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GPS and other Electronics


For quite a while I liked the vision of replacing paper maps with somthing I knew from aviation as moving maps. Minimum requirements for me were

  • Colored display
  • track and display my current location
  • ability to plan and display a route
  • usable on a bike (shock resistant and waterproof)

Does not sound like a big deal but it still was around year 2000. Garmin brought some devices into the market at this time but they did not seem to be suitable to be used on a bike. This changed in 2002 with the market introduction of Streetpilot III ColorMap StreetPilot III ColorMap. The device did not just match my minimum requirements but came with some additional features.

  • trip computer with distance, total time, time while moving, maximum speed etc.
  • routing with detailed directions for crossings/junctions
  • 128 MB map memory

I used this device in 2003 for more than 12.000 miles on the bike.

The device introduced a new dimension of touring. You can ride the very back roads without any searching. You just go through the villages as if you lived there. You can be on tour without having any clou where you are but you still can be sure you will arrive at your destination in time. And the additional safety is also very important: The device tells you where you are and where and when to make the next turn. Compare this with trying to locate yourself on a paper map and figuring out where to turn into what direction.

But there were disadvantages too:

  • the processing power of the device was insufficient. It resulted in significant delays for map painting, calculation of routing and delayed turn directions when turns where to close to each other
  • the track memory for logging the route driven was limited to 2000 track points without any configuration options
  • You were not able to charge the battery in the device
  • Display resolution was rather low at 305x160 pixels in 16 colors. Display backlight was not bright enough and the display was almost unreadable in sunlight.

 

The GPSMap 276C was introduced into the market in 2004. "The ultimate bike navigation device". I had to have this immediately and I did not regret. Major advandages were

  • fast processor, no more delays when displaying a map and quick routing calculation
  • track memory for 10.0000 track points and logging became configurable (every n-th second or every n-th foot) and you can store 10 tracks within the device
  • route can be planned and changed directly with a cursor on the map
  • much better display with higher resolution (320x480 pixels, 256 colors) and transflexive which means it gets brighter if exposed to sunlight.
  • Lithium-Ion-battery lasts for about 12 hours and gets charged within the device.

I did almost 100.000 miles with this device and I do not want to ride without GPS navigation anymore.

In June 2010 the new Zumo 660 entered the market as the new high end motorbike GPS navigation device. Now with touch screen, Bluetooth and audio output. The display resolution is slightly reduced compared to the 276c (now 480x272 pixels) and all the automatic features make life not necessarily easier. Battery lasts for about 5 hours but this is something I can accept as I have a power supply on the bike. Major new features are

  • touch screen
  • 4 GB map memory
  • text to speach (the device can read out loud street names and directions)
  • 3D display mode
  • Bluetooth
  • MP3 player which supports playlists
  • SD card slot. I use a 32 GB card for all my music

I do get directions and music via bluetooth and headphones directly into my ears.

I have now about 20.000 miles experience with the Zumo 660 and got used to it.

There is one disadvantage when you use these devices. You always have to lead a group and all others relay on you for finding the way home.

A good source of information in Germany is the forum Naviboard, operated by ComKor.

More than 400 routes and more than 100.000 miles in 8 years: