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Thread: Approaching GPS

  1. #1
    rabid reader dbrick's Avatar
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    Approaching GPS

    I've been a folding map guy forever, both here at abroad, but I think I'm approaching the time of GPS. I'm planning a ride around the US and Canada next fall, and maybe this would be a good time to make the change.

    Can any of you recommend a good introduction about them - not individual model reviews - that'd talk about what features are available, or desirable, or unnecessary, for motorcycle use? FWIW, I'm a Mac user at home and on the road.

    Thanks!
    David Brick
    Santa Cruz CA
    2007 R1200R

  2. #2
    Luddite Looney wecm31's Avatar
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    You can do better, but.....

    I'm sure you will get more than a few expert opinions on details....I will just go for the basic truth and say GET ONE!!! I liberated the basic consumer brand X one we had for the cage and wired a 12 V plug into the fairing of my airhead. It is a huge step up from the map world, it shows current position and gives a heads up for the next turn. I love having it along on rides to the unknown. I either pre load my route or just watch the display in real time. Any GPS will take you to this level.

    But if you want more, things can get complicated. I can see the appeal, but can't be bothered for things like:
    - Bluetooth enabled for in helmet speakers
    - Custom bike ones that have oversize buttons operated by the left hand
    - Ease of synching to a PC for route manipulation and updates

    I really don't know how far it can go, with all the farkly bells and whistles, I am just putting out my $0.02 that the next consumer level unit you see on sale for under $100 will change your riding. The only addition I made to mine was a velcro attached sunblocker hood to reduce glare.

    Try poking around on ADV, they seem to have quite the interest with them.
    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=363483
    Last edited by wecm31; 04-23-2011 at 03:13 PM. Reason: added link
    Gerald P
    The last thing I want to be is just like everyone else...
    1985 R80RT
    1969 Sport Fury Convertible

  3. #3
    Steve
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    Here's a source.

    I think you'll find that Garmin is by far the dominant source in the US, although some people use TomTom.

    Here are some questions you'll need to ask:

    1. Do I want a motorcycle specific one or an automotive one that I can mount on a bike? The motorcycle specific ones tend to cost more, but normally come with a motorcycle mount which you would have to buy separately with an automotive one. Motorcycle specific ones also have larger buttons and are waterproof (which some automotive ones are and some aren't.) On the waterproof issue, it is possible to use a waterproof case or even a plastic bag to protect a non-waterproof one.

    2. Do I also want one that I can use hiking or will it strictly be for the bike and the car?

    3. Do I want features in addition to the satellite navigation? Some GPS units are also satellite radio and MP3 players. Some have built in or optional traffic and weather information.

    4. How big do I need the screen to be?

    5. Do I need Bluetooth for turn instructions and/or music? If so, must it be stereo or is mono acceptable?

    6. Do I want to be able to design custom routes or simply to put in a destination and have the GPS select the route? Some of the bottom end Garmin's don't allow for designing custom routes. To me, doing so is the whole purpose of having one. And, of course, it's also possible to share and swap custom routes.

    Once you do get one, you might also look at sites where people provide custom points of interest (POI) lists that you can download and put on your GPS. The POI Factory is my favorite.

  4. #4
    Outlander Omega Man's Avatar
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    Hi David, there is quite a bit of info here on the forum that may help. If you search with key words such as Garmin, routing, gps, Zumo and especially look for the ones with the "tag cloud" indicator I think you will be able to get some good info. We also have some members that are really up on the whole GPS thing and chances are they will chime in. HTH Gary
    "Well they say.. time loves a hero but only time will tell.. If he's real, he's a legend from heaven If he ain't he was sent here from hell" Lowell George
    2009 F800GS 1994 TW200
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  5. #5
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    Gps

    The GPS takes the worry out of being in strange places by giving a heads up where you will be turning and in what distance so you can plan your turn and lane. Garmin is fantastic for that. A few times I've gone around a block with a glich in directions but for 99% of the time, it is a life saver.
    All GPS's work the same way and some have a few more whistles but get one that is VIBRATION PROOF AND WEATHER RESISTANT OR WATER PROOF. Vibrations can cause the screen to reboot at the wrong time. Although the new ZUMO's are great, I have a Garmin 2830 which I have had for about 5 years. Works like a charm but each user likes different things. Good luck. Also think about how you want to mount the GPS on the bike. Cycle gadgets have really nice ones . There are plenty of others out there to choose from but diffently consider how and where to mount it.
    Last edited by bandman; 04-23-2011 at 03:33 PM. Reason: forgot a word

  6. #6
    Dee G flymymbz's Avatar
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    If you are not going to get a motorcycle specific model, make sure the one you do get is water resistant. There are a couple marine models that work well on a bike and in the car, too.

    I find the MP3 option on my Zumo very handy, one less thing to carry. Bluetooth for headset is a non issue, I am so used to cords that they don't bother me. However, if you have a bluetooth-able phone, some of the models will allow you to make/receive calls while on the bike (why you would want to talk on the phone while riding is a mystery to me....)

    Being able to punch buttons with the left hand without blocking the screen is also very convenient, that way I don't have to take my hand off the throttle (I have an inherent distrust of cruise controls) Touch screen is handy but not necessary. Make sure you get one of them screen protectors for it.

    Some models have an option for XM radio. Again, convenient. A couple of the Garmin models (376, 478) have EXCELLENT weather graphic capabilities. Its better than looking at the NOAA website. Being a pilot and being able to see weather radar and wind barbs and fronts and troughs and such gets me all giddy inside. XM/Sirius can also provide real time traffic, but I don't use it as I don't live in a big city.

    Some things to remember about GPS's. They are only as good as your map updates. New roads show up and some roads go away. And a business that was there 2 updates ago may not be there any more.

    The GPS can lead you astray. Its one of them trust, but verify kinda things for me. NEVER leave your analog maps at home. Besides, trying to do trip planning on a 3" screen is a PITA.
    Too damn many bikes to list

  7. #7
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    GPS features I like

    I bought a GPS unit a couple of years ago when I relocated temporarily to a large metropolitan area (from my very rural home where my nearest town only has 2 stop lights). In order to allow me to keep my eyes on the road in the big city, I wanted a GPS unit that "speaks". Practically all the GPS units "talk" through a built in speaker. However, that just doesn't work for me while on a motorcycle. With a helmet on and traffic noise, I found the built in speaker pretty useless. So, I decided I needed to have the "voice" delivered to my helmet.

    Because of cost, I decided against buying a new helmet with bluetooth, and found a GPS unit that has a speaker jack. That way, I can put my earphones in my ears, put on my helmet, and plug the earphones into the GPS unit. It means you end up with a cord flopping around in the turbulence, but it can be minimized.

    One problem I had was the initial earphones. My iPod earphones just wouldn't stay in place when I'd put on my helmet. So, I bought a kit from the internet "www.earfuze.com" and made my own custom earphones for about $35. These fit so well and stay in place when I put on my helmet.

    Another option I like on my GPS unit is "lane assist". If I'm on a multi-lane highway, i.e. the Beltway around DC, the GPS unit lets me know which lane I need to be in as I approach a turn. That feature has been very helpful.

    This particular GPS unit also has mp3 features, so I downloaded some books to listen to when I escaped the big city traffic.

    Also, it seemed that it's getting hard to find GPS units with speaker jack capabilities.

    Good luck and I'm certain you'll enjoy the GPS!!! Even though the technology isn't perfect, you'll wonder how you ever did without it.

    Good riding!
    piperjim
    Piperjim

    '95 R1100RS
    '61 John Deere 3010 LP

  8. #8
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    It saddens me to say

    that Cycle Gadgets is no longer in business. They were wonderful people, and i felt badly for them, but the down turn in the economy got one of the good ones.




    Quote Originally Posted by Bandman View Post
    The GPS takes the worry out of being in strange places by giving a heads up where you will be turning and in what distance so you can plan your turn and lane. Garmin is fantastic for that. A few times I've gone around a block with a glich in directions but for 99% of the time, it is a life saver.
    All GPS's work the same way and some have a few more whistles but get one that is VIBRATION PROOF AND WEATHER RESISTANT OR WATER PROOF. Vibrations can cause the screen to reboot at the wrong time. Although the new ZUMO's are great, I have a Garmin 2830 which I have had for about 5 years. Works like a charm but each user likes different things. Good luck. Also think about how you want to mount the GPS on the bike. Cycle gadgets have really nice ones . There are plenty of others out there to choose from but diffently consider how and where to mount it.
    Somers, NY

    Just enjoying the ride.......

  9. #9
    Touring Panpsychist Theo's Avatar
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    David --

    THIS SITE might have some of the info you are seeking.

    The downloadable Garmin manuals have a wealth of information in them, too. You might consider something as basic as the N??vi 550 (~$250) to the Zumo 660 ($$$). In any case, downloading and reading the manuals can be a terrific education.

    Rock(Dr. Strangelove)bottom has posted some great initial considerations as will others who respond to this thread. Also, use the search box in the Gear forum for a wealth of information that has already been posted.

    If you acquire a Garmin GPS, you will want to learn Garmin's BaseCamp program for the Mac. It will allow you to create routes on the computer and download them for GPS use. It is quirky, but it's the only game in town.

    Spend some time at a rally and ask folks about their GPS units. You will find that they will LOVE to show off their GPS systems and describe the features that are important to them. Take all this in before you make a decision; it will help you spend your money wisely.
    Theo

    2009 R1200RT, 2007 Shadow Aero 750 (sold)
    2012 MINI Countryman S, 2004 MINI Cooper S JCW, 2000 BMW 328i

  10. #10
    rabid reader dbrick's Avatar
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    Thanks all. At this point, it feels a bit like drinking from a firehose, but I'm sure I'll get more comfortable as I learn more. There are sure a lot of models out there!
    David Brick
    Santa Cruz CA
    2007 R1200R

  11. #11
    Registered User greenwald's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Quote Originally Posted by dbrick View Post
    Thanks all. At this point, it feels a bit like drinking from a firehose, but I'm sure I'll get more comfortable as I learn more. There are sure a lot of models out there!
    While some have Tom Tom's and Magellans, Garmin is the 'gold standard' of GPS (take a look at a modern 'glass cockpit' of general or commercial aviation!).

    I'm on my second unit, so my advice is to access Garmin on the internet or attend an informational seminar and learn all you can about the brand.

    Or, just buy a Garmin 660 (or 665), and thank me later!
    Kevin Greenwald - Touring Tips Editor
    Nationally Certified Law Enforcement Motor Officer (Ret.) / IBA Member #34281
    MSF RiderCoach # 121656 (BRC,SBRC,IS,IME,SMARTrainer)
    Motorcycle/Driving Instructor - ROAD AMERICA Race Track

  12. #12
    R100GS, '89 Guenther's Avatar
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    David,

    if this is for the "tour around the US and Canada" just follow how you would do it on paper maps. But instead of scribbling notes on a piece of paper you now store it in the GPS as "way points":

    - places to go to: overnights, sight seeing
    - bypassing places

    I "collect" this kind of information and add it to the electronic map on my PC: camp sites, state parks, ... Then I download this information to my GPS. On the road I decide which downloaded "way point" I want to go and I let the GPS figure out how to get there. The more I prepare a tour on my PC the easier I find it later on the road to make "(change of) tour decisions".

    So in my case I needed a GPS that can be connected to my PC.

    My point is, approach it from the way you do your tour planning and on-the-road tour decisions the way you did it with paper maps. The convenience with the GPS is that you can find detailed information faster and it even works while you are riding.

    On the road most GPSes do the same thing. The difference is in the installed map: details, accuracy, up-to-date. It's a good idea to download a new map version once in a while (2 years works for me).

    I am on my 5th GPS in 12 years. I learned and I adjusted. And there are still a bag of features on my GPS which I don't use.

    I still need a paper maps to plan the raw route for the next couple of days.

    /Guenther

  13. #13
    Rally Rat
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    I went with a standard automotive model, and a "Ram Mount Aqua Box" waterproof enclosure/mount to hold it on the bike. Not as sexy as a motocycle specific number, but works well for me. Mine has an outlet for headphones, which I have connected to my Scala Rider headset as it did not connect by Bluetooth. Again, not as sexy, but much cheaper.

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