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Question about support vehicle on cross country ride

Old 02-16-21, 08:42 AM
  #1  
RichinSC1
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Question about support vehicle on cross country ride

I am doing a cross country ride (Southern Tier Route) this summer with my son. I am planning all I can in advance to stay safe and plan on having a support vehicle go with us and even having some flashing yellow lights and a sign that reads "Caution! Cyclists ahead" on the back of the support car. This support car will drive about 100' behind us as we ride to provide a safe buffer of interference and warn cars approaching from behind. The support car will drive the same speed as us and it will also be as far right on the road as possible. It's so much easier having the car carry all our gear, food and drinks than to use panniers. Plus we should be able to ride much faster without the extra weight. But does this pose a bigger danger threat to our support car than to have no support car at all? We will ride on back roads as much as possible. The reason I ask is our bikes will be within 3' to the edge of the road and the car will be about 6' wide. So theoretically with no support car vehicles can pass us without slowing down but they must slow down in order to pass the support car.
Also are there any laws which will prevent a support car doing what I described above?
Thanks
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Old 02-16-21, 08:57 AM
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I feel sorry for your support driver. Can’t imagine how boring and frustrating it would be driving across the country at that speed. Most support drivers go ahead and set up hotel rooms and are on call to provide more support as needed, but otherwise find something interesting to do during the day. Never heard of one driving with the riders.
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Old 02-16-21, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
I feel sorry for your support driver. Canít imagine how boring and frustrating it would be driving across the country at that speed. Most support drivers go ahead and set up hotel rooms and are on call to provide more support as needed, but otherwise find something interesting to do during the day. Never heard of one driving with the riders.
I'm doing this ONLY for the safety of me and my son on the bikes. I'm I being too paranoid about getting hit by a car?
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Old 02-16-21, 09:09 AM
  #4  
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Originally Posted by RichinSC1 View Post
I'm doing this ONLY for the safety of me and my son on the bikes. I'm I being too paranoid about getting hit by a car?
No such thing as being too paranoid about getting hit, seems we read all the time some cross-country tourist gets hit on some empty road. But it's very uncommon and I would not plan for it. Thus I agree with Alan, the support vehicle doesn't need to follow. This is not RAAM.

Do some searching on this forum for the posts by JPPE. He rode cross country a few years ago, his wife was nearby (but not following) in their camper van (I think). It was a good set of ride reports.
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Old 02-16-21, 09:44 AM
  #5  
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I personally cannot stand having a vehicle right behind me at riding speed all day. It drives me nuts. That is just me.
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Old 02-16-21, 10:13 AM
  #6  
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Sounds like a terrible idea to me. You will have a constant stream of angry drivers going past and an incredibly bored support driver when they aren't dealing with angry drivers. Most of the time cars can pass the bikes fine when there is no escort vehicle. Add an escort and that is no longer the case. I am not sure it would even be safer. You might find that angry drivers pass unsafely and cut in too close after passing.

One other thing... just adding a motor vehicle in any capacity will change the nature of the trip in many ways. You will be less able to just camp in improvised places. You will be less likely to meet and receive hospitality from the local folks. For me at least it would take away a large part of the adventure and the meeting of the local folks. The ST didn't have the greatest scenery most of the way IMO, so it was the various cuisines and meeting the variety of transplanted misfits that I enjoyed most about the route. Having a car along would detract from that a great deal. Many of the people who approached me and offered hospitality or just conversation never would have if I had a car with flashing lights following me.

Riding cross country is a relatively safe adventure. I'd skip the motor vehicle entirely and go self supported. I have met probably hundreds of touring cyclists and none of them had an escort following them. Some had a supprt vehicle that met them at various times during the day.
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Old 02-16-21, 10:16 AM
  #7  
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You need to be concerned about getting hit, but I think you are too concerned about it.

I have had close calls from someone passing the vehicle behind me on a bike, but the one doing the passing did not see me until they had passed, they assumed they could turn into the lane where I was and they had judged that to be safe from opposing traffic until they were almost hitting me. I do not like any vehicle that close to me that is behind me for that reason.

Some friends of mine did Southern Tier a few years ago, they rented a mini-van in California and returned the van in Florida. One of the group drove the van each day on a rotating basis. The van driver had the luggage and usually stopped at preplanned locations for lunch, water stops in the desert, etc. In that case they stayed indooors and made room reservations for the entire trip before they started. I prefer more flexibiliyty for a long trip, you never know that far in advance about the weather, but that was how they did it.

Most of my tours are on roads like in the photos, no or minimal shoulder, you need good situational awareness and you need to be highly visible.

And one risk that should not be overlooked, with the increase in electric vehicles and hybrids, there will be more times when you did not hear the car approaching from behind. You NEED a mirror to know when you can venture further into the traffic lane to avoid potholes.










In this one, it is hard to see but there is a rumble strip in the middle of the shoulder, you had to ride in the traffic lane.







Even when there is plenty of shoulder, there is debris in the shoulder and you need a mirror to know when it is safe to go around the debris.



I am not saying it is safe, but it is doable. There are risks to everything. I think your proposed solution has other inerrant risks too. But there are reasonable measures you can take to try to be safer.

More and more I am seeing flashing taillights on bikes. I did a week long unsupported tour with ACA about a decade ago, I was the only one in a group of over a dozen that had a flashing taillight on during day one. By end of trip, two others were doing the same. Now a decade later it is almost common. Touring I do not have a front light on, mostly because I am saving my power for things like GPS, etc. But if you have access to an outlet or a car 12v outlet every day, you have more power and could run a flashing headlight too. I had a close call five years ago, a car decided to pass in front of me (coming towards me) and they must have been nearly blind to not see me, but they went past me in my lane with only inches to spare.

There was a good thread on visibility here, you should review it.
https://www.bikeforums.net/touring/1...lity-gear.html
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Old 02-16-21, 10:47 AM
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i wouldn't try it. doubt it's legal to have a vehicle toddling along
at "me and my son" speed all the way across the freakin' country.
your specialness will create a significant highway hazard.

look for lots of friction with pissed off motorists complaining
about some entitled ****** that thinks they own the ****** road.

expect lots of abuse, yelling, and getting stopped by the local cops.

personally, i'm a bikecylist and i'd be "tempted" to throw something
at you as i drove by if you did that in my county.

road rage is a thing. youtube it. you're way more likely to get run
off the road (either you or the support car or both) by an angry driver
than to have an accident if traveling without the support car.
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Old 02-16-21, 10:49 AM
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There's a lot of good advice above.
Personally, I'd think there could be more danger with a vehicle hovering behind - inattention of your driver could be a factor as well as dangerous overtakes. There are some crazy speed limits in Texas!

What's not clear is your level of experience?
Have yourself and your son done multi-day tours before? Are you both happy riding at the same pace? If not, that could lead to difficulties, especially with a support vehicle bringing up the rear.
If you have experience, is that with the support vehicle behind? That is something you could practise beforehand. I'd imagine the SAG driver especially needs to practise. Hours driving at a slow pace is not easy.

The thing with fear/anxiety is that it is often irrational and therefore difficult to control.

As a European, I found a mirror invaluable on US roads. There were drivers who were ignorant of their impact zipping past at high speed, those that were just malicious (few, but they existed) and some who were quite unaware of their loads (think wide trailer behind a pickup).

I came to hate bridges! A shoulder, if it existed, was often full of debris. I can't imagine a slow moving vehicle being particularly popular on some.

The best way of answering these types of questions are to get out there and do it, preferably close to home first.

You could do a search on CrazyGuyOnABike for people who did similar.

As for laws, you'll be crossing numerous states and counties. Irrespective of legal or not, there will be roads at certain times where you will be very unpopular!

Good luck!
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Old 02-16-21, 10:57 AM
  #10  
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Thanks for the replies and your advice rings loud and clear. We will not have a support vehicle following us per your recommendations.
I have biked a few week long tours across a few states with support vehicle but it was not following us. It would stop every 20 miles or so and set up a rest stop with food and drinks. And yes my son was a on an athletic college scholarship and he is way better than I am as far as speed goes. But we have been on a few long rides and he is fine with it.
Thanks
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Old 02-16-21, 10:58 AM
  #11  
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Maybe instead of biking cross country, you can buy a used Jeep Cherokee or Mazda Miata or something with a removable roof, fit it with a bike rack, and occasionally bike in certain areas?

So long as you donít do any damage to the vehicle you can probably sell it for what you paid for it- cheaper than a rental!

[edit] a better vehicle would be a Plymouth Sport Fury or Pontiac Catalina- you can carry more stuff and youíve got two beds with room for people under 5í10Ē. Nobody would road rage against one of those cars driving sight-seeingly slow.
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Old 02-16-21, 11:05 AM
  #12  
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Wise decision.
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Old 02-16-21, 11:22 AM
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A quick Google didn't find anything, but I have seen lighting systems that actively track overtaking vehicles and increase your visibility and give you an auditory warning. Less high tech would be a pool noodle with a safety flag defining your comfort zone. A reinforced pool noodle with a flag and blinky would give drivers something to think about, thinking being the operative point.
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Old 02-16-21, 12:50 PM
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I have typically heard of such arrangements for ultra-endurance athletes who cycle through the night - and only at those night-time hours.

As others have mentioned and you seem inclined to use this support vehicle to:
- carry gear
- serve as backup in case riders are particularly uncomfortable with a section of road

I'm sure you'll also need to work out dynamics of how often your support driver stops (only at end of the day or also throughout?) It may also take some extra patience in personality of your support driver to spend a month or two mostly in a situation where they otherwise might wait for people traveling at a slow rate of speed. I know someone who had his wife drive support for a trip across the USA. However, their arrangement was that most of the time, she would wait until he left for the day and then go off to explore nearby towns and only sync up near end of the day.
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Old 02-16-21, 12:54 PM
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Something to think about: when riding with a partner on a busy road, ride close together. Riding with about a 6' distance between you and the other person will make it easier for a vehicle to pull around both of you with about the same exposure they would have passing another car. The approaching driver is more likely to give you a wider berth. Make it easier for the drivers to do the right thing and they will do it.

A following vehicle is not a good idea because of all the reasons listed above. Wear bright clothes, and use a blinking rear light.

This picture was taken on a busy highway in Iowa. My wife and I rode close together, making it easier for the cars and trucks to get around us. It required us to be aware of the situation, but we did not feel that it was dangerous. When an oncoming semi passed another truck we just pulled oft the road. Also when a truck got behind and those small rolling hills made it hard for the driver to pass us, we just pulled off the road. We often got a short horn toot of thanks as they went by.



We did use a "support vehicle in this situation. A semi-truck waved us in front of him at the tunnel's entrance, and covered our back all the way through the tunnel. I got the company's name as he passed us after we were through the tunnel, and emailed a thank you note to the company about their courteous driver. I got a note back from the company's safety officer, and a thank you from the driver. A win-win situation.


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Old 02-16-21, 01:21 PM
  #16  
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Originally Posted by RichinSC1 View Post
Thanks for the replies and your advice rings loud and clear. We will not have a support vehicle following us per your recommendations.
I have biked a few week long tours across a few states with support vehicle but it was not following us. It would stop every 20 miles or so and set up a rest stop with food and drinks. And yes my son was a on an athletic college scholarship and he is way better than I am as far as speed goes. But we have been on a few long rides and he is fine with it.
This sounds like a good decision.

FWIW, if someone is going to support you, it's nice to meet with them every couple hours -- that's when you'll need more water! On flat terrain, that's usually about 20 miles between meet-ups. It gets more interesting when you hit rolling terrain or mountains. I figure 5 mph uphill (may be optimistic), so every 10 miles going up. But 30 mph is easy to hit downhill, and nobody wants to stop on a downhill! Balance that with keeping the support driver interested but not paranoid -- a small town is often a nice place to stop, or some other point of interest like an overlook or even a historical marker -- so there's something for the driver to do instead of gnawing at fingernails counting how many seconds you're overdue!
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Old 02-16-21, 03:25 PM
  #17  
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Typically the support vehicle is sort of on standby or at the next meet up point waiting for folks. You can call them when needed and just hang out and wait a little bit. The nice thing with a support vehicle is you can be pretty unencumbered so you don't have to take a massive amount of stuff though I still would have everything for minor repairs and flat fixes as well as some food and plenty of water as well as maybe some extra clothes for warmth or rain protection just in case. Have enough self sufficiency to get you through most of the little stuff and enough slightly bigger stuff just in case the support driver has an issue themselves. If you are planning on long lonely roads maybe make sure to take a look at the map and see where gas stations or hotels or any sort of place that might be able to help out should something happen nearby. Also consider any bike shops along the way especially if you have any places you are in for a day or two and also interesting ones (just to stop in and see because why the heck not).

Have plenty of fun along the way and have some stops where you can get out and do something other than cycling go see a museum or something like that stop off and have a family dinner at a nicer restaurant, maybe do a little hiking or something just to add a little variety.

In terms of lighting, a dynamo system will help greatly that way you always have light and don't have to worry about charging anything you can still have some USB rechargeable lights and swap them out at stops but a dynamo system will power lights front and rear so long as the front wheel is moving or the stand light has juice. Having two lights at the rear is never a bad thing. Plus with a dynamo you can also have a USB charger in the head tube (or mounted elsewhere) and charge your phone or navigation or music device (or sometimes it is all one thing especially these days). You could also just do a dynamo for charging but the lights are handy and don't require anything but movement of the front wheel which will be done through peddling and coasting which you are doing anyway.
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Old 02-16-21, 04:13 PM
  #18  
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Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
...
Also when a truck got behind and those small rolling hills made it hard for the driver to pass us, we just pulled of the road. We often got a short horn toot of thanks as they went by.
...
Good call.

And since my line of sight was a lot higher than for drivers in small cars, I often could see farther ahead in shallow rolling hills than the car drivers behind me, at times would hold my left arm straight out to the left, open hand to the rear to signal that they should not pass, or if passing would be clear I would wave them by. They are often slow to pass by after being waved by, so best to not wave them past unless they have a LOT of time before the next on-coming car.


Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
...
...In terms of lighting, a dynamo system will help greatly that way you always have light and don't have to worry about charging anything you can still have some USB rechargeable lights and swap them out at stops but a dynamo system will power lights front and rear so long as the front wheel is moving or the stand light has juice. Having two lights at the rear is never a bad thing. Plus with a dynamo you can also have a USB charger in the head tube (or mounted elsewhere) and charge your phone or navigation or music device (or sometimes it is all one thing especially these days). You could also just do a dynamo for charging but the lights are handy and don't require anything but movement of the front wheel which will be done through peddling and coasting which you are doing anyway.
I like a dynohub and have them on several bikes. Every tour I have done in the past half decade involved using a dynohub for charging batteries. But for a trip like this, I would not suggest adding it. Dyno powered lights do not flash. I would rather have flashing lights in daytime. And the USB chargers are not cheap either.

I am assuming sleeping indoors many if not most nights, and if camping where outlets for chargers are less easy to find, there are USB chargers that plug into an automotive 12v plug to charge up stuff.

And if you had a few spare lights so one set could be charging in the vehicle while others are in use, that might make more sense and would cost less than a dyno powered system.

And maybe an extra couple power banks just in case you forgot to charge the phone or GPS at night.

Touring I use AA or AAA batteries for most things, use NiMH rechargeable batteries and charge them in a charger that is USB powered. I carry some extra AA or AAA batteries so I can swap batteries if for example a talllight needed charging, I just swap the AAA batteries in the light. I usually recharged my Planet Bike Superflash taillight AAA batteries once a week, they were still bright but I wanted to make sure they stayed bright so I did not wait for them to get dim.

I have not bought disposable AA or AAA batteries for a decade, but if I had to I could buy them if for some reason my charging system stopped charging.
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Old 02-16-21, 05:01 PM
  #19  
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
... at times would hold my left arm straight out to the left, open hand to the rear to signal that they should not pass, or if passing would be clear I would wave them by. They are often slow to pass by after being waved by, so best to not wave them past unless they have a LOT of time before the next on-coming car....
In my drivers ed class we were taught to not "wave on" another driver. Then a couple of years later my brother was injured when someone kindly stopped for him, waved him on, then someone he couldn't see ran into his car.

I think we really should let drivers make passing decisions. We may not see another car already passing, for instance, and the driver could assume we checked. Here's a short discussion on it.

To the OP, I'm also very glad to hear you've backed away from the pace/guard car idea.
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Old 02-16-21, 05:54 PM
  #20  
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When I tour, my support vehicle (truck & camper) driver (wife) waits 20 to 30 minutes, then follows at normal road speed, I wave, meaning as she passes me that everything is OK... The driver keeps going, and stops 5 to 10 Km from where I was passed and stops at a place where you can pull out and stop safely... I catch up and stop, we switch bikes for her to ride her bicycle and I wait for 20 to 30 minutes and follow in our support vehicle, she waves as I pass and I stop 5 to 10 Km farther down the road where it is safe to park/stop... We switch bikes and do it all over again...
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Old 02-16-21, 07:19 PM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by 350htrr View Post
..., I wave, meaning as she passes me that everything is OK... The driver keeps going,...
I did a bike trip in Europe, fully supported, tour group provided a guide that rode with us and a van to haul the luggage. They told us if we wanted the van to stop, pat our hand on top of our helmet, that was the signal that you would otherwise never use so it could not be mis-interpreted. Then they would stop at a safe location to do so.

Makes sense to have a signal that can't be taken the wrong way.
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Old 02-17-21, 07:38 AM
  #22  
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Re safety.
I would urge you and your adult son to ride as much together on real roads, and even do some weekend test tours, to become more competent and comfortable with traffic.
** I highly highly recommend the use of a good mirror. I've been touring for about 30 years and I commute in a large city, and THE smartest thing I did about 25 years ago was to start using an effective mirror.
The heads up of a few seconds from a glance in a mirror for those occasions sketchy situations is worth all the money in the world.
but you have to use common sense and be situationally aware at all times.

And yes, at times its totally worth just pulling off the road for 5 or 10 seconds, and its a win win for everyone if very narrow and incoming trucks front and back.

I'm very happy with my helmet visor or glasses arm mounted Take a Look model that I've used for 10 years, much better than my handlebar mounted ones from the past.
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Old 02-17-21, 07:48 AM
  #23  
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And I also find the idea of a slow moving car following to be an inherently very dangerous situation for other traffic.

I hope that the two of you can get out riding a lot together and hopefully make this trip dream work out.
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Old 02-17-21, 08:13 AM
  #24  
pdlamb
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
In my drivers ed class we were taught to not "wave on" another driver. Then a couple of years later my brother was injured when someone kindly stopped for him, waved him on, then someone he couldn't see ran into his car.
I'll wave a following driver on in relaxed situations -- lightly traveled roads, I get around a corner or over a hill and see it's clear.

But as the lead vehicle, I've prevented a couple of accidents when I signaled "don't pass" to an overtaking vehicle when I did see something ahead they hadn't seen yet. I don't hesitate to signal "NO" when appropriate.
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Old 02-17-21, 09:03 AM
  #25  
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I actually think you run a fairly high risk of having the SAG rear ended at high speed. A slow moving car is not as "noticeable" as bike as a bike is more unusual so it grabs the attention better. If you MUST have a sag, consider a compromise perhaps. Have the sag go ahead on the vast majority of days but on the very few places where it it MIGHT be needed, have it follow. Personally, I would hate having a vehicle behind me the entire way. If you are concerned about traffic, consider a different route that has much less lower traffic, i.e. the Eastern TransAm Express and then the Western Express; do a "tailwind express" route from Brownsville to Canada (PM me for a route).

Tailwinds, John
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