Degree of Difficulty

I have ridden all the metaMotoADV rides documented on this website. So the degree of difficulty of each ride should be measured against my ability and the only way for that to make sense to anyone is to understand at least a little about my riding history and experience. I will try my best not to over or understate this experience here.

I will use 3 dimensions to describe my riding experience:

  • Distance traveled
  • Balance of road surface ridden
  • Personal likes and dislikes
Mileage

As of the beginning of 2019, I have about 8,000kms or off-road riding experience.

on Versus off-road

I started my motorcycle history on a Honda CB250. After one year, I moved onto a Ducati 900. I rode this bike for 2 years before selling it. In 2016, after 38 years without a bike, I purchased a Suzuki DR650 . So most of my experience until 2016 is old and it’s on-road. I did, however, have some minor experience on a Montessa trials bike during this early period.

Since buying the DR, I have ridden 16,000km and at least 50% of this has been on gravel roads. The tracks and ride reports stand as evidence of where I prefer to ride and should be assessed by you, the reader, in terms of my DR650’s ability.

Enfield Range Road NSW - degree of difficulty 1
Enfield Range Road NSW- Level 1
Likes and dislikes

I often prefer to ride alone and travel at my own pace. I stop when i like, for photos, and like not being driven by another rider’s pace. But I also like riding in company when the trip is reasonably well planned and I have some idea of what to expect. It also helps when you ride together with someone of similar ability when the degree of difficulty is higher or the track is more remote.

I dislike group rides which seem to focus on speed and distance without thought to the overall geography and location. In my experience, organised group rides, where the group is made up of people who are not familiar with one another, tend to fall into this category.

Conclusion – degree of difficulty

Based on this experience, I classify a track’s degree of difficulty on a scale from 1-3 as follows:

  1. Easier tracks suitable for beginners and or heavier bikes. Typically “commodore” type roads or at least well trafficked. Suitable for 2WD vehicles in most places,
  2. Challenging tracks with some element of single trail or features more associated with a need for 4WD vehicles, and
  3. Tracks which are better suited to lighter bikes or to be tackled only in the company of fellow riders able to assist. They may also be isolated from regular traffic and introduce a safety concern for solo riders.

I have no issue approaching level 1 and 2 tracks as a solo rider in most cases. I avoid some level 2 tracks and all level 3 tracks when I am riding solo.

Safety

I always carry a comprehensive first aid kit and a kti PLB. I used to have a SPOT device but consider this hardware marketed more toward our need for using social media. It’s costly to operate and its more popular features are offered elsewhere for free (e.g. Spotwalla and the Bubbler GPS App). The Australian made kti unit is registered with Australian Maritime Safety Authority (instead of a commercial enterprise) which gives me piece of mind.

That said, I always consider that my use of the beacon will most likely be for the assistance of someone else, not me. And I always hope that someone else will be able to use theirs or mine to help me. I restrict my solo travels, as much as possible, to reasonably well trafficked roads with a lower degree of difficulty. I’m aware that sometimes it’s not until after a ride that you realise the safety risks were higher than you expected.

The only next step to being more able to communicate in remote areas would be a Garmin InReach device. I have not gone down this path yet.

Adventure Wall to Wall 2017 (RR)

Wall to Wall adventure motorcycle ride
adventure
Lake Windemere from Aarons Pass Road

The inaugural adventure Wall to Wall 2017 motorcycle ride was initiated by Dave Darcy. Dave wanted to create an alternative ride for adventure motorcycles to compliment the road bikes of the traditional remembrance ride. He asked RideADV to manage it.

Dave Darcy has a great YouTube channel with lots of exciting content on rides and motorcycle reviews. He’s probably best known for his London to Sydney ride some years ago on his KTM690.

The tracks were fantastic, as usual, and well researched by RideADV. A great way to see the towns of Gulgong, Wellington, Molong, Parkes, Eugowra, Gooloogong, Koorawatha, Murringo, Boorowa and Yass  even if most were just fleeting visits.

A 4 day/3 night ride, we stayed in  Gulgong, Parkes and Yass in Motels.

It was good to know the support vehicle was always on your tail.

adventure
Wolgan Valley from Capertee
General Route
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Wall to Wall Adventure 2017 GPX 2.85 MB 9 downloads

I attended the Wall to Wall Adventure 2017 ride. My report can be read here. The Wall...

For people who could get there, the ride formally started at The Domain in Sydney. Riders were escorted out of Sydney by Police motorcycle and joined the road west to Lithgow. A formal stop was scheduled at Capertee where other riders joined in. From Capertee to Gulgong, the ride was navigated by markers. From Gulgong the ride as a navigation ride and riders kept to small groups of roughly equal riding ability.

Each day had a standard route and at least one breakout section but I think everyone on this ride took the breakout sections as of they were standard.

The GPX file download above is there for anyone who wants to see exactly where we went.

Incidents

There were a few dropped bikes along the way including mine. But no serious injuries were reported.

Memorial

It was good to be able to join all the other motorcycles at EPIC in Canberra and be a part of thousands of people attending the annual ceremony at the National Police Memorial. A sombre event, and one which highlights the risk to policing and the ultimate sacrifice made by some members of the force.

Scrapheap Adventure

“The Scrapheap Adventure Ride is a unique fundraising event which involves motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the country purchasing a bike for no more than $1000 and doing it up for an adventure ride through the Aussie outback, all while raising money for people with Down syndrome.”

Great tracks and a great bunch of people, with all bikes welcome.

This year (2019) will be a run to northern NSW – the Byron Bay hinterland. Looking forward to it.

Join a team or just enter and join us at the start point.

More information about the rides at the Scrapheap Adventure Ride Website and about Down Syndrome at Down Syndrome NSW website.

Reports on previous rides:

GPS Navigation and Maps

GPS Navigation has taken off in recent times and the further afield I travel the more inclined I am to have paper maps as a backup to my GPS navigator. I’ve concluded that there is NO single source of information I can trust in exclusion of all others. They can each contribute to the final solution on route choices. I’ll leave the pre-running exercise to the professional support/ride companies – they have to afford that. I have to decide where to go from my desktop – before I leave.

Paper Maps

I have HEMA maps of each state and a couple of smaller areas e.g. Flinders Rangers as well as South Australia. I also have the HEMA Australian Road & 4WD Easy Read Atlas. The atlas would be impossible for me to take along on a ride – it’s too big and heavy. But these maps do a good job of indicating the extent of differing road surfaces.

OpenStreetMaps (OSM)

mapsMy navigation software uses OpenStreetMaps as its source even though updates are only done about 3-4 times a year. But I can maintain a more up-to-date mapping environment in Basecamp with my own version of OSM maps.

GPS Navigation

I used to use a Garmin GPS device on the bike. It unfortunately proved unreliable (random re-boots) and my model did not support tracks and was not water proof. It only accepted routes. Typically, routes end up constantly re-calculating which is not what you want. A track is locked down and fixed. You are either on it or not which is what you want.

So I found 2 things which made using my already waterproof phone a sensible idea.

The choice of navigation software is a personal thing. We discover and invest time in a solution and get happy with it. We don’t have time to go through this process with every alternative on the market. But I can highly recommend Locus. There’s a lot of good features and it’s never let me down and there’s a lot of good support.

Locus Maps is all offline (it even uses BRouter offline router for re-routing), it can show track gradients, it syncs really easily with Basecamp via a dropbox account or similar, it records your tracks, and much more.

SP Connect has RAM mounts and I use a long arm to get the phone nice and high just under the top of the windscreen.

QuadLock (Australian Company) now also have RAM mounts – they didn’t when I chose SP Connect.

One day there will be a good and affordable heads-up display for our helmets but for now they’re pretty expensive and pretty clunky.

Download the HDS AUS Maps and install them into Basecamp

Refer also to Planning and Mapping Tools.

Planning and Mapping Tools

Overview

The tools I use for planning and mapping trips are:

Basecamp – Planning

From version 4.7.0 of Basecamp, the View|Google Earth menu option is not available. It’s still possible to view your tracks and routes in Google Earth from version 4.7 but it requires extra steps of exporting them from Basecamp and then opening them in Google Earth. It’s a lot easier to just select a route and view the route in Google Earth with version 4.6.2 so my advice is just stick to this version. The View|Google Earth menu option starts up Google Earth, if it is not running, and sends the route across in one operation. When you close Google Earth, you can choose to just discard the route or save it in ‘My Places’ if you wish. I just discard because it’s already saved in Basecamp.

When using Basecamp 4.6.2, you must have the 32 bit version of Google Earth in order to use the above feature. The 64bit version does not respond to the requests to open and receive a route automatically. I am not aware of how the mac version behaves. If it fails to open the route then I have no suggestions as to a fix, sorry.

Basecamp is my main planning and mapping tool. It’s the way I visualise the route, record it, file it, play what-ifs, and use it to send the final versions to my phone or navigator.

OpenStreetMaps – Mapping

planning mapping exampleI like to support the open source effort in software development and the mapping environment is no exception. The tools are readily available and easy to use for those who wish to contribute to correcting and adding details to OSM in this way.

To get started, you open your web browser at the OpenStreetMaps website, create a login and start correctly errors.

The maps I use are based on OpenStreetMaps and built from the geofabrik source map for Australia. This is an automatic build of the OpenStreetMaps for Australia which is refreshed almost every night. So if you make a correction or add a track today, your work will be visible to you and everyone else within 48 hours of saving the changes.

It’s very easy to open an account at OpenStreetMaps and the online tools, once logged on, are very simple to use. For NSW, we are lucky that NSW State Government Department of Lands and Property Information (LPI) has provided their maps as a layer for OpenStreetMaps. It’s a good authority. Hopefully one day other states will follow this lead.

Map Uploader – Mapping

This is an advanced topic. To create working maps to use in Basecamp, you need to do a lot of data processing. There may be other ways to do this but I have chosen to use www.pinns.co.uk MapUploader software. I process the geofabrik .pbf file using MapUploader and I use my own .TYP file for processing the maps which can be edited with pinns TYPWiz. A TYP file is a file describing what colours you want things to be drawn in, how thick you want the lines etc.

I also use the contours and the digital elevation model (DEM) data settings when making my maps which provides a lot of help when assessing my routes. You need to download the DEM data separately as a once off process to be able to always include this in the maps you make for your region. When I generate my maps for Basecamp, I process the whole country but it’s also possible to do a single state. I’ve also processed South America continent and Japan for trips I’ve made there.

The maps for Australia are about 3Gb in total when generated for Basecamp. Not something you can email but I am happy to send them on a USB stick if you send me one. I can also generate a BaseCamp Map Installer to make the installation easier.

Google Maps

Google Maps is the best way to review 3D imagery of the country when you lay the map over. The web version of the 3D view is better than Google Earth. Streetview is also good to check road surface and the extent of sealed roads. Not all roads have Streetview imagery.

Between all these tools you end up working thru a lot of issues prior to departure. Sometime I end up knowing the route so well before I leave I hardly have to consult my GPS or maps. But I do take paper maps with me when I go just in case I need a large view on any alternative routes I might need to use.

The blue line of Streetview can give you a lot of confidence that the road is well used. When your tracks runs off the blue line it’s nice to see the intersection.

Google Maps and Steetview are essential tools for making an assessment about degrees of difficulty.

Seeing the quality of road at the intersection can give you a good idea of how much the road is used by local traffic. No guarantees for what lies ahead. Aerial views of your track from there is the best you can do.
Google Earth

Checking your planned route in Google Earth is simple. Export your track(s) from Basecamp  as KML files and open them in Google Earth.

Seeing your route from satellite view can sometimes confirm your suspicions very quickly. If a Streetview has been taken of the road, you should consider this a very easy road. So if the blue line is there when you drag the little man across, it’s easy.

NSW LPI Basemap and Google Earth

The NSW Land and Property Information Department (recently subsumed into another department), has very good survey information of all gazetted roads in NSW. They publish this information in various forms so third parties can use it. HEMA accesses this data as an overlay. So too does Australian Topo Maps (an android phone application). It is also available as a basemap for Google Earth. Six Maps is the Department’s publication tool. The NSW background basemap is this same layer.

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NSW LPI Base Layer for Google Earth 2.27 KB 8 downloads

This KML file can be opened and saved into Google Earth as a basemap or layer. You...

The download above can be opened (or switched on) in Google Earth while you inspect your routes to see if your plan is following gazetted tracks.

Paper Maps

HEMA paper maps are my choice. But Forestry Corporation Maps can provide additional clarification. As always, more sources of information provide more opportunity for conflict.

I always have my HEMA Atlas open when I work with Basecamp. I take the relevant state HEMA map(s) with me when I go.

HEMA Explorer Cloud

HEMA Maps are well known and very popular in the 4WD and adventure motorcycle world. They sell paper maps, navigation devices and electronic versions of their maps. They also provide these electronic maps on a subscription basis and the more you pay, the higher the resolution maps you can get. There is a comparison between HEMA used in navigation and Locus Maps here

The HEMA Cloud website where you can access most of HEMA’s map resources online