Dear BTG-starters,

2017 is coming to an end soon and after this the clock will relentlessly tick away the days until we meet in Basel! So, here is our last newsletter of the year:

The last days have been quite exciting: 10 registrations came in within a week leaving us with 34 confirmed starters. And they keep on coming…

We are proud of the diversity of the riders registered so far. We will have a very international crowd at the start line this year and also a mixture of very seasoned bikepackers, riders who will have their first encounter with multi- day bikepacking trips and everything in between. It will be exciting to see how this unfolds.

From your feedback so far we see two subjects that are of foremost interest for you and we decided to dive into these in our next two newsletters:

  • Tracking Options
  • Route and logistics

We will focus on tracking in this newsletter and come back to the other subject in the next one.

From your answers we learned that some of you have no experience with live tracking, so here is what it is about: Basically live tracking means that you carry a device with you that regularly sends the GPS-data of your current position to a receiver that evaluates these data and displays your position on a web page so that everybody who has access to this page can see (almost) in real-time where you are.

In order to provide this service we have to decide which device all of you who want to be tracked need to carry. Choices are:

  1. Mobile phones with a certain app installed which will send your GPS-data through the service provider of your phone.
  2. GSM-based tracking devices which use any available mobile phone service (GSM) just like the emergency function on every mobile phone to transmit the GPS-data.
  3. Satellite trackers like SPOT which don’t need a GSM-net. They communicate via the GPS-satellites and so (in theory) work all around the world.

Making our decision for one of these systems needs to take care of a few criteria:

  • Availability: Almost everybody has a mobile phone. GSM- or SPOT devices need to be bought or rented by most of you.
  • Power supply: GSM- and SPOT-trackers work for a week or more on one set of batteries while your mobile phone needs to be charged frequently when it’s online all day with the GPS-sensor working continuously.
  • Robustness: Trackers are built for Outdoor-usage and will survive every weather, mobile phones won’t.
  • Cost: The mobile phone solution will come with no or minimal cost for the online tracking service. With the trackers you will have to pay for the devices and the tracking service (buy or rent). Buying a SPOT means you not only buy the device but also a service plan with annual fees.
  • Coverage: A mobile phone depends on the coverage of it’s specfic service provider, a GSM-tracker only needs some GSM-net (which should not be a problem in Germany), a satellite tracker just needs to connect to GPS-satellites which is no problem (although there can be limitations in narrow valleys, dense forrests and overcast skies).

In order to decide for one of these choices we asked you two questions:

  1. Do you want to be tracked during the race?
  2. Do you own a SPOT-device?

It came out that 85% of you want to be tracked and that 34% own a SPOT already. Our conclusion from your answers is:

  • There will be live tracking during the race (no surprise).
  • We will go for an option that is ready to work with SPOT devices.

Currently we know no mobile phone based solution which is ready to include SPOTs. So it is very unlikely that we go for this option. In consequence the ones who don’t own a tracker will need to buy or rent one. We assume that in this case it is just the same for you if the rental trackers are GSM-trackers or SPOTs, as long as the SPOT owners among you can use their devices.

We are still looking into options and even teamed up with other German bikepacking races but it will most probably boil down to going for a SPOT-based solution that provides a rental option for those of you who don’t own one. As we are not a commercial race and don’t have any sponsors in the background we have to avoid the risk of advancing funds for rental devices and losing money due to late withdrawals of participants.

So it might work out in a way that we provide the ones of you who need to rent a device with links to commercial renters and that you arrange your own rental. Currently we have such contacts in Germany, Belgium and Chech Republic and we are looking for more of them.

That’s it for the moment regarding tracking. We would love to hear your opinions!

We are no tech nerds and love to write about cycling rather than tracking. But we felt that we had to clarify on this subject. We will come back to you with the real (cycling related) stuff starting from January and plan to do so on a monthly basis. Please keep on suggesting subjects for our newsletters if you have any urgent questions.

Dear BTG-crowd: Enjoy the Christmas holidays, have a great start into the new cycling year 2018, stay healthy, enjoy your training miles and keep those cranks turning! We can’t wait to meet all of you in Basel on 1st July…

All the best, Achim & Thomas