Contributor - Peter Jacobs
If you ever want to experience what your Mother went through, try being the support crew for a bunch of ADV Riders. You will get incessant nagging (“I need fuel, I need fuel”), be totally ignored (“who’s got my 10mm socket”), have to put up with endless embellished stories of bravado and Dakar class riding tales (from rank amateurs and wannbe’s), soothe damaged ego’s, re insert spat dummies back where they were ejected from, and maybe even administer a few band aids.
If that doesn’t put you off, you will have a ball, but there are a quite a few things to consider to ensure everything runs smoothly, and the entire crew get to enjoy themselves, focusing on the ride, and not inconveniences that could have been easily avoided:
2. Vehicle set up
3. Support equipment
4. Recovery equipment
The more effort put in up front at the planning stage, the easier and more organized (enjoyable) the trip will become. What is the route, days or distance, how many riders (do you know them all?), what is the level of experience in the group, what bikes, fuel range, where will the group be staying (camping or pubs/hotels), what terrain/temperatures are you expecting, and who is in charge? Just a few of the questions that need answers!
The larger the group the more structured the plan needs to be. A group of a few (maybe up to six) experienced riders can “wing it” to some degree, but once you go over that number you will need a designated Lead Rider who owns the ride, and makes the important calls when needed. Democracies definitely don’t work with large ADV groups.
Once the rough plan has been formulated, the Lead Rider has to take charge and organize/delegate who needs to do what in the planning stage (and there is plenty to do). If possible, some pre trip meetings over a meal and a few drinks are a good way of making sure everyone gets to know each other, and understand the ride early in the planning stage, and whether it will suit their skill and personality.
A larger group will only travel as fast as the slowest rider, so if some riders are used to being on the gas, they are probably better off with a few mates of similar experience on their own ride. The larger the group, the shorter the distance covered each day, and the more patience needed by everyone.
The Lead Rider plans the route, distance covered each day and where the stops will be. Throughout the entire process everyone tasked with planning and supporting the ride should have contingencies.
What if the weather takes a turn for the worse and roads get closed, what if someone gets hurt, what if we lose a rider or two, what if a planned fuel stop is out of action? What if, what if, what if.
An email group should be set up so everyone is kept up to speed with the planning process, changes and request for help or assistance with getting the ride/route sorted. Compiling a spreadsheet early in process will answer a lot of questions that will get raised before the group heads off. Below is some of the information that should be captured on the spreadsheet.
Emergency contact name/relationship
Emergency contact #
Any special medical issues – e.g. diabetes
Special skills – e.g. mechanic, paramedic, sparky
Emergency communication devices carried
Range on full tank (km)
Chain size – e.g. 520/525
Front tyre size
Rear tyre size
Try and get a financial commitment (to help cover the support costs) from each rider to secure their spot on the trip, early in the proceedings. This will sort the wheat from the chaff, and make someone think twice about dropping out at the eleventh hour (and denying someone else the chance of a spot).
It is also a good idea to make a small laminated list of everyone’s phone number and emergency contacts along with important numbers such as RFDS, Main Roads, AMSA contacts, local Police stations and regional hospitals. If the group gets separated for whatever reason, everyone should have a full list of emergency and pertinent (other rider) contacts on them.
Each rider needs to be responsible for carrying all their own gear, with the exception of spare tyres and some common tools such as cordless angle grinders, drill, impact wrenches etc. If a rider needs to peel off and head home for whatever reason, they will need to carry their own camping gear and basic tools/spares and do so unsupported. Support Vehicle Setup
It goes without saying that a support vehicle should be capable of completing the route, be reliable and roadworthy. The capability of the support vehicle should be fit for purpose with the planned route, but as we are talking about an adventure ride, a high ground clearance 4 x 4 should be the minimum (not an AWD drive vehicle). Even if the planned route is an easy one, you never know where the adventure might take you, and the shortest route to get emergency help, spare parts or medical assistance might not be the route originally planned.
The driver should know their vehicle well (i.e. don’t just borrow a mates 4wd), be competent with a 4WD, handy on the tools, and have the patience of Jobe! The support vehicles need to be serviced and capable of handling the support gear (trailer, food, extra fuel etc). Tyres (including spares) need to be in good condition and capable of traversing the planned (and unplanned emergency) route.
As a minimum, spares for the support vehicle should include:
At least one spare tyre (preferably two) Consumables spares such as WD 40, Brake cleaner, Loctite, electrical tape, nuts and bolts etc. All jacking and tyre changing equipment (including jack plates) Recovery equipment – Maxtrax, snatch straps, soft shackles, long handle shovel, spade and preferably a winch
A puncture repair kit Comprehensive first aid kit including splints and a detailed guide to manage injuries. A portable compressor (for car and bikes) A multi meter Comprehensive tool kit (for bikes and car) Handsaw to deal with fallen logs on roads
Cordless power tools – angle grinder, drill etc.
If you have a 3 bike trailer, you need room in the support vehicle for at least 3 passengers if their bikes are on the trailer (don’t forget how much room their riding gear will take up as well). If one (or more) have injuries, they could require additional room to rest an injured leg on the back seat. Single cab utes are not going to cut it for moderate to larger sized groups. Big groups (> 30 riders) will require at least two capable support vehicles and trailers.
If the support crew are tasked with catering for meals as well, this adds another layer of complexity and planning. Fridge/freezers will be required, and enough food to support the crew for the planned meals.
Keep the meals simple and easy (quick) to prepare – the crew is here for the ride, not a culinary experience, so burgers and snags for dinner and bacon and eggs for brekkie. If anyone has special dietary requirements, these should be identified early, and planned for accordingly. Don’t be shy delegating – divvy the work up between the rider’s such as preparing meals, cleaning up afterwards and getting the fire going.
Riders should plan (and carry) their own lunch/snacks – muesli bars, nuts, dried fruit etc, to nibble on while refuelling, having a break or checking out some scenery.
If you find yourself responsible for a few meals, look at options along the way to resupply (general stores/supermarket) as opposed to taking everything from home base as you most likely won’t have room. Wraps make a great alternative to bread (easier to pack, longer lasting) for B&E breakfasts. Tinned beans and spaghetti are good bulk fillers, and don’t require special care. Paper plates and disposable cutlery makes clean up a lot quicker and easier.
Don’t forget the condiments (salt, pepper, sauces etc), washing up gear (and a tub), and cooking utensils (frypans, tongs, egg slice, cutting boards and knives).
Most ADV riders are on the wrong side of the BMI index, so you need to keep them fuelled up too as they usually consume more energy on a daily basis than their bikes. Muesli bars and bags of snakes are welcome sugar hit late in the day. DON’T skimp on the food unless you enjoy hangry, smelly, hairy dudes hanging around the back of your vehicle rifling through it, looking for something to chew on.
All riders should utilize a 3L hydro pack, but on a hot day, plan on a minimum of 6L of water per person per day (the support vehicle will need to provide the excess). For a group of 30 riders, that is 90L of additional water per day to support the riders. Support water should be kept in multiple containers; if you lose one (damaged or left behind), you still have options (and haven’t lost the lot). The “BPA free” 15L to 20L containers with plastic taps (Bunnings style) do a good job. These can be placed on the tailer during a fuel stop allowing the riders to top off their hydro packs while refuelling is taking place.
An awning on the support vehicle is an added bonus. This can provide welcome shade and shelter on hot and cold/wet days for the team.
In the pictures below, one of the riders collected a kangaroo at 100kph and sustained serious life threatening injuries. The awning provided some welcome shade keeping him as comfortable as possible while waiting for the emergency services to arrive.Support Equipment
Once again, the level of support equipment will be dictated by the size of the group. If bike trailers are in use (more than one for larger groups), they need to be in tip top condition. You don’t want to be the guy that has to explain to three riders why their combined $60k of ADV bikes are cactus because the A frame on the trailer failed, and everything ended upside down in the ditch.
Bike trailers need to be licensed, manufactured by a reputable company (compliance plated), fit for purpose and sized for the support vehicle. The trailer should ride level behind the support vehicle (not a 6 x 4 rental box trailer behind a jacked-up Dodge Ram) and have rated safety chains and shackles. Any trailer over an ATM of 750kg will require electric brakes.
You should thoroughly inspect the trailer before the journey. Most trailers are built to a price, with basic componentry. If you are planning a harder route, the trailer needs to be capable of completing the journey fully laden (bikes, fuel, water and whatever else is required) and still be within its engineered/registered ATM.
Trailer tyres need to be in good condition, and rated for the expected loads. Tyres are illegal once they are over 5 years old, so make sure you check the mfg date on them. You need enough spare tyres for the trailer(s) and some means of repairing flats (new tubes and plug kits). Wheel bearings need to be checked (ideally replaced), and re packed with grease before the trip. If you are replacing the wheel bearings, and the old ones are still in reasonable condition, re pack them with grease and bring them along as spares. It is a good idea to bring spare hub seals and wheel studs and nuts for the trailer. These inexpensive components are cheap insurance.
Check all critical welds on the trailer such as the A frame, spring hangers, hitch etc for cracks or excessive rust. The hitch should be in good condition, and if extreme conditions are expected, an articulating offroad hitch should be fitted.
Trailers are notorious for ricocheting rocks back onto the rear windscreen of tow vehicles, shattering the glass (more so with wagons). A perspex safety barrier from companies such as Plasweld will save your rear windscreen, and a lot of heartache and expense!
Room for one more on the trailer
Running repairs to a broken foot peg after an off forced the bike onto the trailer
Exposed trailer wiring (not protected inside the trailer frame or a robust conduit) will be shredded on day one of an offroad journey. Rear lights will also need to be protected from rocks kicked up by the trailer wheels.
Bikes should be easy to get on and off the trailer. Having to wrestle a large (>200kg ADV bike) on the trailer without the help of (an injured?) the rider is not going to be much fun. You should have rated anchor points on the trailer, and a system that will allow quick and secure tie down of the bike. The tie down system should be sorted and known before it needs to be used.
Ideally, the trailer should be able to carry the required excess fuel for each leg of the journey (you don’t want fuel in your tow vehicle). The most common and convenient mode of transport is metal (plastic fuel containers swell excessively in hot weather) 20L jerry cans. For larger groups, you should have 3 x 5L “decanting” fuel containers per support vehicle/trailer. These will allow you to get 3 riders refuelling via the 5L containers and then provide the 4th rider with the remnants (5L) in the original 20L jerry can. By the time the you have dispensed the last of the 20L jerry can, the first guys will be back with their 5L “decanting containers” to start on the next 20L jerry for other riders. This system allows you to get 30 plus riders refuelled and stocked up on water in less than 30min. Put the 20L water containers on the trailer so the riders can help themselves to replenish their hydro packs after they have refuelled. A few bags of snakes/dried fruit handed around, and you will have a bunch of happy campers!
3 x 5L fuel cans on rear of the roof rack for easy access to decant fuel from 20L jerry can (on bike trailer)
7 x spare tyres on roof rack, note also snorkel filter with (daily) sacrificial pool sockRecovery Equipment
The support vehicle(s) should have an adequate set of recovery equipment for the planned route. This could include Maxtracks, multiple jacks (OEM and bottle jack), long handle shovel and shorter spade, snatch straps and rated shackles, and handsaw (for fallen tree’s).
Being able to air down/up quickly is paramount for the bikes and support vehicle when track conditions change. A high capacity portable compressor, suitable inflation line, and accurate tyre pressure gauge will be required. If the compressor can keep up, a twin line (T piece) will speed the process for multiple bikes.
Depending on the planned distances and number of bikes, it is worth considering taking along some common sized (21”/17”/18”) spare tyres (in good condition) to suit the fleet of bikes. If riders have a unique tyre size, they should bring a spare (for their specific bike), as it will be difficult to get a replacement in remote areas.Communication
This one can’t be over emphasized. By definition, an adventure ride is most likely going to stray from many of the things we are surrounded by during our regular daily grind (and thanks god for that), including connectivity and easy access to medical resources.
One component of the rider details/equipment/fuel planning spreadsheet should capture who has what emergency communication equipment – PLB’s, Sat Phones, Spot trackers, InReach/Zoleo etc. Many ADV rider’s have their own favourite devices, and prefer to travel with these (personal peace of mind) regardless of what other systems the larger collective group has. Equally important to the hardware is knowing how to use it – and not just the owner/rider, as they could be injured. As a minimum the support vehicle should have a Sat Phone, UHF radio, PLB, GPS device and mobile phone (and the driver needs to know how to use them).
PLB’s need to be registered to the owner/user and recorded with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).www.amsa.gov.au
In addition to electronic navigation aids, a good set of paper maps should also be carried by the support vehicles. These are much better at providing a broader spatial overview of the route (and alternates) as opposed to a small electronic screen. Large paper maps give a much better perspective of relative proximities.
Be sure to understand what coordinate grid your GPS and paper maps are using so this info can be communicated to emergency services if required.
You will need to have all of the correct charging cables for each device. Beware of tablets and non ruggedized consumer products, as they can suffer from heat degradation, and are difficult to read in bright sunlight.
Make a list of key emergency numbers for the planned route, and put these onto the laminated rider list (emergency contact details) all participants should be carrying with them. This should include:
Regional hospitals Regional Police Stations RFDS bases
AMSA contact details Main Roads Department Nearby Roadhouses.
The support vehicle driver(s) should brief the lead rider (and a few trusted others) on what communication equipment they have in their vehicle, where it is located, and how to use it (just in case the support vehicle driver becomes incapacitated). Keep a quick start/setup guide for each device with the specific unit in its protective case/bag.
Once the trip has been planned, encourage all riders to share it with their partners/family/close friends so they have an idea of the route, intended/planned overnight stays, and where/when (day/date) the group may be in mobile phone signal. If there is an emergency at home, it is important that family and friends can get a message to the group.Costs
Support vehicles provide peace of mind and security to an ADV ride. There are many that believe an ADV ride is exactly that – rider and bike against whatever is thrown up at them (and this is fine). However, many people are on tight schedules with limited time off work, and the availability of a well-equipped support vehicle makes a lot of sense to focus on enjoying the ride without the worry and hassle if things go pear shaped. Costs will obviously depend on the distances covered, but a larger support vehicle laden with food, spares and water, towing a bike trailer with fuel will consume up to 20L/100km of distance travelled. For a 3,000km journey, with fuel averaging $2.00/litre, this equates to around $1,200 in fuel costs alone. This is over and above the wear and tear the owner is putting on their vehicle – often for quite a few people that don’t know all that well.
What has worked well in the past for Perth Adventure Riders (PAR) is each rider paying a “levy” to cover the costs of the support vehicle, accommodation for the driver (when available) and to purchase food for whatever meals the support crew will be catering along the way. With a group of 30 riders chipping in $300 each, this provides plenty of scope for multiple support crew to do things properly, and even leaves a few dollars over for some drinks or pub meal at the end of the trip. Considering most “commercial” tours would charge upwards of $5,000 for a supported 10 day ADV ride, this is a very economical means of providing top notch support, and peace of mind for a large group to ensure they keep moving.
So what are you waiting for? Stock up on a few spare dummy’s (for the ones that will invariably spat out), grab some bandaids and spare 10mm sockets, practice your deep breathing calmness routine and dive right in. You will form life long friendships and get to see the beauty of our wide brown yonder.