By Jane McGraw
The International Six Days Enduro is the oldest off-road motorcycle race in the world, enticing riders and enthusiasts alike for over a century. Twenty riders will compete in Viña del Mar, Chile, on Nov. 12-17, as part of the U.S. Club Team.
The original ISDE was held in 1913 in Carlisle, England. Since then, it has become an annual event that riders from near and far train to qualify for with teams from as many as 32 different countries vying for a spot on the podium.
This race is the ultimate test of endurance, challenging riders’ fortitude for six days and upwards of 1,250 miles. Besides navigating the grueling course, riders are only granted a few minutes per day to perform the necessary maintenance to their motorcycle, and without the help of anyone else. It is truly a survival-of-the-fittest.
The event, coined the “Olympics of Motorcycling,” is filled with racers of all different ages and experience levels.
Rodney Smith made his ISDE debut in 1992 in Australia, where he finished in second place. Smith has been a racer his whole life and is currently the Beta USA race team manager.
“When we went to Six Days, we would have a guy racing a Yamaha, a Honda, a KTM — these people who were once my competition, are now my teammates,” Smith said.
Smith was a strategic racer who used speed and smarts to outperform his competitors. He won the Grand National Cross Country championship five times and was inducted in the American Motorcycle Association Hall of Fame in 2015. Smith recognizes the great impact the ISDE has had on the sport.
“Back in the day, dirt bikes and motorcycles had a stigma — they were like ‘Hells Angels.’ But eventually, the perception was changed, it was more recognized as a professional sport and racers were considered athletes,” Smith said.
ISDE Veteran and GasGas Regional Off-Road Manager Steve Silvestri, or “G Man” to those who know him, has made a name for himself in the racing community. His nickname is an ode to his career as a Bay Area garbage man, a profession that he says kept him in tip-top shape for his off-road racing endeavors.
When it came to the ISDE, Silvestri treated it like any other race. Silvestri’s inaugural ISDE, back in 1993, was the first of five ISDE races he competed in. He medaled in every single one. Silvestri acknowledges that, on the ISDE stage, he was not just representing himself, but his country as well. In an effort to pay
it forward, Silvestri does his best to be a resource for up-and-coming racers who are looking to succeed at the ISDE.
“Less is more. Stay calm. Be relaxed. Don’t get excited or arrogant; don’t try to make things happen out of turn,” Silvestri said. “Everything you do, make it a forward motion so that it benefits you. Nervousness and excitement sometimes creates errors. Slower is faster. The more deliberate you are with your movements and riding, the better you will do in the long run.”
Brothers AJ (25) and Drew (19) Lehr have both qualified for a 2018 U.S. club team, a rare occurrence that has only happened four other times throughout the history of the ISDE. Even though he is considered young by societal standards, AJ is widely recognized as a veteran racer. This year marks his sixth time qualifying for the ISDE, but the fact that he gets to compete alongside his brother makes it all the more special.
“I tell Drew to calm down, reign it in. Tame it back. Strategize,” Lehr said. “It’s more important to finish than to be the fastest in one spot. Look at the long haul, the whole picture — don’t think about the short game. Think about day six on day one.”
These words of wisdom are advice any newcomer to the ISDE could benefit from.
California native Dante Oliveira began his career when he was just a wide-eyed, knee-high toddler watching his uncle race motorcycles for sport before he was able to ride himself. This year, Oliveira pushed his career to the limit, riding for FMF/RPM/KTM Racing/Team Maxxis and qualifying for the ISDE U.S. team.
ISDE attracts dedicated sponsors who want to align themselves with serious racers at the globally recognized event. McGraw Powersports is proud to become a part of the iconic history of off-road racing in sponsoring club team newcomer Oliveira on his quest to earn an ISDE medal. As a premiere company offering specialized coverage for motorcycles, this is a unique and exciting opportunity to support young, talented riders and give back to the industry.