GPS for Motorcycles

_Ortiz Big Apple Motorcycle SchoolFinding Your Way Using GPS for Motorcycles

By Diane Ortiz – President and founder of the Big Apple Motorcycle School

I have a very bad sense of direction. My claim to fame is getting us lost in 2 blocks on a Poker Run many years ago. Things improved when I started using my Smartphone as a navigation system. I kept it in my jacket pocket, but the phone got hot and the battery would drain quickly as it searched for wifi connections along my route. I thought I’d solved the problem by hooking up an elaborate system on my 2014 BMW F700GS to connect my phone to the bike battery by way of the BMW plug on the tank, but the complicated, multiple-plug hookup soon became a chore. What to do!

I needed to look at getting something more suited to motorcycle riding that would get me from place to place with minimum fuss. I like simple, but the articles I’ve seen lately about how to map routes and use your GPS on your bike looked anything but. They were filled with charts, download instructions, apps and map upgrades that made my head spin. It finally came to a head when I was asked to be a Ride Leader on the Sisters’ Centennial Motorcycle Ride this July (www.sistersmotorcycleride.com). With my admittedly poor directional skills, I did not want to take the chance of leading my group the wrong way! So I gave myself two days to find out all I could about motorcycle GPS units.

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I started with a Google search (doesn’t everyone these days?). It came up primarily with Garmin or TomTom units. I remembered using a Garmin Zumo 550 for a review in 2007 (www.womenridersnow.com/pages/REVIEW_Garmin_Zumo_GPS.aspx) and thought I’d start looking at those. I made a list of all my requirements – sturdy, big screen, easy to use, Bluetooth capable, waterproof, long battery life, easily removable and programmable, local and national maps, local traffic info (like my phone), a way to find important places quickly like nearby hospitals, gas stations, Dunkin’ Donuts shops, motorcycle dealers (for repairs), etc. I also needed to be able to download files that others made, or that are available from other sources. Many motorcycle magazines publish travel articles that include GPS maps and I wanted to be able to make use of them with whatever GPS I purchased.  Also, and most importantly, I didn’t want something so complicated that it would take me weeks or months to master.

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After looking extensively at many comparisons I narrowed it down to either the Zumo 395LM or the Zumo 595LM. I found a comprehensive comparison table at www.gpscity.com/compare that listed all the features of units I chose (click on Motorcycle GPS in the first dropdown box first). These units are expensive and this was going to be a major purchase, but I wanted to decide and order quickly in order to receive and install the GPS on my bike and have time to learn how to use it before the Sisters’ Ride across the country! Using the side-by-side chart helped me choose – it was more important to me to have a bigger screen with better resolution and sacrifice battery life. I also liked two other options a lot – the Smart Notifications/Smart Track option and the “Adventurous Routing” which I thought would be fun outside of the ride.

 

With the decision made to get the Zumo 595LM, I called a few places and found one that would give me a discount and it came in one day! I installed it on the left side of the handlebar, with guidance from my husband, especially for the electrical battery connection, and it looks great!  Tomorrow I’m off to give it a test ride on my bike. It was easy to download the app to my Garmin Smartphone Link app (Android and IPhone is also available) which will allow my FB and other friends to see my route online in real time. Now with a true motorcycle GPS installed, even a directionally challenged person like me can find their way. See you on the road!