I’m stopped at a fork in a dirt road somewhere in the Nevada Desert trying to figure out which way to go. I’m attempting to follow a roadbook, which is a six-inch wide scroll of paper that contains rows of directions, called notes, that are used in rally raid events like the Dakar Rally to navigate hundreds of kilometers with surprising accuracy. Each note in the roadbook contains a distance traveled, a visual depiction of the intersection or landmark for the note, and a heading that you should be on once you pass the indicated spot. And this is where my problem lies – what I’m seeing on the ground isn’t matching up with what my roadbook says I should see. It’s definitely possible I screwed up and my distance is off. Maybe I’m at the wrong intersection, or in something out of the Matrix, maybe there is no intersection and I just need to head off into the desert. My train of thought is interrupted by a KTM rally factory replica bike pulling up next to me; it’s rider, Mason Klein, and in the most humble way possible he asks, “what do you think?”
The reason average Joe me, and up and coming rally rock star Mason are occupying the same piece of desert, is that we’re both at a gathering of the rally community to help raise money so that Mason can race in the 2022 Dakar Rally. Mason is just 20 years old, and on January 2nd 2022, he will be the youngest motorcycle rider to ever take the start of the famed rally. Getting yourself, a bike, and all of your kit to the other side of the world for a month isn’t a thing that most 20 year-old’s budgets can accommodate, so the rally community is stepping up in a big way to help get another American to Dakar.
This gathering of rally riders is being hosted by Happy Dave, who hails from Las Vegas. It takes exactly five seconds after meeting Dave to understand that his nickname is well appointed, as Dave exudes a constant stoke for life. He has opened his house up to the rally community for a weekend of riding hundreds of kilometers of roadbooks that he’s personally created that run all through Nevada. Off the bike activities include great food, time to bench race with other outstanding riders, and a raffle with some really impressive items from rally racing history; and Dave is quarterbacking all of this to help the community help Mason.
They say that good people tend to surround themselves with more good people, and the folks at this ride are all awesome. I can’t think of another ride where I’ve seen bikes loaned out more freely, or a more tight-knit community. Rally riders come from all walks of life, yet they’re all people you want to share a campfire with. From Cannonball run record holders and industry guys, to sons of Dakar racers, to seriously quick rally hobbyists, there is amazing diversity in this community that is united by a love of rally. These riders have come from all across the United States to spend a weekend riding roadbooks to raise money for Mason.
Jumping back to that fork in the road, Mason coaches me through my navigation snag in a way that lets me learn from my rookie mistake. Mason has clearly spent a ton of time working with roadbooks and his experience shows in both navigating on the bike and later that night when revising the next day’s roadbook with feedback from riders who pre ran the book. Navigation in rally is arguably more important that outright speed on a bike; if you can’t navigate the stage, it doesn’t matter how fast you are.
Mason also knows how to rip, which combined with his navigation skills makes him competitive with the best riders in the world. Mason finished P5 in the 2021 Sonora Rally, and 1st place at his first FIM international rally: the Rally Du Maroc. Now Mason has set his sights on Dakar, which is an event that Americans have only won a single time on a motorcycle.
Getting to Dakar is not an easy task, but thanks to a great family behind him and an awesome community around him, Mason is working very hard to make his dream a reality. At Happy Dave’s ride, he rode with different groups of riders, and I’m pretty sure he spent more time letting others ride his rally bike than riding it himself. For the rest of the riders at this event, this was a special opportunity – when else can you learn from such a skilled rider, spend time enjoying a roadbook with him, and have the chance to try out his bike?
Mason Klein is a regular 20 year old, who is very hard working, humble, and happens to be an extremely talented rally rider who has set his sights on the ultimate rally challenge – the Dakar Rally. If it’s any indication, companies in the industry and the rally community have put their full-fledged support behind Mason to see him take the start at Dakar, but he’s not there just yet. Mason needs more support, so if you have the means to help get another American to Dakar, here’s how you can support Mason:
It also needs to be said that folks like Happy Dave and the people who attended his ride deserve a recognition for their efforts. It’s humbling to see these people and companies put so much effort into helping Mason. Community is everything, and I have to say that I am most impressed with the riders that comprise the rally community. As I said before, good people attract other good people, and when these folks get together great things happen.