GPS Units

Nancy and I have been using GPS units since 2000 and have become serious advocates of these electronic miracles. We are partial to Garmin and have two Zumos, a Street Pilot 2720, several Nuvi and even an ETrex and Montana for hiking. They all come in handy at times.

The Zumos are the ultimate for motorcycle travel. They have a large clear screen that is not affected by sunglasses, they are easy to manipulate on the move, are waterproof, and have almost instant access to find the nearest gas station. At first they did not have the ability to touch and drag the screen like the Street Pilot, but software updates have corrected this problem. Like all of the units except for the ETrex, the complete US streets are preloaded. The unit comes with several mounts including suction cup for car, a permanent mount for bikes, and a RAM Mount for bikes. Be advised that the suction cup mount is illegal on the windshield in several states including Minnesota. It also has direct wiring and a cigarette plug option. It can be used on internal battery power for several hours. We have added topographic maps which cost extra, but come in handy when we are back roading on goat trails with added detail.

Our Street Pilot 2720 was our first GPS and we still use it on one of our cars. Many of the same features as the Zumo except not as motorcycle oriented. It has no internal battery power.This one is an antique by today's GPS standards.

Our Nuvi was purchased in a frenzy when one of our other units decided to give us a problem. The problem was corrected by downloading updated software, but we were on the road and needed something immediately. It is a less expensive option for those who need to watch their spending. It has many of the functions of the Zumo but is not as easy to see wearing sunglasses. Suction cup mount is not the best for cars. We like this one for carrying around town when we are sightseeing on foot. Battery power is good for several hours, it is small and lightweight. This unit still serves us on the road as a back-up source.

We recently purcased a newer model Nuvi with a bigger screen. It has several new features such as auto zoom when nearing major intersections to even show which lane to get into.

ETrax and Montana – Nancy bought these for her hiking and running forays into the forests. Display is not adequate for vehicles although she has used it on some of our backwoods rides.

GPS Hints

After using GPS for several more than a decade we have the following comments:

1. Although GPS units are usually extremely accurate you will need to use your common sense at times to balance the inaccuracies that can occur. We have arrived at what the units say is a road and found impassable conditions. On one back road ride the road was actually a creek bed.

2. Do not try to navigate any GPS routes named as ROAD or TRAIL unless you are a good rider on a dual sport.

3. If a road starts to look bad it is probably only going to get worse.

4. GPS units are only as good as the person using them. Practice as much as you can.

5. Do not be reluctant to let your common sense overrule the GPS unit.

6. Do not let the GPS distract you for more than a second while riding/driving. Get used to just a quick glance to check the distance to the next turn or your speed. If you need to do any route planning pull over and stop.

7. Plan your route ahead of time on a computer and then download to GPS. This saves a great deal of time trying to plan your route when you are actually riding. It is also much easier to see and manipulate the maps on a computer. This takes some technical work to figure how to do it. This is Nancy’s job … it drives me crazy.

8. If you are following a planned route and have to deviate for some reason, stop the current route and program a new destination as a via. You can return to the planned route at any time.

9. If you have gone off the route and then try to resume the planned route it is best to cancel the planned route and then turn it back on. Do not select the “Navigate to Beginning” option, just start heading back to the closest point of the planned route. The unit should recalculate at some point and get you back on track.


Garmin knows a good thing when it sees it.

I use the speedometer on the GPS rather than looking at the bike dash. Notice the other displays - arrival time, how far to the next turn, what road I'm currently on, and the gas button which will give me the closest gas stations with one touch. The display is in the 3D mode with direction of travel always toward the top of the screen. You can change the display to flat and/or north always at the top.


Nancy checking here ETrax


This was the set-up on our two-up touring Capo Norde back in the early 2000s. A lot has changed since then.


Pull over and stop to do any planning on the GPS

Sometimes you just need to turn around and plan another route.

We've been here twice in the last ten minutes. Where to now?