RT, and You
Compiled/Edited by Mitchell
With the RT's capability
for extended touring, maps are a necessary evil. Even on
a long day trip, a map can be useful for finding the quickest
way home. Maps do have their shortcomings, however. For
starters, you can only highlight so many trip routes on
a map before it becomes readable. Also, if you don't already
know where you are, it may be hard to find your current
location from looking at a map. Maps can be placed in a
tank bag with a transparent window for easy viewing access,
but you still have to turn the page now and then. And what
if you don't have or want a tank bag?
to the confluence of the atomic age, the digital age and
the space age. The Global Positioning System - a network
of 24 satellites orbiting the earth, courtesy of the United
States - uses super-accurate atomic clock signals to enable
anyone virtually anywhere in the world to precisely determine
their location. GPS has been around now for many years,
and the technology has matured to the point where compact
receivers with some truly useful features have become affordable.
At a minimum, a GPS receiver eliminates most of the drawbacks
of paper maps; at best, it does things no paper map can.
In May 2000 the U.S. Air Force Space Command turned off
availability, vastly improving the accuracy of the GPS
signals available to civilians; a GPS receiver can now pinpoint
its location to within 15 meters/49 feet.
GPS good for?
Speedometer. In spite
of the 20-meter accuracy on finding position, GPS receivers
are able to gage speed with remarkable accuracy, usually
to within a fraction of a mph/kph. Given the RT's reputation
for speedometer inaccuracy, this is truly useful information.
Bob Johnson and Dick
Reichenbach prefer GPS for speed measurements to the
stock speedometer; Dick claims his GPS receiver, a Garmin
GPS III+, also has better backlighting than the stock
also likes the max speed indicator on his receiver, a
Garmin GPS III+ - although the occasional electronic glitch
can produce interesting
and a home PC, GPS users can plan trip routes in advance
and then download them into the GPS receiver. The GPS
receiver keeps track of progress during the trip, and
provides constant updates to the expected arrival time.
the Route Ahead.
Even without a preplanned route, a GPS receiver can clue
you in to what's coming up. G.
his GPS to look for upcoming straight-aways on which he
can pass slower-moving vehicles. Bill
Cromie uses his
GPS to identify upcoming road detours, such as closed
mountain passes and blocked one way streets.
The ability to always know your current location enables
many riders to fearlessly explore new territory. Many
GPS receivers can record a route as it's being traveled,
allowing a rider to easily backtrack to the starting point,
or generally guide exploration so as to stay within a
general area. Tomb9
says "...when out riding, I don't care where I go.
The GPS gets me home every time, and I never get lost.
I've seen some really cool roads I'd never see otherwise."
Many GPS receivers
designed for automotive travel come with an extensive
database (either built-in or downloadable) of gas stations,
hotels, restaurants, and various local points of interest.
"The BEST feature, when using the Garmin's MetroGuide
maps, is finding gas stations! Yes, it's out of date information,
but you can figure if the GPS says there are 3 stations
within a mile, there's probably 5 stations there now."
Kris was also
able to find a BMW dealership in an unfamiliar city simply
by keying in the dealership's address. This is one of
the most useful features of GPS receivers: no need to
get directions from someone, or interpret the inevitable
unfamiliar landmarks and approximated distances, or even
to try to find the address on folded paper map (like searching
for a needle in a haystack in some cases). Simply type
in the address, and go whichever way the GPS unit tells
you to go. While some units will always point directly
toward your destination (allowing you to dead-reckon your
way there), some newer models will plot a route from your
current location and provide turn-by-turn riding directions.
Am I four miles north of town, or six miles northeast?
What was the last town I went through, anyway?
Most people recognize the safety factor a cell phone provides,
but if you are touring in unfamiliar territory and don't
know exactly where you are, emergency services can still
waste critical time trying to find you. In the event of
an accident (possibly but not necessarily involving you),
with a GPS receiver and a cell phone you can verbally
relay your exact location to emergency services.
there are several brands of GPS receivers available, Garmin
seems to be by far the most popular brand with BBS readers.
Detailed descriptions of individual models are available
on Garmin's website, but here's a very brief description
of the key features of each:
GPS III+: the compact size of this unit seems to be
its most popular feature. Ted
Lucas agrees the GPSIII+ is a good choice for bikers
due to its size, although its display is a bit small.
StreetPilot: This model has a larger-than-average
display, and can be fitted with extra memory to hold more
Emap: users of the Emap cited its functionality and
StreetPilot III : This unit is equipped with a color
display that's somewhat larger than that of the Streetpilot.
GPS 12: This model expands on the capabilities of
the GPS III+ and the batteries also last longer in this
unit than most (36 hours).
All of the models listed
above are waterproof.
Other manufacturers of GPS
McNally (GPS receiver attachments for your Palm III)
simplest scheme (short of stowing it in the glovebox) is
to place it in the transparent map pocket on your tank bag.
However, if you prefer a stand-alone installation, there
are a lot of options. In addition to receiver-specific mounts,
a number of third party aftermarket mounts are available.
For a detailed photo review of some of the mounting schemes
that have been developed - including some completely custom
mounts - visit the
electronics section in the BMWRT.com Custom Bikes Gallery.
A list of links to vendors who offer GPS mount components
is included here:
Accessory Mount Platform
Several commercially available
software packages can be used to plot trip routes, which
can then be downloaded into a GPS receiver. Garmin's
Mapsource series is by far the most popular, with packages
providing coverage of areas around the world. The Metroguide
sets provide detailed information about individual cities
and surrounding areas, while the Roads & Recreation
sets focus more on the needs of a cross country traveler;
they show businesses near interstate exits, and provide
listings of campgrounds, marinas, rivers, lakes, etc. Brian
Peterson claims Delorme's
Street Atlas software is better, in part because of
the ability to specify preferences for route types (scenic,
interstate, toll, etc.).
you own or plan to purchase one of the Palm III GPS receivers
described earlier, DeLorme offers Solus,
a mapping package intended specifically for Palm handhelds.
Besly has found Microsoft
Streets & Trips to be helpful for the initial planning
stages: "I use MSS&T for planning my trips; it
takes less time, has greater detail, and is a faster program
to use when searching for new roads, services, places to
stay, etc. Then I use Garmin's MetroGuide and Roads &
Rec CDs to create and load my maps, waypoints, and routes
to the unit. Because Streets & Trips doesn't interact
with Garmin's software - seems it only interacts with a
live GPS of their liking - I do end up manually configuring
my trip in Garmin's software. But I find Street & Trips
has better info and is easier to 'plan' the trip; then,
when I go to program the GPS it actually takes me less time
to complete the process."
planning a trip using Garmin's software, if you're not placing
the waypoints in exactly the right spot the routes will
show as straight lines. I always spend 30-60 minutes correcting
waypoints so that I can have my routes follow the roadways."
"I really wish the Streetpilot would navigate using
existing roads instead of just pointing directly (across
lakes, etc.) to where you want to go." G.
saying he wishes his Emap included an autoroute function.
Some users have complained
about the slow screen refresh rates on the Emap and the
Streetpilot. In fact, all of the models mentioned here feature
a 1-second screen refresh time, so these folks will have
to wait for the next generation of receivers to get something
faster. Hopefully the next generation will also include
larger displays; this is another common complaint.
is in its infancy - particularly for motorcycle use. I look
forward to the upgrades -especially for several *gigs* of
storage, better identification of road surfaces, and larger
on GPS products is all over the web, but chances are you
will find what you are looking for at Joe
Mehaffey and Jack Yeazel's GPS Information Website.
Thanks to Marc99RT for the reference.