The Void 12 Rally (Bike Prep – Nav & Track)

The Void 12 Rally (Bike Prep – Nav & Track)

Navigation and Tracking are two positioning tasks which might, to those unfamiliar, seem the same but are in reality quite different. Navigation, which is provided by GPS(s) is, as you would expect, the means by which I find my way from bonus location to bonus location and make certain that I arrive at “time specific” locations on time.

Tracking, on the other hand, is the means by which others can know my position at any given moment. It makes it possible for rally/ride officials and family/friends to follow my progress, for me to send pre-defined messages to selected individuals, and if the worst happens, for me to summon emergency services to my location even if no cellular service is available. Tracking functions on my bike are provided by Spot/Spotwalla.



I currently have 2 GPSs installed on my bike.  Of course, my phone actually makes it 3 but who’s counting.  Having multiple GPSs is fairly common in long distance riding.  Beyond providing a backup in the event that one fails, having 2 or more GPSs provides a rider with both a detailed view of the current leg and a broader view of the day/rally as a whole.  Typically, both GPSs will be loaded with all of the routes.  Individual legs and one or more routes which cover everything from the beginning of a day/rally to the next timed stop/checkpoint.  Having all routes loaded in both GPSs insures that if one fails, the other has the information to continue gathering bonus points.

While I have done long distance flag style certificate rides, like the Saddle Sore 1000 (SS1K), this will be my first rally style event.  In certificate rides the only timed arrival requirement is to finish the ride within a specified amount of time.  24 hours in the case of a SS1K.  So one GPS can display each leg of the overall route and the other the entire route in one.

Rally style rides, on the other hand, frequently have bonus locations which are only available during specific hours, checkpoints that must be visited by a specific date/time, point value rest periods which create long breaks in the ride and other timed requirements.  If a high value bonus location, which is only available from 9am-4pm, is the 12th stop on your list of stops for the day, it would be good to know as the day progresses what time you will arrive at the 12th stop.  By including a route which consists of all of the stops from the beginning to the 12th stop, you can have the backup GPS running that route.  Then you will be able to continuously monitor your 12th stop arrival time.  If the 12th stop is worth far more points than one of stops 1 thru 11, you can skip one of the first 11 if necessary to insure you arrive at 12 on time.  Once you have visited the 12th bonus location, you select a route to the next timed location on the backup GPS.  In all cases the primary GPS will be running a route from the previous bonus location to the next.  The primary GPS is also the one with Bluetooth activated and connected to my helmet audio system.

I’m not certain that this 2 GPS approach will be as effective as I imagine.  I am certain I will learn a lot about the effective use of these devices by the end of the rally.

BaseCamp / MapSource

MapSource and BaseCamp are free desktop applications, available from Garmin, which are used to create routes on a garmin map which can then be downloaded into a GPS.  Using these applications, a rider can use their computer to plot any course he/she wants to use to get from point A to point B to point C, etc.  MapSource is the legacy version of the application and is no longer supported.  However, it is still a very effective route planning application.  BaseCamp is the current application and has many features which aren’t available in MapSource.  Myself, I prefer BaseCamp for a variety of reasons which I won’t bother to go into here.

  My backup GPS, a Garmin Zumo 660, began displaying an error message several months ago.  The message was “The route cannot be calculated. No roads are near the destination.”  Once the error was displayed, navigation stopped, and you would need to restart navigation.  Usually, within a few minutes the error would occur again.  A significant number of hours of online research revealed that many people were having the same issue and that they were solving the problem by using MapSource rather than BaseCamp.  So, I switched back to MapSource and have not experienced a single problem since.  At least not until I began planning a route I will be riding in October.

It turns out that, for some unknown reason, if I try to create a route in MapSource that goes anywhere near San Antonio, TX, the MapSource app crashes.  Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem.  However, I will be riding a route in Oct. that will put me in San Antonio around midnight.  Not being familiar with the area, it would be really good to have a functioning GPS.  Fortunately, BaseCamp has no trouble creating a route through San Antonio.  That’s really strange since both applications are using the exact same map file, but I have long since given up trying to explain Garmin issues.  The good news is that my primary GPS is a Garmin 395LM and seems to be very happy working with BaseCamp.  So lately, I have been creating routes in BaseCamp, loading them in my primary GPS, saving the files to the hard drive (which basecamp does not need to do since in uses a database), opening them with MapSource, and loading them in my backup GPS from MapSource.  Using these steps I have yet to have a problem with either.  So this is the process I will be using for The Void 12.

I will go into the logic I use for selecting bonus locations and creating routes in more detail in posts on those subjects.  However, for this first learning rally, I intend to create multiple routes, using BaseCamp, based on the ideas explained above in Navigation. 



For tracking, I have a Spot Gen3 mounted on my bike.  Spot is a GPS tracking device that uses the Globalstar satellite network to provide text messaging and GPS tracking. Spot covers most of earth’s surface and, being satellite based, doesn’t not need cellular service to function.  If this device can see the sky, it will deliver its messages. 

Looking at the device, you can see that it has 5 buttons (2 are under covers to prevent accidental activation). 

3 of the buttons will deliver messages, of 110 characters max, which you setup online, via email and/or text message, to the email addresses and phone numbers you specify.  Typically one is just “I’m okay and moving along”, one is “I’m okay and going to stop for a little while”, and one is “I need some help but I’m not hurt or in danger” broke down etc.

1 button, in the bottom center with the shoe print, will activate breadcrumb tracking.  Every 10 minutes it will ping the devices Lat/Lon and that position will be added to an online map which can be viewed by people to whom you have given a link.  Anyone with the link can use it to follow your progress online.

1 button, with S.O.S. on the cover, will notify the GEOS Rescue Coordination Center.  No message is configured for this button…  But know that if you ever press this one, the cavalry is coming.  GEOS Rescue will receive the message, see where you are located, assume you are in a life threatening situation, and send whoever/whatever is required to get you.  If you are on the side of a mountain, it might be a helicopter.  You can buy an inexpensive insurance policy to cover the cost up to $100,000 


Spotwalla is used to configure the spot tracking web pages that display my progress.  Once a rider sets up the page by configuring the date range and which messages to include, a link is created which they can email to anyone they would like to be able to follow their progress.  Clicking any of the markers on the path, displayed on the spotwalla trip page, will open a dialog box with relevant time and location information.

I have created a spotwalla page for The Void 12 Rally.  It will only show the entire world on a flat map until the trip becomes active on Friday Sep 15th.  Once it starts receiving positions from my SPOT device on that day the map will automatically zoom in to the location.  The Void 12 Rally page will remain active until midnight on Mon Sep 18th.  You can follow my progress during the rally by visiting the following link on those dates:

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