Stuck, Hurt or Lost--Lessons Learned
Well there has been quite a reaction and debate about a 1200GS that was abandoned in an OHV park when the rider couldn't get the bike up and out:
Funny enough, I was in the same boat just a couple of weeks prior not too far away from the rider in that thread. After discussing my situation with my riding buddies and family, a few lessons were learned. I'm sure the above mentioned post will have some learning points as well. Thus, this thread. I would like to discuss these issues as a way for others to learn from our mistakes. So, have you gotten yourself stuck someplace you couldn't ride the bike out? Did your bike fail you out in the middle of nowhere? Did you crash and get hurt and couldn't ride? What were your preparations before your incident? What went right and wrong in your "rescue"? What would you do differently next time?
"If you remember that the difference between a learning experience and a mistake is that a mistake is a repeated learning experience, all shall be well."------Pin-it-Dad!!
Never yet been in a situation where I have not managed to self-extract, but am subscribing because....you never know.
I was out solo on a Saturday doing some pre-riding for an upcoming group ride. I've ridden a lot of the Mendocino National Forest, so am quite familiar with the roads and trails. I spent hours combing over various maps to look for new trails and/or loops to entertain my small crew. I had my gps programmed with many prospective tracks, and I figured I'd just explore what I could with the time I had to work with. I started early, hitting the road by 0730 on my plated XR650R. I had 2L water/powerade in my hydration pack, plus another liter stashed on the bike. A few granola bars was all the food I took with me. I told my parents (who stayed back to watch my son) that I'd be back mid-afternoon, 1600 being the latest. And of course, I had my SPOT. Being that I had the SPOT, I did not share my route with anyone before departure.
One key decision point was a gas stop at about 1100. I topped off the tank (6-gallon Acerbis) and bought a liter of water. Instead of buying extra and re-filling my hydration bladder, I just drank what I bought and rode on. Most of the riding was on well-known forest service roads. But I did find some "other" stuff that took a lot of time and energy to get through. Single track (thankfully downhill), that doesn't show on any map. I didn't even know if it connected through to where I wanted/needed to go. Amazingly, it did. And my confidence was boosted.
By now, I was on Twin Valley Road, heading to home base. I stopped for 'lunch' and ate a granola bar and finished off the stash of powerade/water mix that was stashed on my bike. If I stayed on the road, I was no more than an hour from home base. But I didn't. I found that "just one more..." side trail that had to be explored. Up a steep climb to the ridge, the turn right and follow the ridgeline downhill. The track was only wide enough for an ATV, and at times not even that wide. The vegetation was all shrubs, mostly manzanita. No trees for shade. By the time the end of the trail was in sight, I realized that it was quite a steep drop...and long too. I remember thinking, can I ride back up this thing? By then, it was too late, I was committed to going to the bottom and trying my luck from there. It was about 1330.
Came close one time on my KLR....was exploring Class VI roads (unmaintained) in he area...the map showed a really short one about 1/4 mile,long....decided it was worth a look. the beginning seemed fine....dry grass covered double track....the road turned left and went up a slight grade...the ground started getting softer the next thing I know the rear wheel is sunk up to the swing arm....after about 20 minutes of fighting the bike I got it up on the right side out of the muddy track. There wasn't much shoulder as it dropped off...if the bike went down there I was screwed....slowly walked to a point where the ground firmed up.....I was close to leaving it and walking out and calling a buddy to help get it out....Luckily I wasn't to far from civilization....
I won't ride alone off-road anymore:lol3
Did I mention that it was quite warm? Not blazing hot, but with no shade and physical exertion, I was sweating profusely. Thinking that indecision and contemplation can be the worst thing for tackling hill climbs, I immediately turned around and charged the hill. OK, charged isn't exactly accurate. I didn't want to hurt me or the bike, so I tried the BRP chug method. Didn't get far. Back down to do it again. Got a lot farther with more entry speed, but still not enough. The dog-leg at the bottom of the hill really hampers the approach, and oh yeah, I'm getting hot. So is the bike. Back at the bottom, I take a break to reevaluate my situation. Strip off the gear and start looking at my surroundings and gps to see if there's another way out. I remember telling myself, do not panic. I knew I wasn't going to die out here, unless I did something stupid. So don't be rash and just think. Another 10-minutes isn't going to change anything now.
Besides where I came down to this plateau, everything around me was downhill. And no trails, just bushes. So back to attacking this hill. Out of the total length of 200-240 feet, I get within about 80-feet of the top. Everytime, the bike loses momentum and the back tire starts spinning. Unless it grabs some solid rock, then the bike tries to loop. Even trying to walk the running bike up doesn't work. The rear just doesn't grab well in the loose rock and gravel on the trail. The hill is steep enough to allow the bike to roll backwards even when in gear. Flopping the bike to find a rock to wedge under the back tire is the only way to stop it. Or just sit on it with the rear brake applied. But you can't kickstart it then.....
I'm starting to feel VERY stuck about now.....
And hot. And tired. I contemplate taking the bike apart to carry it up the last 80-ft. I figure the frame/engine combo would still be too heavy for the slope. I think about just removing the front end, letting the bike balance on the skid plate and rear wheel, hoping I could drag the pig up. But time was wasting. If I started down the path of piece-by-piece, I'd be out there for another two hours at least. If I press the 'Help' button on the SPOT, I know that my Dad is at least two hours away from me. And we all had plans to go play miniature golf that evening.
At 14:50, I hit the 'Help' button.
I secured the bike, checked the bags for anything I may need for the walk, and potential night, out of there. I left my body armor, but did take my helmet, tool bag and riding jacket. Best case was I was going to get a ride back in to retrieve the bike with some help, so I'd need riding gear. Walking up the last of steep part of the hill, I finish off the hydration bladder. It took me about an hour to walk out the 1 1/2 miles of ATV trail uphill to get back to Twin Valley Road. I did this for three reasons. One, nobody in a car/truck could get to where I was at. Two, I wasn't about to just sit in the sun and turn in to jerky. At least there was shade back at the road. Three, I wanted my support people watching at home to know I was OK by continuing to move. And just maybe, I can catch a ride with someone just going my direction...
Once at Twin Valley Road (and familiar territory), I stop to take a breather. After 10-minutes or so, I say fuck it, and start walking again. It gives me something to focus on. I continue to play with the gps as I trudge along in my gear. The helmet, jacket and tool bag got too heavy and awkward to carry, so I just wore them. At around 17:30, with Bartlett Springs Road in sight, I see my Dad's pickup coming up the road to find me :clap
I won't go into a lot of details, but the next day, my brother rode his 950 SE out to the ATV trail while my father and I drove the truck. He stayed with the truck while the two of us rode in to the bike (with 70-ft of rope and a lot of tie-downs). Once the bike was started and the rope secured to the forks, a simple tug of the rope was enough to get the bike going again. If it wasn't for the rope getting caught in the wheels, it would have been a one-shot deal to get to rideable (for me) terrain.
What a relief. Back at the truck and victory beers, it was a nice ride back to base camp.
Lessons and stuff for 'Next Time'....
I was mostly prepared to handle the situation I got myself in to. I had tools and such to work on the bike. I had a gps (plus years of riding knowledge of the area), so I never was worried about being lost. I had enough fuel to ride the bike where I planned plus a lot of extra, just in case. I had food and enough riding gear to stay alive if I had to spend the night. And most importantly, I had my SPOT and a network of family/friends willing to help if I needed it. It was the SPOT that made the whole thing very tolerable for me (if not inconvenient for my loved ones). Not that I was totally reliant on SPOT to get me out of there. I could have taken a lot more time to self rescue, but being gone for that long would have put a lot of worry into those who were expecting me home. That's why I got the SPOT. Looking at my options at the time, that seemed the most logical choice. And up until this point (three years of ownership/use?), I have only used it for tracking and OK messages. I finally got my money's worth.....
But I didn't have enough water or a hat for the sun. And while my riding friends at home knew the area and could picture exactly where I was at, my rescue party (Dad) did not. And he didn't have a gps, smart phone or internet access to get himself oriented. He had to go with verbal direction over the phone. It got sticky when the road names and numbers given over the phone (from online sources) don't match the signs in the field.
So what would I change? Firstly, I'd ride a little more conservatively in unknown terrain. I got lucky earlier in the day, leading to a false sense of security in my abilities. Especially at the end of the day when you're more tired and not riding as strong as earlier. I pretty much knew that the trail I got stuck on was a dead end, I should have taken a little more time to think about what I was getting myself in to. I would also either carry more fluids (which of course has a physical limitation on quantity) or something to treat water. On my walk out along Twin Valley Road, I passed a creek a couple of times. It sure looked tasty.....And lastly, I'd consider my rescuers should they be needed. If all they get is a text with me asking for help, would they have the information needed to do so?
So that's MY story. Questions? Feedback? Got a story of your own you want to share?
P.S. Oh yeah, I've laid out a challenge with my incident and decided to make it a game:
Bring everything you already brought, then add a trash bag for shelter and a way to make fire.
Oh, and next time don't pass on the extra water.
There, now you are OK waiting several days after you press the oh-shit button on your SPOT.
Sorry, I have no rescue stories of my own.
Well Ron, one thing I don't do is ride alone. Maybe flop my sled down some embankment, or get stuck underneath it (although, I also don't ride 550 lb dirt bikes, just 220 lb ones), or break a leg or arm or something, I'd rather have my buddies there. We tend to haul ass when we are out trail riding.
One time at Clear Creek, in addition to the ice slope debacle, I first broke a footpeg off my old RM400, then I somehow lost a kickstarter. Talk about fun times, a) riding with one foot on the stator cover, and b) trying not to stall that sucker, which I did several times, having to pull it up out of the creek onto the side of a hill and bump start it down a slope was one of the exhausting highlights.
On Plaskitt Ridge south of Big Sur, first, one of the guys slid his bike under a dump truck going the other way, no injuries, didn't hurt the bike or truck, either, since the dump truck was doing 2 mph, and then another of the guys cartwheeled his bike down some slope, and it took about 5 or 6 guys to lump it back up, then he drove himself to Community Hospital in Monterey to get stitched up (pretty good gash from a rock).
These are just reasons I won't ride alone. If everyone I know quits riding for some reason or another (and there are getting to be less and less of them actually riding), I'll probably just quit. Better than getting eaten by a bear.
Oh yeah, I bring tools, a couple bottles of water, sometimes a tow rope, and that's about it. One of my riding friends carries a gun, too, just in case (he carries it everywhere, by the way).
And a cell phone. No SPOT. I guess I'm not that much of an adventurer, I just ride.
I do lots of solo riding. And quite a bit is in fairly remote areas with little to no other people anywhere near me. This is all dirt riding and some of it includes moderately hard (at least for me) single track. I realize a lot of folks don't agree with this and I have been "lectured" before by other riders. I grew up backpacking, then climbing, then kayaking out in the wilderness including solo trips so being alone has never really bothered me. That said, I have gained some experience the hard way over the years and have had my share of uncomfortable and close calls. Many things we choose to do in life, including motorcycling, involves calculated risk. We all have a different degree of tolerance for this. It is not my place to choose for someone else what they should do, even if I don't agree with them. Personally I am comfortable with the risks I choose to take. Part of this is because I try to remove ego from the equation. I am old enough that I don't really give a shit about what others think of my riding, climbing, etc and so I do stuff because I want to, not for others approval. Second, I make an effort to stay within limits that I feel I can reasonably control (this is different for everyone). Third, I go prepared. On my bike I always carry tools, tire changing gear and a pin kit for bike extrication. In my pack I always carry rain gear, bivy gear (bivy sack, lighter/matches, headlamp, etc), first aid gear, some food, water, a EPIRB (satellite emergency beacon), and a hand held HAM radio. I am not intimidated by spending a night or two in the woods. I could get injured, but I am a medical professional by training and carry enough first aid gear. Yes something could happen that I cannot recover from, but that is a choice I am willing to take in order to live life the way I choose. Everybody who does outdoor sports should realize that risk is inherent and come to some degree of acceptance and preparation for that risk. One of my favorite quotes is from Lawrence Gonzalez' book 'Deep Survival' : "In our adventures we engage fate deliberately. We choose a relentless and indefatigable opponent, while others pretend to be safe.". The outdoors, and motorcycling can kick your ass, hard. This is not to say we shouldn't do it. Far from it, I think some risk is the spice that makes life worthwhile. Just be prepared to accept the consequences of your choices.
I've never had to leave a bike out on the trail, although there was one time when I got a flat tire and took the wheel off and held the whole thing on the back of a friend's bike while we rode into town to a tire shop to get the tube patched - so I guess I actually left it for about an hour. On that same trip he ran out of gas and I had to go find a source of gas AFTER I had hit reserve. I filled up, transferred fuel to his tank, then we both rode back and filled up again.
I think I'm going to toss a few books of matches in with the other stuff that I carry, and get some form of water purifier. I haven't put a lot of thought into being stuck out somewhere for a long time, so this discussion has been helpful in that regard.
Some of us learned lessons the hard way, some of don't have people to ride with, some of us misjudge the map. Good on you for your way of doing things.... It's smart.
That being said, I ride a lot alone, just NEVER any single track anymore. Two years ago I had to abandon my bike on single track that was WAY over my head. The map made it look easy. It wasn't. After several times having to pick the bike up, winch the bike up, and other issues, I got burned out. I had improper gear, improper skills, and the wrong bike. (I can't afford a different bike for each type of riding)
The bike looped on me after a creek crossing and landed on me. I was pinned for about 15 minutes before getting out from under it. I couldn't get it restarted. I didn't have a spot, didn't have cell coverage, but had left a plan of the general area I would be and a time I would check in.
I was so beat that I laid down next to the creek and have up getting out. Eventually, I was able to collect myself, and start walking the four miles to a trailhead. My check in plan had worked, and after blowing the time wheels were in motion to start looking for me. I got to the trail head and got a call out. S&R stood down and someone came to pick me up. Some new found friends were able to recover the bike the next day.
The items I carried were critical to me that day, and made the difference between getting out and waiting for someone to find me. I have spent years backpacking, and went in with that mentality. Any time I am in the woods, alone or not, these things go with me now.
The obvious bike tool kit
A good folding knife...sharp
A magnesium fire starter block
50' of 550 p-cord
**3 liters of water, with the means to replenish-- I carry a backpacking water filter. Refilling my empty camel
Back and drinking it empty twice helped get me thinking right again. I know the desert guys don't have this luxury, but it works where I ride***
Large piece of hi viz fabric folded up
A SPOT tracker-- SOS is only for life threatening.
First aid kit.
All of this easily fits in my ogio flight vest, with extra room.
I also go armed with some knowledge and experience in the S&R field, I am an EMT, and have some survival training (shelter, signaling, and such)
The single most important thing is telling someone my plan, making sure they have A LOT of info (I was not detailed enough two years ago), and when I am expected back.
With this, I know I can take care of myself or anyone with me. Fortune favors the prepared. Just my two cents.
I don't carry a tarp or bivy or anything of that nature. I probably should. I have yet to not be able to start a fire when needed, and gear dries. I'm not saying it's right, just what has worked for me.
The most important thing is ATTITUDE. My mental state defeated me more than anything. You HAVE to have an understanding, and be prepared for what you might face. The second most important thing is education. Train yourself to handle what you might face. Practice skills like fire starting at home. Do it with less than ideal wood/tinder. A little knowledge can do wonders for your confidence. That has everything to do with survival.
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