More than his skill on a bike, more than his determination to finish every stage in rally raid, it’s the positive attitude and tenacity that makes him who he is, and why he’s such an effective competitor. Last autumn, he put that grin to the test, running two grueling rally raid competitions back to back in his first year in the sport: the Baja Rally and the Sonora Rally.
Imagine riding almost entirely off-road, negotiating slippery washouts, enormous dunes, shale rock, wildlife, and inattentive motorists while navigating by compass and directions written on a paper scroll. The mission: to collect waypoints and reach the end of each stage in as little time as possible without incurring penalties. Now do this for fifteen days straight and pay tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars for the privilege. Congratulations. You’re racing rally-raid.
If that sounds like a far cry from your daily commute, you’re not alone. Fox didn’t start off bashing across the world’s deserts. Well before winding up roadbooks, he took a hiatus from his daily grind to travel far and wide on his Kawasaki KLR650. It wasn’t too long after learning to ride in 2013 when he transitioned to dirt, inspired to explore the world. He learned everything on the fly: fixing flats, hunting electrical gremlins, servicing equipment.
Those lessons came fast and hard, and Fox journeyed from the United States to anywhere he could reach on two wheels. When that adventure ran out, He bought a Triumph Tiger and found his way to the Biltwell 100. Fox: “My first race, ever, was at the 2020 Biltwell 100. I ran the event on my Triumph Tiger 900. I just like to challenge myself a little bit more than I have to. Funny enough, I ended up in third out of six within my class. That felt great, yes, but for me the race wasn’t about placing. What I really wanted was the experience. I would have been happy last.”
That race set the hook and two years later Fox tested his limits in Mexico, signing up for the Sonora Rally School. It was his first taste of navigation and a slippery extravaganza that proved more physically than mentally draining. Later, he turned his attention to the Baja Rally School, riding multi-kilometer laps each day around a beachside homebase in San Quintin. The course was brutal, lined with sharp volcanic stones, cacti, silt, ruts, technical climbs, and soft beach sand. When he was done drawing his tracks around the Peninsula, the roadbook began to click.
The book is part map, part hieroglyph, packed with directions and warnings, all unintelligible to the untrained eye. Each participant suffered their fair share of mishaps in the class. But there is no doubt, the attention was on that guy who brought a pool noodle to a sword fight. Or rather, a 230 kg adventure bike to a rally clinic. Skeptical at first, the other attendees started calling Fox Tiger King after watching him tackle some of the most difficult topography in Baja on his 888cc Triumph. He’d live up to the name when the six-day event officially set off in late September.
The Denver native is a REV’IT! ambassador and took on the two races alongside fellow brand ambassadors like Canadian filmmaker and snow-sport aficionado Anthony Bonello, Mexican adventure YouTuber Charly Sinewan, and Netherlands-native Noraly Schoenmaker, a.k.a. Itchy Boots. But while most races are dogfights among competitors, rally raid is different. The beauty of this sport is comradery, even at its highest levels.
Racers work to elevate each other because they all know that the men and women around you, whom you’re technically there to beat, are not what you’re actually out there to overcome. The terrain, the weather, the clock, stamina, exhaustion, all contrive to keep you from the end of each stage. In the end, rally raids are a race against yourself, against the weakest bits of you that shout the loudest. That beg you to stop. The teams at Sonora and Baja all know exactly how hard it is to reach the end of each stage, over and over and over. That knowledge bonds them.
“Prior to Sonora and Baja, I had never really known Anthony, Noraly, or Charlie. But it was a quick friendship as we all shared a common passion and goal. I became a little competitive with Noraly at one point [at the Baja Rally] because she kept beating me by mere seconds on a stage or two. Changing tires, Charlie and Noraly would be empathetic as they flew past. I did everything I could to catch up to them!
At the Sonora Rally, Anthony and I rode our own race the entire time, but we would chat altogether in the bivouacs about the course and the challenges from the Special. All three of them are phenomenal riders and individuals. It was great to have REV’IT! and those rallies act as a bridge for us to meet and share some adventures together.”
Watching each other’s successes inspires and motivates competitors to dig deeper, to keep going. Just swinging a leg back over the seat again and again when everything seems to be resisting you. Fox’s mantra for success at these consecutive races was “just show up.” Next to seat time and fitness, this was the most important step in being ready to race. At the Baja Rally, the Tiger King came back to San Quintin to prove his worth. It was a tire-changing nightmare that – as you might have guessed – didn’t break his spirit one bit. He took it as a lesson. One which not only primed him for a successful race in Sonora, but took him to the top in Baja.
To his surprise, Brett won the Malle Moto category. And in celebration, so-to-speak, instead of taking it easy during the short window of freedom he had between events, Fox thought it would be a hoot to ride through Guatemala during the rainy season. Because his idea of a laugh is dodging debris and broken drain covers in a flash flood on an adventure bike. Call it training for the next hurdles in Sonora. Fox would call it fun.
When the Sonora Rally rolled around a week and a half later, Fox found himself squaring off against dangers of a different kind: dunes. On Stage Four, Fox hit a wall, pushing himself too far on the hottest day of the rally. Dehydrated, war-worn, and weary of causing a serious issue, he reached the bivouac exhausted. But instead of being defeated, he used the ordeal as yet another tutorial for the final stages.
He managed his fluids, time, and pace better, concluding strong. In the end, Brett took Fourth Malle Moto – big bikes of course – which is arguably the most difficult category in the sport. And despite all the exhaustion of competing with no assistance, on an adventure bike, he also managed to land in 18th place overall. Not bad when you’re up against some of the toughest riders in North America.
“While Baja tested me mentally, Sonora tested me physically as I navigated through deep sand and large dunes. The weight of the bike, heat, and inexperience in the sand really pushed me to the edge. During the big dunes day, I overexerted myself and was on the brink of being a heat casualty. I learned to be more conservative and just focus on finishing the day. You can't be competitive if you’re a DNF. That stage taught me a lot, which made the following dunes day so much easier.”
Arthur C. Clarke was fond of saying: “The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.” For most of us, that’s the very definition of competing in a rally raid, to say nothing of squaring off against two competitions, back to back. But Fox wouldn’t call any of it impossible – if he even really understands the meaning of the word. He’d just grin, throw his leg over his bike, and yet again set sights on the next challenge. It’s just that now, he’d set off with two coveted finisher medals around his neck and a proverbial crown on his head.
Long live the Tiger King!
Brett Fox is just one of a select group of riders that represents the REV’IT! brand in the world of adventure riding and racing the world over, including MotoGP, WorldSBK, MotoAmerica, and more. Get to know all the passionate riders and athletes in the REV’IT! racing family.