How to setup your bike for rally style navigation

How To Set Up Your Bike For Cross-Country Rally Style Navigation

Maschine is hosting the Alpine Assault Rally on 1-3 December 2017. We’ve been wanting to stage a hard core adventure in the Victorian High Country for some time now and this ride will certainly provide a challenge. The course will be doable for a good rider on a big adventure bike or bring along your enduro bike with big tank.  Rather than just make the Assault a flat out blast though we decided to add an navigational challenge to the event by offering riders the chance to follow rally-style roadbook on roll chart.

To navigate in a cross country rally event like the Dakar Rally not only requires an increased level of mental athleticism compared to regular off-road riding but also a bike set-up that allows riders to accurately and quickly read navigation turn directions at speed.

Think about the thought process involved in normal off-road riding; you have to read the terrain, judge your speed, select your lines and keep an eye out for wildlife trying to take you out! Now imagine doing all that and having to read and memorise a bunch of hieroglyphics and numbers on a piece of paper suspended in a box hanging off the front of your motorcycle, while travelling at warp speed through the bush!

No wonder Dakar Rally is considered one of the hardest motorsport events in the world.

The cockpit on Toby’s KTM factory rally bike.

While our Alpine Assault Rally may not be a race it will still be mentally demanding. We are creating the roadbook to be essentially the same as that used in cross-country rally races like Dakar, however it will be simplified a little to make it easier for riders to follow. You can also simply use a GPS and follow a GPS track if you like and forget about navigating like Toby. This means if you don’t want to navigate rally style you can come along and enjoy a hard core adventure ride.  The terrain is likely to be hard enough for most riders on adventure bikes without having to worry about navigation too much.

To set up your bike for navigation in our Alpine Assault Rally there are several ways you can achieve a good navigation set up. Which one you choose depends on a few factors:

  • What equipment do you already have?
  • What type of bike you are riding and what space is available to fit navigation equipment.
  • How serious do you want to be and how much of a challenge do you want to give yourself?
  • Are you an analog or digital type of person?

Riders essentially have four options to choose from for navigation on this event:

  1. Proper rally-style Roadbook with roll chart holder and tripmeter
  2. Digital versions of Roadbook roll chart and rally Tripmeter
  3. GPS following tracks
  4. Smartphone following tracks using an app like Hema Explorer Pro

Let’s take a look at each of the set-ups: If you’re a paper purist read on. If you’re a fan of the digital age, skip to the next paragraph.

1. Roadbook Holder & Tripmeter

In my mind Dakar rally bikes are some of the coolest machines out there. Purpose built (or highly modified) dirt bikes with long range tanks and a cockpit that looks like you could launch the space shuttle while riding! In a pure cross-country rally race riders are given a roll chart road book which is essentially a continuous piece of paper 148mm wide with turn by turn directions printed on it. The roadbook is essentially broken up into three columns:

  • In the left hand column of the roadbook is cumulative kilometre readings. In the smaller box is the distance between each waypoint.
  • Through the middle column are drawings, or “tulips” as they often referred to, which are a visual indication of the route direction and terrain.
  • In the right hand column is written instructions (often using abbreviations) often noting hazards so you know if there’s anything tricky up ahead. Also displayed a compass (or CAP) heading so you know absolutely which direction to head.

Below is a sample page of the roadbook we will be producing for Alpine Assault Rally. If you are familiar with rally navigation then this won’t be much different.

Roadbook Holder

There are quite a few options for roadbook holders out there on the market but they are a bit of a speciality product.

Here is an image of the Ballards Roll Chart Holder set up on Nick’s KTM 1290 Super Adventure R.  This is a very simple set up and the Roll Chart Holder only cost $69.95 so it is a cheap way of giving rally navigation a go. Be aware though that this is a really basic unit so you have to manually advance and rewind the roll chart by thumb & fingers so you can’t be travelling at warp speed while using it. We’ve used a Ram Mount to secure it to the ‘bars.

Resettable Tripmeter

A crucial part of navigating by roadbook is that your motorcycle’s Tripmeter can be manually advanced or retarded. this means if you happen to overshoot a turn or get lost momentarily you can wind the distance reading on your tripmeter backwards (or forwards) to match the position in the roadbook.

The industry standard here tends to be ICO.

Tripmeter options –

  • Full on Dakar set-ups will have extras like dual tripmeters for redundancy and multiple thumb switches to advance or retard tripmeter without taking a hand off the ‘bars.

2. Digital Roadbook & Tripmeter

Although they may not be used in Dakar a viable option nowadays is using a smartphone or tablet to display a PDF of our roadbook and use it as a digital roadbook. With a waterproof case and good mounting method many riders may prefer a digital option rather than shelling out for specialised nav gear.


With changes in technology though new options become available and this has filtered through to Rally in the form of an appcalled “RBNavPro”. This app effectively allows your phone to display the roadbook digitally as well as a tripmeter based on your smartphone’s internal GPS. The cool thing is the tripmeter can be reset or advanced and retarded as required.

3. GPS

If you’re not interested in following rally style navigation but still want to do a hard core adventure then the last option is to navigate via GPS or Smartphone.

  • We will be providing the route as Tracks in a .GPX file that can be read by most motorcycle GPS units.
  • Our preferred models are the Garmin Zumo 595 or Garmin Montana 680T. Either one can follow Tracks and will work well for this event. Nick’s usual unit is the Zumo 590 because of the larger screen but the Montana is great when you spend a lot of time bush bashing off-road in minor tracks. Smaller handheld models like the Etrex will be fine too although the smaller screen can be harder to read at speed.
  • Mount your GPS where you can easily read it on the fly.
  • Your GPS should be hard wired to battery power on the bike.
  • We see maybe 70-80% of adventure riders that come to our Maschine events have a GPS so this is probably the easiest and cheapest option for many riders to join in this event.

4. Smartphones

Smartphones are becoming a viable alternative to GPS for digital navigation.

  • Lots of good apps, but my favourite is Hema Explorer Pro version.
  • Some of the later model smartphones like iPhone 7 are now waterproof so they can stay exposed to the elements much better than before.
  • Available apps include :Hema Explorer Pro,MotionX GPS, Rever, Mud Maps etc.
  • As above you need a secure way of mounting your smartphone or tablet where you can easily read it while riding.

How Do You Read A Rally Roadbook?

Reading a rally roadbook is an art in itself and is often the determining factor in who wins the Dakar Rally.

Here we have a sample rally roadbook the way we will prepare it for Alpine Assault Rally on 1-3 December. Ours is a bit simpler than a full on Dakar road book but the core is the same.

Check out this excellent video of an Italian guy navigating in a rally event: Navigation Tutorial

Helder Rodrigues: https://www.redbull.com/au-en/rally-dakar-2017-helder-rodrigues-road-book


So how do you think you would go navigating?

Sign up for our Alpine Assault Rally in December and test yourself while riding some cracking High Country terrain. You’ll either get very lost or have a great time trying not to!

We have included several links below to help you select your nav setup.

Emergency Beacons

Due to the high and very real risk of riders getting themselves hopelessly lost in the High Country we are making it mandatory for all riders to carry some type of emergency locator beacon or GPS tracker. Our preferred option is the Garmin InReach because it allows for two-way text messaging which can avoid the need to set off the SOS emergency button.

Your three options are:

We buy all our tech gear from Johnny Appleseed GPS. They provide great service and quick delivery Australia wide.

Don’t forget with both the InReach and Spot satellite trackers you need an active subscription from Pivotel.

You can also hire these devices from epirbhire.com.au if you don’t own one.


We can’t wait to greet riders for the start of our Alpine Assault Rally. It will be fascinating to see the variety of bike set-ups and we are hoping to see a few race ready rally bikes in the mix! Click here to read all about it

Product links

Below are some links to various product options. We haven’t used all of these products so we can’t vouch for their effectiveness or suitability so please do your own research!


F2R – Manual: https://www.f2r.pt/epages/f2r.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=/Shops/f2r/Products/RB701-012

F2R – Electric:  https://www.f2r.pt/epages/f2r.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=/Shops/f2r/Products/RB730

F2R – Electric:  https://www.f2r.pt/epages/f2r.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=/Shops/f2r/Products/RB750

Ballards – Manual: https://www.mxstore.com.au/p/Ballards-Roll-Chart-Holder/29-105

Touratech – Manual: https://shop.touratech.com.au/rb-xl-roadbook-holder.html

Touratech – Electric: https://shop.touratech.com.au/roadbookholder-rb-tt-i.html

Migtec – Electric: http://www.rebelxsports.com/product/migtec-electric-roadbook-holder/

MD Road Runner: http://www.vincestrangmotorcycles.com.au/store/index.php?route=product/category&path=24

Rally Management Services https://www.rallymanagementservices.com/ 

Rally Raid – http://www.rally-raidproducts.co.uk/ktm-billet-roadbook%20-mount


ICO – https://www.icoracing.com/collections/ico-racing-products OR


ICO CheckMate+ Enduro computer $359 https://www.icoracing.com/collections/ico-racing-products/products/checkmate-enduro-computer

Trail Tech Speedos – http://www.trailtech.net/computer-comparison


Touratech iBracketThe bees knees!

Ram Mount XGripImperative that you use the included rubber tether to secure your phone!

Ram Mounts – brilliant for mounting any sort of gear to your bike.

Quad Lock neat mounting option that is quick and easy secure your phone


iPad case: http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/rallyblitz-rally-iphone-app.936183/page-30#post-28729687

Switch gear: https://www.highwaydirtbikes.com/index.php?app=ecom&ns=catshow&ref=HDB-400

Bluetooth controller – https://www.adventurebikerider.com/news/1165-will-the-daytona-smartphone-controller-revolutionise-phone-usage-on-bikes.html


RallyBlitz Nav – https://appsto.re/au/fsX2R.i

Rally Blitz Navigator Pro – https://appsto.re/au/wstqhb.i

Track Pal – https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/trackpal-tripmeter-odometer/id1006456044?mt=8


F2R Rally Tripmeter – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.f2r.rallyTripMeter  (check for IOS version)

Info on set up: http://dualsport-sd.com/forums/index.php?/topic/18863-digital-roadbooks-in-beta-rallyblitz/

Info on building Bluetooth buttons: http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/rallyblitz-rally-iphone-app.936183/page-23#post-26630723