Rhino Rally completes 33rd year of motorcycle competition

Riders getting ready for the start of their competition at the 33rd Rhino Rally, Warner Valley, Utah, Feb. 27, 2016 | Photo by Bob Vosper, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — For over three decades, the Rhino Rally has challenged dirt bike riders young and old with tests of endurance across rugged terrain in the desert. Saturday, the 33rd incarnation of the event organized by the Wizards Motorcycle Club brought hundreds of participants to Southern Utah to run the gauntlet of these challenging off-road courses.

Riders race across the desert in the 33rd annual Rhino Rally in Warner Valley, Utah on Feb. 27, 2016. | Photo by Bob Vosper, St. George News
Riders race across the desert in the 33rd annual Rhino Rally, Warner Valley, Utah, Feb. 27, 2016 | Photo by Bob Vosper, St. George News

Scott Snow, the vice president of the Wizards Motorcycle Club, said the event went very well this year, but the dry conditions made for slightly more challenging conditions.

“It was almost too nice of a day for February,” Snow said. “Just awful dry. Made it awful dusty.”

There are three categories for riders in the Rhino Rally: the “Big Bikes,” “Mini Bikes” and “Pee Wees.”

Within the “Big Bikes” event are further subdivisions of expert, amateur and novices. For the expert and amateur racers, there are two loops — one at  55 miles and one at 37 miles — to challenge the motorcyclists, while the novices stick to just the 55-mile loop.

Younger riders take on the challenge of desert terrain at the Rhino Rally in Warner Valley on Feb. 27, 2016. | Photo by Bob Vosper, St. George News.
Younger riders take on the challenge of desert terrain at the Rhino Rally, Warner Valley, Utah, Feb. 27, 2016 | Photo by Bob Vosper, St. George News.

Typically, a “Big Bike” is any motorcycle above 125cc, and most of the riders are above 16 years of age. Due to Bureau of Land Management rules, there is a cap of 300 riders in this division.

Normally, the first loop contains the easiest terrain, Snow said, so that the less-experienced novice riders don’t have to face the more challenging, technical sections.

“This year, I guess we didn’t feel very nice,” Snow said, laughing, “because the first loop was probably as grueling or harder than the second, and it was a true 55 miles of rock, sand and dust.”

Of the 300 riders in the “Big Bike” division, Snow said there were approximately 25 or 30 riders that were unable to finish the course.

This year, the courses traversed through a wide variety of terrain in the Warner Valley area, passing over the border between Utah and Arizona. The starting area shifts from year to year between the two states. Last year, the race began in Littlefield, Arizona.

Winning riders do not receive prize winnings, Snow said. It is an event focused on the pleasure and enjoyment of riding.

(Riders get) a trophy and a pat on your back,” he said.

Skyler Howes was the overall winner in the “Big Bikes” division.

Bikes in the “Mini Bikes” division are often both below 125cc and have smaller wheels, and most of those riders are in the 9- to 16-year-old range. These younger riders have a 15-mile loop to complete, and often the ride takes approximately two hours for everyone to finish.

Corbin McPherson was the overall winner in the “Mini Bikes.”

Riders getting ready for their race at the 33rd annual Rhino Rally in Warner Valley, Utah on Feb. 27, 2016. | Photo by Bob Vosper, St. George News.
Riders getting ready for their race at the 33rd annual Rhino Rally, Warner Valley, Utah, Feb. 27, 2016 | Photo by Bob Vosper, St. George News.

The “Pee Wee” category is a 20-minute race for younger kids on a much smaller loop with more forgiving terrain. The track for the “Pee Wee” racers is small enough that family members can easily access their children should they crash.

“The Pee Wee is typically less (than) about the size of a football field area,” Snow said, “and it’s typically really low-key … It’s nothing very hard. It’s usually dropping in a little wash … Literally the Pee Wee race is surrounded by the crowd and the parents. (If the) little guys tips over, they’re stood back up even before they want to be.”

Every child in the “Pee Wee” division gets a trophy.

Snow said that overall, there were somewhere between 1000-1500 people in attendance at this year’s event put on by the Wizards Motorcycle Club, a group entirely made up of volunteers who primarily come together to organize the Rhino Rally.

“We’re totally a labor-of-love nonprofit,” Snow said. “We’re only a functioning club 90 days of the year — two months before the race and a month after … We’re really just a bunch of friends that ride together and got hooked into putting this race on.”

Snow said the founder of the Rhino Rally gave the event its name after participating in a speedway race of the same name in Africa.

Snow’s own history with the race also stretches back to its inaugural year.

“This is our 33rd year, and I am pretty sure I am the only living participant who’s participated in putting it on or racing it every single year,” he said. “I’ve never missed it.”

For Utah Sportsmen Racing Association race results, including complete results for the Rhino Rally, go to the Utah Sportsman Racing Association website.

Ric Wayman contributed to this article.

Email: dgilman@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

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