"In more than 15 years of creating gps Dual Sport and Adventure rides for people, I have seen and heard most of the issues. I have often encountered frustrated riders that are not able to make the gps work well for them. So below I have assembled some information and videos that should help you avoid these common problems. My personal mission is to make self led gps rides easy for everyone. Get a few simple things right below and you can have the ride of a lifetime!"
Understand some GPS basics and you can save yourself a LOT of Money and Pain
GPS units today are kind of like when the world came out with digital watches. For years people paid hundreds of dollars trying to get a watch that kept better time. Then digital watches came out and slowly people realized that even the cheapest of digital watches kept time way better then any old expensive watch. Heck I even remember one time in the early 80s that you could get a free watch when you filled your car with gas. And they worked great! Still today you can pay thousands of dollars for a watch and it keeps the same time.GPS units today all have a similar GPS receiver chip and they all get the same signal from the free satellite network in the sky. The magic is in the satellites. GPS units cost from around $49 to some above $800 and yes, BMW sells Garmins for even more. And just like the old gold watches, the expensive GPS's are much more likely to fail. Too many gadgets and bigger is not always better.
Using a GPS on my motorcycle, what choices should I be making?
You should choose your GPS based on:
Screen Size (can I see it well enough?)
Unit ruggedness (will it survive the tough pounding on the motorcycle?)
Unit cost (does the money make sense to me and does it fit my budget?)
Ability to add my ride information (can I add custom maps and ride tracklogs?)
My Recommendation for GPS units
First you must get a Garmin, not because they are good, but because they own the market and in order for you to enjoy all the rich rides that everyone creates you need a compatible gps. And for the most part everyone makes rides that work on Garmins. I hope soon that Google will take the market from Garmin, but for now, buy Garmin.
Listed below are my favorite units, all can work great. You should select the one that works best for your situation. Read the pros and cons in order to understand to perfect gps for your bike.
GARMIN ZUMO XT MOTORCYCLE GPS NAVIGATOR
Good Choice, also the
Garmin Zumo 595LM 5" Motorcycle Navigator
Garmin Zumo 396 LMTS (4.3" Motorcycle Navigator)
The Zumo 396 is my recommendation for Adventure bikes. Mostly because it has a tough rugged design. It can run tracklogs so that you are able to load rides from anyone. Dislikes are the touchscreen and the price is too high. Get the lowest priced model.
Garmin GPSMAP 276Cx GPS Navigator ‑ 5" Display
Great new large screen that works as good as a phone in the sun. Good news it is not touch screen, you can us the buttons well with your gloves on.
Garmin GPSMAP 79 (replaces the GPSMAP 78) Get City Navigator® North America NT, Download
This is my first choice for the dual sport motorcycles. Mostly because it has a tough rugged design. It has a good, tough 12v power connector which should be wired directly to your motorcycle. The unit has good large buttons that can work fine with your gloves on. The screen size is ok and with power connected, you can run the backlight all the time so you can see the unit well. You do need to add background maps to the units internal memory, then it becomes a full functioning gps.
Garmin GPSMAP 78 (a bit outdated now and hard to find, but they are still great)
This is my first choice for the dual sport motorcycles. Mostly because it has a tough rugged design. It has a good, tough 12v power connector which should be wired directly to your motorcycle. The unit has good large buttons that can work fine with your gloves on. The screen size is ok and with power connected, you can run the backlight all the time so you can see the unit well. You do need to add background maps to the units internal memory, then it becomes a full functioning gps. Follow my setup directions and download the maps here: GPSMAP 78 Setup and Tips
Garmin Montana (Not recommended anymore) They stopped selling internal maps, so you must buy only Garmin maps in SD card. This then locks out all the other great adventure maps. That's bad.
Garmin Etrex 20:
This is a good bargain gps and will work fine for everything you need to do on a motorcycle. The downside of this gps is that it uses the mini USB connector as its power cable. The connector is too fragile for the dirt motorcycle environment and fails often so I recommend that you use AA batteries and replace them every day. The good news is that it requires very little work to install it on your motorcycle.
The Montana can work fine. but it is not my recommendation. I see this unit on my rides a lot and several have failed. They have two problems. First, their cradle and connector seem to fail and second, they seem to hang and need to be reset. Additionally, the touch screen is not very good with gloves on and, as it gets dusty riding, people are often wiping the dust off the screen and then the gps becomes confused. Do not get Topo maps as even the new Topo maps are based on old data and often the routes are not there anymore. Topo maps lead riders to the wrong places too often.
Wow, yes, this gps can work great if you just keep it dry. So if you ride in the rain you need to cover it or take it off. These are bargain priced and if you load custom ride maps the unit works great. They do not work with Tracklogs, but many people have gone away from Tracklogs anyway. There are many models of Nuvi, all work fine. Smaller units often fit the bike environment better.
BMW Motorrad Navigator IV
Garmin 62, It is really the same as the 78, but the 62 has a fragile tiny USB power connector that often fails on bikes.
Garmin Oregon: They are full of bugs, I have often seen them fail on my rides. They hang terribly
Outdated but still can work fine:
Garmin CSX60, Garmin 76,
FAQ: Why are these outdated: A: They have limited tracklog size constraints and map loading ability. Many ride creators have stopped making the reduced file size options. In 2016 I myself will stop making custom reduced files for these units. And BTW I too did love these units!
Something to think about ?
My 2 GPS Unit Solution
On a couple of my key bikes I have gone to a two GPS unit solution, not for backup reasons like if one fails, but that is nice. I use two different style gps units and run one zoomed in close and one unit zoomed out to see the big picture, like what is the overall direction that I am going. That way I always keep my overall sense correct.
Yes this is really an old style garmin Zumo that has been updated for BMW. Riders seem to like the new integrated hand controls, but I worry that too many gadgets may spell a high failure rate. This unit does seem to work fine and will take the common garmin style microSD cards. The newest version has screws on the battery door so riders must carry a small phillips screwdriver to install new ride maps.
Ktm 690 With GPSMAP 78 and Garmin Nuvi
Yamaha WR250R With Etrex 20 and Garmin Nuvi
Yamaha Super Tenere with Garmin Nuvi 30 and Etrex 20
( I have logged 70,000 miles with these two gps units and love them)
I usually run different maps in the two GPS's. In the Nuvi I run the factory street maps and in the other unit I will run the Topo maps. Then, when the route is off and we need to recalculate, I will ask both units to find an alternate route. Because they are running different maps, often the answers are different. This is when you get to use your judgement and determine which gps has the better answer. This can be very helpful in a jam. It is great when you are doing exploring. Two GPS units rocks!
GPS Ride Maps: Yes maps for great rides loaded into your Garmin gps
Dual Sport GPS Tricks Obstacle Navigation: Learn to save yourself with the help of your gps
GPS Tools to help you make your own Rides
Do you need to get Mapsource for your windows based PC?
Tell me who you are and I will send you a link to go get it. Fill out this form: Mapsource Request
How to make your own GPS files for your rides
How to make Tracklogs using Mapsource Cool, dream up your own ride.
How to make Tracklogs using Google Maps, This is free and cool
How to Convert Routes to Tracklogs, (Using Mapsource and Free WinGDB3) Neat tool!
How to Calibrate Maps in Oziexplorer ( using Mapsource to get the calibration points)
How to make a GPS Background Map using a tracklog TBD
How to View your Tracklogs in Google Earth