Author Topic: "Support vehicle"  (Read 4587 times)

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Offline Cinzia

"Support vehicle"
« on: May 22, 2009, 07:08:47 pm »
I have seen references here on the forums to "support vehicles" being used by some biker groups.  As someone who wants to go solo on the Northern Tier, I am thinking about having someone I know come along driving a support vehicle.  I presume the vehicle is driven behind, or not too far from the biker.   Can anyone make any suggestions to the use of "support vehicles?"

Thank you.

Offline wanderingwheel

Re: "Support vehicle"
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2009, 05:18:20 pm »
There are a few different ways to utilize a support vehicle while on tour.  It sounds like you are thinking of "direct follow support" where the vehicle drives directly behind the rider.  This is used in ultra-races such as the Race Across America (RAAM) in order to give the rider easy access to required food and water, to provide music, directions, and moral support for the rider, to carefully watch the rider's physical and mental condition, to provide lighting at night, and to have spare wheels and bikes ready for the rider.  For touring, however, I think this type of support is inappropriate.  The goal of the direct follow is to keep the racer on the road as much as possible, but the true joy of touring comes from stopping.  Also, it requires a very dedicated person driving behind you and is very stressful on the driver and anyone else in the car, so it takes a very special person to be able to perfrom this type of support well.

Another ultra-race style of support is "leapfrog support."  In this, the support vehicle frequently stops at the side of the road and waits for the racer to pass, again supplying anything they need to keep them on the bike.  After the rider passes, the vehicle drives up the road at the normal speed of traffic, passes the rider, stops again, and repeats.  In a racing context, the real trick to these is for the support vehicle to wait long enough at each stop after the rider passes so that the support vehicle keeps the rider mostly in front of them, it does no good if the rider has an issue while they are behind the vehicle.  Again I think this style is inappropriate for touring, especially the racing oriented quick leapfrogs where the support vehicle tries to leapfrog the rider at least every 15 minutes.

Tour groups that have a dedicated support vehicle most often use them to carry the riders' luggage, to set up lunch and water stops, and to generally keep tabs on the riders so that no one gets too far off course or has a serious mechanical issue without support.  Again, the real trick for the driver is to keep most of the riders ahead except when setting up the rest stops.

If you have friends or family who are interested in making the same trip that you are by bike, they may be willing to carry your luggage and meet you each night at the hotel or campground.  This gives them the freedom to explore and do other things during the day rather than looking at the rider's backside, and lets you enjoy the ride with less gear and without worrying about the people in the support vehicle.  Maybe you can meet for lunch as well, or carry an overnight bag and meet the following day.  Remember, the tour should be enjoyable for everyone, the riders and the support crew.

Sean

Offline DaveB

Re: "Support vehicle"
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2009, 07:48:26 pm »
"Direct Follow Support" has one other negative.  It is incredibly annoying to other road users and rather dangerous.  The bike rider can ride to the right side of the travel lane or on the overpavement/shoulder.  The follow vehicle is going to fill an entire travel lane and be going 15-20 mph.  Every other road user will have to pass it and, on two lane roads, this may not be safe if the sight lines aren't adequate.  You will infuriate MANY people by doing this and it's completely unnecessary for a tour.

Offline bogiesan

Re: "Support vehicle"
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2009, 09:03:27 am »
All you need is a vehicle and communications. You leave on your bike and your support leaves a few hours later. Your sag overtakes you and pulls over a few miles ahead where it's safe. You swap food and discuss plans. Sag takes off and finds a camping site or motel room and unpacks and goes shopping for food or supplies. You arrive a few hours later. It's that simple. After a few days, you will get into a rhythm.

Of course, it rarely goes that well. You will have mechanical problems, your driver will miss a turn, road conditions will require unplanned separation. That's why you want FSB handsets and cellphones.

david boise ID
I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline Cinzia

Re: "Support vehicle"
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2009, 06:52:10 am »
Thank you, Sean and David, for your suggestions.  They're a big  help as to how we should go about this.

Offline MrBent

Re: "Support vehicle"
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2009, 11:15:52 am »
the true joy of touring comes from stopping. 
Sean

Well said!  It's not about the grind. Of course, we should ride in the way that makes us happy, but stopping, seeing, talking are key.  It ain't a job.

Have a blast on the N. Tier.

Scott

Offline paddleboy17

Re: "Support vehicle"
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2009, 12:18:22 pm »
I have seen references here on the forums to "support vehicles" being used by some biker groups.  As someone who wants to go solo on the Northern Tier, I am thinking about having someone I know come along driving a support vehicle.  I presume the vehicle is driven behind, or not too far from the biker.   Can anyone make any suggestions to the use of "support vehicles?"

Thank you.

I would like to give two other spins on your request.

Some years back, my buddies and I wanted to ride the Katy Trail across Missouri.  Our original plan was to ride it loaded, and before we had worked out the logistical issues of how to get back to our vehicle once we got to the end, I got a respiratory infection.  By the time I recovered, I was still up for riding, but not loaded touring.  We ended up riding unloaded, and taking turns sagging the route.  Each day, the sag driver would head to the overnight stop, leave the sag vehicle, and start riding backwards until he met the group.  All would ride together to the overnight stop and the sag vehicle.  This actually worked well, and we had a great time.  We had cell phones to coordinate with, and carried enough gear to address any minor mechanical issues flat tires.

Our wives feel like the guy are having all the fun, and want us to work them into our next big tour.  The girls have no desire to ride.  We will either ride from motel to motel or campground to campground.  The plan is for the wives to be free to do whatever they want during the day, and that they would meet us at our night's destination.  If we go from motel to motel, we just need a car.  If we go the campground route, we need an RV as our wives like their creature comforts.  Again, we would use cell phones to coordinate, or to call for a sag should something come up.  There are variations on this them.

I cannot image touring with a sag car following me closely.  It seems like a lot to ask from the sag driver.   

Perhaps you could go into more detail about your situation?
Danno

Offline Cinzia

Re: "Support vehicle"
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2009, 06:48:21 am »
Each day, the sag driver would head to the overnight stop, leave the sag vehicle, and start riding backwards until he met the group.  All would ride together to the overnight stop and the sag vehicle.  This actually worked well, and we had a great time.  We had cell phones to coordinate with, and carried enough gear to address any minor mechanical issues flat tires.

Paddleboy17, What you said above is probably what we will do, only change, the support driver will  not bike back being he does not have a desire to bike, just coming along for the safety issue and scenery being he has not driven through much of the northwest.

Also, the advice from David, from Boise, ID is heeded as well.

I do not believe following behind a biker is a good plan, but just wanted to throw that out there for a response..and I got it!

I appreciate ALL of the advice from you experienced bikers!

Thanks!
« Last Edit: June 08, 2009, 06:50:03 am by Cinzia »

Offline BicycleNevada

Re: "Support vehicle"
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2009, 07:47:59 pm »
Be aware that a vehicle following a bicycle, at the bicycles low rate of speed, or as most call it, a "Pace vehicle" requires a permit from most state Transportation Departments.  Any deviation of normal traffic patterns or the use of the right-of-way for other purposes (rest stops, etc.) would usually trigger this.  The "leap frogging' of support vehicles is a preferred method that does not require permits.

Offline Cinzia

Re: "Support vehicle"
« Reply #9 on: June 09, 2009, 08:04:11 am »
Thank you, BicycleNevada, for your input, but we decided against the "Pace vehicle" and will do "leap frogging" instead.

Offline Peaks

Re: "Support vehicle"
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2009, 12:15:44 pm »
I'd think that cell phones (where they work) would largely do away with any support vehicle needing to be in close contact with a biker.  Just prearrange meeting places, and use the cell phone if plans change. 

Offline Cinzia

Re: "Support vehicle"
« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2009, 01:59:14 pm »
Thank you, Peaks.  I will certainly have my cell phone..I have Verizon..hopefully there will not be too many out of network areas...it has been very good for reception throughout the US, but I've haven't taken it through the Western mountains yet.  It has much better reception than my husband's T-Mobil phone.

Thanks again!
« Last Edit: June 13, 2009, 02:01:25 pm by Cinzia »