Pushing the Boundaries - Solo Adventure Riding

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by windblown101, Nov 15, 2020.

  1. windblown101

    windblown101 Long timer Supporter

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    The subject comes up from time to time and a recent post elsewhere got me to thinking it might be a good subject to cover some more. I have my own philosophy and would love to hear how others prepare for and execute solutions to sticky problems one may encounter when riding solo.

    For me a part of any memorable ADV type ride is pushing my personal boundaries in remote areas occasionally. Since I ride solo for my long ADV rides that inevitably means getting myself out of jams of my own making occasionally.

    Here are my thoughts, and tips. Would love to hear from others how they approach things too.

    1) If tackling remote terrain solo use a bike that you can reasonably expect to manhandle and lift in awkward situations. That may mean having to take the time to unload it but make sure you can lift it one way or another.

    2) Some mechanical aptitude and a bit of "MacGyver" goes a long way on the trail. Take the time to develop familiarity with the bike. Do you know where all your fuses are and what they do? Can you change/repair a tire on the trail? Do you know where key components are on the bike?

    3) Carry basic tools and use them when you work on your bike in the garage. If you can't do some task with just your field tools ask yourself if you need to re-think what you are carrying.

    4) Repair materials, replacement parts: Zipties, epoxy, duct tape, a bit of wire, etc can all come in handy. It's easy to go overboard with tools, parts, and supplies. As a general rule the more possible uses any one item may have the more valuable it is to have it. You have to draw the line somewhere. At some point the extra weight and bulk becomes the bigger liability.

    5) When something bad happens you may only have a moment to take immediate action. For example: If you dump your bike in a water crossing some quick action may prevent additional troubles. On the other hand if you've dumped your bike on the ground or gotten stuck in sand or mud chances are acting in haste will burn energy needlessly, quite possibly be ineffective, and may make matters worse. In those cases take the time to think before acting. Energy is a precious commodity, do not waste it. I have had several instances over my trips that the best idea for getting out of a jam was not my first, or second one. Using BRAIN energy to ponder and mull over options beats jumping in and using muscle power to fail.

    6) Have a pretty good idea of what you can and can't do and be honest with yourself. You don't have to be a fast rider, nor even especially talented. But you do need to be honest in your self assessment. Everyone is different. It's best to discover that when riding with friends, or at least locally.

    7) When facing a challenge that lay ahead take a moment to consider odds of success versus cost of failure. It's one thing to dump a bike, quite another to launch one off a cliff. If failure means basically zero chance of self recovery or a very high chance of injury I will bail 100% of the time unless I think the odds of failure are basically zero as well.

    8) I recommend carrying a GPS tracker of some sort. That's personal preference and I've never had to use mine but mine also makes a decent backup GPS so there is that. Choice is yours. Me? It would be my LAST choice to ever press that button (because then I would have to re-examine WTF I am doing) but if I found myself in that position I'd be glad I had it.

    9) If you haven't, get a good book or two on remote survival. Yeah, that may seem extreme, but so is dying needlessly.

    9) Last but not least - Carry more water than just enough. We can do without a lot of things for an extended period of time, water is not one of them.

    In summary (IMHO) If you are going to head out into remote terrain solo problems will arise that only you can address. Solving those problems can be hugely rewarding! If you're not that type of person make sure you keep those GPS tracker batteries charged...

    Thoughts? Always looking for ways to fine tune looking at things.
    #1
  2. AwDang

    AwDang Enabler

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    Points 5,6 & 7 all tie together for me.
    Use your brain, slow down and plan ahead.
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  3. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades... Super Supporter

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    I will ride with someone. Fracturing an ankle kind of pointed out how important having another person there might just be. There may be times when a delay in getting help could cost dearly. That is my way.
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  4. dddd

    dddd Long timer

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    a) I might walk at 5kph on a side walk, but maybe 3kph in a trail with the gear.
    So if I go just 1h deep at 30kph, it's pretty much 10h to come out on foot...
    This is the single most important realization you should make when planning your solutions...

    b) ropes, pulleys, prussik, know-how to use them. These are with me the moment I leave pavement/groomed dirt road.

    c) I got a bad back but anyone can hurt themselves badly enough to not be able to lift the bike up. So I carry a small ratchet-strap jack. You can actually buy them if you are not cheap like me and don't care for diy.
    #4
  5. zeerx

    zeerx Long timer

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    Over the last 25 years of my off road riding, I’ve made maybe four or five hospital visits after the ride. One to the ER. The thing that was the most valuable was a wing man. Between bike break downs and injury we’ve dragged each other out of the woods many times. Don’t ride alone. YMMV.
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  6. Strong Bad

    Strong Bad Former World's Foremost Authority Supporter

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    I was amazed at how many people think that a Spot Tracker type device and a satphone will save their sorry asses if they were truly out in the bush with a serious problem. Always be ready/able to self extract and NEVER think you can get someone to rescue you.

    But then there have always been those among us who pull off epic solo trips all the time. My favorite is Trackpete and his South American trip, but he's done plenty of others too.

    https://advrider.com/f/threads/south-america-on-three-wheels.677636/
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  7. windblown101

    windblown101 Long timer Supporter

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    That's all true and I agree being prepared to fix things and or self extract are very important. Though not carrying a sat based comms device of some sort ia s like opting to go out on a long and potentially dangerous ride with nothing but flip flops, shorts and a smile because there is no gear that is guaranteed to save a rider either.

    It all boils down to risk mitigation. In how we dress, how we prepare, how and where we choose to ride and when.

    One small antidote: The closest I've come to serious injury or death in the last 30 years has been at the hands of other drivers. That doesnt mean I wont go out and break my neck the next time I ride some remote track but it does put the whole risk of solo riding in remote terrain in perspective. At least you dont have others actively trying to kill you... well unless maybe you stumble onto a meh lab.
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  8. Strong Bad

    Strong Bad Former World's Foremost Authority Supporter

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    Gizmos like Spot Trackers or Sat Phones are great for the States. Not so great for more "remote" places like next door in Baja. Who do you plan to call to come save you? Call you brother back in the states and wait 2 days for him to come find you? Spot only puts you in touch with the local authorities. For example; in Baja that means Tecate, Ensenada, or Mexicali which goes from the border all the way down to Guerro Negro. Those are the three "counties" in Baja, Baja Sur has 4(?) more. Any idea what a cluster fuck trying to get communication through for a "rescue" in Mexico, Central, or South America is? I've seen the drawbacks in Baja, people still die riding off road down there, hell the highway down there is no place to crash help could be hours away.

    I'm not that old and I was riding in Baja pre-running for the Baja 1000 race alone long before hand held GPS systems, cell or sat phones, or "Help me Mr. Wizard" (Spot) gizmos came out. I seem to somehow survived. :hmmmmmBut I do have stories, some pretty funny and some really horrific. But all of that is all part of the reason you go to these places. It takes risk management to a whole different level.

    But you are correct, being prepared and having the right mindset to always be making risk management decisions goes a really, really long way. The problem gets to be when people get in over their heads before they know it.
    #8
  9. CaptCapsize

    CaptCapsize Long timer

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    I prefer to ride alone. Windbown I agree competently with 1 through 9, especially the second 9. Here in the southwest, water is life. I would add good first aid kit, and basic first aid course would be a good idea. I carry a InReach and have had to contact the wife once to bring the 4x4 truck and rescue my butt from a breakdown. I also use it to check in so she won't worry too much.
    I am not a long range adventure rider, day trips and over night or two, but in pretty remote local areas. Carry extra gas because a locked gate in the wrong place and backtracking may make for a long hike out.
    #9
  10. saltyD

    saltyD Been here awhile

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    Always consider:
    • How often is the route you plan to take used by others ? What's the likelyhood of being found by accident if you end up stuck?
    • How far from 'help' will you be? Could you walk out?
    • Does someone know where you're going? When you'll next be in contact? Are they prepped to organise help if you go missing?
    • How long can you survive on your own if you're stuck? (water, food, shelter)
    • How sensible are you in a crisis?
    People often die remarkably close to help, or survive for lengthy periods far from it.
    #10
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  11. jonz

    jonz Miles are my mantra Supporter

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    Probably the biggest difference when solo vs group riding is my speed. It feels like a 5-10% reduction in speed results a 50% reduction in crash probability. But if I slow down too much more, my mind wanders and I find myself having more near crashes. I also run a constant mental calculation of distance from help vs. difficulty of maneuvers I'm willing to attempt even when not solo.

    I do carry a sat tracker more for the peace of mind of my wife than for my safety. I never increase the risk I'm willing to take because I have one. I'm constantly amazed and pissed off at how unprepared some people are who call for help either via cell phone or sat tracker. I have connections to people in SAR both here in the desert southwest and in Montana, and the stories are amazing (out of shape hiker from a cooler climate on a desert trail in summer with no water is a common one).
    #11
  12. Strong Bad

    Strong Bad Former World's Foremost Authority Supporter

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    I do carry a Spot tracker, but I use it like @jonz does so SWMBO can track my progress. Sure, if I crashed and got hurt I would push the red button, but I don't have any expectations of it being effective in my extraction. I NEVER plan on relying on other people for help.
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  13. dirtmarine

    dirtmarine Been here awhile

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    I have done many solo trips in my life, mostly on foot, 4 wheelers or boat and participated in the medical side of mountain rescues. I accept the reasons of those who say don't go alone, it is the capstone advice given by many experts and should be heeded especially by the novice outdoorsman.

    However, I agree that with proper experience, forethought and preparation that solo trips can be made safer. Solo is a personal philosophy and a decision made with the understanding of the risks to yourself and duress to family and friends if you don’t return.

    To follow up with advice from windblown101 and others, the planning and mind set are critical. Too many media reports reveal dangerous and lengthy rescues and searches for those who are ignorant of the outdoors. Searchers are then unnecessarily mobilized and often endangered for a rescue that could have been avoided. Most rescuers are dedicated volunteers who are taking time away from work and family and at their own expense.

    I think anyone going beyond the trailhead should carry a locator beacon for the simple reason it can save your life while making the search process shorter and safer for the rescuers. A solo trip is not solo if things go wrong.
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  14. jacktwitch

    jacktwitch Been here awhile

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    Good Post OP, I agree.

    I often venture out alone on foot, on two wheels and four wheels.
    I have had to self recover and have helped in rescues professionally and off the clock.

    The biggest thing is TELL SOMEONE WHERE YOU ARE GOING
    I always tell my wife where I am going and when I expect to be back, with a drop dead "there is an emergency" time
    as well as telling a close friend of mine who is familiar with the area where I am going

    If I dont make it back by a certain time, the wife will get worried, call my friend, and reach out to the Sheriff's Office.

    There is a big difference between your Significant other calling 911 to say "Inmate Smith went for a ride on his bike and didnt make it back by dinner"

    Vs him/her calling saying " Inmate smith left at 1200, said he would be back by 2000. He said he was going to try to get to the top of whatever mountain by way of forest road 123, his bike had a full tank of 2 gallons and it averages 50 mpg, so maximum range without a fillup means he is within 100 miles of this point"

    I also carry a tracker. I badly sprained both ankles canyoneering and crawled out of a slot canyon, getting home 12 hours too late, resulting in the wife panicking. I would have been very frustrated to have search and rescue show up but I understand the wifes concern.

    The most valuable button so far to me is the "custom message" button, which I have set to " I have encountered an unexpected but non-emergent delay, which will add up to 8 hours to my trip." which basically allows me to extend the drop dead time
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  15. dirtmarine

    dirtmarine Been here awhile

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    Good points, be specific with your route and times. May not work on a multi-day trip but start and finish would help. Messaging capability excellent as you can allay peoples concerns if you're slow getting out. Look for that feature, think most have that now. If you have cell coverage you can allow google tracking for significant others.
    #15
  16. windblown101

    windblown101 Long timer Supporter

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    The first few times I had a Delorme spot tracker along for long trips I had it set to send my location every 10 minutes or so. My daughter and my sister had access to the map showing my position. My sister couldn't handle it. Every time the location Pin didn't move for a few cycles when I was off any visible road on the map she'd get nervous. I had told them if they hadn't heard from me and the location hadn't changed in 24 hours to start making calls. I now just carry the unit with me but do not have it sending location pings automatically anymore.

    Though honestly I believe having it send pings to known reliable loved one or a friend automatically may be best. If nothing else it will make it easier for SAR to find the body by having a last known position even if you eat it and can't push the button.

    Yeah, having a high tech nanny along for the ride is a bit of a downer, but it does typically make the ones back home feel a bit better (except my sister...). Technology has come a long ways from back when I used to take off and not be heard from for weeks.

    My daughter was (mostly) ok with me not having it send out pings on my last trip. I think she's gotten used to my wanderings. She's 30 and knows I'm probably not going to change much. Next trip maybe I'll turn it on and let it do it's thing. Hard to say for sure.
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  17. jacktwitch

    jacktwitch Been here awhile

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    From a search and rescue standpoint the tracking pings are awesome.

    When forming a search there is a simple equation used to form the search window. they take last known location, then multiply time by maximum travel speed. For example if it has been 5 hours since your last known location and you are on a bike that can do 80 mph that creates a 400 mile radius for the search bubble. The smaller the bubble is the quicker you are found. Searches after 48 hours tend to turn into body recoveries. You can shrink that bubble by increasing frequency of checkins and decreasing time before someone reports you missing.

    You do not want to be the guy who goes out Friday afternoon and noone notices you were missing till monday morning when you dont show up to work and noone has any idea where you went.
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  18. dirtmarine

    dirtmarine Been here awhile

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    There was a case some years ago when a person got separated from their hiking partner at high altitude, cold nights and rough terrain. The exhaustive search went on for weeks involving many searchers, military and civilian helicopters, dogs, high tech imaging, etc. The family remained near the command most of the time waiting on news. If only the hiker had a location device I'm certain they would be alive after a short rescue. Sadly they have never been found.
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  19. AwDang

    AwDang Enabler

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  20. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades... Super Supporter

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    Key point - riding with another rider is not group riding in the sense that the term is taken in motorcycling.
    #20