A recent news story drove home the point that when riding off-road, you should always have a good idea of where you and your fellow riders are.  This is important, regardless of whether you are riding solo or in a group. It’s particularly crucial if you are riding in a sparsely populated area.  A Gilchrist Oregon man learned this valuable lesson the hard way.

Missing rider learns a lesson

According to KTVZ, 911 dispatchers received a call from a friend of an unnamed 29-year-old man saying that one of their riding buddies was missing.  The friend said that they were riding trails together in the woods in the Triangle Hill Area somewhere near the junction of Forest Service Roads 4601 and 4602.

Another friend of the missing rider later said that the lost rider had “made a wrong turn, flooded the fuel system, and couldn’t get it restarted.”

First phone call

But around 6:15 PM, the group of friends received a call from the missing man.  The man told his friends that he had left his cellphone in his truck.  With no communication capability, he had been pushing and walking with his motorcycle for between 1 to 2 miles.

Luckily, the missing man came across another rider who let him use his phone to call his friends.  At the end of the conversation, both the missing rider and his friends thought they knew where the missing rider was.

The friends told the man to continue walking downhill on the road and that they would meet him at the truck.  However, the missing rider never arrived.  So three riders from the group headed to where the missing rider said he was but could not find the rider or his motorcycle.

The group continued to search for the missing rider until late into the evening but still could not find him.  That’s when they called 911 and asked for assistance.

Police and search and rescue assistance

The police responded, and deputies searched throughout the night without success.  By early Sunday morning, an additional 20 Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteers began searching with vehicles and ATVs.

At 8:00 AM the following day, the rider was still missing.  But at about 8:30, deputies were able to speak directly with the man who had loaned his phone to the missing rider.

The good samaritan said that he found the missing rider on Forest Service Road 370.  According to deputies, Forest Service Road 370 is about a mile north of Todd Lake and “a significant distance” from the area described earlier.

Deputies also found out that the good samaritan offered to have the missing rider follow him and his group back to the main road.  But the missing man declined their offer and continued pushing his bike.

off road safety

Using their new information, deputies and SAR volunteers began searching the new area reported by the good samaritan.  Then at around 9:15 AM, deputies received another call from a mountain bike rider who came across the missing rider.  By this time, the mountain biker said the missing rider had abandoned his motorcycle early in the morning.

But there was also good news.  The missing rider was tired and cold, but otherwise uninjured.  SAR teams then went directly to the reported location and evacuated the missing rider in a SAR vehicle.

The man was checked out by Bend fire medics and deemed to be OK.  A deputy then transported the rider and reunited him with his family.

Lesson learned

There is more than one lesson to be learned from this story.  At the very least, when riding off-road as a group, it’s important to have practices in place to ensure that everyone makes it to the end of the ride safely.

As examples:

  1. When approaching intersections, each rider should ensure that the rider behind him/her makes the turn on the correct trail/road before proceeding.
  2. The ride leader should have a list of all ride participants and contact information for each one.  This is especially important if all ride participants are not well known to each other.
  3. At least one person should be designated as a sweep rider.  The sweep rider must ensure that all of the ride participants have safely arrived at the destination.
  4. Each rider should carry some sort of communication device to call for help in the event of a problem.  If there’s even a chance that cell phone service can be spotty, each rider should consider carrying satellite communications gear.
  5. Carry emergency and survival equipment and water/food appropriate for the riding you plan to do.

Luckily for this rider, he was only a little worse for the wear.  But if weather conditions had been poor, or if the rider had injured himself, the result could have been much more severe.

I’m sure that you can think of other appropriate safety precautions for riding off-road in a group.  What are some of the things you do to prepare for a group ride?  Let us know in the comments below.



All photo credit: Pinterest


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