Friday, February 25, 2011

Direction Needed, Now Found

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A few posts back, I wrote of having a terrible time finding my way around, especially if my selected route is complex and unfamiliar.  Usually, I make a Google Map, then mark it up by hand in large enough letters so I can tell at a glance what the road names and numbers are, then refer to that map while it resides in the clear pocket of my tank bag.  Even then, I sometimes get lost because I miss a turn, or the road names are different. U-turns are getting easier for me as a result of the practice I am getting.

You might ask why I don't just wander around the countryside, as I might find something unexpected.  True enough, but I have limited riding time, so I like to find some places on the map or that I have heard about, then map out a -- hopefully -- interesting route to get there and back in a reasonable amount of time. 

I also wrote previously of having borrowed my son's GPS to help me get around.  It didn't.

Well, that isn't the whole story.  It didn't help me partially because I couldn't see the display with it tucked into that glossy map pocket, but mostly because I couldn't hear it at all with my earplugs in, the music of the bike mechanicals serenading me, and because of the wind noise of my swift (?) riding. 

I was fairly certain that I could find a way to mount the GPS on my bike so I could see it, but what about the sound?   Without that, I might still miss a turn.  I commenced doing some research on how to solve these problems -- and, as long as I was at it, I delved more deeply into what GPS unit would be best for my purposes, so I wouldn't have to borrow my son's any more. 

Here are my selection criteria:
  • Custom Route -- ability to accept my custom-generated routes rather that settling for the route generated by the GPS on its own.  That way I can take the road less traveled by,  (And that has made all the difference...as it might have for Mr. Frost.) 
  • Sound -- earphone jack for audio and/or Bluetooth compatibility for in-helmet sound. 
  • Tracks -- able to show where I have actually been.  
  • Price -- Less than $150. 
Since I was familiar with our son's Garmin, I started with that brand.  I looked at the Garmin website to narrow down the choices.  I also scoured the on-line forums for advice, and PMd a few users for their advice.

I was quite disappointed in the Garmin product selection pages.  I did decide that I could not spend $450 for, say, the designed-for-motorcycle-use zümo 220 or 660 or nüvi 550.  Their site mentioned some features of the many models available, but it was not readily apparent which had audio jacks and custom route capabilities.  I found myself going through each model's features page one at a time, and making notes.  Not good.  I was not patient, knowing that it would have been easy for them to expand the number of selection criteria there.  I resorted to their support e-mail system.  At first they responded but didn't answer my questions.  Strange.  I tried again.  This time, they told me what units have custom route capability, but they also said that none of the units has an audio output jack.

Anyway, after many hours of poring over specs and advice from others, I settled on the nüvi 765.
 

The next thing was to find the best price for the gadget.  Retail is $299.99.  Too much.  I searched ebay to no avail, then went to one of my favorite merchandise sites, Amazon, and found a reconditioned unit for $159.58.   Actually, it is a 765T, which includes a radio receiver for showing traffic congestion in big cities.

Bingo.  I put it into the shopping cart.

But wait, there are accessories listed nearby by those clever Amazonians.  There is a nice RAM mount, and a direct-wired power cord, and a leather carrying case, and a clear screen protector.  Can't do without those, now can we?  All into the cart they went.  Now, to place the order...

Oops.  One small problem.  Due to some prior negotiation, this device is supposed to be a Christmas present from my bride, so I can't just push the "Place your order" button and have them send me the stuff.

I humbly approach her and suggest that she log on and push the button herself.

...and she does!

I'll be really surprised when I open my presents on Christmas morning!

I somewhat patiently wait for the big day, and unwrap my new toys, er, navigation equipment.  I pore over the instructions, and note that the unit has an audio output jack after all.  I wonder why Garmin didn't know that. 

I attach the Cradle Holder to the back of the GPS. 
That is the thing that has the ball mount receptacle on the back so it can mount to the windshield suction cup, and it provides the place for the factory power cord to plug in.

Next, I assemble the RAM mount, and find that it clamps onto the motorcycle handlebar easily, to the left of center between the bike's handlebar clamp and the Hippo Hand over there.

Catalog pic.
 
The real thing. 

I snap the GPS with the attached cradle holder into the RAM mount cradle. It seems quite secure.  I adjust the location and angle so I can still see the instruments on the bike.  I turn the bars, and note that the mount does not interfere with the tank bag or with the windscreen.  The mount is easy to adjust using a large wing nut, and it is very stable when tightened.  So far, so good.

I will have to take off the fuel tank to mount the direct-wire adapter in an out of sight, and protected location, so I will save that installation for later. 
Edit: This direct-wire adapter plugs into the GPS's mini-USB port rather than into the 18-pin port on the Cradle Holder. When power is received through the mini-USB port, the GPS goes into "office" mode with lower brightness and reduced volume -- not good for motorcycle use. The solution is to use either the original power cord or an 18 pin power supply cord with a much thinner cable. (see below under "What I Bought".)

Right now, I will use the standard power cord plugged into the lighter receptacle I installed under my seat a couple of years ago to charge my cell phone and camera batteries while en route.


Edit.  The power plug and the Cradle Holder are not very substantial, and the flexing of the two during turns eventually damaged the Cradle Holder contacts.  A replacement is $25.  Ouch!  To prevent this wear and tear, secure the cable to one of the screws on the rear of the Ram Mount using a plastic cable clamp and a slightly longer screw. Like this:


I tinker with some of the GPS settings, turning up the screen brightness and audio to maximum.  I then set out for a quick trial run.  I enter the address of my workplace, and press the "Go" button.  I can barely hear the synthesized voice, but the display is pretty legible.  I follow the screen prompts, and it gets me there, albeit, by a route that isn't as fast as the one I normally use that has fewer stop signs.  After work, I set it for home, and it gets me there by the same route. 
I note that I can fairly easily manipulate the touch screen -- only when stopped, by the way -- with my Shift Carbine summer gloves on.  Some of the smaller screen buttons, such as for entering an address by name are pretty difficult.  A stylus for a PDA might work well for that, but so far I have not needed one badly enough to get one.

Since the built-in speaker's audio output is not loud enough to hear with my earplugs in and the GPS on the mount, I need some way to amplify it.  I begin studying the on-line forums again.  Some have advocated in-helmet speakers.  You can buy some -- one source is Helmet Audio -- that are quite expensive, and you can get an amplifier to pump up the volume.  You can even connect it to a Bluetooth receiver for wireless communication with the GPS.

Because I am frugal -- well, actually, the word cheap may be more accurate -- I figure I can concoct a pair of helmet speakers myself instead, from a discarded computer headset.  I do some surgery, extracting only the speakers from the headset housing.  I try them out with my earplugs in, but can hardly hear them.  Since I won't ride without earplugs, that isn't going to work.  Now what? 

A few riders use Koss "The Plug" Portable Headphones with memory foam earpieces.  They work like earplugs that you compress and stick in your ear, where they expand, and are supposed to reduce the ambient sound level.  I go back to Amazon again and find a pair for $12.  This time I have to press the Pay button myself. 

When they arrive, I find that they come with two sizes of soft earplugs.  The larger of the two keep the headphones in my ears fairly well.  I wiggle my helmet on -- then take it off again and try a second time because I have dislodged the earplugs -- and see how they work on another test ride.  The sound is excellent.  The wind and motor noise are somewhat attenuated, but not nearly as much as with real earplugs.

Well, these will have to do, as the budget is limited right now.  Someday, I'll come up with a better solution, maybe using the Bluetooth wireless communication feature.  

Oh, I forgot one other vital accessory.  Since this GPS is not waterproof, I have to carry a zipper-top plastic bag with me to protect it should I get caught in a shower. 


Next GPS post: How I use the 765T, including getting my Google Maps route into it, and getting my track out of it.



What I bought:
  • Garmin nüvi 765T -- $159.58
  • Direct-wire Adapter, Model: GA-NHWC* -- $13.49
  • RAM Bike / Motorcycle Handlebar Mount, Model RAM-B-149Z-GA26U -- $34.40
  • Case -- $3.00 (doesn't have space for the cradle holder) 
  • Screen Protector --$1.42 
  • Koss "The Plug" Portable Headphone, Model 156407 -- $12.09 
  • Total = $223.98
...and a zip-top bag. 

*Here is a better solution for powering the GPS at full volume and brightness if you don't want to use the original power cable.  Garmin Model: 010-10747-03 -- $12.65


A few places to go for GPS advice:
Other GPS Postings:

Garmin nüvi 765T specs:

Physical and Performance

Unit dimensions, WxHxD: 4.8"W x 3.0"H x .8"D (12.2 x 7.6 x 2.0 cm)
Display size, WxH: 3.81"W x 2.25"H (9.7 x 5.7 cm); 4.3" diag (10.9 cm)
Display resolution, WxH: 480 x 272 pixels
Display type: WQVGA color TFT with white backlight
Weight: 6.48 ounces (183.8 g)
Battery: rechargeable lithium-ion
Battery life: up to 3 hours
Waterproof: no
High-sensitivity receiver:
 
yes

Maps and Memory:

Basemap: yes
Preloaded street maps: yes
Includes lifetime map updates: no
Ability to add maps: yes
Built-in memory: internal solid state
Accepts data cards: SD™ card (not included)
Waypoints/favorites/locations: 1000
Routes: 10


Features:

Voice prompts (e.g. "Turn right in 500 ft."): yes (internal speaker)
Speaks street names (e.g. "Turn right ON ELM STREET in 500 ft."): yes
Voice-activated navigation (operate device with spoken commands): no
Lane assist (guides you to the proper lane for navigation): yes (with junction view)
trafficTrends™ (calculates routes based on predicted traffic flow): no
myTrends™ (predicts routes based on user's navigation behavior): no
3-D building view (displays buildings in 3-D): yes
Auto sort multiple destinations (provides most direct route): yes
Auto re-route (fast off-route and detour recalculation): yes
Choice of route setup (faster time, shorter distance, off road): yes
Route avoidance (avoid highways, tolls etc.): yes
Bluetooth® wireless technology: yes (with A2DP technology)
Garmin nüLink! Services: (receive accurate real-time travel information): no
FM traffic compatible: yes (receiver and lifetime traffic included)
XM® compatible for U.S: no
Speed limit indicator (displays speed limit for most major roads in the U.S. and Europe): yes
Where Am I? (find closest hospitals, police & gas stations, nearest address & intersection): yes
Garmin Locate™ (marks position when removed from windshield mount): yes
ecoRoute™ (calculates a more fuel-efficient route) : yes
Qwerty or ABC keyboard (choose keyboard layout): yes
Custom POIs (ability to add additional points of interest): yes
Garmin Garage™ vehicles compatible (download car-shaped icons to your device): yes
Garmin Garage™ voices compatible (download custom voices to your device): yes
Photo navigation (navigate to geotagged photos): yes
World travel clock, currency & unit converter, calculator: yes
Picture viewer: yes
MP3 player: yes
Audio book player: yes
FM transmitter: yes
Headphone jack/audio line-out: yes
Garmin Lock™ (anti-theft feature): yes
Touchscreen: yes
Motorcycle-friendly: no (oops!)
Trucking-friendly: no
Geocaching-friendly: no
Marine-friendly: no



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1 comment:

bluekat said...

Looks like a nice set up at not too horrible a price. Ron and I have been considering gps, I just can't bring myself to do it yet. See, I'm cheaper than you...I mean frugal! :)