Sunday, July 1, 2012

Ride Planning

RIDECRAFT:  The collection of knowledge, skills and abilities used by a long distance motorcycle rider to maintain a consistent ride pace, manage risk and achieve navigational objectives.

A lot of my riding adventures are something more than just heading out onto the road.  Most of them are purposeful events that require detailed planning to achieve the desired objective of the ride.  To that end I enjoy the planning process.   The planning part to me is as much fun as the ride itself.  I don't use the plans as a ridged schedule but rather at guide for the ride.

I have always planned my long motorcycle rides.  But, it was being selected to participate in "The World's Toughest Motorcycle Rally", 2011, that really kicked my planning efforts into high gear.  I was trained in the US Army as an aviation operations specialist so I had a good foundation for planning.  I needed to translate that training into the two dimensional world of motorcycle touring.  I use a detailed planning approach.  My goal is to organize the time, speed and distance calculations to identify the timing of the ride.  Whether the ride is a fun vacation excursion or something as intense as a competitive endurance motorcycle rally, for me planning is important.    What follows is my approach to planning. See the Organizing Framework posting for outline of LD riding on the clock.

I use Garmin MapSource BaseCamp and sometimes Microsoft Excel as tools to help plan a ride. I plot out the routes and waypoints in BaseCamp.  Timing the route(s) allows me to organize the ride plan to more closely match actual riding time.  BaseCamp provides only distance and travel time for that distance.  It does not account for fuel stops, taking time at waypoints to perform a task or time spent resting.  Accounting for these variables becomes important for long distance challenge rides or competitive motorcycle rallies.  Garmin has replaced MapSource with BaseCamp.  I have not yet made the transition to BaseCamp, and I'm getting better using it.  BaseCamp just got a lot more useful by adding the ability to time out via points along a route.  If you don't want to do the detailed route planning steps below using BaseCamp it an easy alternative.

Experienced rally riders have developed various methods of determining a "do-able" route.  My approach is, at an outline level, based on ride pace (Moving(Mvg) and Overall(Ovg) average MPH) first, then specific point goals.  This way I make the route selection process fit within the ride pace elements that meet/exceed my point goal target.  It goes something like this....

A.  Determine total time & number of stops achievable for location bonuses based a consistent on-clock ride pace. (Leg hrs - moving time - pit stop time - rest time = bonus stop time, bonus stop time / average time per stop = number of bonus stops).   This step can be accomplished well in advance of rally packet distribution. (Tool: Leg Profile)

B.  Determine the target bonus points for the leg based on a percentage goal above minimum points announced by the rally/route master.  Knowable only at the rider meeting. Select a route with the highest points for a given ride pace that meet your target goals.   (Tool: Leg Profile) .

C.  Process and enhance the bonus listing from text file to BaseCamp by converting the AAA waypoint name into AAA 9999 A L# (Waypoint name, Points, Availability, Leg number) format and designate distinctive waypoint shapes for Very High, High, Medium, Low based on point value.  (Tools: ezType-ezBake, G7toWin or the Ez-Pz method described below)

EzPz -- An alternative method is to type the rally book bonus location information directly into the waypoint properties in BaseCamp.  This is my preferred method to modify the AAA waypoint identifier into AAA 9999 ALp# (code, points, availability, Leg or page# if necessary) and assign a waypoint Shape and Color based on its point value distribution.

D.  Select a route within the ride pace constraints that meets or exceeds target goal for location bonus points. (Tool: BaseCamp, Rally Leg Plan Tool / Leg Profile)

E.  Time out each route segment, plug in rest times in the appropriate segments, verify timed bonus windows, and make adjustments as necessary before loading route from BaseCamp into the primary and secondary GPS units.  Print out the leg plan and leg profile. (Tool:  Rally Leg Plan Tool / Leg Profile, BaseCamp)

Ride the plan....making adjustments as necessary along the way.

Of course, there are some details involved in these steps. Like others I use various tools to help smooth the process.  YMMD! (Your Methods May Differ) 

I have create two planning tools in Microsoft Excel to manipulate the information generated by BaseCamp or MapSource and the rally data to time out a route or series of routes.  These tools are designed to be used for planning long distance rides while  participating in rallies.  But the basic planning techniques are applicable to any ride.

Ride Planning Tools
Single route with time to waypoints:

Rally Leg Plan Tool Lite --  MapSource edition  Used for routes with fewer than 50 waypoints.  (Note:  This template is not maintained)
Rally Leg Plan Tool Lite -- BaseCamp edition  Includes an enhanced Leg Profile tool
Oz Rally Leg Plan Tool Lite -- BaseCamp edition modified by 'TJ' Evans for Australian LD Riders 

Demo Videos:
MapSource -- Using the route planning software to create the leg route and waypoints

Rally Leg Plan Tool -- Intro to the RLPT function and capabilities.
Timing the Route -- Adjusting the timing of waypoints and "Timed Bonus" requirements.
How the RLPT Works -- Exploration of the RLPT functions. (Geek Warning)
Mid-Leg Re-Plan -- Steps to change the leg plan while on the road.

Rally Book to GPS -- Series of short videos that demonstrate a method to get Rally Book information into BaseCamp, format for routing and transferred to the GPS.


Multiple route without enroute waypoint timing:

Multi Route Leg Plan -- MapSource edition  Used to time out a string of routes.  Does not predict timing at enroute waypoints.   Can be used to consolidate one or more RLPT route sheets.  This tool is still in development.  (BaseCamp edition under development)

DEFINITIONS:  Trip; Rally; Leg; Route; Segment; Waypoint; Viapoint

Trip -- A multi day ride starting and ending at home.  The trip may contain a riding event as part of the trip.  Deploying to the start point for the riding event and re-deploying back home at the conclusion of the riding event.  Example;  deploy to Daytona, have fun at the motorcycle rally, and re-deploy back home.

Rally -- In my Harley riding days this term meant a crazy motorcycle party at some distance location.  In the long distance riding community a rally is an endurance event that tests a rider's ability to plan and execute a ride plan to collect points at bonus locations.  The rally has strict rules for participants which are set by the Rally Master.  It has a start time/date and finish time/date.  Riders who do not make it to the finish location before the clock runs out is termed DNF; did not finish.  Rallies come in many types with the scavenger format being the most common.  There are many variations on the format to keep the rider community interested.

Leg -- A logical subdivision of the rally.  A multi day rally may be broken into one or more legs of differing duration (hours).  Or, geographical division; eastern leg, southern leg, etc.  Legs can be a single route or a collection of routes ridden in sequence.

Route -- The basic planning element of a ride plan.  It has a start and end point, travel time and distance and generally follows road and highways.

Segment -- A subdivision of a route.  Segments start from one waypoint and end at the next waypoint along the route.

Way Point -- A specific point along the way to the end of a route.   A rally waypoint is usually a stop point where a task is performed.  The task may include things like taking a picture of a landmark with the rider's rally flag visible in the picture.  Or, securing a object or performing a specified task as defined by the Rally Master.  A record of the stop is usually required in the rally book.  Waypoints usually have a bonus point value associated with successful completion of the task. The LD community refers to these specific waypoints as "bonii", slang for bonus location.

Via Point -- A point along the route to control the path of the route.   A via point usually does not require a stop.

Rally Leg Planning Math:

The most effecient route is the answer to the elusive: "Single vehicle routing problem, with selective pickup, and timed delivery to the terminal depot."    It's a variation of the  Traveling Saleman Problem.  The  IBR is more akin to a FedEx driver who has the opportunity to pick up as many packages, of varying values,  as possible given a defined number of hours for the selected route.  See:  Vehicle Routing Problem

It is difficult to select a route until one knows how to budget time for the various elements.  Using the overall pace MPH metric as a measure of productive capacity a rider can better plan a route.  It helps to answer the question: how many bonus collection opportunities does a rider have given an individual pace (overall & moving average MPH) for a given number of leg hours.  Here's how it might look....

Rider X  knows from personal experience he/she can keep up a 41.7 MPH overall average pace for several days.   Also, over a variety of highways his moving average is around 60.0 MPH in the eastern US and around 65.0 MPH or more in the west.

Risk management is important to Rider X so he/she avoids excessive riding speeds.   He/she recognizes that being stopped by LEO costs time and money.  He/she also recognizes that excessive speeds reduces fuel endurance distance, increases mental stress and contributes rider fatigue.  He/she is not willing to purchase bonus stop time with the currency of excessive riding speeds.  For moving time planning he uses either his MvgMPH number or the time generated by routing software, adjusted to his personal pace experiences. 

Through practice on training rides and several rallies he/she knows his/her pit stop task time averages about 10 minutes each.  Some longer, some shorter but on average about 10 minutes.  He/she defines a pit stop as time taken to (refuel - refresh - replan - repair) fill the gas tank, empty his bladder, fill his stomach, fixing equipment issues or anything else not devoted to riding, resting or collecting a bonus.   He/she also has confidence that his fuel endurance distance, w/o using a small reserve is between 325 to 375 miles depending on sustained riding speeds.  He uses 350 miles fuel endurance distance as a planning number.

During multi day rallies and training rides, depending on the duration of the leg, he/she knows he needs between 5 and 7 hours of rest time for each 24 hour period.    He/she has worked at being efficient when checking in/out of a hotel to maximize eyes-shut time.  He/she uses 6 hours ever 24 hour period as a rest management planning number.  

Like pit stops Rider X has practiced the tasks at bonus stops to make them as routine and efficient as possible.  He/she uses 10 minutes for a standard bonus collection time.  Some take less some may require more time.  If during the route planning task he/she selects a bonus with a time requirement he/she  adjusts the number of standard bonus opportunities to compensate for the extra time.     He/she recognizes that not all bonus stops will be the same but there are common task steps that help to organize scoring the bonus.  After arriving at the bonus location he uses the Spot-Doc-Pic-Get task steps: 

  1. Spot:  Send a Spot msg at the bonus collection point
  2. Document:  Record the date/time/odometer information.  Review the bonus task requirements
  3. Picture:  Take a picture of the required bonus element with his rider rally flag
  4. Get:  Get the bonus item if required, the next bonus location up on the rally book and GPS, and get back on the road

So, knowing his/her rider pace, task time planning assumptions and the "on the clock" leg hours he/she can determine a planning bonus collection time and quantity.  Knowing how much time and the number of possible bonus stops helps overall productivity (bonus point collection) and goes a long way to determine the routing choices.    Again, do the math.....

  • Total Time = 82:00 Leg Hours
  • Rider Pace = 41.7 MPH Overall Average
  • Planning Miles = 41.7 MPH X 82 Leg Hours = 3,419 planning miles
  • Rider MvgAvg = 60.0 MPH
  • Riding Time = 3,419 planning miles / 60.0 MPH = 56:55  (or, mapping software calculated drive time)
  • Pit Stop Task Time = 0:10 planning standard
  • Fuel Endurance DIstance = 350 miles
  • Pit Stops = 3,419 planning miles / 350 FED miles = 10 pit stops (rounded up)
  • Pit Stop time = 10 Pit Stops x 0:10 per stop =  1:40
  • Rest Stops = 82:00 leg hours / 24:00 hours per day = 3 stops
  • Rest Time = 3 stops X 6 hours per = 18:00
  • Bonus Collection Time = Total Time - Riding Time - Pit Stop Time - Rest Time = 82:00 - 56:55 - 1:40 -18:00 = 5:58
  • Bonus Task Time = 0:10 planning standard
  • Bonus Stop # = Bonus Collection Time / Bonus Task Time = 5:58 / 0:10 =  36 (rounded up)

Of course, your values may vary.   But, understanding how the variables effect the standard model can help a rider make better routing decisions before leaving the start and while on the road.