Got a Plan?
Yes folks, it’s just like being a teenager again, only this time if you put in the ground work you’re 95% sure of getting a decent ride. Maps offer a wealth of information. By studying them you can learn a lot about the topography of an area before committing to riding it. Groups of contour lines mean the area is hilly. That blue line running through it is a creek. Put the two together and you may have a decent camp site, or the gully from hell. With a bit of practice you can equate the symbols on the maps to various landmarks when out riding. If, for instance, the track you want to take leaves the road you are on just before a thick set of contour lines on the map, you can look ahead for the hills and be prepared for the track to appear just before them. Rivers are good reference points, as are farm houses and stations, many of which are marked on topos and Magellan GPS mapping.
Plenty of Options
There is riding out there to suit everyone. From a quiet back road cruise to the most challenging killer trail, it can all be found by simply asking a land manager and studying a few maps. Okay, you’ll have duds, but with practice you’ll learn to find spots that will excite and challenge you. Be adventurous; don’t keep flogging the same trails…and the same people. Explore and discover!
Plan an Escape
One point many riders forget when planning a route is to factor in possible escape paths. If anything, escape routes are more important than the actual ride route, because you’ll really need them in an emergency. Is there a quick way out or a house handy? A closer option for fuel if things get tight? A hut to shelter in or a fast way out of the mountains if the weather turns bad?
If you have these points nailed before you leave home you will be less likely to get into strife if things turn bad.
Abbreviated Route Sheets
A very handy thing is to have a rough of the planned route written onto a strip of silver tape on the front guard or the fuel tank. It doesn’t need much info, just the outline. TL at T. 5ks to fuel. House near bridge. TR at Berry Rd. Just some landmarks so you’ve got an idea on what is coming up. Distances, approximate leg times, refuel points and the like can all be listed at home, and the information accessed by simply glancing down at the tape. It’s simple, but it works, and it saves dragging the maps out at every intersection.
The best way to ensure that the maps are correct or even that your proposed route is open, is to lay your map out on the counter of the local servo or the pub before you leave. Maps are magnets. Throw one down and in no time flat you’ll have three or four locals arguing over the finer points and tossing information at you at the speed of sound. Listen to every word, especially about landmarks to watch out for. If necessary, take notes and tape them to your bars.
Locals are also reasonably clued up on camping spots, the availability of water, food and fuel, and which pub has the best meals and the most comfy beds. That said be careful about trusting everything you’re told, and try to cross-check important stuff like fuel availability with others.