The truth is that smartphones are definitely what we can call a disruptive innovation, given that in the last decade they have completely changed the way we work, operate, and interact socially. The next logical question would be “can’t they be used as GPS units for bikes as well?”.
Some riders do use their smartphones for this purpose, but the results that one can get doing this are rather mixed. First of all, you cannot properly operate a smartphone using gloves. Secondly, these devices are a lot more delicate than those specially made for rough conditions.
Since a smartphone is not always a very cheap device either, you might not be willing to jeopardize its integrity by using it in various outdoor conditions and exposing it to shocks. This is particularly the case if you are a fan of riding outside of urban areas and on difficult off-road terrains.
On the other hand, taking a look at what motorcycle GPS units you can find on the market, you might ask yourself whether they bring enough benefits to make this level of investment worth it. In the following lines, we’ll take a look at what characteristics these devices include, to bring you some answers.
Why are motorcycle GPS devices special?
There are many GPS models you can find on the market, from those made for cars to those specially made for bikes. While it’s true that technological and construction developments of smartphones will most probably make GPS units obsolete in the future, this is not the case just yet.
Just as a car GPS is specially designed to be used within a vehicle and includes dedicated maps, the motorcycle ones include some very particular features that you might find interesting. One of the first things that make these devices so expensive is the hardware.
Given the fact that they need to be used outdoors in all types of conditions, motorcycle GPS units are weatherproof, and in many cases completely waterproof as well. This means that even if you do catch a rain during your ride, there is nothing to worry about in terms of the device’s functionalities. Car models, for example, don’t need such a sturdy construction.
Speaking of sturdiness, it’s also good to know that such motorcycle devices are many times reinforced to withstand the shocks and vibrations that biking entails. Since there is no compromising when it comes to these aspects, this comes at a higher cost.
By far one of the key elements of a motorcycle GPS, the display needs to be specially made so that the rider can operate it while wearing gloves. This is definitely not the case when it comes to car ones, but everything changes when we’re talking about riding a bike versus driving a car.
Of course, the display can be operated without gloves as well, but the fact that it needs to quickly react to a glove’s touch means that a special construction and technology is included, which also adds to the unit’s overall cost. Moreover, while driving a car means little direct sunlight reaching the display, things are completely opposite when it comes to bikes.
Therefore, many times these specially-made units include anti-glare features that definitely add to the overall costs as well. While this technology might not be furnished with all motorcycle GPS units, it’s definitely a very useful one to have. After all, you don’t want to waste too much time and jeopardize your road attention trying to figure out which way you need to go.
Today’s GPS technologies include satellites, real-time information, and many other features that definitely come in handy. On the other hand, riders need a little bit more than that. Most units come with already loaded maps that include specific details meant to help a motorcycle rider in particular.
While car maps choose routes based on criteria such as what route is the shortest or the fastest, bike ones take other things into account, such as how windy a road might be. Of course, the creators of such more specific maps also charge more for their work and for this type of information, which means that the price of the unit itself if affected as well.
If you take a closer look at the mount that comes with a motorcycle GPS you will see that it’s definitely not a typical plastic suction cup, as it’s the case for car devices. If when driving a car you can take the chance for the GPS to fall from where it’s supposed to stay (it has happened to all of us), while not good for the device, it’s not such a major problem.
On the other hand, you cannot take the same risk on a bike, which means that manufacturers needed to find solutions to create sturdy and reliable mounts. The typical one is made of metal and features bolts that are used to attach the entire unit to the back of a powered cradle.
Such a mount is rather heavy as well, most of the times weighing around a pound, and it’s made of non-corrosive aluminum that also includes special coatings. Moreover, since motorcycle GPS devices tend to be heavy as well, given their weatherproof and sturdy construction, the mount needs to be able to sustain this in a safe way.
The power cable
Another element of the entire unit, the power cord also comes with special features that make it reliable for outdoor conditions. This item is usually a hardwire that includes a built-in fuse, and that many times also comes with an audio port in order for you to be able to connect a headset.
Some models can also have other additional capabilities such as Bluetooth compatibility, which means that a helmet speaker can be used for more convenience, or tire pressure sensors that can let you know if anything goes wrong while you ride.
Of course, all of these options come with added costs for the manufacturers, also impacting the final retail price. On the other hand, it’s important to know that motorcycle GPS units come with unique features that can definitely come in handy for some riders.
If you are not sure whether such a device is the right choice for your needs, you can always check out some online reviews that include the experiences of other riders since this can give you a pretty good idea of what benefits you can get and whether you really need them. Local riding communities can also be a good source of information.
Depending on the model that you choose, you can opt for compatibility with your smartphone as well, which might give you a lot more versatility. In the end, the most important thing is that you always ride in complete safety and comfort so that you can truly enjoy the experience.