Fit for purpose: Honda CRF450X Dakar

The average road bike does a bit of everything. But there are machines in the biking world designed to do one job only. Pure specialists if you will. These are the bikes...


Mick Extance, Dakar Rally rider and highest British finisher in 2006

"I've been in love with the Dakar Rally since I was 17 and have competed since 2002. It's the only race I do. I live for it every year with the whole year building up to it. I got 27th in 2006 and was looking to run a bit higher up this year, but it wasn't to be. 

"It's a massive year's work and £50,000 to even get to the Dakar. Huge. And this year I went out on day seven. My wife told me '07 was going to be my last Dakar or she'd divorce me, but luckily she realises this is important to me so I'm back for 2008, which will be the 30th anniversary of the Dakar.

"This year I spent 16-hours with just the bike for company after it had broken down. I was wrapped in one of those silver survival blankets and at night it was pitch black and freezing cold. I had a dribble of water left, some peanuts and some dried fruit - you don't carry too much survival gear as it slows you down. In the morning I was found by one of the sweeper trucks. I was so emotional and a cameraman was sticking his lens in my face - I wanted to punch him. I was crying my eyes out because it was so hard to accept I had to retire.

"I wear standard enduro kit. The stuff I use is from MSR. You need stuff that's comfortable, breathable yet is going to protect you from the elements and crashes. I'm looking forward to 2008 with the important sponsors like Optoma Loans and Presscrete Pattern Paving, the
company I work for. Sorry, have to plug the sponsors!"


Optoma Loans Honda CRF450X Dakar bike

"You really have to keep the bike as stock as possible, or it 'll break. Why try and improve on what Honda has done? They can spend millions on developing the bike and we can't. Another reason is that if it's stock you can buy or blag spares for it while on the rally. And yes, ours broke on the rally - but the Dakar is the sternest challenge of man and machine."

TRIP COMPUTER: "This is a basic speed, time and distance computer made by a company called ICO. You can select various modes for time travelled, distance travelled or
kilometres left. You use this in conjunction with a road book, which scrolls on your bar-mounted road book reader."

GPS/TRANSPONDER CONNECTORS: "You don't want to get lost in the desert. Believe me. This year when I broke down I found out my GPS wasn't working. Scary."

ROAD BOOK: "Riders use different systems to highlight important things. I use pink highlighter to indicate changes in direction. You modify it to help you understand it quickly when you're on the move. The art of the Dakar really is understanding your road book. On my first Dakar I turned up for the start without any idea of how to use the road book or GPS!"

"The guards stop you breaking levers when you crash and the soft grips are just that - handy when you're doing hundreds of miles off road in a day. We fit 60mm bar risers to lift the bars up afor comfort too."

SUSPENSION: "Re-built from standard by Mojo for the Dakar."

BODYWORK: "Still pretty standard, you can get this carbon-kevlar bodywork in a kit form."

FUEL TANKS: "Around 39 litres in total to allow around 220 miles at a stretch with a 10% safety margin."

BASHPLATE: "This gets used a lot in the Dakar and stops your sump and engine cases being smashed to bits. It can also carry tools and the
emergency water."

EMERGENCY WATER TANK: "You've got to have three litres of survival water on board, that's compulsory.

TRANSPONDERS AND AERIALS: "Not to listen to Radio 2, but so the organisers can always work out where you are."

HEADLIGHTS: "Some stages finish at night so we have headlights fitted with Halogen bulbs."

THE BOX: "This box goes with the aeroplane and is at every stage of the rally. You're only allowed 50kg in total so you cram whatever you can into it. You have your sleeping bag, spares, spare levers, brake pads, spare goggles and gloves, replacement handlebars, a clutch, extra tools, as well as food like energy bars, drinks and the like. Basically anything that helps you look after yourself or the bike goes into this box."