It’s an annual tradition with Honda Canada – book a track down south, ship a load of bikes and journalists in and let it rip for a few days.
The latest version of BMW’s flat twin is comprehensively modified to produce a substantial 122 hp – 24 up on the old 1100.
Swing your leg over the saddle of the new BMW K1200R, jab the start button and one thing is immediately evident: This ain’t your Grandad’s BMW!
There were only six days to go, but I knew that the next three were going to be tough – if I could make it through them, I’d make it to Dakar. The final three days were in the Sahal and run on hard packed Laterite (a very dry, red clay-like surface that’s quite smooth but very dusty), which suited my riding style better. The Dakar had to be mentally broken down into smaller chucks, as together it was too overwhelming to comprehend.
We were up by 9:00 am and took our time at breakfast, but the pressure was soon back on as I had a promise to fulfill with the bike. It had been thoroughly neglected over the last few days and today was my only chance to catch up.
I was in a bad way, I was completely exhausted and it was all I could do to eat and put up my tent the evening before. I didn’t do any bike maintenance at all, other than buy a new air filter off the KTM truck to stick in my pocket.
I only slept for an hour or so before I woke up shivering. My emergency blanket had been ripped to shreds by a sandstorm. I looked around and saw everyone comfortably tucked up under what were obviously far superior quality emergency blankets. Canadian Tire would be getting a letter when I got home!
The Ulysses XB12X is something of a departure for the dogmatic, Harley Davidson-derived sportbike manufacturer, leaving the sportbike world and entering that of the dual-sport. Buell claim that the Ulysses is more than capable of handling the likes of gravel and fire roads, and yes, even jumps!
From the moment I saw the route when it was first published in November, I knew this was going to be the day. Traditionally the organizers plan a few very difficult days, just before the rest day, to separate the men from the boys. By tonight, I would know whether I was a man or a boy!
It was pitch dark when I left Smara, and started a liaison that would take us through Morocco to the Mauritanian border, where the day’s special would begin.