Rally Mongolia: The West Connects

August 6, 2010
Courtesy of Klim USA
Rally Mongolia has attracted a lot of North American attention lately. Maybe Americans and Canadians are drawn to the distant land and cultural adventures a motorcycle rally race in Mongolia will likely offer. Or, maybe they’re just nuts. Either way, two KLIM-sponsored, adventure-craving American Athletes (Jonah Street and Mike Shirley) and one fearlessly KLIM-clad Canadian (Mike Buhler) will leave their respected homelands this week and touch-down in preparation for eight days and more than 2,000 miles of off-road motorcycle racing across Mongolia.
And it’s all Lawrence Hacking’s fault.

Jonah Street and the rest of the Rally PanAm crew for the 2010 Dakar Rally.
Jonah Street will be one of the Americans sponsored by KLIM who will compete in the eight-day, 2,000-mile motorcycle race across Mongolia.   

Hacking was the first North American to race the Rally Mongolia (not to mention the first Canadian to finish the Dakar Rally). His book, To Dakar and Back tells a great tale. At last year’s Dakar Rally event in South America Hacking planted the idea to race in Mongolia inside two American’s heads.
One of these intrepid dirt biking maniacs needs little introduction. His name is Jonah Street. You know, the guy that finished seventh overall in 2010’s Dakar Rally across Chile—ever hear of him? Yeah, that guy. He’ll be headlining the North American effort on a bike he’s never seen or ridden—a Yamaha WR450 patiently waiting in Mongolia for him. Since he’s his own mechanic for this trip he’ll get acquainted in no time.
With little coverage in the states for his team, sponsors or himself, you might wonder why he’s doing it. It turns out, for Jonah, that getting to Asia is what it’s all about. After the Rally Mongolia Jonah will have raced on six continents—not something a lot of people can say.
The second member of the American Squad is Mike Shirley. Shirley is a new addict to the adventure riding/rally Kool-Aide as he’s only been riding off-road adventure and dirt bikes for about four years. But he’s spent those four years wisely kicking up dirt on his KTM 450 EXC and his KTM 950 Adventure.
Shirley definitely represents the real-rider in all of us. He doesn’t have a ton of racing experience (and none in navigation rallies) but he’s done a few National Enduros, a few Hare and Hound races and teamed up with some buddies for a 24-hour race. His long-distance attraction led him to tackling the Trans-Am trail in 2008—a trek from Washington DC to Oregon encompassing 7,000 miles in 34 days.
As Mike says, “That’s the big one.”
For someone with less than five years experience, we’d agree.
After tackling rides like the Trans-Am trail, and having the opportunity to travel along with the Rally Pan Am team during Jonah Street’s Dakar Rally campaign , Mike admittedly started thinking he could race something like the Dakar. In the beginning, anyway.
“The first year I went to the Dakar Rally as a team truck driver I really thought I could do it. Then on days 13, 14, 15 and so on I thought, ‘These guys are out of their minds!” Shirley said.
The Reno-based health-club owner (Double Diamond Athletic Club – www.ddaconline.com) has been sponsoring Jonah Street and his racing efforts for a couple years and at last year’s Dakar event, Shirley too had the Hacking influence and before he knew it he was signed up to race.
“I sort of fell in love with Rally racing right away,” Shirley said. “So now I’m all about it. The Dakar is a big one to just go and tackle and Lawrence Hacking told me the Rally Mongolia event would be a great one to race.”
So, the 39-year old health club owner and outdoor addict is heading to Mongolia with his friend and compatriot Jonah Street—one of the best rally racers in the world.
“I think I’m ready,” Shirley said. “I went to the Charlie Rauseo Rally School with Jonah last November in Parumph and did navigation training. Then, a few months ago, I did the rally school itself so I could get the navigation down.”
His advice to ambitious riders looking to take on a rally: “Navigation is probably key if you want to get started. It’s hard to practice and it’s hard to find someone to build road books. So get experience in that and you’ll be in a good spot.”
As a health club owner, he also recommends getting in shape. Mike has been stepping up his group-workout schedule with strength training but his real prep work comes on the bike. His KTM 950 Adventure has been getting some serious dirt time (He did 400 miles the Saturday before I interviewed him) and he’s been trying to get into more technical stuff on his KTM 450 EXC to, as he says, “get myself beat up.”

Mongolia Rally 2010
Jonah Street’s 2007 Yamaha WR450 Mongolia Rally bike.

Even with all the prep work and training, the logistics of getting bike, equipment and shelter to a Rally on the other side of the world is a daunting task. However, it turns out Rally Mongolia might make that as easy as possible.

Mike is renting a KTM 640 from KTM Tours Mongolia (http://www.ktmtour.mn/frontpage) and contracting them for Rally assistance. Mike says that logistically, it’s going to be a huge help working with them and his bike is rally-ready with big fuel tanks and navigation equipment.
“As a rally enthusiast that wants to go do a rally I’m thinking the Rally Mongolia event is a good starting point,” Mike said. “So far, the logistics have been unbelievably painless. I’m writing a check for an airline ticket to get there, a check for my race entry fee and my bike fee. Everything else is supposed to be set up and ready to go. I know when I’m supposed to get on the plane and for now, that’s all I really have to worry about.
“I’m looking forward to the adventure the most. I think the terrain is a question mark so I hope there are some surprises. And meeting the people and seeing the culture is going to be fantastic.
“Most of what I’ve learned has come from Rally Pan Am and Jonah. I’m proud to call Jonah a friend. Getting on the team and helping at the Dakar Rally was huge, I learned a lot.”
The third North American on this hemispherical team is a Rally Mongolia Veteran of sorts. Mike Buhler traveled from his native Newfoudland region of Canada to race the event last year and is back in full force for the 2010 running.
Like Shirley, Buhler traveled to the heart of the California desert and trained in navigation and rally racing with the Rauseo school. His story is essentially a How-To for Rally fanatics.
You can read all about his build up to the race (about his bike, training, adventures and passion for everything rally) in his Chasing Rally Dreams series of stories on the CanadianMotorcycleRider website(http://www.canadianmotorcyclerider.ca/).
Please rally (yep, I went there) around the North American contingent. Check out the links below for more information about how to follow the Rally and the racers.
Jonah Street’s Gear Checklist:
KLIM F4 Helmet (http://www.klimusa.com/product/F4-Helmet,296,93.htm)
KLIM Custom Adventure Rally Jacket in blue (http://www.klimusa.com/product/Klim-Adventure-Rally-Jacket,209,99.htm)
KLIM Chinook Pant (http://www.klimusa.com/product/Chinook-Pant,300,47.htm)
KLIM Dakar Gloves (http://www.klimusa.com/product/Dakar-Glove,11,70.htm)
KLIM Tactical Short (http://www.klimusa.com/product/Klim-Tactical-Short,224,121.htm)
Mike Shirley’s Gear Checklist:
KLIM Custom Valdez Jacket, Leatt-compatible (http://www.klimusa.com/product/Valdez-Parka,225,99.htm)
KLIM Baja Pant (http://www.klimusa.com/product/Baja-Pant,301,47.htm)
KLIM Mojave Glove (http://www.klimusa.com/product/Mojave-Glove,12,69.htm)
KLIM Tactical Short (http://www.klimusa.com/product/Klim-Tactical-Short,224,121.htm)

Mike Buhler’s Gear Checklist:
coming soon…

Like KLIM on Facebook and stay informed on all the Rally Mongolia news!


About Rally Mongolia:
Rally Mongolia runs August 8th-17th
Navigation Rally. 8 days long, 3700 Kilometers.
Website: http://www.sser.org/rallymongolia/

Mike Shirley and Mike Buhler are renting KTM 640 Enduros from hiring assistance from Byambaa Gantulga, Owner of KTM Tours Mongolia. Here is their website: http://www.ktmtour.mn/frontpage

Rally Mongolia Video: 

Rally Route and Stage Summary:

More Links:

Lawrence Hacking’s Rally Mongolia story from 2006

Jonah will be riding something that looks like this:

Double Diamond Athletic Club 

Mike Buehler’s story on ADVrider

Rally Mongolia Post

Mike Shirley’s Spot Page—Follow Mike across Mongolia! 

Mike Shirley and Mike Buehler’s bikes