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I am hoping to get some tips and suggestions for having a partner drive support for long rides (training or touring).

Is it best to plan spots that they will meet you and can get to your location of needed (before moving on to a next location)?

We often see documentaries and shorts shot from a following vehicle but I assume that having someone follow close with the hazard lights on isn't quite safe (or legal?).

For those of you who have driven out arranged for a partner to drive support, how do you logistically do so?

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    Just as another point a reference: I once did a gravel ride with two friends in a very rural area. My then-wife followed in my truck to provide water, snacks, and other needed support. My daughter was in the truck taking pictures. The pictures were the only good thing. She tried to follow us, instead of going ahead. It was annoying. If the vehicle had kept going ahead (and possibly turning around and backtracking occasionally) it would have been better. In reality we didn't need a support vehicle, but she wanted to be there. Sep 24 '14 at 1:08
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    My wife sometimes escorts myself and a couple friends down the coast for longish (~100mi) rides. We arrange a couple meeting places ahead of time for snacks/water/etc (30 - 40 miles apart) where she can hang out comfortably (a beach, a coffee shop, etc). If I know we are going to be late (flat tire, etc), I call or text her (cell phone coverage is spotty, but text's usually go through eventually). If I'm very late, she txts me and backtracks to see if we need help. Works well, and the only time she's had to go look for us was when we were caught in a very strong headwind with no cell coverage.
    – Johnny
    Sep 24 '14 at 2:39
  • Side note - services like Google's Location Sharing, or Strava's premium live tracking will let your support vehicle know where you are, to the limits of cellular data coverage. It's not perfect, but one more tool.
    – Criggie
    Jan 22 '20 at 11:45
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Is this for a group of riders or just one rider?

I'll share the experience I had from a big group cross-roads biking event I was part of as a Cyclist, so you can take ideas and maybe create a better plan for yourself.

We were going to cycle across country from north coast to south coast. So first we departed from the country's capital city towards the ride starting point. Two busses for the riders and support personnel, two trucks for the bikes and other items (advertising banners, podium structure, etc). Also a couple of small vehicles.

Once we got to the starting point, the busses served as logistics vehicles, carrying everyone's luggage, and support personnel with food, drinks and tools. The busses departed before us and parked a few kilometres ahead in a previously selected point. (Each bus in a different spot). After a while the busses departed again, overtaking the cycling group and repeating this a few more times. The stops where somewhere like 15-20km (10-15 miles) apart.

The smaller vehicles were also carrying food and tools, but they where going back and forth, sweeping the whole span of the cycling group. And a police officer was riding a motorcycle behind the last rider. The smaller vehicles would drive forward up to a certain point, then go back until they find the motorcycle behind the last rider and then drive forward again, sweeping for stranded cyclists who could not get to the next support point (bus) by themselves. If necessary the vehicle would pick up the rider and bike and take them to the bus. If possible, mechanical or medical support would be delivered by this smaller vehicles.

The whole ride spanned seven days over nine cities. Every stage was from one city to another, (except one stage in which we visited one city just for a few hours ant then continued to a second city). Each day every rider would unload his/her luggage from the busses for the sleep over and load it again the next day.

All the vehicles would be driven at normal road speed and stopped either on planned spots or to help a stopped cyclist, but wouldn't be driven at cyclist speed. The only exception would be the cop's motorcycle at the back of the group.

Each cyclist would ride a his/her own pace, except the pros, who would form peloton. The exception would be that the arrival departure points where a few kilometres outside the city. To go from/to these points to/from downtown, the whole group would form a tight peloton lead by a police car and would travel at around 20km/hr taking the hole lane.

I think this form of logistics worked very well for a group of near 100 riders.

If I was to plan a vehicle supported long ride for a single rider (or a very small group), I would set the car to depart some minutes behind me, calculating to meet me on the road near the mid point of the distance towards a next planned stop point, and repeat.

The distance between the stop points would be what the average of the group would ride in one hour. That means that the car would depart so they meet the group in 30 minutes after the riders started, would drive past us and wait nearly 30 minutes for us in the next stop point.

I hope these ideas serve your purpose and that you are abe to adapt some to your needs.

EDIT: As noted in one of the comments, the support car itself may suffer a failure. It may be obvious to say that the support vehicle shall be in the best operating condition, and must pass a mechanical revision prior to the ride, as with any car-travel activity.

However, I think there are at least two possible alternatives: 1) Is to let the riders depart first and the car attempts to get to the next stop almost at the same time as the cyclists, thus remaining behind the riders all the time.

2) Let the car go first, and the riders would catch up at the next stop. If any rider suffers an accident or a failure for which she/he can't get over, then the support car shall be asked to go back to pick them up.

The planner of the ride must adapt the strategy according to the probability of bike/rider/car failure and to the capability of the riders to fix common issues, or known rider health issues. For example, if no rider carries flat fixing tools, then it is better for the car to reamin behind the riders at all times. But if the riders carry tools and food, then for a little more of a thrill the car can be let ahead of the riders.

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    Good answer, however in the case where there is only a single driver and a few riders, I think it might be better for the car to always be ahead of the riders. If the car breaks down (or gets in an accident), the riders will eventually catch up and they can figure out how to continue. If the car departed after the riders, and then broke down before it caught them, it might be some time before the riders realized this. They would then have to turn around and ride back to meet the car.
    – Kibbee
    Sep 23 '14 at 18:55
  • @Kibbee: You are right, but this is only one of the many scenarios that may happen. The planner of the ride shall modify the particular strategy based on how likely it is that these type of failures happen. What would be the solution if the car and one bike breaks in different points of the route? The support car shall pass a mechanical revision prior to the ride, as shall the bikes.
    – Jahaziel
    Sep 23 '14 at 19:30
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Except in a few cases, like on highways where you shouldn't be riding anyway, most places don't have minimum speed limits. So I don't see why it would be illegal for a car to travel at the same speed as the cyclist, as long as they are a safe distance behind.

The other option is for them to drive ahead and wait for you to catch up. You should agree on a route before hand, and make sure both parties are clear on what the route is. They should know when to expect your arrival, and you should communicate via cell phone if you are going to be behind (such as when you get a flat). If you don't reach the car by the designated time, they should turn around and go backwards on the route until they find you. How far ahead the car is depends on a few factors such as how long you think is safe to be out of contact in the event of an accident.

The safest would probably be to have the car right behind you at all times, as they would immediately be able to help you. The further ahead the car is, the more time it will take them to respond, but it will be less boring for the driver as they will be able to pull over and read a book, watch a movie, or play a video game while they wait for you to catch up.

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  • It depends on the highway. On I-40 in Arizona, there are a decent number of cyclists, especially around Flagstaff iirc.
    – Batman
    Sep 23 '14 at 18:45
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    @Batman On any such highway where cyclists would want to travel, it would probable be fine for a car to also travel at cycling speeds, provided it was easily visible to other motorists and either had it's hazard lights on, or a slow moving vehicle emblem
    – Kibbee
    Sep 23 '14 at 18:59
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    You have to take into consideration driver fatigue then. Driving slow behind cyclists (probably below the cruise control limit) and try to maintain space for hours on end can be a issue. I can see boredom and distractions setting in. The leap frog game may be more economical for the car as well.
    – BPugh
    Sep 23 '14 at 20:05
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    California does have a minimum speed law: CVC 22400 "No person shall drive upon a highway at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, unless the reduced speed is necessary for safe operation, because of a grade, or in compliance with law." Where 'highway' is pretty much any road: "Highway is a way or place of whatever nature, publicly maintained and open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel. Highway includes street."
    – Johnny
    Sep 24 '14 at 2:10
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    Where I live (New Zealand) "highways" are often very narrow and windy. A following car can be dangerous as it takes up the entire lane, and means it and the cyclists must be overtaken. We do not have a record of being tolerant drivers so sign with "Cyclists Ahead" on the car would be best to alert passing motorists why the car is going slow.
    – mattnz
    Sep 24 '14 at 4:01
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There was a season when my husband was always signing up for century rides... i would usually accompany him for these trips but hang out at the hotel when he rides.

There was an incident when I didn't follow, he got left behind in the race and the support car that followed him and friends were lost. The organiser had cleared the signage, my husband was lost and tired and didn't know where to go. Instinctively, I called him at the same time. I managed to locate his whereabouts and managed to send help.

The next ride he had, I decided to follow him as a support car despite him saying it was unnecessary. As it was an event, I knew the routes he will be taking, I will stop the car by the road side where he can see, should he need to top up his drink or banana etc. I made sure I brought extra in case there are other cyclists in need of help too.

If he felt he was good and didn't need to stop, he won't and will just keep going.

At the end of the event, hubs thanked me profusely and prefers that I follow him for all his long distance rides.

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  • It is most often forbidden for mass start events to have individual support vehicles, because if everyone (or even just a small number) sent one, it would be a complete and dangerous mess. That does not concern pro events with team vehicles with experienced drivers, but individual amateur road races.
    – Vladimir F
    Sep 27 '20 at 15:37

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