GPS tracking is a weird yet crucial part of any expedition. It’s weird in the way that it allows people to know where you are at all times. That takes away a bit of the excitement of coming back with stories of where you were when people knew where you were at all times. But, once you get over that mental block they are amazing!
For the Tour Divide, Arizona Trail Race, and Colorado Trail Race the use of a GPS tracker is not required. Although it's not required, if you want to actually race and compare times you are gonna want a tracker. Trackleaders, a company that works with all these races to track the riders, has rentals for those wishing to be tracked. This is what I used for my first Tour Divide in 2016. It worked well and my family was able to see where I was and even today I can go back and see where I went and my speed at those points. Pretty neat!
The tracker I rented was a basic Spot Tracker Gen 3. Spot Tracker is the go-to GPS tracker for many of these races and is the only one supported by Trackleaders. I decided that instead of renting a tracker three different times for the races this summer It would be more cost effective to buy my own!
The Spot Tracker Gen 3 is small and robust but packs in a lot of features for such a small orange box. For one it has an SOS button that will contact the nearest first responders in the case of life or death emergencies. The majority of the racing is done in very remote locations where the cell service is very unreliable so this is a life saver, literally! It also features several custom buttons including a Help message that allows you to send a custom message notifying a selected people that you need help but are ok. Yet another feature that my family appreciates. These programmable buttons can also be used for simple check-ins or silly messages to let your loved one know you are alright. I will still be able to tell bad jokes even though I am thousands of miles away from my family.
But these are all additions to what the Spot Tracker is really here for, tracking. The device tracks you at 2.5, 5, 10, 30, and 60-minute increments depending on what you want and how much battery life you want to save. I will probably be tracking at 5 or 10 minutes for the races.
The Gen 3 runs off of 4 AAA batteries but it is also compatible with rechargeable AAA and even features a micro USB charging port to recharge the batteries on the fly. The tracker I have used in the past didn't have this and I went through AAA every 2 or 3 days.
The GPS signal is strong and only struggles to connect to the satellites in extremely dense forest. I never had an issue connecting during my experiences with it.
Now that I bought the device I have to get a service plan, similar to a cell phone. It's a pain but it makes sense based on what you are getting and how helpful the device is. The service varies in cost based on what features you want and for me, it will cost $200 for the year once I activate it. I know it's a lot but I plan on using this device for all my bike trips from here on out. Shit happens quickly and the majority of the places I travel to don't have cell service. I would pay anything if it meant being rescued faster and giving my friends and family a piece of mind.
Phew, lots of words… gonna go on a bike ride now!