Which Way would you have gone ?

Submitted: Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 11:55
ThreadID: 54218 Views:2489 Replies:9 FollowUps:14
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On the previous weekends trip we found ourselves in a little situation where we had to decide wether to back track on get out by going cross country in an area where your not supposed to.

I made the decision I considered most likely to succeed and I wonder what others might have done ?

This was only a minor thing, but did have some potential to go
wrong , so I will try and outline it as factually as possible
without trying to put a case either way.

We were out to do some serious testing and training on trail bikes
in Victorias western dessert on a hot 38 degree afternoon.

4 bikes on this occasion, 1 inexperienced & 3 good riders.
We had water, UHF radios, my bike and another also had GPS.
There are many old unmapped bits of track in the area.

We rode east along a heavy sand main track and turned sharply left 150 degrees into an old track at an intersection such that we were riding a diverging path back from along the one we came in on.

At the intersection though the less experienced rider, no doubt getting overconfident, took off before anyone else, another bike stalled on starting and we were soon 500m meters behind the bike that took off first.
We trailed along trying to keep up and the track started to get rougher and became overgrown.
The sand was soft and we crossed a couple of difficult sand ridges and the track had almost dissappeared before we all caught up approximately 15 minutes and 5km later when he decided finally to stop.

A few well chosen comments later, no harm done, we turned around to back track when we discovered one of the bikes had suffered on the rough track whilst jumping a log and no longer had a clutch.

We had just come down a hard dune ridge and before us was a flat plain stretching towards the track we intended to get to.

Now this is soft sand scrubby country which had been burnt out a year ago and there was lots of undergrowth and shrubs about 3 meters tall and lots small burnt trees on the ground making progress slow and you could not see more than about 30 meters.

We assessed that we could not ride the bike back along the path we had come in on as while we could put the bike into 1st gear and ride it the path was just to steep and soft.

We believed we had two realistic options.

1st Leave one bike and backtrack 5km - This would be hard , take a long time and at the end of it we felt we could not recover the bike this way because the track was to hard for our cars, especially with a trailer.

2nd Cut across country only 1.5km , relying on our GPS'es.
This was feasible but had some issues, the bike could go this way because it was flat but the rider could not stop and would have to ride faster than the slowest riders and make instant desicions about which path to go thru the scrub, he was sure to get a few scrapes.
This almost certainly meant we would inadvertently split up.

I decided to we should take the cross country option, and split the 4 bikes into 2 groups of two, each with a gps and radio and water.

We would attempt to go the same path but we all knew it was only a matter of how far before we would lose the slower group.

We headed off, I followed the faster bike with no clutch. As expected I couldn't keep up with him and we together outpaced the slow group.

Each followed the instructions this time and by use of GPS trace we made, radios and finally used our bike horns to signal each other for the last 150m to the main track, as the scrub was so thick.

Despite loosing visual contact we all made it ok, coming out onto the main track within 50m of each other a bit relieved and scratched up.
Robin Miller

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Reply By: Steve from Top End Explorer Tours - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 12:10

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 12:10
Unless the gearbox was buggered as well I can't understand why you couldn't ride the bike without a clutch, Just asking.

Why should you have not been on the short cut??

Cheers Steve.
AnswerID: 285506

Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 12:49

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 12:49
Hi Steve

We felt that the bikes condition was such that it would be stuck in 1st gear and that we were lucky to be able to start it once.

Still haven't got to exact cause of failure as its not mine.

The cross country path thru the bush is illegal in victoria , and so I considered the this against the need to do it.

Its hard to put the exact situation into these posts without making them to long , but there were some second order
issues such as 1 rider had just got over a back problem
and while he would have said "I can do it" , I felt that by me taking responsibility for the desicion and taking the easy path given our navigational support, that it took the macho'ness out of the situation, and removed what I considered to be a real risk
of possibly further aggravating the situation.

Robin Miller

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Reply By: Member - Andrew (QLD) - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 12:16

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 12:16
Hi Robin,

I don't understand why you would want to break up the group when travelling in thick, unfamiliar territory. Wouldn't it been better to just stick together for the 1.5kms and support the other riders at the pace of the slowest member?

AnswerID: 285508

Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 12:40

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 12:40
Hi Andrew

Reasonable questions , in this country you have to frequently stop and try and see which path to take for the next 50 meters , and the faulty bike was unable to be ridden slowly.

We felt that any attempt to constantly stop and restart the faulty bike might result in a full failure.

We had to way this against the fact that we could find our way out using GPS , and that of the difficulty of the other path.
Robin Miller

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Follow Up By: Member - Andrew (QLD) - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 12:47

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 12:47
ok, thanks for that....obviously not knowing the area and the riding techniques prompted the question.

FollowupID: 550465

Reply By: Moose - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 14:20

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 14:20
G'day Robin
Not being a motor bike rider I don't follow how being stuck in 1st meant he had to ride faster than everyone else. Surely 1st is the slowest gear? If this is a damn stupid question please forgive me.
Irrespective - in answer to your question I would have done what you did. The distance covered "illegally" was minor and I doubt any significant damage would have been done to the environment. Sometimes we need to do something we don't particular like doing - been there, done that. "Let he amongst us who is without sin cast the first stone"!
Cheers from the Moose
AnswerID: 285527

Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 16:00

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 16:00
Hi Moose

"Staying in 1st was faster than the rest" , Its an odd one isn't it , because of the close nature of the terrain and even before we got completely off track , you had to weave in an out of the shrubs and often stop and go a different path. Which meant that being constantly in 1st gear at say 10kmh and not being able to stop was faster than we could progress normally without risking being jammed between some abrasive brushes and burnt small trees and branches.
As it was the lead rider sustained a few minor scratches and clothing tears.

As for cross country bit , well your right, when I first lost the lead bike I tried to search for his wheel track thru the bush.

Talk about tread lightly , I just could find any immediate sign of him until I did a circle an found a track some 50m away.

What made it harder again was that our bikes are almost to quiet
and you couldn't hear it at 100m thru the scrub.

Robin Miller

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Reply By: Member - Doug I (VIC) - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 15:49

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 15:49
Afternoon Robyn,

Whilst not a bike rider, I am involved in Risk Assessment in a range of outdoor rec. activities.

Given all that I have read in this post and knowing the issues with off-road use in Vic, I believe that you made the right decision. There is always a conflict between 'respecting' the environment and ensuring the safety of the group in these type of situations. Ultimately the safety of the group must take precendence and given the group, its make up of members and the equipment you carried this was the most correct choice.

It would be interesting of course to see the land managers interpretation of the situation, but from a group management perspective I would have made the same decision.

AnswerID: 285546

Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 18:12

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 18:12
Hi Doug

I would also be interested in that Doug , but I suspect common sense would rule and they would agree, in a reply to Moose I noted that I couldn't even find the bikes track when I lost them.

While I don't wish to overstate the situation , I don't wish to understate it either as I have seen a lot of mistakes made when conditions like the 38c heat we had heatl.

Robin Miller

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Follow Up By: Crackles - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 18:20

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 18:20
Going on the report so far it seems no one was really in any danger when the decision was made to go cross country. It was primarily a matter of being far more convenient than recovering the bike on the track ("This would be hard , take a long time")
Being realistic though & knowing the country you were in it was the most likely decision to make.
With a bit of luck the wind will cover the tracks & none will be the wiser. Can see Vic 'Parks' view how a few tracks cross country soon leads to a permanent route flattening the scrub.
Cheers Craig............
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Reply By: Pezza (Bris) - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 17:37

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 17:37
In the situation and ability level of the riders you describe I think you would have been better to have left the rider with the broken clutch at the track, set of with the other 2 riders and picked a clear way through the bush, once that was done and a clearly defined track available, created by 3 bikes, one rider goes back to the broken down rider and leads him through the brush.
And I say this with all respect to yourself as I know from your comments on this forum that you are not silly and you do use common sense, may I suggest that in future you don't go riding in remote difficult terrain where all riders in the group are obviously out of their depth unless you have at least one experienced rider in the group.

AnswerID: 285574

Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 18:17

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 18:17
Hi Pezza

That sounds like a reasonable 3rd alternative, that I did not consider at the outset.

After it was over though I was quite surprized at how hard it was to see any sign of a bikes passage, as the ground was basically covered with leaf matter etc.

It probably would have ben easy to spin the wheels a few times to make a track , but one of the reasons we took the flat ground option was because it was low impact on the terrain as well as the people and vechicles.

Robin Miller

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Reply By: Mike Harding - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 18:59

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 18:59
Frankly Robin, knowing that country and a bit about deserts, I would question how sensible it is to venture into it on a 38C day on motorcycles purely for leisure purposes? Give it another month or two and it will be a lot cooler.

Mike Harding
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 19:08

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 19:08
Hi Mike

It was very deliberate as I intend to ride the Simpson with these people in a few months and I wish them to experience some tough stuff under controlled(?) conditions.

It has worked so far with a least 1 realizing they have underestimated the difficulty of riding in soft sand.

Unfortunately the desert was desserted and none got to experience my major concern, on-coming 4wds ,perhaps there will be more of those by Easter as you suggest.
Robin Miller

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Follow Up By: Jim from Best Off Road - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 19:40

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 19:40

Any more silly than spending a winter in a hut in the High Country?

I supported your idea on that and support Robin's preparation for an equally exciting adventure.


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Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 19:45

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 19:45
>Unfortunately the desert was desserted

Yes... well... deserts are like that :) And if you end up a k or 2 off track 4WDs will be the least of your problems.

I hope you have a good support team Robin - perhaps the Simpson is a little too much for your crew at this stage... I'm not trying to be patronising Robin but it does sound as if the guys need a little more practice.

Mike Harding
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Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 19:51

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 19:51
Hi Jim

It's not about "exciting adventure"s - it's about knowing what you're doing, it would appear Robin's group didn't.

Mike Harding

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Follow Up By: Jim from Best Off Road - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 20:07

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 20:07

Whether they did or did not know what they were doing is not for me to judge.

By your assumption they didn't. And how do you learn? By tackling less taxing adventures in preparation for the "big one".

It's called getting experience.

Very prudent IMHO.

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Follow Up By: Richard Kovac - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 23:03

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 23:03
well after reading this they will have problems with the Big One..

Motor bikes are some of the simplest modes of transport if you can't fix it don't ride it..

This is not meant to offend or directed at anyone in particular.. :-)



FollowupID: 550676

Reply By: Jim from Best Off Road - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 19:37

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 19:37
As I see it.

1. Risk injury to people


2. Do some very minor damage to the bush, which would no doubt heal itself in no time.

Very simple decision in my mind and you made the same one I would have.


AnswerID: 285610

Reply By: Trevor R (QLD) - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 19:58

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 19:58
Hi Robin,

I don't understand what made the bike so unridable just cause a clutch failed. I rode a bike (as a teenager) many many months without a clutch at all. Other bikes had no front brakes and another no back brakes (this one was scary), but they were all still ridable with plenty of caution needed depending on where I was off to.

Glad it all worked out for you. As you said, better to find out the ability (or inability) of the rider to tackle the Simpson, in this manner as opposed to out there. I trust you will inform us of what went wrong with the bike to cause such drastic actions as to be scared of riding it the extra 5k's or so.

Good luck in your riding through the Simpson attempts.
Regards, Trevor.
AnswerID: 285616

Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 20:34

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 20:34
Not sure exactly myself Trevor , but it had the characteristic of not being able to change gear or take it out , which meant that once going if would have to be kept going at from 5-20kmh.

5kmh was unsustainable because while it seems slow it was almost wall to wall and burnt out scrub with new re-growth and before going even 10m you would have to decide your path without an ability to back out, and suffer the consequences.

With my bike I had the simple ability to stop when required for 2 seconds and assess the path ahead.

Indeed, it showed great skill on the part of the rider used to ride the faulty bike,(an "A" grade competition rider") he was able to jump and avoid obstacles that I could only search for a pathway around.

We could not do the extra 5km mainly because the track just was to hard for the handicapped bike or else it would have to be left behind in a place which I did not think it could be recovered from despite the fact that I have a very capable car.

Robin Miller

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Reply By: Skinnydog - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 23:30

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 23:30
You assessed the situation and made an educated decision which I personally think was the right one. Recently there was a thread about hubs getting hot due to possible brake binding to which the guy removed the brake calipers and took it for a 20km drive and no one except one reply questioned his safety awareness.
Three guys with plenty experience and one with little,who have all gained more in a once off, nuff said.
AnswerID: 285693

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