Risk/reward analysis of PLBs

A recent thread on Sport-Touring.net described a member’s accident while on a solo ride in remote Colorado.

After separating from his bike and tumbling down a small hillside, the forum member remained unseen with a severely broken leg for five hours. Finally, two German tourists saw some accident detritus and stopped to look over the hillside and the rider was transported to a hospital. He was finally seen by a doctor eight and a half hours after the accident.

The accident report got me thinking once again about Personal Locator Beacons (PLB).

The “Pros” of PLBs are pretty obvious:

  • Could save my life in the most dramatic case
  • Could greatly speed up search and rescue in the case of any solo accident in a remote area
  • Works in areas where cell phones don’t (rural Colorado, for example)

However, there are also some cons to PLBs, which is where the risk/reward analysis comes in.

  • Must be manually activated, thus rendering it useless if I were unconscious
  • They’re pretty big — the smallest one is 10oz and is 5.85 x 2.21 x 1.4 inches
  • Would need to be carried on me (in a jacket), since it’s likely I would be separated from the bike. This is a significant risk given the dimensions above — I’m MUCH more likely to break a rib from landing on the PLB in a minor accident than I am to have a severe enough accident to use the PLB in the first place.

So that’s my brain dump on PLBs for the day. Anyone have any thoughts or experience with them?

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