Bike racing’s great isn’t it? Whether you’re the one helmeted up and sat on the grid or watching it from the comfort of your favourite arm chair, there aren’t many things that beat it. And whilst BSB, WSBK, MotoGP and the like all definitely put the lead in my pencil, there are a handful of events that make a sixteen lap Superbike race round Silverstone seem slightly silly. Not for the feint hearted, these events are some of the fastest, most gruelling races in the world; races that have been separating the men from the boys for decades. So without any further ado, here’s the top five most iconic and bonkers bike races in the world; as decided by 44Teeth.
5 – Baja 1000
Over here in Blighty, the Baja 1000 isn’t as well-known as it is in North and South America. But my word, it sure is one hell of an event. It started back in the ‘60s when Bud Ekins’ brother rode a Honda CL72 Scrambler the 953 miles from Tijuana to La Paz, to show off how fast and reliable the new model was. It took him 39 hours and 56 minutes. He didn’t think was bad. Until a few years later the four wheel boys had a go and took five hours off his time. Before long the National Off-Road Racing Association had been set up and the Baja 1000 was an annual event. There are classes for bikes, cars, trucks and side-by-sides. And although the route varies each year, you can expect to have to tackle some of Baja California’s toughest terrain. The race is usually won by Yank teams (a team is up to four riders, which you can change when you stop for fuel) but people come from all over the world to give it a go. It sounds awesome, doesn’t it. I thought about having a go myself until I read that it’s not uncommon for spectators to dig extra obstacles into the course, just to make it a bit more interesting. As if it isn’t fucking dangerous enough! I think I’ll give that one a miss.
4 – Le Mans 24hr
Everyone’s heard of this one, even if it is only because of the car race. The cars can get fucked though, coz the bikes are where it’s at. Last year I was invited to race at the Le Mans 24hr bike race; I obviously said yes, here’s how I got on, so I can say first-hand how utterly bonkers it is. All the lads at the front are proper world class riders. Plenty of them have genuine MotoGP level experience, on seriously trick bikes. The race runs from Saturday lunchtime till Sunday lunchtime and whilst the riders, who race in teams of three, do get chance to have a tiny bit of respite when they jump off the bike, it’s non-stop for the pit crew. They have to be ready and waiting for the bike to come into the pits at any time. And then there are the fans. Fuck me, they just don’t stop. And it’s not just the bikes that keep them awake, but the fireworks, BBQs and music too. Oh, and presumably drugs too as they party through the night, whatever the weather, until the chequered flag’s waved. Fair play to ‘em.
3 – Erzberg Rodeo
The Erzberg Rodeo Red Bull Hare Scramble to give it it’s full name, is probably the toughest enduro… In the world. It takes place every year in Austria on a different cause carved out on the same mountainside, and is part of the Red Bull Hard Enduro Series. 500 riders start the race each year and although you get four hours to complete the (roughly) 35km route, you rarely see more than 30 finishers. And once you’ve seen the shit they have to tackle, you’ll know why. There are sections of boulders to ride over that would make most people cry. Hills to ride up and down that you’d want climbing gear, rather than a bike, to attempt. To make it to the end of an Erzberg Rodeo, you’ve got to be one of the best off-road riders in the world. And even for them boys it’s sometimes almost impossible. Like in 2015 when Johnny Walker, Graham Jarvis, Alfredo Gomez and Andreas Lettenbichler all banded together to help each other get to the top of a near vertical climb. The four riders, rode the final part of the enduro together and crossed the line as one. How sweet. The 2015 Erzberg Rodeo has gone down in history as being the only enduro ever (probably the only motorcycle race ever) to have four winners. Nice one, lads.
2 – Dakar Rally
Originally called the Paris-Dakar Rally, because that was where it started and finished, the modern Dakar Rally doesn’t go anywhere near either one of them cities. After nearly 30 years in North Africa, then a decade in South America, since 2020 the Dakar Rally has been hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It doesn’t just see 150-plus bikes taking on the desert sand, oh no. Quads, cars, buggies and massive ten-ton trucks all turn up to give it the bigguns. The race used to be competed on big adventure bikes, but nowadays the lads (and a few lasses) use 450 motocross bikes, with big fuel tanks, screens and “road book” navigation set-ups. It lasts two weeks, with 12 stages of up to 500 miles a piece. Riders have to tackle rocks, sand dunes an everything in between. Each ‘special stage’ can take anything from a couple of hours, to seven hours depending on how good you are. And the blistering midday heat isn’t all you have to contend with. The temperature drops to near freezing at night. All whilst they’re trying to get some shut-eye in their tents, ready for another gruelling day of riding. Getting to the end of a Dakar rally is an achievement in itself, to win one is something seriously special.
1 – Isle of Man TT
This is another event that needs absolutely no introduction. It’s also another one that I have had the privilege of competing in (and so has Fagan) so I can say with some conviction that it is coolest bike race ever. In fact it’s the most incredible thing to be involved with, full stop. During the first two weeks of June, the Isle of Man turns into a race course; or 37.7 miles-worth of it’s A-roads do anyway. Since 1907 the best bike racers in the world have been making their way over to the little island between the north west of England and Northern Ireland to race the fastest bikes they can get their hands on in an effort to make it to the top step of a TT podium. Bikes and sidecars literally fly round (there are at least five points where the top lads will have both wheels off the ground) at bonkers speeds. Speeds getting on for 200mph (Peter Hickman’s lap-record lap was completed with an average speed of 135.5mph). It’s little wonder so many people flock to the Island every year to bear witness to the TT. It’s a truly awesome sight to behold whether you are a motorcycle fan or not. If you’ve never been, get it on your bucket list, you’ll absolutely love it. Oh and take your bike because when the TT racers aren’t using the Snaefell Mountain Course, you can go for a rip round on your own bike… you don’t get that at a MotoGP round.