR/Dirtbike, via

Thursday, January 7, 2010



Can you guys and gals at TRAIL ZONE help me as I have bought a Metzeler Karoo tyre for the rear of my Kawasaki KLR650 instead of the the tyres you guys used on your KLR650 Project Bike. I'm on a farm in WA so there is sand and gravel everywhere out here but I still have the standard road/trail trye up front. This is my first-ever motorcycle and I'm a first-time rider (45 years old), but I did ride a mate's DR600 a few times in Brisbane a few years ago. I have done a few things you guys have to done your KLR650 -- the Staintune pipe, Kawasaki tall screen etc -- plus I also have a chain oiler and a cruise-control fitted. It's a good bike and I'm happy with it but I just wondering about the best way to go with tyres? Can you give me some advice?
-- Robert Holness, via

Hi Robert: I'm a big fan of having matching sets of tyres, meaning either full knobbys or road/trail depending on the sort of riding you do. I've found the bigger bikes tend to lack front end grip, so if the majority of your riding is off-road then a knobby up front is a must. We had a Metzler Karoo knobby on the back of the Husky which was a bit soft and it lasted about 1000km. The Mitas Dakars E-09 we've been testing still has 50 per cent of its tread after 2,000km and the Cheng Shin C-755 we used on the Kawasaki KLR650 Project Bike worked great in the sand. I've also heard good reports about the Dunlop D606, but we've yet to test them. Having said that I would be getting a good hard wearing knobby on the front to get the mighty KLR steering in the right direction. Best of luck with it!
-- Lance 'Dr Russ' Turnley,

Tuesday, January 5, 2010



So there we were, checking out Yamaha's official web site this morning when a photo of three blokes on three spanking new Teneres flashed up on the top of the page, with the heading, 'Bikers for Boobs'.

What's all this about then, we wondered?

So we hit the link and quickly discovered three blokes from the north side of Sydney are currently in the midst of a mighty lap around eastern and central Australia aboard three spankin' new Yamaha Teneres, all in the name of raising funds for the McGrath Foundation.

It was the first we had heard of it, so with a little more hunting around the web, we tracked down a press release (copy below) and discovered they will be finishing their ride in Sydney on January 18. If you can get along and give them a cheer and make a donation to the cause, not to mention tag along with the boys for a section of their ride, get onto the web site and make it happen!

Press Release:
Bikers for Boobs!
Biker fever is set to hit the McGrath Foundation thanks to Jeremy Adams, Tim Adams and Brad Convington and their ‘Bikers for Boobs’ ride, aiming to raise $50,000 for the Foundation. 
Leaving from Parramatta, NSW, on 27 December, the boys will undertake a 21-day 7,000km motorcycle ride to Alice Springs and back through New South Wales, Queensland, the Northern Territory and South Australia. 
The boys are hoping that local residents along the way will support them by joining them for a leg of their ride or by sponsoring them via their 
Go Fundraise page. 
Jeremy Adams, organiser and participant of ‘Bikers for Boobs’ says “If we could get 1000 riders for the whole ride, how good would that be? We’d love to have 300 to 400 people for the first day!”
To find out how to take part or for more details on the boys route visit  
The McGrath Foundation would like to say a BIG thank you to all participants, especially Jeremy, Tim and Brad, and wish them a safe and fun journey.

-- Clubby,
   Want to make a comment, then email me at

Sunday, January 3, 2010



9am, Monday morning, January 4, 2010 ... it's time to get back to work. Don't ya just hate it?!

But hey, look on the bright side, the start of a new year means it's the start of a new Dakar Rally ... woo flippin' hoo!

And all the action  of the 2010 Dakar Rally is already clicking top gear and hammering, and we've got no less than four Aussie dirt bike riders to cheer on, as well as legend Bruce Garland and his navigator Hiroaki Suzuki in their Isuzu truck (if you've got an interest in things with four tyres and a steering wheel).

The Aussie moto contingent in this year's Dakar includes WA hard men Rob Pollard (pictured on the start: KTM 690 Rally) and Garry Connell (Husaberg 570), Christophe Barrier Vaju (KTM Rally) and Canadian-based Aussie Andrew Scott (KTM).

The mega-event fired into life over the past weekend and the huge field of moto, auto and truck entries has set off on a punishing 9,000km course that will see them traverse the most inhospitable regions of Chile and Argentina over the next two weeks.

Of course this year's Dakar has not been without its share of controversy in the moto division, after organisers decreed a 450cc capacity limit on the two-wheel entries -- much to the chagrin of KTM, the most dedicated of longtime Dakar supporters.

The new capacity rule came as a major shock, and KTM promptly withdrew its support of the event, but then relinquished. So Team KTM heavy-hitters such as Marc Coma and Cyril Despres are there again this year -- albeit with restrictors placed in the inlet tracts of their thundering 690 Rally Kato factory bikes, in an effort to 'equalise' their performance with 450cc machines.

Has limiting the factory 690s worked? 

Well, the first competitive stage saw David Casteu take the stage win -- on a Sherco 450! Admittedly he was just three seconds quicker than Coma, and only 12 seconds up on Despres, but perhaps this is an indication the 450s may well be in the hunt for outright honours. Although the field is yet to hit the punishing sand dunes that might well see the pendulum swing back in favour of the 690s.

Either way, it promises to be a riveting confrontation -- and one that has us glued to the Web and SBS TV and Foxsports to take in all the action.

The daily TV highlights packages of the Dakar Rally have already fired up on SBS and Foxsports, while there's a feast of online information, results and live timing to be gleaned from the official web site.

Another ripper web site to follow is:

This is the site of freelance Aussie journalist Jacob Black, who is 'on assignment' in South America and chasing the event from the seat of a Fiat renta-car and logging daily bulletins.

Jacob clearly knows his way around a keyboard and tape recorder and his Blog is already home to a number of updates detailing the progress and preparation of the Aussie riders in the event. Bookmark Jacob's site now -- and then punch him an email thanking him for all his efforts.

There's also a feast of Dakar info in the forums on the web sites, so have a gander at that and burn up a few hours on the boss's dime if you're stuck back at work and would rather be anywhere else right now.

Ride on and long live the Dakar!

-- Clubby,

+ Got a comment? Email me at