Q & A with David Knight MBE following the Dakar
Was the experience how you expected it?
I did not understand the enormity of the event. When I got here, it was totally mind blowing.
Are you glad to be back?
I’m certainly glad to be back and in one piece from the Dakar rally. It was unequivocally an experience of a lifetime. I was sad and frustrated when it came to an end. I felt I could have done at least another week as I learned so much about the terrain and started to read it much better towards the end and getting better at each stage. I miss my family enormously, and I am now isolating for 21 days before seeing them, which is more difficult than competing in the rally.
How did you feel at the end of the Dakar Rally?
Total anti-climax when it finished as I felt I could have carried on for another week, and I was learning more about the terrain as the days went on.
How did you find the terrain?
The landscape was sensational. During the middle of the rally, I slowed down to take in the views. It was some adventure and nothing that I can compare it to. The results are nice, but getting to the finish line was vital for me, and you have to respect the event. While on the bike, you have to understand how rugged the terrain is. When you then imagine that s buggies, cars and trucks must go through this, and you do wonder how as its easier on a bike. But it is merely the fact that the trucks smash their way through.
Even though I ride on sand most days, nothing prepares you for the Dakar! I cannot tell you how much I have learned during these few weeks. It gives you a new perspective on life. Trying to read the dunes is difficult, and you learn how to read them and know when you can open up the throttle or take your time as there may be a 50ft drop. I have ridden under challenging terrains like the forests in the World Enduros, but nothing compares to the Dakar.
Explain your typical day?
Some days we were doing 12-hour rides depending on the stage we were at. Staring as early as 4:30 am and finished in the pitch dark, particularly on the road section, about 300km is challenging physically and mentally. I cannot explain just how cold it was; it’s freezing. As you sit there miserable, then you think about the enormity of what experiences you’re gaining, you smile and carry on. The event organisation is genuinely fabulous, and when you start early, you put on all your gear as the day gets warmer, and as you begin to remove your equipment, the organisers collect it and bring it back to you the same evening.
What was your inspiration to do the Dakar Rally?
Inspiration comes from years of watching the Dakar on video and then on Eurosport. Being one of the best off road racers going and having done that for many years I like to take on new experiences now. Ten years ago, I would have wanted to have won the event but not now; what I wanted to do is learn at my own pace. I kept having this little voice in my brain saying, go on, you can do it, but you don’t want to listen; you want to enjoy what you’re doing and ensure you finish. I’ve had an outstanding career, and I have lot more years to go back.
Would you do the Dakar again?
Yeah, absolutely. I would love to do it again and help others?
What do you mean by that?
I want to develop and talk to the young riders about mentally approach the event. These events take years to learn, and my knowledge and experience for the young ones would help them enormously.
How are your ribs?
Sore, obviously. I came off on day two and cracked two ribs. I hit a dust cloud that felt like going into a black hole, so I decided to go onto the trail’s left-hand side, open up the throttle, and then I hit a huge rock which threw me. The impact resulted in the airbag deploying. I got winded, and the airbag crushed me. If the airbag didn’t deploy, the injury might have been more catastrophic. I cracked two ribs under my armpit, but I managed with it. You know I’ve hurt myself plenty of times over the years, and I felt lucky this time. I have to look on the bright side; it just shows how easy it is for something to go wrong. The pain didn’t hold me back and didn’t stop me from opening up the throttle again.
Are you happy where you placed?
Yes, my goal was to finish the rally. There were 110 starters at the start of the event. Only 60 people finished, so half of the entry completed the event showing just how challenging the Dakar rally is.
How did your bike perform?
It’s tough on the bike, tough on the person also. The abuse the bikes take is incredible, and you need to go easy on the engine. I know bikes, my bike is still like new. Nevertheless, you have to learn how to relax and push on to the finish but take care of your bike. I’m quite fortunate I understand motorbikes and ‘normally’ look after all my own bikes.
How did your kit perform?
Many people had problems with their boots throughout the rally, but I didn’t am pleased to say. I wore one pair of boots for the entire rally, and I cannot rave enough about my SIDI boots. I rode over 7500km, and my SIDI boots are like brand new I cannot give enough credit to SIDI for their quality. The soles are a little worn, but the SIDI boots are fantastic.
My helmets are Shoei and are the best in the world, in my opinion. I had to change my helmet from the grey Shoei to the orange one after taking a fall on day two. I love my Shoei helmets! It is essential to get the right equipment and fitted correctly. The kit I currently have is simply the best!