03/12/2015

GEAR REVIEW, RIDE REPORTS

Hamblyn’s Hole – Best Use of A Spot GPS Tracker

If you’ve ever wondered about the value of a GPS Tracker for adventure riding, hopefully this story will highlight how they should be considered an essential part of an adventure riders kit.

On Day 1 of the recent TransTerra ride in South East NSW the Maschine support team got a phone call at 1.50pm from Tom, the son of one of the riders in the group. Tom said that he had received a text message from his dad Steve Hamblyn from his Spot Tracker with a message saying, “I have broken down but I am fine. Have no phone service.”

A set of coordinates were included with the message that pinpointed him as being right in the middle of the first hard route section. This track was pretty gnarly with big washouts and plenty of rock steps and after a few bikes had been through earlier in the day the section had been closed off and swept. Unfortunately Steve had missed the signs and continued in after the track had been closed off. The process of retrieving a dead bike out of this area would be quite difficult as getting a 4WD in would be a mission in itself. The average speed of a bike riding through this section was down to 20kmh so to tow one out would take a considerable amount of time.

The sweep crew consisting of two bikes who worked their way back along the route to the coordinates given from the Spot Tracker to retrieve the rider and bike from the depths of the forest. Rob and his Dakar truck also followed the riders in to the closest main road to wait in case the heavy recovery gear was required.

Once Chris and Nick arrived to Steve’s location at about 5pm, it soon became clear why Steve wasn’t able to get his DRZ400 out by himself. Although the front wheel was a mere 50cm from dry ground the back end was bogged to the point of the DRZ’s tail light being underwater and yet you could stand at the back of the bike with the tail light between your feet in ankle deep water! The bottom of the bog hole had the consistency of quicksand and was holding on to that bike so very tight.

Steve explained that he had spent a good hour and a half trying to extract the bike out of the bog hole to the point of exhaustion. It was at that point he sent a pre-programmed message from his Spot Tracker to his son requesting assistance. Once he had set off his Spot Tracker, Steve relaxed a little and was confident that help would arrive.

The extraction process took three grown men, a bunch of thick branches, a rope and pulley system rigged up in trees and ninety minutes of wiggling, pulling and pushing to extract the DRZ from the bog. Once free, we then had to dewater the bike to get it to fire up again and clear the sand packed in around the chain & sprockets before it could be ridden out back to civilization under it’s own steam.

For the support crew and Steve it would be a late night but that was a far better outcome than the other options that you might consider could happen if Steve didn’t have a Spot Tracker on him. It was a good call on Steve’s behalf to send out the non-emergency help request.

So if you adventure ride out in the sticks you really should consider adding a GPS Tracker to your riding kit. Also, think about who you can add to your message list to help out in a non-emergency situation. Imagine the cost to tax payers of sending helicopters or god only knows what sort of rescue services out into the bush in situations like Steve’s.

In my opinion, as adventure riders if we are going to head off exploring the far reaches of the planet then we should take on some responsibility for our actions and carry equipment like GPS Trackers to look after ourselves. The latest GPS Trackers can send, and some can also receive, SMS messages via satellite so you can have a communication link to the outside world no matter where you are.

The cost to purchase GPS Tracker units have come down to around $200-$500 with annual satellite service subscriptions around $150. Pretty cheap insurance really for what could be a life saving device for adventure riders.

We sell both the Spot Tracker and DeLorme inReach in our Maschine online store here. In our view the DeLorme inReach is the better because of the fact you can both send AND receive SMS messages via satellite with this unit. We regularly use it on remote recce rides so loved ones can see current location and know that you have arrived at planned overnight stops OK but have also used it for general communication in remote areas.  Tranquility is nice but sometimes it’s nice to have a chat even when you’re out in the boonies.

There is a series of time-lapse photos we will upload as a video shortly that show the whole extraction process out of Hamblyn’s Hole. That bog hole really wanted to hang onto that DRZ!

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