Saturday, May 27, 2017

App review: Rever, a trip planner & tracker

I recently used the app Rever (version 2.0), a GPS tracking and planning app for my adventure motorcycling ride in Nevada.
There are a number of tracking apps available on the various app stores, and in Australia I use two, Hema Maps and Memory-Map, however both do not offer detailed USA maps, hence looking for something that would support my mapping needs for the USA.

In reviewing the NVBDR route, I noticed that Butler maps was the key mapping provider for the route. In turn, I stumbled on the Rever app which integrated Butler maps with HERE maps. Development is still ongoing with ver3.0 being released a few days ago. Enhancements are minor, however the big add-on is the introduction of additional mapping partners.

One of the best features Rever offers is the ability for the app to integrate into the website and allow you to plan a ride via the dashboard view.   A planned ride can be manually mapped or imported via a GPX file. Once complete, the planned ride will be synced to your phone and allow you to ‘Ride It'.
Rever Website - Dashboard view

One minor note: the ‘Planned Rides’ never move to ‘Tracked Rides’ once ridden.

I will definitely be using the website to keep track of my 4wd adventures through the use of the import GPX feature.

I mounted my phone to the KLR650 via the RAM X-Grip and disabled the screen timeout.

A post shared by Martin Solms (@overland_live) on


The App

The opening screen on the app is the Feed view.    By default it displays all public rides. Using the drop down menu will allow you to review your latest rides and those of your friends (that you opt to follow).


Discover:
The next screen offers you the ability to connect to communities and friends plus find places to ride. The good news is that Rever has partnered with a number of mapping / route providers and now include BDR routes, plus Brazil and New Zealand routes.  This section will clearly be enhanced as more partners come onboard.
Rever App:  Discover BDR Routes

Tracking:
Tracking - it works well.  At one point on the Nevada ride, I had the phone in the tank bag and the GPS kept track of the route.

If you opt to ride a planned route, a breadcrumb trail will be overlayed on the map.  It does not provide navigation assistance, like Google Maps would, rather it relies on you to navigate.



It was easy enough to follow a planned ride via GPX track (breadcrump) as it overlayed the track on the map. The map screen had a few view options: Centre Map and directional travel.


Profile:
The one minor gripe with the new app is that you need to go to your profile screen, then select rides to view your Tracked and Planned rides.   Too many touches to get to that feature.

One interesting feature embedded in the app is the ability to send SMS notifications when a ride is started and finished.

Rever: SMS Notifications

Good Points which I loved:

Website planning and overall management of planned and tracked rides.

Ability to share planned rides with friends (once they are registered on the website/app).    The app has the ability to share your location with friends, although the Premium subscription is needed.  The subscription is monthly so I opted to pay for the feature for the Nevada ride and unsubscribe when home.


Features that I think the app needs enhancing:

Waypoints: The ability to navigate to a waypoint or at least show ‘distance-to-go’. Waypoints are not displayed whilst riding. This feature would be useful as it would allow you to easily review how far until that next waypoint, or your end destination.

Zoom: Pinch to zoom on my iphone, using gloves does not work. Option for auto-zoom(speed based) or an overlayed Plus / Minus button would work.  I like to see perspective when riding (zoom out) but also require detail when the route gets navigationally complex.

Estimated travel time: Probably one of the best features that Tracks4Africa offer is the ability to tell you the average time to travel a track. Tracks4Africa get this right because of the number of GPX uploads and their ability to average the travel time. An awesome feature would be for Rever and the mapping/ride partners to include this capability.

In Summary...

This is the app for you if you enjoy detailed route planning, self navigation and keeping a history of your rides.  The app / website integration is the best feature!  Don't limit this app to adventure motorcycling - integrate it into your 4x4 overland adventures and build that community!

Rever 3.0 Press Release

https://rever.co/2017/05/14/rever-moto-app-version-3-0-ios/

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Trip Report: Valleys and Peaks - Day 4

Death Valley...
into the valley we rode, the morning crisp from the Nevada rain that cleared the dust and chilled the air.    The knobby KLR760 tyres hummed on the smooth sealed road which lead into the depths of Death Valley.

From below sea level we climbed to Dante's View, loving the ride to the summit.

Ears popped with the change in altitude as rode from below sea level to 1600m ASL.

Our destination after Dante's View as the HQ of Great Southern Moto Adventures.  Our four day journey was coming to an end.

But, first we had some more riding to do.  I love the fact that we can take these bikes on just about any trail.  A shortcut was advertised from Dante's View to Shoshone.


A section of the route was on the Old Spanish Tail - one of the most arduous historical trails dating back hundreds of years.  The notable feature was a long uphill section into an icy headwind.  Temperatures dropped to 3Deg C as we shivered our way to our destination.

And finally, after four days and 959km, we arrived back at GSMA.
A post shared by Martin Solms (@overland_live) on


Trip Stats:
Ride distance: 329Km
Total trip time: 7hr 59min


Additional Reading:

Friday, May 12, 2017

Trip Report: Canyons and Craters - Day 3

Welcome to day 3 on my Nevada adventure motorcycling trip.
Titus Canyon
This is the daily log of six novice adventure riders who attempted the new #NVBDR route but have had to abandon it due to broken pegs and tougher-than-thought terrain. We are riding Honda Africa Twins and Kawasaki KLRs.

Crisp air welcomed tired bodies out of the hotel and Mel's Diner called our name.   No chance of a fresh barista made latte in Mel's Diner however the food was in abundance and the atmosphere made the occasion.

Titus Canyon

Our first destination for the day was Titus Canyon. The Canyon is a deep narrow gorge cut into the Grapevine Mountains of the Mojave Desert in California. The track through the canyon is one way for vehicle traffic and is known for its winding passes and steep gorge walls.

This route was made for adventure motorcycles as the track wound it way up and down hills before descending into the gorge.


Layers of rock scaled to the cliff heights as our ears hummed with the silence of the gorge.  Echoes of conversation would bounce off the walls.  Once again we were pondered how the early miners found routes through the barren hills.



My GPS tracked the kilometres traveled revealing the enjoyable pace we were traveling at.  The gale force winds continued to howl above us, as witnessed by the rolling clouds.  And then the peace and serenity ended as we exited the Canyon and rolled into Death Valley.

The riding was thoroughly enjoyable with enough wow moments to keep us entertained.  Standing on the pegs of the KLR650, I felt the bike was beautifully balanced as I manoeuvred the bike through the tight canyon turns and across the loose gravel.
Honda Africa Twin cockpit

Note: Titus Canyon is actually in California and is not part of the offical Nevada BDR.

Ubehebe Crater
Ubehebe Crater

The route through Titus Canyon ends along Death Valley and offers a natural route to the Ubehebe Crater.    The crater is roughly 1km wide and a few hundred metres deep.  It could potentially be as young as 800years old (or 2000 or 7000years old).   The ride to the crater rim is on sealed roads.

The bikes shook as the wind challenged the side stand whilst perched on the crater rim.  The wind made the time rather unpleasant as sand whipped our faces.  It was time to head back to Beatty and call it a day.

Arriving back in Beatty we noticed the nail sticking out of the Africa Twin rear tyre.  Thankfully we did not have to change the tube!

Trip Stats:
Accommodation: Beatty (again)
Ride distance: 199km
Total trip time: 6hr 08min


Additional Reading:

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Trip Report: Broken Pegs & the Happy Burro - Day 2

Welcome to day 2 on the Nevada Backcountry Discovery Route.
This is the daily log of six novice adventure riders tackling the new #NVBDR route. We are riding Honda Africa Twins and Kawasaki KLRs.

Broken Pegs & the Happy Burro

Our planned route for day 2 was completely on the NVBDR which meant lots of unsealed roads. Well, that's what we thought we had planned.

We rejoined the NVBDR after a restful night in the Primm Casino hotel and a quick breakfast at McDonalds.  We got a few good comments and questions: "Are you guys racers?" Haha, far from it!

Initially the track runs North, parallel to the I-15 highway, before turning to the North East and onto Pahrump.

Broken Pegs

20Km later and we had a broken foot peg on the Africa Twin.    The track had a number of sections damaged by flood water and as a result large boulders lay scattered on the track.  One of the Africa Twin riders followed the inside track on a left turn and had little room to maneuver to avoid a few large boulders.  The front tyre clipped a rock and milliseconds later the rider was on the floor.  The rider and bike were ok except for the right foot peg.

On small vital piece off the Africa Twin was crucial in changing plans... the NVBDR was over.   We needed to return to Las Vegas to repair the Honda AT and rethink our plans.
Making that call to GSMA... we needed help

Decision made... we would use the highway from Las Vegas to the old mining town of Rhyolite and onto Beatty for the evening.    Nevada also decided to change weather patterns and the 38Deg C heat wave turned into strong 60km gale force winds.  It was not a pleasant few hours as we fought the North Westerly winds towards Beatty.

Head down, we wobbled our way North West to Beatty.  A quick bite to eat at the Area51 Alien Center roadhouse before pushing onto Rhyolite, an old mining town.
Rhyolite was built around 1905 but quickly faded as miners moved to Beatty.  Infrastructure resources was pretty scarce so the town folk dismantled buildings and carted them to Beatty.



The Happy Burro

When you visit Beatty as part of the NVBDR, be sure to have a bowl of chili at the Happy Burro.   The food is good, the beer is cold and the atmosphere is outstanding.  We spent an enjoyable few hours detoxing from the gale force winds and talking through the broken peg incident and being thankful that no one was injured.
Happy Burro Chili & Beer in Beatty
No rest for those on international business trips... day 3 needed planning!


Trip Stats:
Accommodation: Atomic Inn, Beatty
Ride distance: 273Km
Riding time: 3hours 17min

The route below was our intended NVBDR track...


Additional Reading:

Trip Report: Trail or Tracks?

What happens when you take a bunch of newbie adventure riders half way around the world to ride an established North American Backcountry Discovery Route?  

Firstly, you get Nevada to welcome you with 38Deg C weather, then 60km/h gale force winds, add in 3Deg C weather at 1600m above sea level and not to forget huge dust storms as you cross the border into California and Death Valley!

Trans-continental overland travel brings the world alive. Intercontinental flights dull the emotions to new countries and cultures but are needed when time poor. Patience was needed as we hopped from one flight to the next - two flights in total and more than 24hours travel time.  Our first stop in Las Vegas was Great Southern Moto Adventures.
Great Southern Moto Adventures

We met Curtis and Jeff, owners of GSMA and part of the team responsible for creating the NVBDR.  A lifetime of adventure riding has contributed to the development of one fantastic route. Jeff, the GSMA operations manager had two KLR650 and four new Africa Twin's setup and waiting and all that was needed was to sign the final paperwork, pack the panniers and hit the road South.

I had opted for the Kawasaki KLR 650 as my adventure riding experience was limited to smaller bikes and shorter distances. Curtis had advised the following: "The KLR’s will be much more fun, easy to operate and probably provide a better overall experience for the less experienced besides being more safe for them".  It sounded like the perfect bike for me!

Kawasaki KLR650
This YouTube clip sums up the bike nicely:



Six riders in convoy are not easy to manage. We had one mantra. Always try remember who is behind you and wait at each major junction for the person to arrive.  Well, this was hard to manage as we attempted to leave Las Vegas.  5km later and one of the Honda Africa Twins suffered a front tyre puncture.  Our group of six riders were now split in two.

The group I was in made the decision to push on and follow the original plan and let the two other riders meet us at the accommodation in Primm.   Thankfully they were close to GSMA which meant that Curtis and Jeff could drive over with a spare wheel and replace it.

The NVBDR has two unsealed sections between Searchlight and Primm, however the first section had suffered damage due to flash flooding and Curtis advised us to re-join the trail at Nipton.

Quick drink stop in Nipton
The Nipton to Primm section follows the rail road tracks which allow for a quick escape from the soft sandy track sections.  The trail caught a few of the riders out as the conditions quickly changed from compacted stoney gravel to loose gravel including a few sandy sections.  The temperature was a whopping 38Deg C!  This section was only 20km long but took the four of us an hour to complete!



Raw video showing sections of the track:



Trip Stats:
Accommodation: Primm Valley Casino Resort (Good enough but don't eat in the hotel as its rather expensive)
Ride distance: 161km
Total trip time: 3hr30min

Rever.co Track:

Our route from Nipton to Primm.   We stopped many times to reveille in the fact that we were riding the NVBDR and to enjoy the moment.  This track should not take you this long.


Additional Reading:

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Pre-Trip Report: Nevada Backcountry Discovery Route (NVBDR)

2017 is all about adventure motorcycling and to kick off the year, I will be heading to Nevada (in May) to ride the newly established Backcountry Discovery Route.

The Backcountry Discovery Routes aims to establish off-highway routes for adventure motorcycle travel. i.e think of those big adventure touring bikes following cross country trails.
Thanks to BDR for creating Off-Road Routes for Adventure Travel

The big benefit of the BDR is that the team have scoped out some of the best adventure riding across seven states (todate) and have published maps and GPS tracks (which are downloadable) to enable adventure riders to explore off-highway routes.




A post shared by Backcountry Discovery Routes (@ridebdr) on


I first heard about the North American Backcountry Discovery Routes through the Adventure Rider Radio podcast - it was an interesting interview with Paul Guillien (Founding member of BDR).
Jim Martin introduced the podcast with a few thoughts: "Humans crave adventure. We love the idea ; the feeling we get ; but who has the time and how do we manage adventure with our schedule?"
Introducing Backcountry Discovery Routes.
Take a listen to the podcast via Adventure Rider Radio.

One of the interesting conversation points on the interview was the financial contribution the BDR has bought to the remote towns and communities.
"The best way to protect access to these areas is to create economic stimulus for these small towns and communities."
According to Paul Guillien, this has lead to the small towns actively encouraging routes to traverse their towns.  Fantastic commercial viewpiont which I think many small towns could benefit from.

Nevada Backcountry Discovery Route

There are many benefits working for an American company - one of them usually includes trips to the USA for annual sales and technical conferences. The end destination is usually Las Vegas as the city can support a thousand plus employees in a single conference venue. It was my turn to travel from Sydney to Las Vegas for the annual conference so I added a few extra travel days, recruited a few colleagues and hired the adventure bikes.

The plan:  to ride parts of the Nevada Backcountry Discovery Route.

Instagram:
A post shared by Backcountry Discovery Routes (@ridebdr) on


"The NVBDR is a scenic ride across Nevada, beginning in Oatman, AZ, and finishing in Jarbidge, NV. Created for dual-sport and adventure motorcyclists, this 900-mile south-to-north route primarily uses dirt roads to lead riders through Nevada’s expansive deserts, open sagebrush valleys, and seemingly endless mountain ranges.
In rural Nevada, you’ll experience historic saloons and relics from it’s rich mining history. The state’s maverick spirit remains, and you’ll see ghost towns, artifacts, desert sculptures, murals, the world’s largest car forest, jackrabbits, antelope and even wild mustangs." Source: http://ridebdr.com/NVBDR

Pre-trip prep:

Balancing family life, a career, hobbies and sport often means that my overland adventure travels needs to be planned and thought through so as to maximise the time.
Thankfully, I love planning and don't quite enjoy the unpredictable nature of spontaneous travel. I love the research involved - everything from pouring over maps, reviewing budgets, recruiting willing participants and sharing the adventure to willing ears.

Logistics and Route:

Bike Rental: We opted to rent motorcycles from Great Southern Moto Adventures. The company is based in Las Vegas and were part of the volunteer team to establish the Nevada BDR. They offered two types of bikes: The Kawasaki KLR and the new Honda Africa Twin. All the bikes are equipped with soft panniers, and tank bags with optional accessories available like GPS and helmets. Curtis, one of the owners,  was very patient with our many emails and provided insight into alternative routes back to Las Vegas.

Equipment: This has proved a tough decision as many of us are new to adventure motorcycle touring and don't have the clothing or additional equipment like GPS units. We have opted to borrow and purchase 2nd hand equipment. Everything from boots, protective gear and jackets. We have mostly hired helmets.

GPS:  I have opted to test the Rever.co motorcycle app (iPhone & Android) to plan, track and navigate the route.  One of the benefits is the ability to plan a route on the website and then use your mobile phone or tablet to start and track the route.   More on the app usage later.

The route: Here's a snapshot of the route:



Day 1: Las Vegas to Primm via Searchlight and Nipton.
Link https://goo.gl/maps/TT1yE1KHtj12

Day 2: NVBDR: Primm (via Pahrump) to Beatty

Day3: Beatty to Tonopah following the NVBDR. This is a combination of Section 2 and Section 3.

Day4: NVBDR Section 4 to Route 82. Then back to Tonopah.
Tonopah back to Las Vegas via Extraterrestrial highway (and past Area51).
Link: https://goo.gl/maps/cvG3ip4NRNT2

The full #NVBDR route on Google Maps as published by RideBDR.  The downloadable GPX file contains plenty of information and detailed route tracks.


That's it for now.  I will endeavour to provide a daily log... links below:

Additional Reading:

Day 1: Trail or Tracks
Day 2: Broken Pegs & The Happy Burro
Day 3: Canyons & Craters
Day 4: Valleys & Peaks

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Consume - Connect - Contribute

I was recently attending a technology meetup in Sydney and one of the keynote speakers mentioned the steps to becoming involved in a local meetup:  Consume, Connect and Contribute.

It struck me that this happens in the overland travel world - and its all about the passion for trans-continental travel.

Here are my thoughts...

Consume:

Forums, Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and good old travel books!  There is more information available online today than anything published prior to 2010!   Read and digest the information!
The key item about consuming all the information is to make notes - jot down interesting forum comments, blog post snippets and anything relevant.  Keep a record either online or in a simple notebook.  This information comes in use as your knowledge builds up and the excitement for your pending trip looms.  It becomes a foundation for future contributions!



Connect:

Nothing builds excitement for a trip like meeting like-minded people.  Overlanders love sharing stories - mainly because our co-workers care little for our after-hours day dreams and year-long adventures.
Reach out online, make new friends and connect to others.
There are plenty of group events held annually which bring people together - slightly tougher being bold enough to introduce yourself so ping introductory emails prior to the event.

We managed to get Gareth & Kirsty from Aussie Overlanders to present at the local Sydney Overland Meetup:
"You Create Your World" - Gareth & Kirsty


Contribute:

Now its your turn.  Regurgitate all the info and start sharing.  Write a blog, post to social media.  Share and contribute your experience.  Not only is it very relevant today but it creates an overland history. In decades to come, the next generation will have information to read and ponder on.




That's it - Consume, Connect and Contribute.

Friday, March 3, 2017

BigSky Adventures 2005

Twelve years ago i.e. 2005, the TransAfrica trip from London to Cape Town started. BigSky Adventures started in London and had a clear plan to complete a crossing of the African continent - with many diversions along the way to explore and experience the African continent.

BigSky Adventures will relive that year via Instagram with the aim of posting one (or more) photos daily.