Neil waves his bike off on a boat to Saudi Arabia

By Neil Hawker

The hardest part of the Dakar Rally for an amateur rider is just getting there – at least, that’s what it feels like right now! From the fundraising to the logistics, there are so many hoops that need jumping through and the last few months have certainly been a challenge but I’m finally able to relax with only a month to go.

With most of the admin and logistics in place it was all the exciting things to get sorted – like how the kit and the bike will look! The team at Monsters Of Dirt have come up with something that looks awesome and I’m really excited to show my sponsors and supporters. Monsters Of Dirt really did pull out all the stops – I can’t recommend them more highly with bike graphics, shirt printing and basically any printing in general.

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My to-do list was slowly getting smaller and smaller and it was a huge relief as the bigger things were getting ticked off, from heart tests to bike parts and actually setting the bike up. It was very much a full-time job and for weeks now every hour revolves around something to do with Dakar and the countdown to January 3 is ticking very fast.

The next big milestone was to load the bike onto the organisers’ boat in the South of France. This is a long trek so I decided to make it a training trip so I could run the bike in so we loaded up and headed to Portugal to a place called Wim Motors Academy. And what a place it is – we’re talking rally and enduro heaven. You’ll need to check out my YouTube channel for my latest vlog or even join me there in the New Year to see for yourself first-hand.

I was so excited to finally ride the bike after weeks of drooling over it in the garage and after a quick set-up and run-in procedure I loaded a road book up and put five hours onto the clock. I feel really good on the bike and feel ready – not only with the riding but also having had the time to get to know the bike mechanically.

It was great to have a week at Wim’s with some winter sun and time on the bike – even my girlfriend Sarah got some riding in before it was time to head up to France to load the bike, my Malle motobox and kit bag onto the boat headed for Saudi Arabia. I will meet it at the port in Jeddah on New Year’s Day ready for scrutineering on January 2.

I am home now with less than a month to go. I have the International ACU Licence to sort which has been a little more difficult than normal due to COVID-19 and I will continue to train physically before a quiet Christmas. I am going into Dakar much more relaxed this time knowing what’s in store and looking forward to enjoying the experience, meet new people and take on the challenge!

Thanks again for all the help – it’s amazing to have so much support and with only a few things to finalise I’m nearly there!

There’s still an opportunity to help by purchasing a raffle ticket for the chance to win my enduro bike – check out my Facebook page www.facebook.com/neilhawke41dakarrally – and if you want to follow my journey then keep an eye on DBR along with my social media accounts and YouTube.

Neil

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