Cyclists are familiar with SAG, short for Support and Gear. SAG is popular in large organized bicycle rides and tours. A volunteer drives a truck or car, also known as a SAG wagon, along the route offering assistance to injured, stranded or lost cyclists. SAG is a very welcome sight when you find yourself in some sort of disabled situation.
In my recent GAP and C&O tour, I gave a good bit of thought to the need for SAG support on these trails. In my 2011 tour, I opted to ride the trails self-supported with no support vehicles. This summer I chose to have a SAG wagon accompany the cyclists. In this post I am sharing my thoughts and reasoning on when to use SAG.
Determining the need
The first thing a ride planner needs to do is assess the cycling abilities of the cyclists on the tour. Self-sufficient cyclists with bicycle maintenance and repair skills can serve as their own SAG. Endurance also factors into this decision. As a planner, you must be confident all cyclists can complete the day’s distance. In my 2014 group, I had a mixture of cyclists with a varied level of bicycle maintenance skills and levels of endurance. SAG definitely eased the pain of inconveniences and unpredictable situations during a week of cycling.
The SAG driver can have a multitude of roles. The ride planner needs to outline these duties and be sure the SAG driver can handle situations on-the-fly. In my latest tour, the SAG wagon hauled our supplies freeing the cyclist from the extra weight. The SAG wagon always had cold drinks and snacks on-hand. This meant the SAG driver shopped grocery and convenience stores between stops.
The SAG wagon had a supply basic bicycle repair tools and parts. Our SAG driver was called upon to transport stranded cyclists with disabled bikes to bicycle shops on two occasions. We were prepared to handle basic repairs such as flats and gear and brake adjustments. Some repairs necessitated transporting the cyclist to a nearly bicycle shop.
The right SAG driver
It is important to select the right SAG driver. The individual needs to be patient, caring and organized. My initial plan for this past tour was to share SAG duties among the eight cyclists. Each of us was going to take ½ day SAGging for the group. In the end, we were fortunate when one of our cyclist’s husband volunteered to SAG for the week. He was a star in that role. He was always on-time at the trailheads. He kept the supplies stocked and paid attention to everyone’s needs and wishes.
The logistics of SAG
It is not just as simple as telling the SAG driver to meet us at point B in two hours. I prepared a SAG manual for our driver. He had the mobile phone numbers of all of our cyclists. The manual had the address and GPS coordinates of every GAP and C&O trailhead. It was sectioned by day with the tentative timeframe with snack and lunch locations highlighted. He had the hotel and B&B reservations and address for each day. The driver also had GAP and C&O maps and the most current trail guidebook. Every morning I met with the driver to go over the plans for the day, possible delays, special needs, and any concerns.
Benefits of SAG
Comfort is the primary benefit of SAG. It is like an insurance policy that helps eliminate the unexpected problems along the way. Although the need for SAG is not necessarily dictated by the size of the group, there is a good chance that larger groups benefit the most from SAG. The probability of issues arising multiplies as the size multiplies.
Convenience is a close second in the benefits. It is nice to free oneself from hauling a week’s worth of supplies. It is nice to be greeted at a trailhead with snacks and beverages. Several times we were able to enjoy a picnic lunch along the river courtesy of our SAG. For those with disabled bikes, the SAG allowed them to get repairs faster and more conveniently.
This post is dedicated to Tom, our 2014 Crossing Mountains SAG. Tom was a superstar. He rocked the tour. When cyclists were stuck in mud and left with broken bikes, he shuttled them to bike shops quickly and effortlessly. He was always there and smiling as we pedaled into our next stop. The cooler and supplies were always iced and full.