Dakar Hero: Lyndon Poskitt

In Issue #131 we met up with global adventure rider and rally racer, Lyndon Poskitt, who was just getting ready to leave Aotearoa for the Americas – with the end goal of riding to and competing in the 2017 Dakar. We called him up late one night to catch up with him to find out how it all went down.

When we last spoke to Lyndon, he had just visited Paeroa where he serviced his trusty steed, Basil Bike. His next stop was North America, with one particular goal in mind, riding all the way to Argentina and competing in the 39th Dakar Rally.

With a year since we said our goodbyes to Lyndon, we gave him a call (at 3am NZ time) to find out how the Dakar and his Races to Places project has been going. Finding out that this time he was is in Paraguay and making the final preparations before beginning the next leg of his epic journey…

Watch Lyndon’s 2017 SOLO Dakar effort right here on YouTube

Hi Lyndon, so where in the world are you now?

I’m at Motorex in Paraguay.

I imagine you’re pretty busy getting ready to hit the road again?

Yeah, pretty much. Just really a day to go and then probably tomorrow afternoon I’m going to be out of here. I’m packing everything up, I’ve fixed a load of stuff on the bike and I’m trying to piece everything back together again. It beats working for a living.

So you did the Dakar in 2013 and finished 46th. So how does it feel to have not only Iron Manned the event but also make it into the Top 40 this time.

Yeah, honestly the magic bit for me was when I rolled into the top 40. That’s when I started to feel like I’d achieved more than before. When I was hovering around 44/43 I was like ‘man, I’m not even improving on my result from 2013’. But, the thing is, the field was so much more competitive. Every year I say this, every year Dakar is getting more and more competitive. You only have to look at the fact the time difference between the first rider and the 40th rider is half of what it was year ago. So like, the competitiveness of the event is growing and the number of fast riders is increasing. So to beat my result with that in mind, I’m super happy. Like, I would’ve been disappointed to have gotten a lower place than 2013 for sure.

So 39th on the 39th running of the event. That must be something worth bragging about!

Nice, sweet, that’s pretty good! Nobody’s told me that. I might use that in my video, yeah! No one’s pointed that out that’s good to know. That deserves a Facebook post!

When it comes to entering the Dakar, does the fact that you’ve already done a Dakar give you favoured entry into future Dakars?

Yeah, pretty much. You’re pretty much guaranteed an entry into Dakar if you’ve already done it once. Especially if you’ve finished. I think as well, even if you haven’t finished, like if you had a problem, they want you to come and finish your goal. The hardest thing is getting into your first Dakar. You have to have either a world championship race or a very good race resume to get in. Unless of course you’re Charlie Boorman or someone like that. They obviously want the media so they want people like him to do it. But looking at general people they’re looking at what you’ve done, have you been successful, what are your reasons for doing it? And, there are some people who get in, like older people who are in their fifties on the bikes, 50s and 60s even, who just really want to do it, and the organisation appreciate that and they let them do it, you know what I mean. But typically, you have to have an FIM World Championship round with a finish, or complete one of the Dakar series, complete one of those, they’re looking for riders who can look after themselves and get to the end of the race, or at least have a good go at it.

It looks like the most inhospitable place on earth, how was the terrain?

This year was particularly brutal, like, the terrain that they found was really challenging. I can’t remember the last time I had to get off and push in sand. I’m normally very competent and can ride my way through everything, but there was some sand with Camel Grass mixed in with it that for me it was impassable it was so hard. They really, really, tried to shake it up this year.

How did 2017 compare to your 2013 experience of the Dakar?

It was much harder. Much more technical riding and, the navigation was a lot more technical, they changed the navigation rules which made it a little bit more challenging, and the fact that I did it Malle Moto obviously made it really difficult because it was like, you never have a minute. While you’re riding back to the bivouac on a night all your thinking is ‘what do I need to do when I get there?’. First thing you do: bike on the stand, drain plug out – before you even take your gear off. You just have to keep everything like a machine, constantly going.

Malle Moto means Iron-manning it right?

Yeah you’re just on your own.

In the last Dakar Heroes video, you broke down in tears, was it THAT hard?

Yeah I was… the thing there I was worried my Dakar was going to end because I was too tired and not because I couldn’t do it. It was so disappointing that I was falling asleep on the road, and literally running off the road, like I ran off the road about five times on the liason that morning because I fell asleep. And I was like, I’m going to crash into a ravine and my Dakar’s going to be over on the 11th day just because I’m tired, not because I can’t ride, not because I don’t have the mechanical skills, or all the stuff I’ve trained for, just because I’m too tired because I haven’t had enough sleep. And I was like that really sucks. Like I don’t want that to be the case. So I went over there and sat down, not to cry, just to say a few words to camera and it was like ‘oh, this is getting a bit emotional’. And I was like, oh well, I’ll just keep filming.

It was one of those videos that stuck out because of that wee cry.

It’s funny you get like, you know you get one comment from somebody saying ‘oh you’d never see me cry on a video online like that’ and then you get a thousand comments saying ‘You’re a legend!’. To film and release something like that is, you know, for me I am who I am, and I share everything how my life goes and that’s it. I’m not hiding anything; this is how it is.

Did you have quite a few spills this year?

I had two crashes and they were both on stage four. That was a particularly technical day. That was where Toby Price broke his leg I believe (you’d have to check that but I think it was that day) It was in the same riverbed from what I remember. It was a really fast riverbed, and if you had really good suspension, which I did I had the factory suspension, it encouraged you to ride so much faster and there was a lot of little ‘catch-you-outs’ in it. I had a few moments and I crashed early on in the morning, and about midday I had a big crash (which you probably saw online because somebody filmed it), so that and kind of, while I wasn’t injured, I hurt both my thumbs, I was aching, you know like you do when you get bruised and bashed, and it was just that little bit harder from then on. It was a bummer. I shouldn’t have done it. It wasn’t like me and I was just pushing hard. I had a good day though, I mean I finished 35th on that day, even with the two crashes I still had a great result which was fantastic.

 So what actually happens when you crash, do you take a couple of minutes to regain your composure or do you pick the bike straight back up and carry on?

Nah, no, you just straight back on and hit the gas, yeah [laughs]. The adrenalin takes over, you don’t even think about your injuries, you just get on and go. Fix the bike, whatever needs doing, and just go. It was only three kilometres from the end of the stage which made it even worse. When I got to the end of the stage I realised I’d hurt both my thumbs and I felt like I’d been through a washing machine. So I was a little bit pissed off with myself. And then that night in the bivouac I hurt my back working on my back working on the bike (pulled a muscle in my back), so I had to go see the physios and I was like ‘What is going on with me?’

[laughs!]. Day four was a nightmare.

It sounds like Day Four was the hardest of the entire event?

Yeah probably. After day four I was feeling like “wow, if it’s like this for the rest of the race…”I started to question if it would be possible. But I just got my head down. You know the cancelled stages for me were a big disappointment. Because I really wanted to… even though I was hurting and I was tired, I knew I could get through those most difficult days, and the two stages that were cancelled were some of the most difficult. I knew I had the technical ability to do it, and the will to do it. And I knew it would clear some of the slower riders out as well. I kinda wanted to do it but I understand why the organisers cancelled it because the weather was horrendous.

The climate of the rally made it one of the most challenging. Like, six days at 3 and a half thousand meters. Cold, snow, rain, hot one-minute cold the next minute, you know just really difficult to cloth up properly for the conditions you were in, carry the stuff you needed. It really made it an adventure, a real adventure not just a hero in the desert riding fast. You needed to be smart. You probably saw the video (Stage 4- Dakar Heroes) where I stopped, and I was pissed off because I had to stop and put my waterproofs on. But, I discussed this with my sponsors at length and I said “you know what, if lose 3minutes because I have to stop and put waterproofs on, I lose 3minutes. Because if I get hypothermia or a cold or an illness or something I’m out of the race and for 3minutes to stay warm and do the right thing, I’m going to do it”.  So when it started snowing that day and hailing I was like, “I don’t want to stop because I want to get over this mountain, but I’ve got to do it.” And, I just did it, and it was annoying but I did it and it was the right thing to do.

So how did you not freeze to death in those freezing temperatures at high altitude?

So I used a heated base layer from Australia called an Avade. Really nice, battery powered, lasts seven hours on the lowest setting and you just charged it every night.  And, the good thing about it is when you’re racing in the desert, it’s just a base layer.  So it doesn’t add any sort of temperature to you or anything. And then it’s got elements inside it as well which is really nice, you just turn it on with a little device on the sleeve. I used it on all the liaisons, I just turned it off in the special tests.

How do you keep the weight down on the bike?

Well, every pocket in my jacket and pants were full with stuff. My bike had stuff, like, strapped to it and cable tied to it and everything. It was not ideal because they are not designed to carry stuff, but when you’ve got to carry waterproof pants and jacket, most riders didn’t, I carried pants but I’m glad I did because a 600km liaison in the rain with wet bottoms is not ideal.

So do you have carry special tools?

Yeah, yeah, tools and everything are on the bike. They’re all integrated on the Nav tower so you can do anything to the bike if you have to. But interesting enough, I didn’t have to get my tools out once on this Dakar which was a real treat! I did a few little modifications, but on the special stage I didn’t have to stop and get my tools out. The bike was prepared really well. I think everything I’ve done with my adventures and everything, I knew exactly what to do to keep that bike going as long as possible.

So Races to Places put you in a really good position to just nail the Dakar?

Yeah I think so. The adventure riding really, really, helps. For example, fork seals: Everybody in Malle Moto had fork seal issues and had forks rebuilt during the Dakar. I did the Dakar with the same set of forks. Because of the way that I used full length neoprenes. Even the factory team said “We don’t recommend it” and I said “I don’t care whether you recommend it or not, I don’t want to have to replace fork seals myself, that’s going to be a nightmare.” And I did the full race without changing the fork seals which is more than I think anybody can say.

So where did you pick that trick up?

Travelling. Yeah really. You don’t want to be changing them on the road so I came up with my own solution for the forks and I tested a few different things so I knew what worked. I’d done 40,000km without a fork seal go on Basil Bike, so I kinda knew it worked and it worked in Dakar as well. I had to change them half way through at the rest day, I just changed the covers because they got cut and damaged, but yeah, no fork seal issues.

 So your regular ride is Basil Bike, where did the name come from?

It was my Grandfather. So my grandfather passed away before I went on the trip. And the family had a private registration number of his, that was a vehicle registration number that was his own, that was A5BTT, which is on the bike now. It was on retention so it wasn’t on a vehicle. So I said to my parents ‘Hey, why don’t we just put that number on the bike I’m going to travel around the world on’ and they said ‘oh that’s a good idea’ because my grandad loved travelling ads well, so yeah it just got called Basil Bike.

So did your Dakar bike have a name as well?

Yeah, Rex. So that was a competition. I put a thing out on Facebook saying ‘Okay, we need a name for him’ and there was all kinds came in. But because it was sponsored by Motorex one guy says ‘Rex, you know, like a Tyrannosaurus Rex’ and I was like ‘yeah I really like that’ and the name stuck, so it’s Rex.

So what’s happening to that bike now the Europe?

It’s on its way back to Europe and they’ve [Motorex] got some plans for it (can’t divulge the rest of this answer as its top secret)

Will you have finished Races to Places by the end of this year?

No, no. My plan is to finish South America by April, and then ship the bike to South Africa and then ride home from South Africa through Africa and that’s going to take about eight months, so there’s at least another year in it yet.

What route are you going to take through Africa?

No idea yet, not planned anything. Just going to go and take it as it comes I think. I don’t like planning too much.

How hard is it to get back to normal after the Dakar even though you’ve got the most unusual life?

Yeah exactly, I’m not normal. But even then it’s always hard getting back to it again, like it is now getting back to Races to Places with Basil is like “Gotta get back on the road, I’ve got to do it”. So yeah, it’s not easy. The cliff edge you go off when you finish Dakar , you’re kinda on a high-high-high when you finish, and you go over the podium and then it’s like “Boomph! All over.” That’s gone now, it’s just back to enjoying my life and back to social media and just sharing all the stuff from the Dakar. I’ve got so much stuff to share from Races to Places and the Dakar now it’s like I’ve got a year’s worth of media to get out there. I’ve said to myself that I’ll post a picture every day, like every day without fail I’m going to post a picture.

So does the Social Media and stuff help you keep on the road financially?

No, I’m still funding it myself so money’s running out. This year I need to try and turn it ‘round and make some money because I can’t keep doing what I’m doing spending all my own money. Unfortunately, as much as everyone loves the media, it’s really hard getting people to support me so for example for the videos, I don’t want to make money out of it, I just want it to stop costing me money. So all I’m trying to do, I’ve got a Patreon page so people can donate $1 per episode released, sop every time an episode is released it’ll charge the credit card $1, or 50cents, or whatever they want, and if loads of people signed up to that at 50 cents and episode, because some people love them and they’d love to contribute, but it’s just getting them to do that because what that would do is it would pay for more editing which means we could release more videos. So I’m really trying to push that really, trying to get people to donate towards the editing through Patreon because it’s a non-profit thing, all the money goes back into editing, and if you love Races to Places all its doing is giving me the opportunity to get more out, that’s all it’s doing.

So you pay someone to do the editing while you’re out in the wild?

Yeah, all the editing is done by someone else. It probably costs me about $1000 New Zealand for a ten-minute episode, so it’s not cheap. That’s why I’m trying to get those costs covered by people who like it going forwards. I’ve got 70 episodes out so it adds up. And of course we’re making a video about the Dakar which is the first time a privateer will have made a free-to-view video. This is not Green Racer, it’s not about making money, it’s not commercial. It’s going to be free and it’s going to be what it’s like to race the Dakar as a privateer. That’ll be through YouTube out probably mid-year. We’re struggling with the ASO (the organisation of the Dakar) to get the rights to do it but we’re working on it.

Is there a particular country that sticks out from Races to Places as an Adventure Rider’s paradise?

Adventure riders’ paradise… I did like New Zealand and I’m not just saying that because you’re from there, but I think one of the places that recently I did was Utah in the United States. It has the most amazing scenery and technical trails and places to ride. Like, Colorado and Utah in the US were really good as an adventure riders’ paradise, like really good. But there’s so many other places as well, some remote places in Canada, I can think of places in every country that was really good for adventure riding so it’s just finding them. The trick is just getting out there and looking for them.

So where is on the route book for you next?

Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, and that’s it for Races to Places in South America. Right down to the Southern Tip [of South America] then back up the west side up to Chile, and I’m going to finish in Mendoza, in the wine region of Mendoza is the plan and have some wine.

What will you do when you finish Races to Places?

I don’t know. I have a business building the adventure bikes like I’m riding around the world on. So, we struggle to do those, I have one guy working for me and we struggle to get enough out, so maybe we’ll build some more adventure bikes. But maybe I’ll just do other trips and make more videos. If the Patreon thing goes well then I’m going to continue to travel the world making more videos. And to do the Himalayas, I want to make a special feature about that as well so there’s lots to do.

You could always start a tour company for around the world tours with experience like yours…

Yeah, my problem with that is I really dislike tour companies. I really encourage people to go and explore on their own, so it’s like ‘yeah I encourage you to go and explore on your own and then I want to open my tour company’ you know? I don’t know. I really do encourage people to just go out and get into it themselves. They don’t need to pay 6000 bucks for a tour guide, there is just so much out there you can get for less than half the price, you just need to be proactive and go and do it. That’s always my advice to people.

So for anyone doing a big adventure trip do you reckon they need a decent level of skill mechanically and all that?

Yeah that’s the thing, I think that’s why people like to do the tours, because they’ve got backup and support, somebody to turn to and I accept that. I’m pretty fortunate that I feel confident riding anywhere on my own.

So say we were to kit up and hit the road like you, what would be your top bit of advice for us?

Stay safe. Stay open minded, don’t plan too far ahead. Like, literally I plan every day as it goes. I have a rough idea of where I’m going roughly but I make it up every day because you never know what’s going to come. You meet somebody on the road, you go to their house, you go riding with them, then all of a sudden you’re a week later than you thought you were but it doesn’t matter because you’ve had a great time. I really just say to people, don’t plan too far ahead, make sure you stay safe, and don’t worry too much about anything because the number of minor bad situations that I’ve come across are insignificant compared to all the good things. So don’t worry about being kidnapped, having your wallet stolen or your passport going missing. It’s such a trivial thing ‘right my passport’s gone, fix it’. Get on the phone, try to sort it out. Everything’s fixable so just try to enjoy yourself.

So what actually went into selecting a bike for your trip?

It was easy for me, I’d raced the factory rally bike so it was an easy choice, that’s the one I wanted to ride around the world. It was accessible to me but it’s not accessible to everybody. From all the riding I’ve done on the KTM 950, I’ve done 100,000 miles on the 950 I had. I just knew it was going to be a single cylinder, it was going to be a rally bike, it was going to be able to carry luggage and spares, and it was going to be rugged and have good suspension. I just built it myself. If you haven’t seen it there’s a time lapse of me building Basil Bike on YouTube called ‘The Genesis of Basil Bike’.

What’s the service on Basil?

Same as the 690 standard. It should be more but I’ve changed a few things so it’s 10,000 kilometres. I change the oil every 8,000, sometimes 10, sometimes 12, it just depends on where I am.

So what’s the best way to cart stuff about on a bike in your opinion?

Soft luggage for sure, hands down. Tried and tested soft luggage all the way. Soft luggage on hard rails. People often ask me where I carry my laptop, I carry my laptop in my backpack because I like to keep it with me all the time and cameras in my tank bag. I’m on my third camera and laptop, recommendation from me is the MacBook Air, it’s done two and a half, three years on the road with me and never failed. It’s had a new battery once and that’s it.

What’s the biggest rookie mistake when packing up for a big trip?

Taking too much, hands down, just taking too much. I don’t care what I look like now, I don’t care if I’ve got a dirty t-shirt or dirty jeans. I don’t care if I’m sat at a restaurant with people with shirts and ties and I’m in a dirty t-shit. Everything now about my appearance and materialist stuff has gone out the window. I’m enjoying my life, I’m having a great time, if people don’t like how I look then tough shit [laughs]. I’ve changed, I was never like that so the trip has changed me in that respect. I still like to look nice if I go out and I’ve got a clean t-shirt but I don’t worry about it if I haven’t.

What would you call the essentials on any long adventure on two wheels?

Essentials… A GPS. It’s not actually essential but it can make your life a lot easier having a GPS with good maps on it, like open street maps is a good choice. Definitely there’s other ways of doing it like paper maps and stuff, but it just makes it so much more difficult. It’s just a love my GPS, it’s easy to use. I think also having the right tools to be able to do things on the bike. So you HAVE to be able to fix a puncture yourself. If you can’t do that you can easily kiss goodbye a day or two if you get a puncture in a remote place so you’ve got to be able to do simple things like that on your own. And, know your bike well. A bit of advice I’d give to everybody is every time anything needs doing to your bike, do it yourself. If you don’t know how, research it. Research it on the internet, use the manuals but do everything at home yourself, don’t take it to a dealer. Because if you do that you get to know your bike and when you have a problem with it you can fix it. That’s really important, I do everything myself and its now second nature working on the bike.

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