Rally Raid UK Desert Raider 450

A 9-gallon hat for the desert cowboy.

Desert Raider 450

Rally Raid UK Desert Raider 450

If you’re feeling the need to prove your mettle in a major desert rally, RR UK and its new Desert Raider 450 are standing by to make it happen, with “turn-key” packages that allow you to show up at the start of a rally and leave the bike at the finish. All you worry about is the bit in between, during which one of Rally Raid UK’s four fully equipped all-wheel-drive trucks will tend to your every need. Experience? Overrated. More than 60 percent of Rally Raid UK’s customers are from outside the UK, and most are newcomers to desert rallying. RR UK claims to have taken more than 300 riders, drivers and mechanics to the Dakar Rally over the last 15 years (no mention of how many they’ve brought back) and has competed in every major desert rally worldwide.

Or, cough up $34,000 for the new Desert Raider and go it alone. Engine size at Dakar is limited to 450cc, so RR UK selected the Italian TM engine as its base (a 530cc version is available for other events). Oil capacity is increased to three liters, the engine is converted to dry-sump lubrication, and a separate oil tank and cooler are fitted. TM’s five-speed enduro gearbox starts out with a wide spread, but this is further increased with a higher fifth gear for reduced engine wear and improved fuel consumption. The engineers at TM are well aware that blocked pumps and injectors are the most common cause of retirement of converted enduro bikes (which is why KTM uses a carburetor on its desert bike despite fuel injection on all its four-stroke enduro and motocross models). So, to avoid such problems, the Desert Raider uses a semi-downdraft Mikuni carburetor, fed through an easy-access filter mounted behind the headstock where it (hopefully) breathes relatively clean air. The final touch is a low-level titanium exhaust, which boosts power and avoids concentrating heat around the engine.

That specialized engine is housed in a purpose-built aluminum frame with a longer wheelbase and more trail than a typical enduro bike, changes designed to pay off in improved stability at speed. The Desert Raider weighs 304 pounds before taking on its 35-liter (55-pound) fuel load, and a Marzocchi 50mm cartridge fork and Öhlins shock are sprung and damped to cope well with this changing situation. Dual front and rear fuel tanks located as low as possible and equally spaced in front of and to the rear of the center of gravity are claimed to maintain balance as fuel is burned off.

From the billet hubs to the navigation tower on the front, a lot of experience has gone into this machine. Up front, there are two ICO odometers, a repeater and a road-book holder. Space has been allocated for the necessary IriTrack, GPS, and emergency beacon and flares. For more information on getting your rally on, contact RR UK's Jim Jones (jim@rallyRaid.co.uk). As for us, we could see a lightly dusted Desert Raider 450 parked poolside in front of a nice Palm Springs bungalow. In the off season.