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The Noobs Rally 2024: Uniting at the Ultimate Adventure for Rookie Riders

Noobs Rally

Images: Finn Joseph, Jason Spafford, and Joel Paez

Venturing into the heart of Death Valley’s Panamint Springs, the beginner-friendly Noobs Rally from March 20 to 24 welcomed a diverse crowd of dual-sport, dirt-riding, and adventure enthusiasts for fun-forging camaraderie and skill-building. Hosted annually by Joel Paez (NSFW), the community gathering marked its 17th year in “denoobing less experienced riders.”

While the Rally is geared towards newcomers seeking to enhance their riding abilities, thanks to expert riders willing to lend a helping hand and support the NR’s objectives, any rider is welcome to join in the festivities.

Fortunately, Joel graciously invited us to join the Rally as guest seasoned riders, aligning with our itinerary of journeying through the American West.

Noobs Rally

Why Death Valley?

Death Valley’s allure lies in its vast expanse of desert terrain, which offers something for riders of varying skill levels. From wide gravel stretches and 4WD routes to technical single-track roads, this iconic destination provides an adult playground for riders seeking new off-road challenges and breathtaking vistas.

Panamint Springs, the Rally’s chosen location, is an ideal base camp. Helpfully, NR Supporter FYYFF posted a campsite map with emergency contact numbers on the NR thread. Bikers can conveniently access dirt trails within two miles left or right of the campground. Moreover, upon our arrival in the locale, we were bestowed with bright desert gold wildflowers carpeting the landscape.

What’s Included

Participants enjoyed many amenities at the event, including four nights of hotel or camping accommodation with bathroom facilities, morning coffee, snacks, and hearty dinners. Thanks to volunteers like Jim Jansenn (spafxer), each attendee received a free t-shirt, fundraiser raffle ticket, and discount coupons for motorcycle gear. Memorabilia and swag were available for purchase. I

Informative sessions covered topics like suspension tuning and tire changing, while activities included a beginner off-road riding demonstration by Jimmy Lewis in his Rider Refresher Training. Pre-rally one-day off-road sessions were even offered to the noobs.

Noobs Rally

Preparation for the Noobs

For newcomers or returning riders, attending the Noobs Rally in Death Valley demands preparation, as emphasized by lead organizers Todd Richards (bigtodd) and Geoff (GSequoia). Assessing riding abilities and comfort levels is crucial due to Death Valley’s varied terrain, from paved roads to challenging single tracks. Supporters like Matt Kinne (rider914) advise attendees to ask questions on the NR thread beforehand and talk to other riders to gauge their capabilities.

Familiarizing yourself with bike setups for off-road riding and ensuring proper maintenance, tire tread, and fuel range is essential. Safety remains paramount, with guidelines suggesting riding in groups, adhering to ride plans, and carrying essentials like water and a first aid kit. Leaving hard-sided panniers behind reduces safety risks while seeking advice from experienced riders enriches the experience. Ultimately, attendees are encouraged to enjoy Death Valley, absorb the Rally’s spirit, and ride responsibly.

Noobs Rally

Conquering DV’s Desert Trails

Despite a higher number of road closures this year due to a deluge of rain, participants still managed to explore diverse routes, each with its adventure and scenic beauty. Riders delved into Death Valley’s rich history and rugged terrain, from the ghost town of Ballarat to Trona’s pinnacles (see parts one, two, and three) to the historic Cerro Gordo Mines. A rough ride to the Hot Springs via Saline Valley Road offered an oasis of rejuvenation amid the unforgiving desert.

Rally Supporters, Larry Dysert (GalacticGS), and Marty Stone (Motopsychoman) offered some recommended routes to explore from Panamint Springs Resort (PSR) onwards, each with its characteristics and challenges:

· PSR—South Pass—Saline Valley—Hot Springs

· PSR—Ballarat

· PSR—Beatty—Rhyolite—Titus Canyon

· Chloride Cliffs Loop

· PSR—Hunter Mtn—Lost Burro Mine—Racetrack—Lippincott—Saline Valley

· Ballarat—Pleasant Canyon—South Park

· PSR—Darwin—Centennial Flats—Boxcar Cabin

· Ballarat—Goler—Mengal—Geologist Cabin—West Side Road—Furnace Creek

· PSR—Charcoal Kilns—Aguereberry Point—Skidoo

Thursday’s Highlight: Raffle Extravaganza

The raffle, held after a carnivore’s utopia for a barbecue, kick-started Thursday night proceedings at the Rally. It was a heartwarming fundraiser for motorcycle-related causes, made possible by the generosity of various sponsors. Singlehandedly, Cathy Abbey (sopascat) sold $4,000 worth of raffle tickets in under two 2 hours! As names were called, whoops were made in the audience, and prizes were claimed, the excitement in the air was palpable. The raffle showcased the incredible support that defines the Noobs Rally community.

Friday’s Off-Road Rollercoaster: Tales from the Trail

Embarking on an intermediate ride from PSR to Ballarat Trading Post, accompanied by seasoned dirt riders Stephen (livlifenow) and his gang, thrust me back into off-road challenges. The initial 29-mile stretch on a wide gravel trail served as a comfortable warm-up, with sandy washes and scattered rocks adding excitement. Beyond the Trading Post, things escalated to spicy as we tackled a steep, rock-strewn track. Still adjusting to WilyCat, my KTM 500 EXC-F, after a five-year hiatus on a dual sports bike, I grappled with the hill’s rocks and gradient.

After unsuccessfully negotiating one too many large rocks in my path, a sudden throttle twist led to my first “whiskey throttle,” a humbling reminder of the learning curve. My bike, seemingly protective, remained steadfast against the cliff face rather than tumbling down on me. Reflecting on the challenging terrain and lessons learned, I had bitten off more than I could chew. Encountering an impassable water crossing marked our turnaround point.

Despite the initial struggle, the journey back felt like a triumph. Each obstacle overcome reinforced the importance of learning, pushing boundaries just outside the comfort zone, and embracing the exhilaration of off-road riding.

Saturday’s Training Ride: Mastering Technique

On Saturday, a group called R2D2 Traveling Off-Road Circus generously offered to repair my motorcycle following the previous day’s spill. Meanwhile, another skilled rider group led by Finn Joseph and Matt Kinne took the rookie riders to an open area, creating a supportive environment for growth. In this application, riders eager to refine their off-road skills found a sanctuary free from judgment. Guided by experienced motorcyclists, participants learned various techniques, starting with maneuvers on hard-packed dirt, progressing to gravel and sand!

Through patient instruction, new riders like Flavia Barros practiced negotiating hills, mastering hill starts, emergency stops, and balancing while standing on the pegs. The supportive atmosphere allowed participants to develop their abilities at their own pace. Likely, a missed opportunity for me!

Finn observed Flavia’s determination and perseverance, noting her continuous effort to push her limits. With each lap around the loop, Flavia wanted to attempt it “one more time.” Her growing confidence was evident, steadily increasing from the beginning to the end of the session. Overall, riders of mixed skill levels benefited from the chance to enhance their proficiency beyond the pavement, fostering a spirit of learning within the Rally community.

Noob's Rally

That’s It, Folks, Until Next Year

The Noobs Rally 2024 was more than just a gathering of riders—it was a celebration of riding community spirit, the fellowship of the road, and imbibing the essence of adventure at all levels in an inclusive space. As riders came together, such as Tom’s Tinkering and Adventures, to share stories, impart some education, and tackle new challenges, they formed bonds that transcended the confines of the Rally itself.

In the desert-scapes of Death Valley, friendships were forged and deepened, skills were developed and dialed in, and memories were made—ensuring that every rider departed after making some meaningful connections. Best of all, we all departed with a desire to return, as most do year after year.

Read more: Iraqi Escapade

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British born and location independent, Four Wheeled Nomad is Lisa Morris and Jason Spafford. Remote wilderness exploration is the couple’s driving force, enabling their skillset as content creators. Previously, they co-ran scuba diving trips. Having hung up the fins, they motorcycled the Americas—an almost five-year, 80,000-mile jaunt taking in Antarctica to the Arctic. Jason is a photographer who dabbles in filmmaking. His internationally published portfolio is layered in two decades of adventure travel, landscape, and commercial, and his beautiful captures can be found on Instagram. Lisa freelances for publications worldwide in the hopes of inspiring people to consider their relationship with nature. Currently, a photographic expedition sees them in a Toyota Hilux, roaming Nordic countries and beyond as borders reopen.