We've owned a GPS for 4 years and a joint Xmas present recently saw the acquisition of yet another. Not because we really needed one, but simply because it was something we both readily agreed on as being handy. In other words, mainly a "want" rather than a "need" or put another way, a new toy... 'nuff said!
By and large, navigating on sealed roads in NZ doesn't require a GPS. It is, however, useful for city driving, particularly when there's no navigator in the seat next to you. NZ has a lot of unsealed back roads, off-road tracks, paths for tramping (hiking) and plenty of bush to get lost in so a GPS is extremely handy for these activities as well. A pure automobile GPS won't necessarily meet some of these broader requirements.
This post isn't intended to be a rigorous comparison of an older style GPS with something brand spanking new, merely some observations by a motorcycle owner who now has experience with both of them. Nor does it cover all the features of each; those are readily available from the Garmin website. Some of the following comments are motorcycle-oriented, some of them general. I've also tried to be honest about "fitness for purpose", i.e. features which are essential compared with those which which are merely "cool"!
Let me admit right now that I'm not a big lover of too many "farkles" on a bike (radar detector excepted), which biases my views. The personal attraction of a bike is that it's a simple, uncluttered means of travel (carefully avoiding the word transport).... far-removed from the general purpose of something with 4 wheels. IMHO, adorning it with too many farkles moves it inexorably towards a 2-wheeled car! Get the drift??
This is the older GPS:
We bought it in 2007 with versatility in mind so it was already something of an overall compromise. It was to be interchangeable between the bike and car and also to be used on foot, both in NZ and travelling overseas. The 76 Cx fitted these criteria quite well with the following features.
- It's waterproof and rugged.
- Replaceable AA batteries with a practical life between recharge or replacement of at least 10 hours if not connected to a power source.
- Compass and other options associated with travel on foot, especially in the back-blocks.
- Some specific marine applications for use on a boat.
- Garmin MapSource software is supported by the NZ developers of Open Source maps (free on line) should we ever want them at a future date. (More on this shortly)
Its 1.6 x 2.2 inch screen is small by modern standards but is surprisingly readable on a motorcycle, in part due to the auto-adjusting map scale. Excellent visibility both at night and in bright sunlight. There is a 3D view option but it's pretty basic. Having said that, the plan view (2D) is perfectly adequate. I have the GPS hard-wired into the switched ignition circuit but it's pleasing that battery life is pretty good, particularly for use on foot.
Plotting an entire route with waypoints, as opposed to simply an end destination, is a bit cumbersome and is much easier done using the Garmin MapSource software on a PC, then downloading it to the GPS. I used this approach for last October's 1000 miles in 24 hours ride involving a complex back-road route and it worked just fine. On that ride, in the middle of the night miles from anywhere when I was a little on edge, watching progress round the route was surprisingly comforting!
RAM GPS mount, adapted to fit in steering headstock of Street Triple
The 76Cx doesn't have voice direction capability but just beeps when approaching waypoints, turns or other trigger points; also throwing up a text warning and direction arrows on the screen. I don't use an earpiece and a visual cue is just fine for open road riding if you periodically scan the scrolling map for turns. It's a little more tricky in urban areas where turns may be more frequent. Not a good look to mow down a pedestrian or tail-end a stationary vehicle whilst looking at the GPS!!!
Our maps on the 76Cx were getting a little dated and we were recently caught off-guard with a new road being opened from the Auckland Southern Motorway out to the international airport. As it's only been open for a few short months, commercial map software won't show this change for some time yet and by the time it does, there will be route changes elsewhere; principally in and around the cities. This is where NZ Open Source maps ( http://nzopengps.org/
) enters into the scheme of things. They are totally free auto-routing maps for all Garmin GPS models and have direct and on-going input from the user community in NZ. This means that error corrections are almost instantaneously fixed and updated, as are the inclusion of new roads, roundabouts and the like. I recently downloaded them and am extremely impressed with the level of map detail, points of interest and so on. Easily a match for the best commercial software in terms of accuracy and being current. They use Garmin MapSource as the base.
And on to the latest GPS, the Garmin Nuvi 3760........
We wanted it for the family cars, not the bike. The only 2 criteria we had was voice directions for city driving and a reasonable size screen. To be honest, there wasn't a lot of difference between Garmin, TomTom and Navman brands in terms of features. Sure, the Garmin looked cool at less than 9mm thick in machined black aluminium but that didn't count for a whole lot. The deciding factor was a limited time offer for lifetime updates of map software for both NZ and Australia. The 3760 "T" version has the additional feature of voice-activated destination commands but we didn't go for this option as the extra cost wasn't considered value for money. Besides, I'd feel like a Captain James T Kirk wannabe...."Computer, plot a course to Auckland - warp factor 10". Err... and the withering scorn from the Executive Officer in the Starship co-pilot seat would be hard to take too.
Garmin Nuvi 3760 (bike icon chosen!)
The large hi-res screen at about 4.3 x 2.5 inches is nice, as is the capacitance-activated screen (as opposed to pressure). The Aussie/Kiwi female voice is pleasant even if Maori name pronunciations are a bit mangled, but had one been available; I'd have willingly parted with extra dough to take orders from the English actress Joanna Lumley, who has the sexiest voice on the planet. Unfortunately, there would have been a fight with my Chief Financial Officer, who would have issued a counter-demand for Sean Connery.
The 3D graphics are stunning, if not strictly necessary. A lot of the other features, including pop-up drivers-view photos of key motorway exits etc fall in the "nice to have, but not essential" area too. Especially given that motorways in NZ are nearly as rare as rocking horse poo. These extra features are quite good in the car to tinker with and help relieve boredom, although largely unnecessary in a bike. Haven't tried the bluetooth option. Oh, and the 3760 isn't waterproof so it's not the best option for a bike without a plastic bag or similar waterproofing aid.
Garmin claim a 4 hour battery life but so far, practical experience in this neck of the woods shows that it's less than that. Given that recharging is via a mini-USB port, its use is essentially limited to where continuous power is available.
The one feature I really like is that the screen refresh rate is a lot faster than the 76Cx. This is a real bonus where there are a series of turns to be made in rapid sequence. In fact, the refresh rate is almost continuous it's that good.
There's an on-line review of the 3760, including a video HERE
Given the earlier statements about preferences for keeping a bike pretty pure and simple, the 76Cx still meets my "fitness for purpose" criteria, despite having now used most of the bells and whistles of the 3760 in the car. That's not to say that they wouldn't be nice to have with a top of the line bike GPS, it's just that right now; I'd sooner spend my money on other things (a new pair of boots in the coming months being one of them)! Oh, and one other thing...... when you are set to buy a GPS, think about the cost of updating maps. I've already mentioned the NZ Open Source maps for Garmin which are free via the internet. I don't know whether a similar arrangement exists for other brands of GPS in other countries but the cost of commercial updates can add up. Keep your eyes peeled for special deals. When we bought our 3760, there was a deal to get lifetime updates for about NZ$100 above the price of a bare GPS. This has represented good value as updates seem to come on average at a quarterly frequency. We simply plug the GPS into a PC, log onto the Garmin website and away it goes. The package is for both NZ and Australian maps so they update at the same time.
And now for something different...
Finally, a couple of photos. A few of my fellow bike bloggers enjoy posting photos of beautiful food encountered on their travels. Here's one of food straight from our garden! I've been doing long overdue work in the garden for a few days until the roads empty of summer holidaymakers from the big cities, along with their crazy driving habits. Two winters ago, we had all our fruit trees heavily pruned by professionals and boy, has it paid off! Several hundred peaches on one tree with the first picking due in the next few days. Several other variety peach trees plus apples will ripen over the next few weeks and we'll be giving bucket-loads away as usual. Native parrots that live in the local bush fly in and help themselves to the upper layer but that's fair payment for watching them perform. Also got lemons, limes, blueberries and mandarins in the garden. So there ya go Bob and Co - food doesn't get much fresher than this!
Over-run by healthy food!
Some areas of our garden are heavily shaded by tree ferns and it's been difficult to find stuff which will grow under them. We recently discovered that Bromeliads love the conditions in our area so splashed out on some tiny ones by mail order and planted them in late winter. They're growing ever larger, are developing spectacular colours and will soon start flowering and multiplying. A small selection below, although we have dozens dotted about. I'm all for attractive low maintenance gardens!
Bromeliads - spectacular lovers of shade