At some point in the distant past I was forced to read The Prince. I now know why. It was a political philosophy book written by Italian Niccolo Machiavelli sometime
between the invention of the wheel and Richard Nixon’s
presidency. At the time, I thought the teacher assigned it
just to be mean. Now I know it was an important lesson
to help prepare me for Last Dog Standing. As it turns out,
Machiavelli’s advice is critical for coping with all sorts of
The Last Dog Standing is a race put on by the Prairie
Dogs MC that is counted as one of America’s three
“extreme enduros.” These are designed to weed out the
weak step by step and eventually leave only a few finishers.
You go into them expecting to be weeded out, and your
mettle is measured simply by how far you go. In the previous runnings of the LDS, I’ve been the race’s chief cheerleader. I’ve helped the club with the layout, listened to their
ideas and given a hearty “well done” to anyone who made
it through the first stage.
When the organizers first came up with the idea of making riders leap from a diving board and free-fall 20 feet
to the ground, I rubbed my chin as if I had some idea of
whether or not that was possible. “Sounds good,” I said.
For all I knew, a falling motorcycle would break the sound
barrier in 20 feet. When they put 15 tractor tires into a pit
and filled it with 3 feet of water, I said, “That sounds about
right.” When they constructed a 4-inch plank for riders to
tight-rope their way across another water pit, I said, “Great
idea.” On race day, I just watched the carnage from a safe
By Ron Lawson
I was trapped between two bikes that were. His bike, on
the other hand, was behind mine and buried to the axles.
Machiavelli advises that you make alliances only with those
who are stronger than you. My Yamaha friend clearly didn’t
meet this criteria.
“You have to help him first,” I said, pointing to a KTM
rider blocking my path. This was an excellent strategy on
my part. I had made no promise to help the Yamaha guy,
and the KTM rider would then be obligated to stay behind
while I was free. At another point in the race, I tried a different strategy. There was a Beta rider nearly at the top of
a steep hill some distance ahead of me. He looked strong
and fit—a worthy ally. I walked up and started helping him.
“We need to work together,” I announced, as I pulled on
his front wheel.
“No, we don’t,” he said, slapping my hands away. He
must have read The Prince too. He dropped the clutch and
bombed my bike with debris. Machiavelli says that a victor must destroy his adversary’s ability to make war. Well
played, Beta guy, well played.
There are other instances where unofficial alliances and
favorites can come into play. For example, a guy on a trials bike elbowed past me and another KTM while we were
waiting for the trail to clear. The trials bike immediately got
stuck. We found that trials bikes make excellent traction.
There’s a whole chapter on mercy and when it’s inappropriate.
I didn’t get to experiment with Niccolo’s advice on how
to behave when victory is yours. I eliminated myself at
the end of the first stage, breaking out the I-have-to-take-pictures story again. But, had I continued, I would have had
a copy of the book taped to my bars. Next year, if I ride
Last Dog again, I’ll study for it ahead of time. I now understand that education has its rewards. I just hope I’m never
in a race that has War and Peace as a prerequisite. ❑
“Sounds good,” I said. For all I knew,
a falling motorcycle would break the
sound barrier in 20 feet.”
“Machiavelli advises that you make
alliances only with those who are stron-
ger than you.”
This year was different. I announced I would ride early in
the planning phases, mostly to get out of doing any work
on the course. As the time grew closer, it was harder to
wiggle out. Even the I-gotta-take-pictures excuse didn’t
work. The club members pointed out that I would have
plenty of time to take pictures after houring out.
On the day of the race, I found myself getting pummeled by hanging tires, pulling my bike out of mud holes,
getting stuck between massive tractor tires and thinking
about Machiavelli. Basically, he was a scoundrel, and when
you’re dealing with an event that has bottlenecks, impossible hills and more bottlenecks, scoundrels prevail. In fact,
a Last Dog bottleneck is a political microcosm that Niccolo
“I’ll help you if you help me,” said a muck-covered
Yamaha rider in one particularly nasty mud pit. I had to
appraise him quickly. My bike wasn’t stuck at the time, but