GPS for Concours

This article is obsolete now that GPS units are inexpensive and common. Large GPS with bright colour screens, and custom mounts for motorcycles, are readily available now. When this article was written in 1999, they were still unusual, and mounting options were not readily available for motorcycles. Despite being obsolete, I’m leaving the article online to document a general approach to finding places to mount things.

I’ve used a Lowrance GlobalMap-100 GPS Receiver on my GPZ for some time and wanted the same capability on the Concours. For the Concours, however, I took the time to experiment with various mounting options and ended up with a mount that I’m very happy with. It was harder work than the simple method I used on the GPZ, but is much sturdier, more visible, and better looking.

See my installation procedure by clicking here.

If you haven’t experienced using a GPS while touring, you’re missing a great accessory.

A GPS Receiver is a hand-sized radio receiver; about the size of a cellular phone. It receives telemetry signals from three or more satellites located at known positions and, by comparing the timing differences of the arrival of the signals, can figure out where you are on the surface of the earth. (With 4 satellites, it can also figure out altitude. There are 30-something satellites, so it can usually receive 4 with no problem.) Originally developed for military use, soon picked up by most commercial navigation, and now available to the public.

The good news… there are some really cheap ones available. Mine cost about $199 Canadian, which is about $3 US (roughly). Lots of suppliers — I have always liked the packaging and features of the Lowrance units, although Garmin and Magellan seem to be more commonly mentioned by other riders.

What you get: a little map showing your present location, a dotted line showing where you’ve been trailing off behind you, and markers for any significant landmarks you’ve pre-entered; all drawn to scale, with scale selectable from 100 metres to 1000 miles for the screen. The map can be rotated so your current direction is up, your objective is up, or North is up. I tend to keep my current direction up — less confusing. You can also tell the unit where you’re planning to go, including intermediate stops, and it will show your planned route. It’s accurate to about 10-20 metres; plenty for retracing your route and not missing that turn, finding that favorite rest stop again, etc. Also on the display can be any combination of: current compass heading; bearing to objective; ground speed; altitude; distance to objective; estimated time to objective; time; other stuff. The unit has a built-in map of the world (with limited detail) and you can download more detail from an optional CD.

I’ve developed a great routine for pre-loading location information before I travel, in lieu of having a unit with background mapping capability. GPSy software (for the Mac, like all great software) makes good software for interfacing the GPS to the Mac. You can get maps on CD or from the Internet (their site lists many sources) and set up waypoints by clicking directly into a topographic map, then download to the GPS.

This is a wonderful accessory. I go out for a weekend ride and know where I am in relation to various points of interest, rest stops, important turns, etc. When I end up at the end of a road that turned uninteresting, I have a precise backtracking guide and know how far it is to the bathroom. I can estimate with great accuracy when I should start heading back to get home at an intended time.

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