For most adventure, enduro, and dual sport riders trying their mojo at rally racing, roadbook navigation is one of the most intimidating aspects. The whole contraption looks weird, there’s lots of symbols and icons to learn, and wasn’t it all in French until recently, anyway? In addition, roadbook navigation towers and kits aren’t exactly budget-friendly: you can easily part with over $1,000 just for the roadbook holder, the tripmaster, and a set of switches.
On the other hand, navigation by roadbook is safer. Following a GPS line, that’s all you see – a line, and there’s no way of knowing what lies ahead. It could be rocky climbs, dangerous cliff edges, boulders, holes, or just about anything in between, but your GPS won’t be able to tell you that.
The roadbook, by contrast, will: every section (or “tulip”) of the roadbook is packed with information. You get your basic direction, turns, intersections, or turn offs, and the section on the right hand side tells you what to expect – dips, water, uphill or downhill, danger points, and the like. Plus, you can plan your fast and your technical sections better – if you see no change in direction for a few miles, you know you can go flat out, whereas if there are turn offs and changes in direction every ten meters, you’re probably in for some narrow single track that’ll require all of your attention.
And finally, navigating by roadbook is just pure nostalgia. This is how it was done in the old Paris-Dakar days, and despite the current ASO changes in the Dakar roadbook – riders now receive it pre-colored, and there’s talk of going fully digital soon – most rally races still follow the classic roadbook format. You get your roadbook scroll during the evening briefing, mark it however you like, stick it in your roadbook holder, and hope you find your way during tomorrow’s stage.
With GPS, you simply get a GPX file, upload it onto your unit, and go – no need to prep anything, and all you need is to make sure your navigation device doesn’t die on you during the race.
So should you navigate with roadbook or GPS, especially if you’re doing your first rally race?
The good news is, you don’t need to pick just one option. Most European and Nort African rally races that have an Adventure Raid or Lite class offer both roadbook and GPS navigation, so if you’re not too sure about roadbook yet, use it to learn. Most Adventure Raid classes allow riders to have both roadbook and GPS, so you can learn to navigate by roadbook while keeping your GPS unit as a backup. Easy!
Alternatively, you can use GPS only. It’s an easier and simpler solution, but not necessarily one that’s more fun.
Simple Roadbook Navigation Kits
If you’re thinking of going with the roadbook or combining both roadbook and GPS, you’ll need at least the basic kit. There’s zero necessity to embark on a quest to build a Dakar-worthy navigation tower right off the bat, especially if you’re entering your first rally race and don’t yet know if you’ll be doing more of them later on. An easy option is to just rent a roadbook navigation kit at the rally: look for rally assistance teams who may be willing to rent one unit out for the event, or see if other riders may have a spare one they could rent.
If all fails, or f you prefer to have your own roadbook navigation setup, look for something simple, bolt-on-the-bars, and solid, like the Rebel X Sports or Cross Country ADV roadbook kits. Dead-simple to install and easy to switch between bikes if need be, these things can make for the perfect first roadbook navigation kit.
Then, there’s always the digital version. Most rally organizers now offer digital roadbooks, and all you need for those is a simple tablet. Download a PDF of the roadbook onto your tablet, get a tripmaster, and you’re all set – except, of course, the tablet needs to have a good bracket to withstand all the abuse. Check out Dirt Bike Jesus for digital roadbook tablet ideas here.
GPS – Friendly Rally Races in Europe
Track information and Paris-Dakar nostalgia aside, it’s entirely possible to race cross-country rallies with just your GPS. Plenty of races offer GPS navigation for adventure riders – just take your pick:
Hellas Rally Raid (May), Greece
Hispania Rally (October/March), Spain/Portugal
SWANK Sardinia Rally (September/October), Italy
Greece Rally, (September), Greece
1000 Dunas (Otober), Morocco
Dinaric Rally, (August), Croatia
Intercontinental Rally (January-February), Spain-Senegal
And if you’d prefer to get some navigation and rally training first, be sure to check out: