RAGBRAI LI Route Announced on Jan. 27!

GPS Bus tracker?

I’m looking for a solution to have a GPS tracker on my bus so that everyone on my team will know its location at all times. Has anyone got something like this working? I see a lot of trackers you can buy to track your vehicle but I need to have this available to all members on my team, not just one person. Also if there was a way to allow/disallow members to track the bus as well, that would be great.

17 Replies

Joseph Schlau, February 25, 2022 at 12:08 pm

Essentially I do this every ride using an application named Ride With GPS. RWGPS has a Live Logging feature which allows another IPhone or Android device to see exactly where I am once I start a ride providing there is cell service. If cell service is lost while live logging, it will update once you gain service back. The transmitting phone in the bus would probably need a paid account but receiving phones only need the free account to see your location. You can limit receipt of your location by limiting it to Friends settings. Since I ride in a forest preserve and occasionally off trail, it allows a phone at home to see my location and route travelled in real time for safety reasons. RWGPS does allow you to submit a support ticket with specific questions on their app to see if it fits your needs.


Suds, February 25, 2022 at 12:44 pm

The Glympse app does a nice job of showing your live location, travel speed, etc. You start the share and then send out a group text with the tracking info for others to access and follow.


Uncle Kraig, February 25, 2022 at 12:48 pm

The only challenge with this objective is reliable cell service. There are probably multiple apps that would accomplish what you are looking for. However, they will all likely need some method for transmitting data ie, the cellular network. Last year in Sac City, the entire network (I am with Verizon, not sure if I was roaming on US Cellular or if it was actually Verizons network) was down and totally inaccesible from about 2:00 pm till about 3:00 am. While that may be extreme, it is more normal than not, to have little to no coverage for extended periods of time both in towns and along the route.


Matt, February 25, 2022 at 3:28 pm

You can try the Tile service. One person (you) buys a single Tile tracker to place on the bus and subscribe to the service. You can share/unshare the tile location with (unlimited) people you choose. The app is free to download and the basic account is free (for your riders). You (tile owner) have to subscribe to premium for unlimited sharing, but there is a 30 day free trial if you time it right. After that you simply become the owner of a tile on the free service (assuming you dropped premium). Heck, buy the tile that attaches to your keys and it will always be useful even after RAGBRAI. We use multiple tiles on various things and it has worked very well. As others have said though, your riders need cell service to run the app same as any other. That and the tile needs to ping any phone (with service) that is running the app (yours or any random person). If there are hours of absolutely no service for anyone where you park, your riders have to wander within the bluetooth range where you are parked (pretty small target).


Tom Olinger, February 25, 2022 at 3:30 pm

Live365 is a great phone app to track ‘people’ if you want to keep a phone on the bus. The app suuports different groups so you could have a full team group and then another group for those only allowed access to the bus locatation. As others have mentioned, they’re only as good as the phone service. You at least have access to last pinged location.


Tom Olinger, February 25, 2022 at 3:35 pm

You could also put an Apple Airtag on it and gamble iPhones will cross it’s path.


Suds, February 26, 2022 at 8:57 am

Tom Olinger, February 25, 2022 at 3:30 pm
Live365 is a great phone app to track ‘people’

Actually Live365 is a radio app.
Looks like Life360 is the correct app – looks like it should work well for this purpose.


djdingo, February 27, 2022 at 2:11 pm

These are great suggestions! I agree, the number one downfall to all of this is cell phone service. If the driver doesn’t have service then none of the riders can find the bus.

I totally forgot about going the phone app route. I think I will try that out first for this year’s RAGBRAI to see how it goes and maybe upgrade to something hardware-based in the future. Thanks everyone!


Tom Olinger, February 27, 2022 at 7:08 pm

Thanks for the correction. Thinking one thing and typed something else. Life360.


direwolf, February 27, 2022 at 9:44 pm

Saturation of cell service on RAGBRAI is indeed a thing. We now carry inReach satellite communicators which, of course, do not rely on cell service. Prior to that, we sometimes succeeded by using public library wi-fi or public library hardwired internet access. Prior to the electronic age we would leave Post-It notes on the front door of the post office (which may have been a federal crime).


Kent Clow, March 2, 2022 at 10:47 am

Garmin has some tracking ability on some of their GPS. Of course each member and the bus would need compatible models.


djdingo, March 4, 2022 at 9:44 am

Someone on twitter suggested using Google Maps and sharing your location. I tried it with a friend and it sucked. It wasn’t real-time and it only showed the last location, there wasn’t a “trail” of the path taken. I’m going to try out the “Ride with GPS” app next.


Joseph Schlau, March 5, 2022 at 5:47 am

Additional info on RWGPS. Previous to RWGPS I also used the Livetrack feature on my Garmin which I still use. A previous poster mentioned Garmin. RWGPS has in my experience proven more reliable.

Last year I undertook a solo self supported 11 day bike tour across Illinois and up the Mississippi and return trip across Wisconsin. Throughout the 550 miles the RWGPS was simultaneously transmitting my location in real time to home base without dropping off. This trip also included several underpass tunnels below the highway without a problem. My phone was in the panniers, not out in the open. At 3 points I was met by family who were able to maintain a track even though they were driving at the same time I was riding. Similar to what you are doing with the bus.

On RAGBRAI over the years I have experienced various conditions with cell service. In the past, no service for 2 days. Slow service from too many phones in a town. Particularly bad in overnight towns where everyone is there. Also had situations where team members with different phones/carriers had service while others did not. RAGBRAI And the cell carriers seemed to address this in recent years with temporary cell towers in areas with marginal service.

In 2019 I had no cell service failure I was aware of. That year I used the Livetrack feature on my Garmin GPS to transmit my location to home base. Garmin devices have 1 added area of vulnerability in that the GPS transmits the information to the cell phone via Bluetooth then the phone transmits the signal via cellular to the recipient. The Garmin Live Track worked on RAGBRAI in 2019 and again on the 2021 trip.

On RWGPS and Garmin’s updated version, when you start a ride using a preplanned Routes in RWGPS or Courses in Garmin, the recipient can see the planned route and your location on it. So as long as you stick to your planned Route or Course, recipients still can see where you are planning to go if service drops. In the event of a service drop RWGPS will update as soon as service returns. Garmin will not and requires a restart. If you are not using a preplanned course, the recipient sees the route you covered and where you currently are.

Now RWGPS could easily replace the Garmin except for 2 things. I don’t want my phone on the handlebars where it can be damaged. Garmin does not depend on cell service to route you.


HelenP, March 5, 2022 at 8:12 am

Have you tried having the driver go to Google Maps,
click on the My Location icon,
click Share to get the URL copied,
and then either:
post that to a website, or else
set up a group for phone texting and send it to that group?
It’s low tech, but seems like it’d work, as long as the riders eventually can connect to cellular service.


Ian Thomson, March 13, 2022 at 3:09 am

Done right get a SPOT tracker, 15 minute live tracking satellite based unlimited people can follow


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