Professional rally racer says southern Utah prepared him for success

Posted at 8:01 AM, Feb 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-19 12:52:19-05

ST. GEORGE, Utah — Skyler Howes of St. George is living his dangerous dream, getting paid to race a dirt bike at 100 miles per hour across an unknown desert while reading a map mounted on his handlebars.

Howes, a professional motorcycle rally racer has competed in the deserts of the western United States, Portugal, Morocco, Kazakhstan, Peru, and the pinnacle of rally competition, the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia.

Despite his world travels, he says the terrain in Utah is the reason behind his success.

“I feel like I'm home, it's like the desert there is really similar to here,” Howes explained. “So it transferred over and, you know, helped my skills in a huge way.”

Howes is one of only five Americans to stand on the podium at the famous Dakar rally race in Saudi Arabia when he placed 3rd at Dakar last year.

His road to the podium wasn’t an easy one, but his family helped make it possible.

“When I was five years old, learning how to ride with my dad, he told me...if you can learn how to ride out here, you can learn how to ride anywhere, because, you know, the southern Utah terrain is very demanding, but it's also incredibly beautiful," Howes reflected.

For his first Dakar, Howes said he had to sacrifice nearly everything.

“After I graduated high school, I'd work 14 hours a day to pay for my racing… I ended up having to sell everything I owned in order to pay for Dakar, which usually give or take costs about 100 grand," he explained.

Now he’s sponsored by Honda and other companies which not only pay his paycheck but help him with gear and motorcycles to train with every day.

“It's stuff that you can't buy, everything's made out of carbon fiber and titanium," Howes said. “I could estimate the value of that bike, give or take around $150-$200 thousand.”

Dakar rally bikes are limited to 100 miles per hour to create more safety in a sport that averages one death each year.

“It's kind of like trying to read Map-Quest instructions at 100 miles an hour through the desert,” Skyler explained.

Dakar races last for 15 days with drivers waking up as early as 2 a.m. to start racing in the dark.

Howes hopes he can be a good role model for young riders and that despite his many setbacks and injuries, parents will allow their kids to follow in his tracks.

“I want to be a good role model," he reflected. "I want to be a good image for the sport, because, you know, I love this sport, more than anything, and I want to share it with everyone else”