Why so much gear?

I’m not sure cockpit layout is something you ever really finish, let alone perfect. Each new ride comes with fresh challenges that your gear needs to play its part in answering. And with every event done comes a better appreciation of what works and what doesn’t – what’s needed and what can be left out. You’d think with the number of events I’ve done my cockpit layout would become more streamlined and minimal. Certainly my layout for #TCRNo8 was probably the most minimal I’ve ever used on a long event. So why is this layout for NC4K so crowded?

There’s actual a few forces at work here. The first was an internal debate I had been having for some time about what backup nav device (if any) I would take. The Wahoo RoamV2 has proven so good it was very tempting to just take that plus my Fenix watch and Phone. But both are a compromise – battery life becomes an issue for the phone, which has other ramifications then about losing comms too. And whilst the Fenix has great mapping now, being small screen and wrist mounted it’s less than ideal for navigating whilst also watching the road ahead. I was pretty much resigned to just stashing my old ELEMNT somewhere, as I did on #TCRNo8 when the organizers made a decision which altered my course.

A few weeks back participants got an email telling us there would be no dedicated tracking device for this year’s edition, just a phone app which they supply and we have to run. I swapped a few emails with the organizers about my concerns over this. Honestly, I totally get their issues of the cost of such devices, how many get lost or broken or never returned, and the fact that they become obsolete quickly from one year to the next. It’s probably a chunk of budget that every event needs to find from what I doubt is a very big pot. And we’ve all been assured the app will run on all handsets and have minimal battery impact. And again, I’m willing to understand and believe that in principal. But this is where I get sceptical. I’ve tried a big range of tracking phone apps, both during my tenure with Cape Audax and Audax SA, and also solo on various events. Across all of these experiments I’ve never found the holy grail of rock solid reliability and very low battery use. Plus, a phone based tracking app means I can’t put my phone in airplane mode between stops – a valuable battery saver in my view. And the minute my phone is dropping much below 50% – I’m going to prioritise emergency comms over tracking I’m afraid. So all of this meant I need a backup plan. But wait – a backup tracker plan, and a backup nav plan. Surely I can combine those?

Enter the Garmin GPSMAP 67i. A full blown GPS navigation device with a gorgeous big screen for map viewing, and an inReach satellite tracking unit combined. Backup Nav – Backup Tracking. Job done!? Assuming it all works in practice. But at least I managed to find space to mount it all.

If I’m being super critical, despite all the new bells & whistles, under the hood the 67i does feel a bit like an eTrex 30 on steroids. That’s not a bad thing for me – the eTrex is a device I am very familiar with and have always loved. In many ways, it’s a return to a format which feels reassuringly familiar. But newcomers could find the menus and many levels of buried features confusing and dated looking. I still haven’t totally got my head around the rather unholy marriage of Trip tracking (old school eTrex style) alongside Edge style Activity tracking. Both features are there, but grafted together with all the finesse of Zaphod Beeblebrox’s second head.

There’s also the question of whether you use Garmin Explore or Gamin Connect on your phone. With the Fenix paired to Connect, I decided to go with Explore which gives me access to all the inReach features. And that immediately worked well on a test export of a GPX from RWGPS on mobile to Explore on mobile, with near instant sync to the 67i. On the fly route updating from mobile is something my very old eTrex just did not do, and was a major reason it’s now mostly sat in a drawer. But when I started & stopped a test Activity it immediately sync’d to Garmin Connect, even though I hadn’t linked the devices. I mean great, that is what I wanted it to do. But I’m not sure how or why it managed to do it.

So let’s briefly cover the rest of that overly busy cockpit.

The Wahoo Roam is on there of course. Although I can’t really say either is a backup device. The Roam will do my turn routing and prompting, and possibly HR monitoring if I bother with a strap. The 67i I’ll use for it’s strengths: the satellite tracking for Yoli and friends back home; and those glorious large screen maps. This is, after all, an adventure ride above all else. And what good is an adventure if you don’t have nice maps showing where you are and what is around you?

The Quad Lock might then seem overkill. But not to anyone who has done these kinds of solo unsupported events before. Somewhere around your 2nd or 3rd lunch, or maybe 1st or 2nd dinner (yep, each meal is doubled and often tripled) you will pause and scan the route ahead for a likely nightime stop. Over pasta, or pizza, or burger, or whatever delight is being crammed down, a few calls will be made and hopefully a bed booked. But, finding that hotel in the backstreets of some unfamiliar town can be a time wasting and frustrating experience. Sure, you could plot a route to it and download that to a nav device – but why waste the time. Why not just stick the phone on the bar and navigate that last bit on Google Maps? You already had it loaded anyway when checking for nearby hotels. Hence the Quad Lock. There isn’t space to use both, so once in the town where I’ll be sleeping, the 67i will temporarily swap places with the phone in my back pocket.

Just peaking beneath the Quad Lock is one last little device I wish I had fitted for the Audax UK Combwich Century a couple of weeks back. My light remote. The Ravemen PR2000 worked great but the buttons were not glove friendly. I swore at myself a few times over the final kilometres for not mounting the remote.

So there you have it – the reasons and logic behind possibly the most crowded cockpit layout I have ever had. Now to see if it works out on the road.

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