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How to do a VIME Backcountry Navigation Trial….

If you have already participated in a VIME event this update will probably not tell you anything new (perhaps it will), but if you are contemplating your first event this will tell you how the event works and how to turn in your best possible result - at least for your first go....

You may have noticed that for other sports, finding information on how to go from an absolute not-doer to an able-to-doer isn't always easy to find? Here I hope to dispel some of the mystery...

One of my backgrounds is triathlön. I never reached a pinnacle of athletic performance but I was OK. I could complete an event without incurring any penalties or making any stupid mistakes.

I learned from experience not to keep my wristwatch and Velcro band timing chip over my wetsuit (you can't get your wetsuit off - think about it), to put my cycling helmet on first in T1 and take it off last in T2, to take an extra twenty seconds to remove any grit or gravel from my feet before putting cycling shoes on, to make sure the bike was in an easy gear for the start of the bike.... The list goes on and on.

Every sport with rules has an "insider's knowledge" of how to get the best of the rules. The need to know those things present one of the barriers to participation. In the spirit of "Sport For All" - if you go back that far - I would like to write a beginner's guide to how to do Backcountry Navigation Trial.

First, the basics...

You need

  • A full-entitlement motorcycle licence (Class 6)

  • A road-legal, registered and plated Trail, Dualsport or Adventure bike

  • A road insurance policy from ICBC or your home jurisdiction insurance provider

As the minimum age for a Class 6 licence appears to be 19 and the Age of Majority in BC is also 19, any issues of Child Safeguarding, Protection or loco parentis on the part of VIME as event organiser are avoided by having a minimum entry age of 19.

The backcountry roads used for VIME events are all classified as highways within the meaning of the BC traffic laws and occasionally require travel along tarmac roads - hence Off Highway Vehicles cannot be included. Competition bikes are also excluded.

Requiring all bikes and riders to be "road insured", coupled with the fact that the routes are all technically highways means that each rider brings their own insurance to the event (ICBC does not exclude navigation tests as an insured driver activity, provided the route stays on "gazetted highways" - I've checked). This makes for straightforward event organisation.

The route difficulty will never be as hard as "hard enduro", as testing as a motocross race or as technical as motorcycle trials. You will need to have a basic level of off-road competence though. Smaller bikes are easier to manage than the largest Adventure behemoths, the smallest-capacity Honda CT125 in low gear will get through even if the suspension limits performance compared to say a DRZ400.

Now the equipment.....

Moving on to the kit requirements

  • Usual motorcycle riding equipment - remember these are "highways" as well as backcountry trails... Helmet, gloves, boots, jacket and trousers, body armour if that is your thing, food and drink supplies, spares and tools as you think fit.

  • Personal First Aid and survival supplies. As a minimum a space blanket or survival bag, Lysol wipes, sticking plasters, bandages.

  • Satellite SOS calling device - InReach or Zoleo are the two that immediately come to my mind but there are others and there will be many more to come. Strongly recommend as there is little cellular service in the north of the island and none in the mountains.

  • Tyres will need to be suitable for mud and snow as a minimum. Trials knobbly tyres are good, MX or Enduro tyres are probably overkill, road-oriented "adventure" tyres are probably not the best choice as these routes can be expected to be 100% off road. I have found Trailwings to be wanting, while MT21/D606 combination works very well for me....

And the tech equipment:

  • Two smartphones, both of which can be old and neither of which need a SIM card. One has Rally Roadbook Reader app loaded, the other has Richta Competitor. Via WiFi, load the event details onto the phones before you leave home. You won't be scrambling to find a wifi hotspot on event morning...

  • If you have entered the Gaia Tourismo class, you will need just one phone with a subscription-paid Gaia with relevant area maps downloaded along with the event route.

  • Both phones need a usb charging lead wired in as the battery life won't be long enough to last the whole day. If your bike doesn't have charging ports, you will need to wire those into your bike.

  • You will need a mount of some sort to securely hold the Gaia or Roadbook Reader phone so that you can see it at all times while riding. That may be as simple as a handlebar ball mount or it could be as sophisticated as a rally navigation tower. Your choice!

There will be two class options,

  • Gaia Tourismo - intended as the entry-level class.

  • Roadbook - with or without GPS timing.

Event awards can only be given to participants who ride the Roadbook-with-GPS timing category

Event entry, arrival and registration, sign-on and scrutineering.

  • You will enter the event on the "Shop" page of this website. You will need to enter your personal details (name/address/email/phone number) and you will be registered on the VIME website. You will pay for your entry by credit card through the Wix-owned website (which means I do not keep any of your credit card information, one less legal responsibility for me to manage).

  • You will be asked if you are entering the Tourismo or the Roadbook category - you can change your mind up until the routes get sent out (about a week before the event).

  • Upon your arrival at the event venue there will be a Registration desk where you will need to present yourself for some formalities:

  • You will need to register your presence at the event (for head-counting purposes).

  • You will need to show your driving licence and insurance paperwork - no details will be recorded other than you presented your credentials and that they were in order (again, a level of data management avoided).

  • You will need to give the name and contact details of someone who can be contacted should anything untoward happen - of course, they need to know about this.

  • You will need to Sign-On. This is the record that you are present, are giving informed consent to your participation, that you are fit and equipped to participate in the event, that you take responsibility for your own actions and that you acknowledge the organisers and staff of the event have taken all possible precautions to put on a route and an event that is free of artificial hazards.

  • You need to present your bike for scrutineering. Nothing super-technical about this, just "is it all there?", "does it all work?", "is it fit for purpose?"...

  • Then if all is well, you will be given your Welcome Pack that will include your event stickers for your bike and your participant number. Stick them on your bike somewhere where they can easily be seen from the front.

  • There will be a rider's briefing meeting where the essentials will be discussed and any last minute changes will be announced.

Gaia Tourismo

Gaia is a (Geographic Information System GIS) GPS mapping app. There are many such mapping apps and while they all use much the same data and perform the same function, they each have differences in how they are operated. To minimise the variation and hence the likelihood of things going wrong, Gaia is the mapping app of the events!

You will need to buy an annual subscription for about $60, download the app onto your smartphone and then download maps of the north of Vancouver Island into the memory of your smartphone. Having done that, the phone is able you use your GPS position from its GPS chip and pinpoint your location/speed/heading/altitude/elapsed time/distance covered on your downloaded map - even in the absence of any cell signal. Magic!!

About one week before the event, Tourismo riders will be emailed a Gaia hyperlink that will show the event route in Gaia. It will be the same route as the Roadbook route. You are on your honour not to divulge the route to anyone - especially anyone riding the roadbook category.

So far, I have not had any problems with routes being divulged. Should that occur, the publication lead time can be shortened to as little as one hour before the event or less...

Tourismo riders can ride singly or in groups to their own preference, following the line on the map. You will see there is not any competitive element in the Tourismo classification, just a good long day out in the hills on the bikes. This is as much "sport" as some people want and provides an easy on-ramp to this Motorsport genre.

While the Tourismo riders will be permitted to start at their convenience, they will be required to start at a separate time to the roadbook riders to enable a clear separation between the two categories.

Roadbook and Roadbook + GPS timing classes.

These classes are intended to approximate as closely as possible to Rallyraid without breaking the law, specifically with regard to racing and speed trials.

  • The routes are described as roadbooks, written using commercial Rally Navigator software (yes I've paid the commercial licence fee...).

  • The routes are divided up into "legs", each with a target average speed which is less than the posted speed limit.

  • Riders competing for honours will start singly at intervals between one and three minutes depending on the size of the field. New participants will be permitted to ride in pairs for their first event.

  • The route roadbook will be distributed no more than one week before the event, by email as a pdf. Participants are at liberty to either print the pdf up as a scroll or save the pdf to their smartphone and display the roadbook in Rally Roadbook Reader.

  • There are a number of advantages to using Rally Roadbook Reader (RRR), it comes with a internet clock, it has a compass, a speedometer and a GPS-driven odometer which will most closely correspond to the distance measurements in the roadbook (also GPS distances). It is straightforward to correct the RRR odometer reading as you go along, aligning the odometer with roadbook junction distances.

  • Your challenge will be to ride each leg in such a manner as to complete it at as close to the set average speed as possible. It will not be straightforward as within each leg there will be elements where the average speed seems impossibly fast followed by elements where the called for speed seems unreasonably slow. The expectation is that you pick up speed in the easy bits to compensate for lost progress in the difficult bits. You thought this was going to be easy?

  • Your progress will be recorded by the timekeeping app on your other phone. The timekeeping app is Richta Competitor. It runs best on iOS, iPhones to you! You have to download the route GPS gates and elapsed time data before you leave home - AND REMEMBER TO START THE APP BEFORE YOU START THE EVENT......

  • The app will record the time you started each leg, it knows what the set elapsed time to the next gate is and records the time you got there. The app then works out how many seconds early or late you are and records that number of seconds as your leg time penalties. Once you have completed the course it records how many of the GPS timing gates you triggered and totals your time penalties. When you get to the finish and reconnect your Richta phone to the internet (by cell data, hotspot or wifi), your scores for the day are uploaded onto Richta RallyMaster (me) and Richta Scoreboard (for all the world to see).

  • This form of Motorsport does not respond well to the application of brute force and applied ignorance. Sixty mph in the wrong direction will be entirely counterproductive. "Red mist" competition will get you nowhere fast. This is competition for the "thinking rider". Steady, accurate riding and navigation will beat ballsy, eyeballs-out riding everyday and the events are arranged to ensure precisely that happens.

At the start and during the event. What we the event crew do. What you the participants do

At the start

  • The start order will be decided by lottery - there are disadvantages to leading the field out and I haven't found a fairer way of deciding who goes first.

  • You will know what your start time is and you will be called to the start in order.

  • As you are carrying your own timekeeping app, there is no start flag to drop. When you are given the nod you can leave the start area. The first gps timing gate will be a number of kilometers up the road, so it is a very relaxed start.

  • The Start List will form the first "census" of riders on the course. There will be other "Passage Controls" around the course to keep track of riders. The final census will of course be at the finish line. We count you all out, then count you all in again. The last gps timing gate will be a number of kilometers before the finish line - so the finish will be equally relaxed as the start.

  • Event participants will navigate the course using the roadbook as the sole means of navigating. RRR has a compass and broad compass headings are given in the roadbook as part of the instructions.

  • You will have a general idea where each of the Richta timing gates are - but you will not know their exact location. This prevents gaming the timing system by arriving early, lurking short of the gate while the timing clock runs down then making a dash for the gate.

  • Each leg is timed independently of all others. Make a mess of a leg and you can't redeem lost time by arriving early at subsequent gates. THERE IS NO POINT IN RACING THE COURSE, THE CLOCK OR ANYONE ELSE!

  • Event staff will be riding the course, keeping an eye on what is going on and looking for riders in trouble. There will be a pickup truck or two around the course to recover any dead bikes.

  • Riders needing emergency services are to use 911 on a phone if there is cell signal and press the SOS button on your InReach or Zoleo if there is not.

  • If you come across a stranded rider, stop and help. If you consequently abandon your event ride, you can claim for your penalty points to be neutralised.

  • If you get lost, abandon your ride and start your Gaia to find your way to the finish, please remember to report in as safe so that we don't spend the evening and night pointlessly looking for you...

The winner of the event will be the rider who triggers the most Richta timing gates AND returns the lowest Time Penalty score. Seems pretty easy, huh? You are invited to come and give it a go! The events are held over the mountain roads of the north of Vancouver Island. It is all Crown land so no gates or private roads to contend with. The routes are confined to the roads - there is no cross country bushwhacking, we do not cross private property, we do not need to seek permission to ride these roads as they are already public roads. The roads will include the trickiest, most dramatic through routes I can find, taking you to some of the secret places on the island.

I look forwards to meeting you.

If you would like to read further about any of these technicalities, trawl through the blog entries on this website. You will find many essays discussing each of the topics outlined above.

Event Entries can be found at:

Jonathan Binnington.

Proprietor VIME

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