In the old days when I was younger I didn’t need electronics on a motorbike. However as I get older and ride further I have come accustomed to having 5 devices. The following list has evolved over the last 8 years and 60,000+ miles.
- On Board GPS
- Spot GEN3
- Sena Bluetooth
- Portable / rechargeable USB battery
Continue reading to find out how I use them and interoperate them as well as the things that didn’t make the list.
BMW Motorrad Navigator V
• Bluetooth-compatible GPS NAV system optimized for use on motorcycles
• Outstanding functionality combined with simple operation, tailored to motorcycling requirements
• 5″ touchscreen, housing waterproof and fuel-resistant
• Including carry-bag
• Vehicle specific bracket
• Convenient operation via Multi-Controller*
• Free lifetime map updates
In short its a very fancy BMW branded Garmin. However its actually very cool because it works with the onboard computer and tracks things like how many times I used the clutch during my last trip. I update the maps about 1-2 times a year and typically during the winter (non riding) months and NEVER update the GPS the day before the trip (just in case you fry the device).
I had it connected with Bluetooth for about 3 days and quickly turned that OFF – I don’t need the constant bombardment of turn information at the highest volume in existence.
The best feature EVER – Finding Gas Stations.
Here is a small tip when looking for gas stations try not to do the default setting of near me but change the setting to “along current route” this way it will find gas stations on your way and not behind you. Also the BMW version (if you have a BMW) is integrated into the left grip and easy to control without touch the screen as often and include BMW dealerships. Here is another tip – it not only has the address but include the phone number of the BMW dealer – which really helps – you can call them for service BEFORE you get there but when you are thinking about it (usually the 1/2 way point when you remember).
SPOT Gen 3
While the navigation GPS tells me where I am the SPOT lets other people know where I am. I typically ride with other people but when doing off road by myself or my last 6,000 mile solo trip the amount of relief (reassurance/relaxation) was priceless. It is also a very good tool for “tracking” where all you went.
It works like this – you have a 5 basic buttons (3 uncovered and 2 covered)
Uncovered (frequently used):
- Tracking (cookie crumbs) button
- Custom Message
Covered (rarely used)
- Phone a Friend
How I have mine programed and when I use it.
Any trip over 300 miles I always turn on tracking so it maps a route of where I have been. Also people can check a website on my progress.
The “I’m OK” message I hit a couple of times a day on long trips. This way I don’t have to have a long phone call and can do it on the fly. About 5 people will get an email saying I’m ok and the GPS location.
The “Custom Message” I use as a way to “bookmark” things I think are cool. A lot of times when your riding you go through a cool town or see something neat – well I just push a button and get an email. The email say “hey you thought this was cool” and gives me the GPS location.
The Covered Buttons:
Phone a friend – my thought is that I might need help but not in a life threatening situation and in a location where I don’t have cell signal and what would I need in that situation? My thinking is I would need to send an email to 3 trusted people with my location and my AAA member number and the phone number to AAA. This way if I hit that button someone will make the call for me.
SOS button – I think that button will cost you at least $50,000 in life flight costs and I hope I never have to hit it – its a good thing to have and hope you never need.
If you don’t have one of these your a complete idiot; its ok I myself was a complete idiot for a number of years before I got one.
How do I use it? Basically for EVERYTHING but the GPS. I uses the rider to rider communications a lot. I use it to read txt message to me. I use it (and custom ring tones) to know if I should answer the phone or not. I used it to listen to music, and I use it to listen to audio books. Sometimes I don’t listen to music but to be honest – It is very nice and very useful and the 20s lasts a long time – 800 mile days are no problem for it.
USB rechargeable battery
a large capacity rechargeable USB battery is super useful. Sometimes the hotel or camping locations don’t have power, sometimes you want to charge while having lunch. Most importantly is if the batteries die on your spot you can power it off the USB power. Also a small USB light that plugs into the battery is crazy useful (see tank bag). Devices are worthless without power and a single battery that can charge them all and act like a flashlight has proven itself over and over again. Need to charge the Sena but don’t want to tether your head to the bike put the battery in your inside jacket pocket and run the cord up to the helmet (much better).
Things that did not make the cut.
For everything I love and wouldn’t leave without I have a stack of things that didn’t work and I hate.
GoPro (gopro 4 black)
Always out of focus, out of battery, didn’t turn on in time, remote control sucked… and if a bug hits the bike then its almost always hits the GoPro lens first. Pain in the ass on long trips and not worth the time.
One of our fist attempts at non-CB based communication was a chatterbox – they are crap – do not waste your money
RamMount Aqua box – it worked at the time but audio cables are dumb and only connect one device at a time. Use Bluetooth and put stuff in a waterproof bag inside a bit of waterproof luggage.
SLR camera – I love my SLR camera – but its big and bulky and the battery’s need there own power adapter and I’m not a professional photographer, the result is I no longer take the SLR.
The modern smart phones take pretty good pictures but more importantly back the pictures up to the internet automatically, stamp GPS location on the meta data of the picture, don’t need special (additional) battery charging cables and are smaller.
What About Phone Apps?
- NOAA radar (weather) – So you know where the storms are
- Yelp – so you know where the food is (no chain restaurants)
- Maps – the more maps the better
- Sena – So you can modify and check you headset
- Spot – so you can track your location
- AAA – you never know when you need it
- Marriott, SPG, IHG – sometime you badly need a hotel
- The phone app – you know so you can make calls
- Facebook – live video
- Banking app – holding limits on cards and gas and ability to move funds, check for fraud and tell them no your credit card is not stolen
- Word press – so you can blog about motorbikes
- Microsoft pix app – for photos
- One drive – for photo backup
- Outlook – for mail, calendar and contacts