If you’re prepping for your first cross-country rally race on your own bike, you’ll need roadbook navigation equipment. It can be as cutting-edge or as simple as you like, but the basics will remain the same: you will need a tripmaster to measure your kilometers and a roadbook holder for your roadbook scroll. For the big desert races, you’ll also need your CAP heading, but this is a story for another time – as a rally first-timer, you’re probably preparing for something like the Hellas Rally Raid rather than Africa Eco Race, and for most amateur rallies, you won’t need to worry about compass bearings. For now, all you need is the very basics.
Essentially, you can choose between the old-school, mechanical Paris-Dakar style roadbook equipment or go digital. The choice is entirely up to you, but here is how roadbook navigation kits differ and what you should be paying attention to:
Mechanical Roadbook Navigation Kits
Despite more and more rally organizers now offering digital roadbooks, most riders still go for mechanical roadbook navigation kits. Nostalgia? Reliability? For us here at Cross Country ADV, it’s both: mechanical roadbook navigation equipment just feels better, and it’s much, much harder to destroy than a tablet or a phone.
The navigation kit itself is dead simple. All you need is a tripmaster, ICO being the most popular and, arguably, the most reliable, and your roadbook holder with switches for the tripmaster and the scroll. Finally, you’ll need to mount everything onto your handlebars; we like this roadbook navigation equipment bracket from Rebel X Sports as it’s a simple but sturdy design allowing you to bolt everything straight onto your bars and forget fancy navigation towers.
If you’re opting for an F2R roadbook holder, you’ll also need an additional power box to connect all the wires and switches.
Once you’ve assembled your mechanical roadbook navigation kit, install everything on your bike, do a quick test run, and you’re ready to go! Alternatively, you can opt for a complete roadbook navigation kit – either the basic or the pro version – and simply get the entire setup already made for you.
Digital Roadbook Navigation Kits
More increasingly, rally organizers are offering digital roadbooks, and that’s excellent news for the environment (every rally prints out kilometers of roadbook each year). It’s also good news for the riders: in theory, digital roadbooks should make it easier whenever there are last-minute roadbook changes. Instead of correcting, cutting, and gluing your paper scroll back together to adjust for the changes, you simply download an updated roadbook PDF, stick it on your tablet, and you’re good to go. Finally, tablets – or even just phones – are much cheaper than mechanical roadbook navigation kits, and that’s a fantastic improvement, especially for new riders in the sport.
To use a digital roadbook, all you need is a tripmaster and a tablet or your phone. Some companies offer specialized digital roadbook equipment, and that’s also an option, especially factoring in reliability: regular tablets will break quickly if you crash, whereas these things seem like they can last. We’ve also heard of riders making their own crash-proof tablet brackets, and if digital roadbooks catch on, we’ll likely see new products coming out soon.
So, which roadbook navigation kit is best for you, and how do you pick the best setup for your bike? If you’ve got any questions or need help finding the ideal setup, shoot us a message or leave a comment below – we love helping new riders get into the rally world!