I have been spending time reviewing safety protocols for bike rides, both group and when riding by myself. In a previous life I owned a company that specialized in maritime safety, and in those years the 7 Steps to Survival were developed.

  1. RECOGNITION-> Admit your life is in danger.
  2. INVENTORY-> Decide what can help & hurt. Do first aid.
  3. SHELTER-> Preserve body heat with materials that insulate & protect you from the environment.
  4. SIGNALS-> Help search & rescue find you.
  5. WATER-> Find a safe source of water.
  6. FOOD-> After you are safe & warm, food will help long waits.
  7. PLAY-> Stay busy & keep a positive mental attitude.

If you find yourself in the wilderness rather than mid-Pacific some of the details might be different but the general steps are still sound.

#4, SIGNALS has been a topic of conversation in my household. New to my bike this year is a Wahoo Elemnt Roam Bike Confuzer [computer]. One feature of great interest was the ability for my wife to track my rides in real time.

At first this seemed like the perfect solution and then the weather turned nice. Two things changed, I went to areas without cell phone coverage and trees started to leaf out.

On one ride between Rainbow and Oakridge Oregon I started hearing alert signals from the confuzer. LED’s would flash red and then a while later another alert and green LED’s. It was quite annoying so that evening I went online to find out what was going on. Seems that the tree cover was blocking GPS reception and the device was letting me know. On that day’s ride more than 50% of the time was spent without GPS reception. Not a big deal on that day but it really made me aware, devices that use satellites, really need to see the clear sky.

I have been paying more attention to my confuzer and when those red LED’s flash telling me that it has lost GPS coverage. Unless I have been riding in farm land with no trees, loss of coverage is pretty common.

Last weekend we were at Costco and they had the Garmin inReach on sale. It turned out it was an old version but it still got me looking at the idea of a Personal Satellite Communicator. This would eliminate the lack of cellular signal but when reading the reviews I realized that it would still suffer if it didn’t have a clear view of the sky. For a ride in the woods of the North West would it be an asset?

In August there was a T-Mobile press release about partnering with SpaceX to provide text messaging nationwide using SpaceX’s Starlink satellite system. Apple says that its iPhone 14 models will have the ability to send an Emergency SOS with an update coming in November 2022. As with all systems that utilize satellites, a clear view of the sky is critical.

Group rides add an additional layer of difficulty. If the group is in an area without cell coverage, any support vehicles most likely are also lacking coverage. The Garmin inReach Mini has the ability to communicate between 2 devices using the satellite system but would the system work inside a vehicle? This also means another device and subscription to the satellite system.

This seems to be a case of not letting perfect get in the way of good. Knowing that a clear view of the sky is essential for good reception is important. You won’t waste your time trying to communicate from inside a cave. Options are rapidly appearing, especially from the cell phone providers.

I haven’t discussed products from ACR, SPOT or others only because they all are using satellites to communicate and therefore have the same issues. Features between brands are a bit different but the functionality is the same.

Currently I am carrying an Ocean Signal PLB [Personal Locator Beacon]. It only provides one way communication and only to search & rescue. When I was in the marine safety business, I sold these and one somehow ended up in my kit.

One final thought->
Even though you might not be able to make a cellular phone call, it continues to amaze me how often text messages go through. I can be riding along and all of a sudden my phone lights up with new messages. Obviously it takes less signal strength to get a text through than to sustain a phone call. This is important to know so there will be a cold cocktail waiting when you return to home/camp.