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Interview with Kevin Muggleton with Florian Neuhauser of ROADRunner Magazine Feb 2013 Issue.

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RoadRunner Feb 2013

Dakar training in the Colorado Snow

Dakar training in the Colorado Snow

RR: When did you first consider participating in the Dakar?

Kevin: Toward the end of 2011 I was looking for a little adventure, and as my wife will attest, when I get that itch it needs to be scratched.  The Dakar was on the horizon and I had been riding and racing with a former Dakar competitor. Something had changed and I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with watching the race, I wanted to compete.

RR: Is running the Dakar a lifelong goal, or are there other motivating factors leading you to South America?

Kevin: I was 11 years old living in Europe and the Dakar came on the television.  My dad was glued to the screen, only the daily highlights were broadcast in those days, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.  I’ve wanted to run the Dakar ever since.  I started on a Suzuki ER 50, in those days 500 cc thumpers were enormous, but I wanted one.

RR: Was this your first attempt at qualifying? What was the application process like?

Kevin: Call it beginners luck, but this was my first attempt.  There is a lengthy online question and answer session, and I had to prepare the Dakar “dossier”.  It was daunting, putting down on paper the value of one’s life experience for all to see and judge. The selection process in Paris is a dark art and final, with no avenue to question their selection decision.

RR: What do you consider the biggest hurdle(s) to entering the Dakar?

Kevin: These days the Dakar is four times over subscribed, your application needs to stand out amongst top riders from around the globe.  I am very fortunate to have lived a full-on adventure lifestyle. I have lived and worked on every continent, kayaked solo the length of the Amazon and Zambezi rivers, ridden around the globe on multiple forms of transport, fought in the British Army and filmed for National Geographic television. After selection, the biggest hurdle is cash. The first installment to the ASO in Paris is $15k.  They won’t open your application without it.  I’ll be surprised, with sponsorship, if this costs me any less than $80k. For Redverz Gear and my family it’s a huge financial undertaking, but I’m not a fan of regret.

RR: How confident were you of making the cut?

Kevin: I am an optimist!  I don’t, however, own a crystal ball and did not buy a bike or begin preparations before my acceptance letter arrived.

2012 Baja 5The Baja 500 Iron Man race was good practice for the Dakar

The Baja 500 Iron Man race was good practice for the Dakar

RR: What is your previous racing experience, and what were the results?

Kevin: Most recently I raced and completed the Baja 500 Iron-Man.

RR: Which moto-class will you be participating in?

Kevin:Class 2.1 Super Production.

 RR: What motorcycle will you be riding, and what did you do to make it race ready?

 Kevin: Initially I felt pressure to go with KTM, the European competitors bike of choice.    Ultimately I committed to my favorite, a Honda.  With the 450 cc cap I chose the CRF450X.  I want to keep the bike as stock as possible. I’ve been well advised that once you start messing with the internals and pushing the tolerances a race like the Dakar will punish you.

Adding 9 gallons of fuel to a small frame is a major modification and definitely adds complexity as does setting the suspension to handle the added weight and a 15-day beating.  With Chris at Rally Moto Kit we’ve upgraded the electrics to handle a staggering number of tracking devices, road books, ICOs, mandatory rally GPS systems and lighting. Woody’s Wheel Works has built three sets of invincible wheels.

Ergonomics is critical – I can’t come off the bike crippled after the first 500-mile off-road day.  My handle bar height is now a foot taller than stock. At 6’4” I want to see what is coming ahead at speed, not what’s down at my front wheel.

A work in progress for the Dakar: a larger tank and handlebars 12 inches higher.

A work in progress for the Dakar: a larger tank and handlebars 12 inches higher.

RR: Describe your training regimen. What does it take to prepare for such a grueling race?

 “Train hard, fight easy,” as my Army Sergeant Major said.  Endurance coach Tom Wigginton works me through an ever-changing strength training regime and High Intensity Interval Training(HIIT). Endurance training is about reducing recovery time. It’s easy to train to your strengths, so instead we work on my weak areas. The sessions are brutal, so one day a week I take off, it’s crucial to the recovery process.

RR: Where are you training to prepare yourself for all the different types of terrain you’ll encounter on the race?

Kevin: Colorado offers diverse training terrain. I aim to ride non-stop, increasing the time on the bike each session out. Having spoken with a number of Dakar finishers, this is the secret to success – DON’T STOP.  Recover on the bike, not sat next to it.  When weather becomes an issue I’ll head west to Moab and the dunes of California and Arizona.

Dakar 2013 starts in the desert dunes on day one, a Dakar first. An 800 kilometer first day in the dunes will test everyone’s mettle. Day 2 and 3 are punishing Peruvian desert dunes as well. Race organizers have dubbed these first days “Dakar Hell” so I need to train hard and get through this brutal, early selection.   In December I’ll head back to Nevada for navigation and a few mock, long rally stages with Jimmy Lewis, (Dakar podium) and Johnny Campbell of Team Honda.

RR: Your numerous explorations include a trip from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego. How does the Dakar compare?

 Kevin: I’m my happiest on a bike, so all ride time is good preparation. Overland travel, however,  doesn’t have a significant technical component. What it does give you is long days in the saddle and a good sense of both international cooperation and frustrations – good prep for processing the 50 different languages spoken in the Dakar bivouac, briefings in French, and a Spanish-speaking continent.

The Spacious Expedition II tent, with it's integrated garage and storage, will be Kevin's place to rest during the Dakar

The Spacious Expedition II tent, with it’s integrated garage and storage, will be Kevin’s place to rest during the Dakar

RR: You are the owner and inventor of Redverz Gear tents. Will you be using your own product during the Dakar? 

 Kevin: Yes, our Series II Expedition Tent will be along for the ride.  I would not want to stay in any other tent.   Sleep management will be critical to my success. With over 3000 assembling nightly in the bivouac, engines revving, helicopters landing, planes taking off and sheer anticipation of the next day I want comfort, not compromise.  The days of crawling on my hands and knees into a tent are over.

RR: Participating in the Dakar is a massive undertaking. Who are your supporters?

 Kevin: My wife Christine and son Redvers are my steadiest support.   And I’m staggered by the support of my sponsors – RoadRUNNER, Vitruvian Fitness, Woody’s Wheel Works, Klim, MX1 West Racing, Rally Management Services, Black Dog Cycleworks, Skratch Labs, ADVMoto, Rally Moto Kit, Renazco Racing, Flexx to name a few.

 RR: How can others support you? 

Kevin: Redverz Gear is our biggest sponsor, treat yourself to a tent at www.redverz.com or donate at http://dakar.redverz.com/help_kevin.html.

 RR: How will you measure your success in this race? Do you need to take first place or will simply finishing be a victory?

Kevin : Only 47% of Dakar competitors reach the finish line.  These 15 days will take every ounce of my physical and mental energy. Crossing the Dakar finish line would be the achievement of a lifetime and a defining moment.

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Kevin Muggleton: Travel is in Kevin’s blood. His dad was a British Army Paratrooper, so “home” was wherever the road led, and life was one big adventure after another. He has traveled the world on foot (including hitchhiking), and by boat, bus, train, plane, and a 1986 Land Rover, which he rebuilt by hand as he traveled the length of Africa from London to Cape Town in search of the matriarch of the elusive Lovedu Tribe. The trek was published in the book, “Looking for Lovedu.” Kevin canoed down the Amazon and kayaked Grade V Zambezi River rapids while documenting the event for National Geographic TV.

But, without a doubt, Kevin’s favorite mode of transportation is his motorcycle. He and “The Pig” have seen dirt track, pavement, and terrain from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego as well as all places east, west, and in between.

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Spending a fair amount of time, flying back and forth tying down the lose ends on planning.  Sounds a little bonkers to build the rally bike then ship it to Europe instead of south America directly. Except the $20k Dakar entry fee includes return shipping from Le Havre, France for the bike.  It’s cheaper and less complicated ensuring the bike is on the Dakar boat, doing scrutineering before it sails and clear customs with all the Dakar vehicles in Lima.  The stress of clearing the bike and tech inspection days before the rally starts adds to problems.

Last year a number of privateers didn’t clear customs in time and didn’t race!

This is the Jacket Ned Suesse ( Dakar 2012 finisher) shared, ” if there is one piece of equipment you need at the Dakar, it’s this jacket”!

Passports, documents, tools, food, water, protection everything you need in a jacket is there. We have been offered jackets from various manufacturers, but this is the one we wanted.  The neck detaches so our brace works comfortably, and no need to wear body armor underneath as it’s built in.

Woody's Wheel Works

Kevin meeting up with Woody at Woody’s Wheel Works, the best wheel builders in USA. Woody has been in business building and repairing wheels since 1973, you think we’d trust anyone else to build Team Redverz Dakar wheels?

We’ll do a full report and follow up in a couple of weeks when the wheels are close.

A few weeks into training with Tom starting to see and feel the benefits, each session doesn’t get any easier though. On my way back over to the gym.

Seems like every piece of the bike is shipping in every direction at the moment.  The Seat has gone off to James Renazco at Renazco Racing. The stock Honda seat is torture after a few hours. The Renazco seat, will be much taller, wider at the rear, all suede and good for 15 day rally. The all important race pocket, for the race papers will be sewn in the front.

We get daily Nav tower updates from Chris at RMK usually around midnight!  Does he ever sleep? Mocking up the side bracing by the radiator mounts, and looks like a billet block is needed by the header.  Soon as this is tied down, the prototype can be cut on the water jet.

Indestructible Mirror

Yes even Dakar bike need mirrors, not just because the regs say so, but when a hairy a%s 150mph trophy truck is chasing you down you better know which side of you he’s coming by.  Ned Suesse, last year’s Dakar finisher has designed this indestructible folding mirror.  They fit every bike.

http://www.doubletakemirror.com/

Pumping heavy ropes up and down for minute sprints at a time sounds pretty relaxed, until you get to the 50 second mark.  Heaving and trying to catch your breath, not so. I’ll Thank Tom when I’m trying to push the bike through heavy dunes in 130oF.  VMfit.com

On the bike build the biggest stress is getting the navigation tower for the road book and electronics nailed down.

Fate is on our side with Ned Suesse, (last year’s Dakar finisher) and Chris Vestal from Rally Moto Kits living just down the road in Colorado Springs.  Their navigation mount and fairing has proven the course during the Dakar so are looking at Chris modifying the kit to fit the Honda.  Fingers crossed over the weekend that Chris can get this mount to work around the CRF 450 header.  If he can,  one of the biggest worries will be on it’s way to being sorted.

Then of course will see if it is Muggleton ride proof!  Either that or I’m gonna have to stop crashing!

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