As the saying goes, “With age comes a ’cage.” but that’s not always true. Many off-roaders start off with dirt bikes and eventually end up behind the wheel. Those competitive and dedicated enough end up surrounded by inspected-and-approved rollcage tubing and other hardcore competition hardware. Greg Gilbert of Desolate Motorsports, on the other hand, swam upstream and bucked the trend. For the 2012 Best in the Desert Vegas to Reno desert race, Greg decided the best place to be was not inside a truck but behind the handlebars of a Honda XR650r.
On the surface, trading a rollcage for a set of handlebars seems like regression. It’s quite the opposite. While the cost of the race vehicle decreased (a lot), the personal challenge increased exponentially. As if racing a dirt bike wasn’t enough, Greg chose to enter the amateur Ironman class, meaning he’d be the only one on the bike for the race’s entire 535-mile length.
Greg wasn’t the only one taking on the Ironman challenge. Friend and fellow rider Dave Sanchez was also throwing his helmet into the Ironman ring, running the race aboard a Honda CRF 450x. Greg and Dave were both racing under the Desolate Motorsports banner.
The two riders faced 535 miles of rocks, whoops, dusty lakebeds, mountain passes, and heat. Vegas to Reno happens during August. Personal challenge? Big time.
Even though they’d be the only ones riding their respective dirt bikes, Greg and Dave weren’t running Vegas to Reno alone. There are 15 pits along the course and a total of five Desolate Motorsports chase crews would leapfrog along the pit route, making sure the two riders had enough fuel, water, food, and mechanical support to go the distance.
The two riders had years of riding, racing, and desert driving experience between them. Their bikes were well prepared, and they’d both spent many hours doing fitness training. While experience, practice, and preparation are important, they’re not the final factor that determines if and when you cross the finish line. That final factor is luck.
Luck is always an unknown, and it seems that at the beginning of the race, each rider is imbued with a certain amount of it. Where and when the luck runs out is anyone’s guess. There’s only one way to discover your personal luck factor. You’ve got to show up and cross the starting line with everything you’ve got.
We tagged along, offering chase truck support, and got the real race experience for ourselves.
Read on as we talk about how the race unfolded.
Mike Bonner looks on while Greg Gilbert demonstrates how to remove and replace the rear wh
Matt Carter pumps 110-octane leaded race gas into one of three gas cans destined for the 4
Gas cans and fire extinguishers should go hand in hand. Before leaving, we visited Certifi
If you’re wondering whether or not Vegas to Reno is a popular race, check out the crowd at
Add Nevada and August together, and you’re in for some heat. We were grateful for the earl
At Pit One, Dave stopped for a splash of gas and to let some pressure out of his too-firm
At Pit Five, crewmembers Mike SanPedro and Chris Rossi were ready to pit in style. The gam
Mike monitored the Desolate radio frequency, listening for Greg and Dave. Somewhere, someh
Chris peruses the teeming Pit Five tool chest. Hopefully the bikes wouldn’t need too much
Greg and his XR650r rolled in first. Jamie Moat and Taylor Wahl worked on topping off Greg
Greg’s bike was in good shape and didn’t need much more than fuel. He kicked the big 650 t
Meanwhile, Dave’s day was turning into a series of unfortunate events. Besides getting los
chain was useless,
but his crew had
a spare ready and
discovery aren’t the
sole domain of the
racers. Chase crews
get to see new s
The Top gun pit was 458 miles into the race. Consider the distance, and then
dave’s day had continued to unravel. Minutes turned to hours, and the sun
dave’s voice eventually crackled
over the radio, signifying he was
getting close. before l
dave was spent. he’d gotten lost,
crashed, thrown a chain, missed
his pit crew at hawthorn
The post-race awards ceremony
was held at the grand sierra Resort
in Reno. eyes still bloo
When this whole adventure
began, greg quipped that he was
going to ride his race bike all
When did the luck
run out? for greg, the
luck held until he got
back to his shop. Witness