Home » Absolute Legend Buys Used Motorcycle, Immediately Takes It On The Baja 1000 With Little Help, Actually Finishes The Whole Thing

Absolute Legend Buys Used Motorcycle, Immediately Takes It On The Baja 1000 With Little Help, Actually Finishes The Whole Thing

Baja 1000 Surprise Rider Ts2
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The Baja 1000 is one of the most brutal off-road events on the planet, bar none. Competitors race through miles of punishing and dangerous terrain in an event that’s about human endurance as much as the vehicles. Competitors normally roll into town after months of careful preparation, with trucks full of support crew and trailers full of gear. Not Wouter-jan Van Dijk, though. He rolled up with little more than a used bike and a dream.

Van Dijk is a Dutch endurance rider. He’s competed in serious events before, like the Red Bull Romaniacs enduro, but had never taken on a challenge like the Baja 1000 before. As covered by The Checkered Flag, he was inspired to tackle the race by his friend Shane Moss, who raced the event back in 2019. He convinced Van Dijk to enter as an Ironman competitor, which sees racers take on the whole event solo, without a driver change.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Van Dijk wouldn’t be heading down with a big race team or major sponsors, though. Instead, he planned to compete on a shoestring budget carrying whatever he and Moss could get down to Mexico on the back of a couple of bikes. Presently living in Australia, he flew into San Diego to purchase a KTM 500 EXC off Craigslist, which would serve as his noble steed for the race. The bike quickly received his entrant number 741X scrawled on the side, a bigger fuel tank, and a set of saddlebags for cargo. Van Dijk and Moss rode down to La Paz, Mexico, for the race start, so everything they needed had to fit on the bike.

The journey down didn’t go without incident, unfortunately. The ride to La Paz had worn the tires and cracked the bike’s subframe, which was suspected to be due to the load of all the gear they stashed on the bike. Upon arrival, the pair had to rush to seek repairs and complete other tweaks to get the bike through scrutineering to start the race. Van Dijk’s story was quickly spreading through the paddock by this point, with spectators and competitors alike eager to see what this young competitor could do on a used bike that he rode to the race start after buying on Craigslist. Adding to the challenge, Van Dijk had no previous Baja experience, no opportunity to pre-run the course, and no GPS.

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The KTM 500 EXC is an enduro racer that’s been in production since 1999. It’s powered by a 510cc thumper and weighs a low 251 pounds dry. While class winners are often found behind the bars of Honda CRF450X enduros, the KTM does have a presence at the Baja 1000. Though, many competitors mod them before taking them into the race. Our hero’s machine got a larger fuel tank for its endurance task. Here’s what a stock KTM 500 EXC looks like:

2015 Ktm 500 Exc1
KTM

[Mercedes’ Note: The reason why this is so amazing has to do with the Baja 1000 itself. This is a punishing race that you don’t really do on a whim and a used motorcycle purchased from Craigslist. Toyota, a brand with a rich history in the Baja 1000, offers some historical insight into this huge event:

The Baja 1000 didn’t start as a “race” – it started in 1962 when two motorcyclists timed how long it took to ride from Tijuana to La Paz – 952.7 miles – they did it in 39 hours, 56 minutes. On November 1, 1967, the first Baja 1000 race was held – it was won by a dune buggy in a time of 27 hours, 38 minutes. The course for the Baja 1000 changes every year.

[…]

The Mexican government took control of the 1973 Baja 1000 and quickly found out that it was more work than they bargained for. Mickey Thompson, a Baja racer and world land speed record holder, formed Southern California Off-Road Enterprises (SCORE) to promote off-road races, and in 1974, the Mexican government granted exclusive rights to SCORE to hold Baja races, with the Baja 1000 resuming under SCORE’s control in 1975.

Baja 1000 participants will compete in a bit of everything from side-by-sides and trophy trucks to motorcycles, baja bugs, and buggies. Notable is the fact that the Baja 1000 isn’t a closed course with all sorts of rules and red tape. The race is essentially a free-for-all with competitors all over the place. Oh, and safety? Well, that’s only as important as you make it. As The Drive wrote in 2019, Baja 1000 participants are a little bit of everyone from the poor nobody trying to make a name for themselves to the rich tycoon with a private jet and an entire team of mechanics. The Baja 1000 captivates everyone, including families who go out into the sands, celebrities, and all points in between. Now, the race has one more oddball competitor to add to its ranks.

Before you head to your own local Craigslist, you should know the race is no walk in the park. Aside from terrain that will try its best to destroy your rig, an accident can leave you and others injured or dead. Collisions happen, sometimes with people who aren’t even in the race. In 2016, three people died during the Baja 1000. One of them was just an 8-year-old boy in the field of spectators. This race gets brutal, where crashes can leave you without medical assistance and even the chase helicopters meet terrain in an untimely manner. – MS]

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Baja1000
Screenshot: Life Project/YouTube

Amazingly, Van Dijk took off like a rocket out of the blocks when the race began on Thursday. He set the fastest time of all the Pro Moto Ironman riders by the first checkpoint, 233 miles into the race. By the second waypoint, he was second quickest, before he began to drop back a little as the race went on.

There was no big truck full of crew waiting for Van Dijk along the route, ready to service his bike and replenish him with food and fuel. Hilariously, he primarily relied on Mexico’s chain of OXXO convenience stores to keep him going along the grueling course, with Moss also meeting him at select points on the way. Moss rode a similar bike, allowing the two to swap over parts in the event something failed on the race bike.

However, Van Dijk’s story had endeared him to the Baja cohort, and he found himself welcomed by other crews who all wanted to do what they could to help him finish. As the weekend wore on, Van Dijk munched tacos and drank electrolyte drinks while a gaggle of helpers stepped up to clean his goggles and at one point, zip-tie his damaged bike back together. Oh yeah, Van Dijk’s motorcycle got a bend in its front wheel, causing it to leak air. Apparently, while Van Dijk was distracted, helpful competitors got Van Dijk back into the race by using zip ties to hold the tire to the bent wheel, allowing it to hold air. Van Dijk was such a sensation that others wanted to see him finish!

Van Dijk ended up crossing the line with a final time of 48 hours, 27 minutes, 3 seconds. That included 13 minutes and 18 seconds in penalties for speeding and missing Virtual Checkpoints. It was ultimately good enough to place him seventh out of the nine finishers in the Pro Moto Ironman category.

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Speaking to the media after the event, he was clearly exhausted after the harrowing journey. He noted that his navigation device had fallen off, and his front rim had cracked towards the end of the course, but that crews had stepped in to sort that out for him. “I didn’t even know they were doing it, because I stopped somewhere to check where my mate was… I wasn’t really on point with that… and before I knew it, they’d filled the tank and started zip tying the wheel, all over the bike, so that was good.”

At the Baja 1000, danger lurks over every berm, and maintaining one’s wits on the desolate course is key to coming out on top. It’s hard enough to do that with a well-resourced crew backing you up; it’s another thing to do it with nearly zero budget, just two guys, and a couple of bikes. It’s clear that Van Dijk’s story was an inspiring one in the vein of Bill Caswell, both by the way other crews supported him along the course, and by the reception he received on crossing the finish line. Few have really treated the Baja 1000 like a run-what-you-brung event before, but Van Dijk did, and he even survived to cross the finish line. Bravo.

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
4 months ago

As someone that has raced the Baja 1000 and all the other major desert races you got to know this isn’t the way the story should have ended. He had a lot of luck and help from race teams the heard his fucking crazy story and helped him out. Now I’m curious to see what KTM does for him? They couldn’t buy this much good publicity for their brand if they tried. And no, I never finished the 1000. Did have fun though.

Silent But Deadly
Silent But Deadly
4 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Smith

I suspect that Old Mate took the attitude of ‘keep going in good spirits until something breaks’ without any specific expectations for the event other than to have a good time. However, once the extra support started to be offered then perhaps things escalated. He done did good.

There’s a similar story playing out in the Enduro MTB world regarding a young Kiwi named Fairbrother…

SYKO Simmons
SYKO Simmons
4 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Smith

Respect! Growing up Danny Hamilton was my idol! Always wanted to run the 1000, you did it! Fukin legend!

Bill Garcia
Bill Garcia
4 months ago

This is a great story – and KTM should make this guy an ambassador.

I admire this approach to the Baja, in the same measure that I think it’s absolutely too close to a death wish for me… but that’s probably also why my life is more “boring”

Marc Fuhrman
Marc Fuhrman
4 months ago

Wow, absolutely epic!

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
4 months ago

For a wonderful story along the lines of this, check out Dana Brown’s “Dust to Glory.”

He’s the son of Bruce Brown of “On Any Sunday” fame, and Dust is all about the Baja 1000, including following Mouse McCoy, the first guy to do it solo on a bike.

Great stuff!

SYKO Simmons
SYKO Simmons
4 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I watch that film at least twice a year

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
4 months ago
Reply to  SYKO Simmons

The trophy truck launch scene near the beginning always makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up – such a great visual – music combination.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
4 months ago

His parents named him well. He is definitely a Wouter-jan.

From now on, his name will be a byword.

“Did you see Billy’s motocross run? That maniac is a solid Wouter-jan I’m telling you.”

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
4 months ago

KTM, are you reading this?!? This is the kind of publicity that give PR firms MASSIVE bulges.

A. Barth
A. Barth
4 months ago

a used bike that he rode to the race start after buying on Craigslist.

I wonder if the seller will see this and experience some elation and/or regret.

Before you head to your own local Craigslist,

Too late, mate: I have it bookmarked and check it every day. 🙂

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