We all know that riding can be one of the most awesome and exhilarating experiences in the world, and most of us are wise enough to know that safety comes first. That means safety gear, helmets, the whole nine yards. But in recent years a certain technological advancement has meant that motorcyclists now need to keep themselves safe in a totally different way. That advancement is, of course, GPS and satellite navigation systems. It’s all very well if you’re in a car: simply stick the holder to the windscreen and glance at a glowing map every now and then while a voice of your choosing barks at you. There are obviously cases where GPS devices have caused distractions which have then caused accidents, but then again, so have pigeons. Overall, in-car GPS devices are a safe and all-round approved means of getting around on four wheels. Translate all of this into the world of the motorcycle, though, and you’ve got a whole different kettle of fish.

Turn by turn controversy

There is one big issue with the entire GPS/motorbike safety debate, and that is that a lot of people who proclaim that it’s dangerous are not actually riders themselves. One of the key assumptions that proponents of this argument make is that glancing at a GPS screen whilst riding a bike is more dangerous than it is in a car. This is based on no research whatsoever, and as such is an unfounded claim to make. If you’ve ever used a GPS or Sat Nav system while riding a motorbike, you’ll know that it’s almost exactly the same amount of effort (and therefore distraction) as in a car. It’s a quick glance to see what’s coming your way, then eyes back on the road. Simple. Probably the biggest reason that this debate even exists is another dangerous assumption: that all motorcyclists speed. Whilst it’s true that many bikers enjoy the white-knuckle thrills of gunning a bike flat-out, it’s nothing that countless car drivers don’t do too. And we can all safely assume that these people aren’t using GPS systems while they’re flooring their car at 100mph. So why would a biker do the same? Simply put, they wouldn’t.

Voices in your head

Ok, so we’ve cleared up the whole safety debate, but what about whether or not GPS devices are actually useful when you’re riding? It might be safe to have the odd glance at the screen, but it’s not exactly convenient. One of the great things about new Bluetooth technology is that you can now buy Sat Nav systems which hook right up to your helmet. By doing this, you can hear the instructions from the GPS right in your ear – so you’ll never actually have to look down if you don’t want to. This solves the key issue that doubters have about motorcycle satellite navigation. Lots of these devices are available on the market already, and more are being released all the time. This method also means that you can put more of your thought and effort into enjoying your riding, rather than trying to plot the next three turns in advance.

Fun, fun, fun

We all know that safety comes first, but don’t forget that riding’s a lot of fun too. If you think GPS devices are unnecessary distractions, don’t buy one; simply enjoy the pure thrill of the ride. If, on the other hand, you’d like a few pointers when you’re on two wheels, a GPS system can be a very safe way to do this (whether that’s bike-mounted or a Bluetooth solution). More than anything else, remember the cardinal rule: enjoy yourself!

This post was written by guest blogger Kelly Darmer.
Kelly Darmer is a travel fanatic and practically lives for road trips, and owns both a CBR 600 and a beaten-up moped (both pink). She is equally as comfortable on the open road as she is the open seas, and writes on behalf of Iglu Cruise who offer cruises from UK ports.

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12 Responses to “Do You Use GPS or Sat Nav When Riding Your Motorcycle?”

  1. Kawistar  September 1st

    Are you kidding me? All this smart technology is just making us dumber, really! You don’t have to know how to look at a map anymore to take a trip, and that is retarded. It takes away all of the planning aspect of your ride, especially the ad hoc deviations from the route. I bought an expensive bluetooth headphone/mic system to use with my cel, and realized that I really did not want to be interrupted. If you are a highly paid pizza delivery guy on a scooter, get the GPS… I invested in a SPOT tracker.. it tethers me to the world but it allows me to do my own navigating. Otherwise you can just use your smart phone and twitter to your heart’s desire while you get turn by turn directions on your way to the Trekkie Convention.

  2. J Man  September 2nd

    I used to roll around with a paper (mapquest print out) taped to my windshield when I didn’t know where I was going!

  3. Ben  September 7th

    I use my phone usually as a gps device, but I did get an awesome bracket hooked up to my handlebars on my streetbike that will hold my phone for me. This eliminates the bulk from my pockets and keeps it easy too see where I need to go. The visibility is easy with my new brackets I put on my handlebars. If anyone is interested in how I went about mounting these brackets safe and effectively… you can call me or email me. visit our website at jazzmotorsports

  4. Deborah  September 8th

    I agree that not all bikers are speeding weaving in and out of cars, which would not be the time to look at a GPS, and that there are drivers in cars that do the same. In my opinion having a GPS is safer than having to deal with a map or a piece of paper. Road trips are the best, including riding to new places, which is when the GPS comes in handy.

  5. Anna  September 8th

    I am a big fan of the good old paper map … with a GPS, you can’t really sit down at the breakfast table and plan the route for the day the way you can with a fold-out map.
    I keep the map in the clear map pocket of my tank bag – that’s all I need!
    Obviously, it’s a different story if you’re in a larger city trying to get to a particular place … but how often does that happen on a road trip?

  6. Theresa  September 14th

    I guess I am bucking the trend. I don’t even have a GPS in my car, let alone on my bike. I prefer the rides where we’re going from point A to point B with a general idea of how to get there with multiple options and looking forward to exploring, which means taking a road just because you feel like it, always knowing that you can get back to the main road any time you want. Having a GPS tell me to turn here or turn there is just one more intrusion for the type of riding I enjoy most.

  7. Givi  September 27th

    I prefer to use a gps myself. I use the smartphone app one on the iphone. http://tourandride.com/item/content/what-a-smartphone-as-your-best-riding-buddy

  8. Tom327Cat  October 3rd

    I would say that 95% of the time my GPS is simply a data gathering device. I might occasionally check it to see how fast I am really going, or to determine exactly where I am. Real navigation happens with a map.

  9. Derek  October 11th

    A year ago I’d have cringed at the idea of a big GPS unit on the front of my GSXR but this year I’m converted.

    I’ve been doing the Irish Photo Rally(google it) and the first two trips I did with vets (both had GPS). My third trip I ventured alone, by map, and it seriously took away from the enjoyment.

    It was back to the poxy map, asking directions and driving with an iPhone within reach – not exactly the safest. Anyway, long story shot, I’m converted and in the market to buy one.

  10. BikerThomas  December 4th

    I’m a big fan of technology. I plan my routes on Google Maps and always bring my Garmin GPS when I’m going on longer trips. I never use the audio feature though, I think that would just distract me from my driving. The GPS isn’t 100% reliable, but the paper maps aren’t either… and having a map of all of Europe integrated in a tiny SD-card is great!

  11. haron ali  January 8th

    I agree that not all bikers are speeding weaving in and out of cars, which would not be the time to look at a GPS, and that there are drivers in cars that do the same.

  12. Kris  January 21st

    In all fairness, the bluetooth systems are a brilliant idea for connection to mobile phones, but how many sat navs have bluetooth capability?
    Granted, I’m an Iphone user, and I can have directions set up as one of my integral apps which will link to any of the headsets I’ve tried, including the Scala, Sharktooth & Caberg JustSpeak. But for those who aren’t it must be a bit of pain spending a few hundred on a helmet that’s suitable for the fittings or brand specific, a few hundred on the headset itself and then a bit more on a compatible sat nav/mobile phone.
    Personally, I’m a bit peeved that the headsets cant be used as intercoms unless they are to alike sets or specifically designed (and many of these are rider to pillion).
    If I were to be completely honest, its an unfinished idea and strangely Viper Helmets are leading the way by supplying a bluetooth system with a stock helmet. RS-131, which is also a flip front. http://www.jtsbikerclothing.com/shop/products/motorcycle_helmets/viper_/viper_rs-v131_-_flip_front_integrated_bluetooth_4/silver.html
    Once the better known brands get involved with this idea, I think the bluetooth debate will be over and it’ll be borderline standard on touring style helmets.

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