Memoir: Allan Roberts, or No. 165 Shares his Dakar Experience

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Allan Roberts Dakar participant no 165 (15)

Do you remember Allan ‘Robbo’ Roberts, the Australian KTM rider No 165 at this year’s Dakar Rally? The guy from Speed – an isolated village in Victoria – became a hero – not only in Australia but – for amateur riders around the world. Allan wants to try Dakar for a second year in a row but still doesn’t have any financial support to realize his dream. Be reminded that he spent all his money for the previous attempt…

Click here for our earlier feature on Allan Roberts

Prelude by Akis Temperidis

Story : Allan Roberts

Allan has about 40 more days to apply for the 2015 marathon rally and he turned to crowd funding for making it. He works hard for it. First he published his book “Hard Way Home”, where he narrates his two year adventure from England to Australia – 100,000 km on a heavy, old Honda Africa Twin.

Allan Roberts Dakar participant no 165 (9)

Then, Allan created a page on www.pozible.com (https://www.pozible.com/project/180805) and goes for 40,000 Australian dollars – 22 lakh rupees. Reality is cruel for modern heroes though. Robbo has collected only 450 dollars so far – a tiny percentage of the money he looks for. Roberts spent all the money he had made from years hard work (around 120,000 Australian dollars), just to compete in the Dakar Rally 2014.

Here is a video of Allan’s Journey through Dakar 

Anybody can help this guy with a pledge as little as 5 AUD (less than 300 rupees) but the amount will be credited to the rider only if his target is met. So it is a safe bet!

To promote himself, Allan Roberts uploaded a fantastic video with exciting shots from his first Dakar. Be reminded that the Oz guy not only made it to the end – a feat that only 40% of the starters managed this year – but finished 39th overall, a real achievement for a Dakar rookie.

Allan Roberts Dakar participant no 165 (13)

Motoroids feels for this guy, for his naive, romantic but serious approach on the most difficult bike rally in the world. We asked from Allan to write a personal article especially for us and he did it. Enjoy it, we actually left his writing unedited. Then decide whether he deserves our help or not. For sure his words make us feel it makes sense to follow your dream, even if it looks crazy to anybody else!

For the first time he got to know about Dakar rally:

I was young maybe very early teens 13 perhaps, I saw highlights on a sports show we have on TV in Australia of these warriors riding these great big bikes across deserts in Africa at high speeds. I thought they were amazing and then when I was about 14 I was given a big picture of a rider on a Yamaha Tenere’ Rally bike with Dakar numbers on it racing across the desert. I had it up on my wall for years.

Allan Roberts Dakar participant no 165 (6)

First time he thought about racing in Dakar:

After first discovering it all those years ago, I world dream of doing it one day, to be one of those warriors I thought they were.

The experience of the first ever race?

My first ever race was the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in 2008 at the age of 29. A five day Rally Raid through massive dunes. I had no expectations except to finish this was my dream to compete in a rally event and the riders I was against where my heroes, guys I had only seen on TV and watched every year competing at the Dakar, some big big names. To the surprise of many I came second in my class and 11th outright beating some very well known pilots.

Allan Roberts Dakar participant no 165 (14)

When did he start working on Dakar 2014?

Without knowing it, I started working toward this when I did my first race in 2008 as when I started my actual journey to Dakar. I had to submit a CV to “qualify” and it was this race in 2008 and some others that looked favourable to be selected from the 300 entries submitted. But the decision to work towards the 2014 Dakar was made early in 2012.It took well over 18 months for me to get the finance together, it also included not drinking alcohol for 14 months prior to the event. I was dedicated to training and making my dream a reality.

Allan Roberts Dakar participant no 165 (1)

About the effort to organise the project (sponsors, bike, testing, races, mental and physical preparation):

It took over every part of my life. I spend many hours slumped over a computer sending out proposals to many many various companies looking for support, all to turn zero up. I was completely self funded and look back on it and wished I had of funnelled my energy into training more than looking for sponsorship. But I had to try, the dozens of rejections was disappointing. I stopped drinking fullstop and therefore had no excuse to train. I rode 100’s and 100’s of kilometres on my bicycle and ran many many kilometres, doing something nearly everyday to prepare the body for what was to come. Due to work commitments I was unable to ride my motorbike as much as I would have liked but did whenever I had a chance.Before the event I cleared my mind, I made sure I was prepared and had everything well organised on time or early to have no worries.Mentally I went into the race ready, physically I was fine also but one can always be fitter. I have learnt a lot of lessons from my first Dakar which would be invaluable to take into a second Dakar.

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Allan Roberts Dakar participant no 165 (2)

About the cost of his first Dakar:

It cost me personally AUD$120,000 (67 lakh rupees) fully self funded. Besides my lovely mother paying for my airline ticket and my amazing partner giving me $2000.

Why couldn’t he find sponsors?

I tried my hardest, along with a great result in the UAE a few years earlier and my release of a book I have written, about my journey on a bike around the world, no one was interested, no one knows Allan Roberts. It’s hard in Australia, I feel there is just not the population nor the interest to support a privateer like myself leading into an event such as the Dakar, the hardest race on earth. But I came out on top, I fought with the mountains, deserts and conditions of South America and it was me and only me who got myself across the finish line in 39th position. I did it for myself.

The first image that comes to him from the moment he arrived to Argentina?

The people, they are amazing, they treated each individual as a champion. I felt guilty as they thought I was a hero just at the opening ceremony and I had yet to do anything, I had to prove myself first. Just for those 14 days I felt like a real champion and that’s thanks to the people, their energy for the event is second to none.

The Dakar environment he expected and the one he discovered:

You never get time to take it in, you’re in your own world, so much going on but I just focused on what I needed to do: ride, report to mechanic, fuel myself, take care of the body, do my road book, fuel myself some more, constantly rehydrate and rest.So with all the fan fair at night in the Bivouac I had nothing to do with, it’s constant, it’s a 24 hour show that never sleeps.

The moment of start: How was it? Feelings, people, thoughts?

We, all the drivers, pilots, everyone sat in a massive room in a hotel for the briefing at the start of the event, just after we had paraded infront of one million spectators and listened to Etienne Lavigne speak (the boss of the Dakar). It was about then it felt real, thinking in the room where there must have been over 1.000 people, were the likes of Coma, Despres, Peterhansel, Robby Gordon. This was it I was starting my Dakar, a dream, I had goose bumps go over my body at this realisation. I was not so much nervous but anxious, I’d waited my entire life to be here, I just wanted the race to start. The crowds were amazing, they really make the Dakar the greatest show on earth, its not just a motor race its real life drama, action, suspense for two weeks it has something for everyone.

About his first big moment during the rally:

I think this came at around the rest day it gave me time to realise what I was doing as up until then you have no time to think and I had cracked it into the top 50.Of course my only goal was to finish but in the back of my mind there was something I told no one and that was I would love to get into the top 50.And I was there at the half way point and knew if I could get to the end I should be able to improve on that. And it gave me a chance to read people’s comments and support on my web page.It was overwhelming to have all the words of support from family, friends and strangers, all this combined with the hectic pace the Dakar is it was an emotional feeling.

The moment of biggest fear during the rally:

it was during stage 9. I had covered about 200 kilometres into the special with more than 260 to go. I was riding through very heavy fesh-fesh (powder like gravel), the going was tough, the day very hot but I was moving at a nice pace and had good rhythm. And then I felt my bike shudder and lack of drive to the back wheel. I looked down and discovered my chain was very loose and slipping on the sprocket, looking further back my rear axle was half way out, I realised quickly I had lost my rear wheel nut, something I had never had happen in all my years of riding.

My first thought was my race was over. I panicked and saw no immediate way out, a few bikes passed and I stopped one and asked if he had a nut: no was the reply, plus he was not on a KTM. I started walking back to find the nut but it could have come of a long way back and in heavy Fesh Fesh I would never find it. And then fellow Aussie Troy O’Conner rode up, I told him the problem and amazingly he had a spare! He gave it to me and rode off, I quickly fitted it and awayagain, I lost my rhythm and it took my heart awhile to slow down. I truly thought my race was over because of a $10 part, but this wheel nut Troy O’Conner gave me was worth $120,000 to me!

The day of the greatest effort during the rally:

Came during stage 5. It was meant to be the longest but was cut short due to safety concerns. On this day 30 riders in the moto category went out of the race. It was 47 degrees, and the riding was relentless, across small dunes covered in camel grass which made progress slow and tiring bouncing all over the place. At one point my bike caught fire from a grass build up around the exhaust and high temperatures, I quickly jumped off and threw sand on it and put it out.Others were not so lucky, loosing there the whole bike! The sand was soft in parts, hard in others, it took all my effort and energy on this stage. I was exhausted and on several occasions I had to simply stop for 5 minutes to regain my breath and find some strength in my tired body to continue.It was a tough tough day…

The one photo he would keep from Dakar 2014:

I have a photo of me in some fesh-fesh, it sums up the dust the 2014 Dakar was.A lot of dust!

The first pictures coming into his mind now that he thinks about”Dakar”

My finishes medal, how much it actually takes to earn one of them. Money does not buy it, it takes a lot more.

About the feeling of getting bad news from other competitors (see Belgian rider’s death)

it was a surprise and hard to believe as we were just out there fighting on the same battle ground.It made me realise how tough it really can be.

About the moment he finished the last stage to Valparaiso

The whole stage I took relatively easy as my 39th position was not in danger and it meant a top 40 position. I enjoyed it, the special was short and over before I knew it, all I could think was I just finished the Dakar, a dream was realised, something that very few rookies do and that every rider only gets one chance at and I did it. I felt so proud of myself.

The moment he will keep from the celebrations right after

Riding onto the winners podium to collect my medal. Forever I watched people on TV do this and only imagined the feeling. I was there doing it!

About his state of mind at the finish

The moment I finished I told myself I have to do one more. Five months on and I feel further away from another attempt than ever, entries are yet to open and they close in two months, a time frame that is too short to find the funding. I need to commit for another Dakar, again has become only a dream.

Why attempting it again?

It takes two “Dakars” to get your true position. I started with number 165, it meant I started 165th, for 4-5 days I picked my way through dust before finding my position in the 30’s. If I could go again I would receive a better number because of finishing 39th, it would be in the 40’s. I would train harder, I would get fitter, and with all I know about the Dakar now I believe I can break the top 30 no problems, I have got what it takes. I want to test myself again, I want the challenge that the Dakar is, the ultimate challenge.

Why somebody should live the Dakar experience?

it’s the greatest show on earth. It holds something for everyone, excitement, drama, action, stories of courage, despair, heart ache, heroism, camaraderie and unfortunately tragedy. It’s two weeks of real life entertainment and when you are a part of this Dakar machine you want more. It is the heroin of motorsport. Highly addictive!

What is his overall highlight? “Hard Way Home” or Dakar 2014?

Both are very different but very similar.One took years to do and took in so much more and the other was very short and took in very little. But the common thing is what it took to do both like dedication, courage, commitment, discipline, patience, passion, desire, just to mention a few and therefore the end feeling was the same for both:An amazing sense of achievement and belief in oneself.

The person he dedicates his Dakar achievement to?

My family. My amazing mother and my sister have always supported everything I have done and always immerse themselves in my journey’s.

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