GPS Ready Room
New categories of software, hardware and advanced navigation capabilities are becoming available at a rapid pace. Along with these exciting new technologies comes a learning curve of how to integrate these tools into our day-to-day and extended riding adventures. Here, we intend to create a forum to help simplify the use of these tools and provide tested, documented and solid advice for the average to expert user.
In order to provide a consistent platform for discussion, avoid repetitious questions and serve the greater community, the following items should be reviewed, reflected on and addressed prior to starting a question. These helpful hints will ensure that the basics are covered and may just answer or solve a dilemma. They are as follows:
Maps / O.S.
- GPS' have operating systems just like a computer. Ensure you plug your GPS into your P.C. and download the latest O.S. service pack. Check quarterly at minimum or before a lengthy ride.
- At a minimum, update your maps annually. According to Teleatlas, "Research shows that roads change significantly every year – by as much as 15%. In high growth areas, road networks can change as much as 40% per year. There is also inevitably some human error/subjectivity in the creation of a digital map. All of which means that maps must be constantly maintained to keep the level of map errors as low as possible."
- Always ensure lifetime map updates are obtained for every device owned regardless of manufacturer. It's cost effective and important. Use Garmin Lifetime Map Updater to keep your Garmin GPS maps up to date. Use the corresponding Tom Tom map updater here.
- Purchase screen protectors for all devices.
- Report map errors to vendors. Garmin uses Navteq to provide maps. Tom Tom uses Teleatlas. To report Navteq map errors use Navteq Map Reporter and to report Teleatlas map errors use Teleatlas Map Insight.
- Basecamp is Garmin's official trip planning software. Mapsource is officially discontinued but still works as a fast and lean tool. Both can create and export in the .GPX format which will work in any worthy GPS. There is no need for other software. However, for various situations and modification there are a few tools that can be used to create a final product such as GPS Babel, WinGDP3, GPS Visualizer and Expert GPS.
- Garmin Birds Eye Satellite Imagery is a great tool. However, it is currently very difficult to have more than small regional maps on a device. Major excursions across multiple time zones or countries would require more Birds Eye Satellite Imagery than can be reasonably loaded onto a device. Best used for targeted rides or hiking.
- Use Google Earth to confirm your route or track if you like by exporting it direct from Basecamp or Mapsource. In general, the Google Earth datum is highly accurate and will match exact field locations.
- Do not use Google Earth, Open Street Map or other free online programs/websites to create your finished master file. WHY? Garmin, Tom Tom and most GPS manufacturers use either Navteq or Teleatlas as the underlying map providers. These vendors continuously verify their data through "real world" data capture. Other maps, programs, websites and sources may use data from unverified reports or "crowd" sourcing. This means that while a "road" may be shown, and is actually there on these other sources, if it isn't on the GPS map on your device, the GPS can't route to it. There are two exceptions. If you are using tracks only, then these other sources may be used. Or, if you have created a "custom map" and send it over to the device, use the same source to create your routes and tracks.
- You can load and use a routable TOPO map and City Navigator on Garmin Montana 6xx devices. At this time 24K Topos are routable, 100k Topos are not. Check the map specifications on the manufacturers website for each region and country to ensure routing tables. By changing a profile, you can change from "street" to "dirt" with just a few clicks. Zumo 6xx GPS' can also perform this task but require more clicks to "enable" and "disable" the two maps so they don't clash for precedence during actual routing.
- Garmin Montana series GPS' have different profiles built in. Each one can be used as shipped or a custom profile can be created. The device is "smart" and automatically changes settings based on what cradle or usage mode the device is in. This explains many causes of why the device performs differently when moved from one vehicle to another.
- Ensure the Activity Profile settings in Garmin Basecamp or Mapsource match the Activity Profile settings on the GPS device to ensure WYSIWYG when the device is disconnected. Remember, once the device is removed from the P.C., the devices resident settings are used regardless of what settings were on the P.C. during the planning phase. Activity Profile settings are not sent over to the device upon synchronization.
- There are no easy paths or shortcuts to create a quality map. Learn the above mentioned map creation programs thoroughly. You will be rewarded with reliable and detailed results. It's a skill like anything else.
- In general, users can ride anywhere in the world, on any terrain, in any conditions with just a GPS track. Experienced users can become accustomed to riding a track with the same acuity as a route.
- All things being equal, costs as no factor, regardless of manufacturer, the Garmin Zumo 66x or Garmin Montana 6xx are the only devices that are sophisticated, rugged and engineered with enough software flexibility to be the core devices for all motorcycle evolutions. Zumo 220 is acceptable for entry level costs. Garmin GPSMap 6x units are acceptable. Garmin Oregon 4xx-5xx units are acceptable. All these units have smallish screens. The Zumo 350LM does not support the same robust features, software, A2DP and track manipulation at this time and cannot be recommended. Summary - If one rides more street that dirt, buy the Zumo 66x. If more dirt is encountered, use the Garmin Montana 6xx. If only one device will be purchased, the choice should be the Garmin Zumo 66x. BMW and Harley use these platforms for a reason as they support street or dirt riders while offering worldwide mapping.
- BMW Navigator and Harley Road Tech™ GPS are OEM, customized Garmin Zumo 66x devices.
- The Spot Satellite GPS Messenger works in most "real world" conditions, regions and countries worldwide.
- ACR EPIRBS are sophisticated and rugged devices with advanced worldwide SAR capabilities that in some circumstances make it a superior satellite tracker/emergency device.
- Garmin GPS devices generally have "undocumented" developer screens that allow for GPS testing. Each device varies as where to touch to access this screen. They aren't always well documented or known and will not be revealed by Garmin. Testing and trial are the only way to find these screens. Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) needs to be changed on newer devices in order to get them to be discovered by Mapsource.
- Until "smartphone" hardware devices are created for industrial/commercial/outdoor use, have constellation coverage without roaming costs, provide mission critical results and mirror trusted capabilities of current and future GPS, they are not viable as replacements for today's dedicated GPS. Expected cross platform mirroring is in the 2015-2016 time frame.
- GPS Block IIIA or GPS III is the next-generation of GPS satellites. The first satellite in the series are projected to launch in 2014. Implementation will provide C/A code to ensure backward compatibility. Expect advanced capabilities.