First timer thinking about Finke? Part 1

Author: Vaughan Cumming   Date Posted:9 January 2015 

First timer thinking about Finke? Part 1 main image First timer thinking about Finke? Part 1 image
If you are a first timer thinking about doing the Finke Desert Race then check this blog out!

Part 1 - It really is this good!

So you have seen all the amazing Finke videos on YouTube and facebook, read articles in magazines and heard all the stories good and scary about Australia's GREATEST motorcycle race the Tatts Finke Desert Race, the Bathurst 1000 of motorcycle races, but your still not sure if your up to the challenge? You think that you don't have enough racing experience to do such a race? You think its to hard to organise the logistics of traveling out to the center of Australia? You heard the bulls#@t stories of everybody getting smashed up in the desert? blah blah blah!!!

Have you got any other excuses??? If yes just get them out now and then leave them right here! Because it's time to grab a cup of concrete and harden, stop listening to the east coast riders who got smoked by unknown locals and have a read of some true facts about the best life experience you will ever have on a motorcycle in world! YES in the world!

The Finke is rich in history and great stories of the battles up front with all the greatest riders in the country and even the world duking it out over 500 odd km's of the best and fastest desert tracks in Australia but there are way better articles written by much better writers than myself you can fine by punching Tatts Finke Desert Race into the good ol google machine.


This blog is here to show people an average rider can do it on whatever bike new or old big or small and have a great time, get a healthy addiction to something they love and can make you more mates than a bike shop owner! This is just my story of my 10 or so years of Finke adventures and some helpful insights to planning your trip to Alice for the 2015 40th anniversary of the great race!

 Me on the right with BDR rider, owner and 2006 Finke winner Ryan Branford


Let me introduce myself,

My name is Vaughan from MSC and I'm a Finke tragic, addict and lover. If motorcycle events were compared to drugs Finke is heroin of dirt bike events. Now I'm not a drug type of fella but really Finke is like that really bad thing you try to give up but just can't! I tried in 2010 to 2012 but it really was hard and I gave in to my addiction 3 years later and bought a new RMZ450 just 6 weeks out from the June long weekend event in 2013 and went back for more, my 7th Finke to be exact and my 9th attendance.

Finke was possibly much harder to give up for me for a few reasons, first being I own and run with my father Mark a engineering business called MSC MOTO and we make steering dampers, one of the very most important components you need fitted to a bike for a high speed desert race like the Finke. So as you can imagine in April and May we get most of our customers ringing to order parts for Finke and are usually so excited about the adventure about to take place that the phone call is somewhat extended so we can talk about Finke a bit more! Yes its like a reformed junkie hanging out in a Kings Cross back ally giving advice on substance abuse....... The inevitable was going to happen and I was going to cave in to my Finke addiction once again and return to the red center!


I have raced Finke now 8 times and have finished 8 times a finish rate of 100% the only test I have ever got 100% at ever and a result I'm very proud of. Even though my results are not at the front of the field or in the top 20 outright I'm stoked just as much as recent Finke winners Toby Price, Ben Grabham or Ryan Branford to cross that finish line on Monday afternoon.


Coming from the East Coast doing my first Finke

Finke is an expensive event I'm not going to lie about that BUT if put in perspective its great value for money, let me give you an example!

Finke is going to cost at a guess between 3 and 5 grand to do for a rider from Sydney but if you were to try find something else that gives you the same thrill, sense of self satisfaction, pleasure, pain and bragging rights amongst your mates there's a good chance you will be divorced and divorces cost way more than 5K from what I have been told so YES its great value for your hard earned!! It's easier to just go start prepping your bike for Finke 2015!!!

I did my first Finke in 2004 after traveling with my family to Alice Springs in 2002 and 2003 to spectate and help our sponsored rider Brad Williscroft who was a real chance of winning the event. I couldn't handle watching anymore and in 2004 I put my entry in and then worked out what I was going to ride, a feat not so easy being an apprentice racing Super Motard on the east which meant my bike was not exactly desert ready! Through our contacts of sponsoring teams and top riders I was fortunate enough to get to ride the Team Honda Jamie Cunningham Safari Winning XR650 and I was stoked! I had the chance to ride a bike that was realistically capable of running top 5 with the right pilot so I thought great I'm just going to head out of Alice and click the big girl in to top and hold it pinned!! 

XR650 2004 in prologue                                  


WOW how wrong I was!! This track was awesome in so many ways, the dust the speed the whoops and the more whoops, the crowd that don't care if your winning or what ever they just keep cheering you one making you feel like your a legend! It's really unique track with nothing comparable.

Rewind a few days to pre running, and the big XR had me thinking I had bitten off more than I can chew and it was still only Wednesday. I rode from Alice to the 200km bonnet and back and although I had so much fun I was stuffed! Even as a reasonably fit 19 year old I had nothing left that night except this feeling of WTF am I doing....... Bare with me here I'm not trying to scare you just showing that you that the scare always comes before the addiction sets in!

Anyway to cut a long story slightly shorter I made it through prologue in the top 70 which I was kind of happy with despite an off track eucalyptus interuptus moment which cost a bit of time and having me think my race was doomed because I stuffed my prologue! I now know as a first timer if you are out of the top 20 it really is not that important and it's not worth ending your adventure so early for!

I made it to the start line on Sunday and as I usually get really nervous before a normal race I was thinking this is going to cripple me! My parents headed south and I entered the start area, the most AWESOME feeling I have ever had on a motorcycle and it's before the race has even started! The start area is huge with close to 500 bikes all in rows of 8 taking off into the desert 1 minute apart. I sat on the line amongst the organised ciaos quietly breathing in the 2 stroke fumes of bikes up ahead and then realised I was perfectly calm not nervous nothing just content in being at the start line of the biggest event in my life! This really is all that is important because once your at the start line it's now up to the desert itself and your preparation, the track is so consuming you really just get through the best you can. The track is not hard technically in anyway except for the sand, I doubt you will get stuck like you can on the east coast monster hills or creeks etc but it is very physical and very mentally draining, that's why the Finke is such a different beast to anything else you have ever done!

I rode all the way down and back with a few issues but mostly with Fuel stops, basically I missed one which was my fault but as its Finke I called into another campsite and the guys also infected with the Finke bug had me filled up and on my way in seconds no questions asked! Then on the way home my quick filler got an airlock and only put a few liters in so then I run out and had to push my bike about 2kms up the track which was luckily the hard pack road section till I found a another campsite which was a bunch of blokes that had more empty cans around them than the warehouse at the XXXX brewery! They ended up getting me the fuel out of their generator pouring it into an empty beer can and getting me on my way! That was a deluxe effort who ever you were!

Anyway I finished and let me tell you, the first time you cross that finish line at the end of the Tatts Finke Desert Race you get so many emotions go through you that if I tried to write them here I would have worse arm pump than I get in the race! You really need to read the next part of my blog and get everything in order to come find out for yourself in 2015.



The race is run on the Queens birthday long weekend in June every year so simply put it into google calendars on your phone for repeat for like the next 20 years! The race week starts with sign on out at the start finish line just out of town which you will see if you come into Alice from the South. You head out and do sign on with all the super friendly Finke volunteers which only takes a few minutes but you end up there for ages usually chatting with someone about the weekend!

Next is scrutineering held out at the Alice show grounds and this is something to be experienced, with gazillion dollar buggies and the trickest bikes you have ever seen all spread between 2 massive sheds and a full festival atmosphere. You will need all your riding gear and your bike so some extra hands are great here to help out! The scrutineering is an event in itself and ends at about 9pm which all riders and drivers are expected to stay at until stumps, it all helps build the event to what it is so no being all sneaky and darting off early because it's you that will miss out!

Saturday is prologue, the fastest and most fun natural terrain mx track you will ever ride. This is basically qualifying and is very important to the top guys and great fun for the mere mortals! It does help to have a good run but not crucial and a lot less devastating than busting yourself or a bike here. Once again its an event in itself and is a full day of watching and hanging out with more potential mates!

The real race starts on Sunday with cars going down to Finke in the morning and first bikes off at about 11.30am. The top 20 take off 2 at a time 1 minute apart then 8 every minute after that. You race down through the super rough track at your own comfortable pace dealing with the different conditions thrown at you as safe as you can while still cracking the throttle on the big straights and weaving through the very supportive crowds the 230 odd km's down to Finke. You will do 2 pit stops which I will touch on more later but you have many really great options here. The end of day 1 is only half way and down at Finke its where you pull up camp for the night. This is also another great night with fireworks put on but people with more cash than me and heaps of stories to tell and listen to before having a feed and climbing into your swag for a well deserved sleep. They now have toilets and catering down at Finke which you can find out more on the Finke website.

For some reason the race home is slightly easier and usually quicker! Don't ask why it just is for heaps of riders and even though you feel sore and tired when you climb out of your swag in the morning and won't feel like racing home you need to just suck it up wave goodbye to your support crew and prepare yourself to race north. It's the same track in reverse so really everything is kind of expected and you really just bolt for home. As you get closer to Alice the body is a bit "how ya goin" and the bike might have some bits hanging off it but you just get this urge to push through and don't let this race beat you, trust me most years I have been here I always been over 110kg and not in a great shape with preparation but you always seem to make it happen. Just keep telling yourself to get your ass home and earn that finishers dog spike! It's worth the pain.

Monday night its presentation night at the Casino in Alice, the first time in a while you will let your hair down and have a few cold ones! This really doesn't need explaining as most of us know how to party and if you don't one of you new mates will make sure you have a sore head in the morning to go with your sore body!


Seriously doing the Tatts Finke Desert Race will be a truly great experience from the road trip to the presentation night and everything in between you will not regret doing the race and I will guarantee you will be waiting to go again when time and budget allows because the Finke addiction won't allow you not to! 


I will put together part 2 which will be about prepping your bike and a approximate budget plan and time line for getting ready for 2015 Finke. I have talked close to 20 mates into coming with me to do the great race since 2005 so now I'm going to get the rest of you to understand its not that big 500 2 stroke only 6th gear pinned drag race! No its much more and anyone who claims anything else probably haven't ridden the race or at least raced in recent years.

Hope you enjoy and find this helpful.




Comments (5)

Thanks for the blog mate.

By: on 18 December 2019
Awrsome job , I'm planning a 2021 campain and this has help me set my mind at ease knowing that most that line up are feeling the same way ...

Thanks for the blog mate.

By: on 18 December 2019
Awesome job , I'm planning a 2021 campaign and this has help me set my mind at ease knowing that most that line up are feeling the same way ...

First time tinker to be in 2019

By: on 15 June 2018
This was a great read thanks for putting this up mate I'm already preparing for next yr

Thanks Vaughan

By: on 8 January 2017
Great intro to the finke! I'm thinking of doing the finke in 2017. If l make it l owe you a beer or two. Hope to catch up with you. Tony

First time

By: on 1 December 2016
Great story fist time 2017 makes me feel abit easyer I will b 58 by then but it has to b done reading this has given me more of an insite for what it's going to be like time to read blog 2 cheers

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