Dakar: Coma’s Art of Reading & Riding

2012 Dakar Prep

In its most than 30 years of history, the charm of the Dakar has captivated the fans for the magical images of the participants riding through deserts, valleys and mountains, first in Africa and now in South America.

In this unique race, the beauty combines with the toughness of the 15 days of race. A mission that to be successfully completed requires to know how to find your bearings with the road book supplied by the organizers instead of the modern GPS devices.

To follow its indications quickly, without making mistakes or having to reduce the pace, is one of the keys to fight for victory at the Dakar. An ability that Marc Coma, three times winner of the race, masters as very few others. The experience of the MRW KTM 450 Rally rider allows him to navigate following the route set by the organizer at a cruise pace that can hardly be followed by his rivals.

In the front part of the bike there is an structure that allows the rider to read it at the same time he rides, the road book is a paper scroll that the organizers give the day before each stage. There are all the notes necessary to follow the race route, both on tracks and through open desert.

This information is gathered in three columns, the first indicating the different kilometric points related to each entry. In the central column appears a drawing with the path to follow, with arrows to indicate the direction and small graphs showing the terrain that will be found. The right column gives additional information that helps interpreting the central drawing, showing data about the way to follow, such as different obstacles or dangers that can be found.

To simplify and accelerate the interpretation of the indications, Marc Coma spends a valuable time each afternoon during the race to personalize the road book with markers of different colors, that allow him to decipher each entry at a glance in the race. In this case, the MRW rider uses green to mark the easy areas, blue to pay attention to the changes of direction of orange for the off-track areas.

Once on the bike, the rider can move the paper scroll with a button placed in the left commands. To complete the navigation instruments, beside the road book there is a trip – odometer – to know in which point to follow the instructions marked, and a digital screen that shows the degrees of the compass to follow the right direction.

Finally, they have a GPS supplied by the organized, very restricted and that is only activated in certain points. In case of emergency, the participants can unblock it, receiving an important penalty or renouncing to continue the race.

With 15 days of race and nearly 3600 miles ahead, Marc Coma will face one more year the Dakar challenge, an adventure where he will have to take advantage of one of his main abilities: the art of navigating the desert.