Written by by Skyler Howes | Transcribed by Gigi Lascurettes | Photos by WESTx1000 & Rally Zone. Posted in Riders
In many ways, rally raid is an elite sport. It’s not that it’s unapproachable; the challenge is that it’s not always finish-able. The few who find themselves in this “elite” group of athletes are tireless in their quest to be a part of it. It took years of hard work to end up where I am today—selling everything I had for entry fees and parts, pushing my limits on the racecourse, going head-to-head with the greatest riders in the industry, and with far less of a cushion to fall back on if my race made a turn for the worst. It’s a story that’s familiar for many in my position, who share the same ambitions, opportunities and drive.
One of the other American riders following this path is a young, quiet, humble go-getter who’s proving blood, sweat, and tears, and a lot of roadbook training, can pay off. Rallye du Maroc 2021 was evidence of this, where my buddy, 20-year-old Mason Klein, won his class, making his debut at Dakar all the more exciting to watch.
I caught up with Mason just before we all set off for Morocco to talk about his venture into rally. If he’d only known what was to come at the race…
Skyler: What was your first rally? And how did you do?
Mason: The Sonora Rally 2020. I was really excited, but that all kind of screwed up on Day One when I had an avoidable bike issue. The only way to prevent it would have been to have spent more time testing the bike. I had to add a rear fuel tank to make the entire distance, and it caused a lot of extra stress on the frame. But I’m proud of my finishes from Day Two to Five because I was in the top three every day. Luckily this year at Sonora Rally 2021, I was much more prepared, showing up with a perfect bike and a great pit crew. My brother worked hard on the bike every day, and I was so grateful for that. I was also really glad I’d done the Jordi Viladom Training School before the rally. I learned a lot more about preparation as well as some general knowledge that you can’t pick up anywhere else other than from the best. So my best finish is fifth overall at Sonora Rally 2021; I hope to do well at my next rally in Morocco.
Skyler: When did you begin to realize that you were figuring out the navigation side of rally racing?
Mason: It didn’t happen right away. My first roadbook was one I made with a cardboard SPOT Tracker box, pencils, and rubber bands, but I knew that I wanted to continue at it because this new way of navigating and riding was much more fun that following a ribbon. So, from there I worked hard at it.
Skyler: I know that Dakar is a huge goal for you. How are you preparing for your first time this January?
Mason: I’ve been preparing for Dakar for a few years, but what I’m doing this year that’s different is attending the Jordi Viladom School—after that I was able to race Morocco. I’ll be on basically the exact same setup as my Dakar bike and will spend much more time testing suspension and making sure I’m 100% prepared for the race. I think this year I’ve put in the most hours and hoping all these things lead to a solid finish and a lot of fun during my first Dakar.
Skyler: What are your goals for your first Dakar?
Mason: I understand my goal for Dakar should be to finish, especially because I’ll be the youngest to ever enter in a moto-category, but secretly I’m hoping to do well. My goal is to one day be on a factory team. However, the more immediate goals in January is to do well and finish.
Skyler: If everything goes to plan, how do you see yourself in the next five years?
Mason: I’m also a college student, and in five years I hope to have a bachelor’s degree and also have a great job on a factory team with my good friends at KTM.
Read the full interview in Jan/Feb 2022 issue.
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Skyler Howes is a factory motorcycle racer for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna, a position he’s pursued diligently since entering the rally raid scene. A long-time desert racer, bikes (motorized and manual) have been in his blood since a young age, fueling his choices since day one. And these days, he hopes to lend his voice to fans and enthusiasts of the sport—if not to the motorcycle community as a whole. Instagram: skylerhowes110