Navigation – GPS For Motorcycles


Image It’s amazing how far technology has advanced in a short space of time.  Not only is it responsible for what you’re doing right now in reading this article, but everywhere you look, from your computer, your television, your kitchen and laundry to your motorcycle, your car or even some of the tools in your garage, the advancement in technology is staggering.

Global Positioning System (GPS) is something that basically tells you where to go, and not in the same way that your wife does after you’ve been out for a big night with the boys.  In recent years GPS units have become a lot more portable, functional and affordable.  So much so that it isn’t uncommon to see them in vehicles, on motorcycles, pushies and in the hands of bush walkers.  A lot of these units are not much bigger than your average mobile phone, so they are well suited to our purpose, which is of course, motorcycles.

At Motoaus, our navigational skills are nothing short of terrible, so for learning to ride areas of bush, a mapping GPS is a must.  A mapping GPS actually draws your route for you as you ride and then lets you upload the route to your computer and overlays it on a map for you to view.  In this review, we’ll take a look at Magellan’s entry level advanced mapping GPS, the eXplorist 400, which retails for $675AUD.

ImageInside the box you’ll find your new GPS, a combination power and USB cable, a user manual and a software CD.  The instructions are easy to follow and after a decent battery charge, you’ll have your new GPS up and mapping your tracks in no time at all.  {josquote}The great thing about the eXplorist 400 is that it’s a no brainer.{/josquote}  You simply turn the unit on, press the enter button, it begins to locate satellites and once it’s locked on, it starts tracking.  The base maps that the unit comes loaded with are reasonable if you’re travelling on most roads, but for serious bush work, you’ll also need to purchase the Discover Aus Streets & Tracks Topo expansion card.  This will set you back another $399AUD, which sounds like a lot of your hard earned cash (and it is), but for that you get some amazingly detailed maps that cover the entire country.  These maps are as good as the Rooftop map series that you may already be familiar with.


As you ride, you can mark points of interest (POI), like that impossible hill climb or wicked piece of single track where your mate got tangled up with his bike as you laughed your guts out or perhaps it’s one of the many breath taking views of a High Country ride.  ImageIf you get a bit worried about running out of fuel, or one of your mates has a mechanical problem that you need to return to the cars for, you simply tell the GPS that you want to back track and it guides you back the way you came.  If you set a POI at the cars before you set out, you can tell it to go to that point.  The unit will then make a beeline for the POI, telling you if are off course by more than 1km, so you may be able to take a more direct route than simply back tracking.

After your ride, you simply save the current track and when you get home, upload it to your computer to view the route and POIs on the big screen.  A really cool trick, is the ability to plan a ride on the PC taking in any POIs you have marked and then upload it the GPS.  We use our eXplorist 400 on every ride, either to track our movements, plan our route or just as a failsafe measure in case the unthinkable happens.  {josquote}How much quicker and easier for everyone would it be if you needed to notify emergency services and you could offer them co-ordinates within a few meters of your location?{/josquote}  That in itself is good enough reason to carry at least some form of GPS, even if it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of the eXplorist we’ve tested here.  One minor annoyance was the need to download the latest software (Mapsend lite) from the web to get the most from the Discover Aus memory card, but we’ll save you the trouble of searching for it with this link here.  The eXplorist has a range of accessories available from various vehicle mounts, external antennae, and car power adaptors so you aren’t dependant on battery life.  With a little ingenuity on your part, you can have the unit powered by your enduro or road bike in no time.  The eXplorist is a fascinating little gizmo and we’ve had heaps of use from it.

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