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I am planning an extensive trip out west next year and thought I might invest in a GPS for my bike. I hear alot about Garmin, but there are so many different models how do you know which is the best one. I don't want to spend $700.00 either so does anyone have any suggestions on what models work for them and what to look for?

Larry Willis
1989 BMW K-100 w/ Vetter Hack
1990 BMW K75 solo

Hey Larry;

In my estimation, a GPS is essential hardware for touring. I use a Garmin Emap and find it serves my every need. However, as purchased, it needs a few additions....I found my Emap ($125.00), as well as the accessories I'll note, on Ebay.

With the basic Emap you can specify the city you're going to, and it will lead you there, with notices of which major intersections are coming up, what services are available, and where you are, within about 10 feet or so. It will tell you how much time you've spent traveling and how much time you've spent at rest, how far you've gone, how far you have to go, what your fastest speed has been (I've seen mine show a surprising excess over 100 mph a number of times! So, I felt it prudent to add a radar detector to my bike as well), your average speed, the time, direction of travel, your longitude and latitude, the phase of the moon, sunrise and sunset times, moonrise and moonset times, and current speed.

It presents a map page, with zoom in and out capabilities, so you can see an accurate map with a scale as small as a few feet (you'll need some extra software for that), to a scale as large as continent-wide.

But that's only basic. It comes with a comprehensive set of manuals, fast-check sheets and other such-like. You can also buy an instruction video too, which makes it all the more useful if you're into getting your money's worth.

But the Emap can be made much more useful, with some fairly inexpensive additions.

First, the Emap eats alkaline batteries like ice-cream (they'll last only 12 hours or so at best), so you'll need a twelve volt adapter (12-16 bucks, up to 20 bucks for a duplex cord that will also double as your computer download patch) for your bike/car. You'll need an external antenna (20 bucks) if you plan to use it in your car as well.

You'll need software (80 bucks and up) for whatever country, or section of the country you wish to explore. You can get topographical software if you want to get in on the GPS caching sport side of things, or hiking....or underwater structure software if you're into diving or treasure hunting....or highways and parks, you name it, you can get software that will make your Emap do its thing. On some models, software plugs right in....on others, you use an inserted chip and download from your PC. The Emap will require downloads.

The prices I noted above will be found on Ebay....anything from Garmin itself will run somewhat more.

Now, to further add to your distress, the Emap is nowhere near top-of-the line, not by any stretch of the imagination. Do some research, determine what you need, and you can buy fully dressed (with everything already installed at a commensurately high price), or you can buy the standard model and upgrade as the need appears (like we often do our motorcycles).

Fact is, with my Emap, and not being a techno-phile, I haven't felt the need to add software. But I have an accessory that I simply cannot toss aside. Its my tankbag, with clear map-case on top. That's so much more my style. Yes, I use the Emap constantly, since its much more accurate as a clock, speedometer and so forth....but I still love checking it out on paper to find my way around.

If you have any electronic savvy at all, a GPS will give you hours and hours of pleasant study, activity and fun. Sometimes, its good to be lost, and other times, its good to know where you are. Want to be lost? Just turn it off....want to know where you are? It'll tell you.

Good luck and we'll catch you later!


Here is a link that may help you on your decision path: It seems like cheap is a very relative term in this domain.

Good luck!


Well, yeah, 'cheap' is definitely a relative term.

Garmin does have one nice advantage though (not that the other brands don't). You see, not being very bright, I made my own, very elegant, GPS mount for my bike. The actual holding material was some 'industrial strength' Velcro from Wal-Mart. I put one piece of the Velcro on the mount, and the other on the back of the GPS.

So anyhow, I decided I needed to take the GPS into the house, and so went to the shop to remove it from the bike. I grabbed (actually, it was closer to how Forrest Gump would have said it, "grapped") hold, took a mighty pull at the Velcro....and tore the GPS in half; that is, I pulled the front of the unit off so hard, that it tore all the connecting wires, and so forth, right apart. Talk about feeling stupid!!!

Well, Olympus will repair my digital camera, for whatever reason, for $294.00, every single time I break it (I don't want to talk about why I know this....), but Garmin will repair an Emap (even mine), regardless of the problem, even if you've pulled it in half, run over it with your truck, whatever, for 99 bucks, including shipping. So compared to my camera, its a real deal, 'cheap' if you prefer.

I reckon there's good and bad in all aspects of life....


It seems like GPS and you first computer are both things where you just have to get the best info that you can then close your eyes and jump in. The smaller Garmin units, like the e-map, are a good palce to start. I thought about doing that but took a different route.Several companies make GPS units that fit into the accessory slot on your PDA. I use a Navman with and IPAQ. It gives me color display, on the fly reroute and turn by turn voice prompts. It cost me about $300 (plus the PDA that i already owned).. This gives me a GPS unit and I can take a down loaded file of BMW owners with me on the road for emergency help. It is my phone book and my trip log as well as my journal. All in all, I'm pretty pleased but I've got to say that it isn't as good a GPS as a top line Garmin but the Garmin e-map isn't much of a PDA. ;^)

I tend to get distracted by moving maps in front of me and I can't hear the electronic voices anyway, so I just use an old Eagle Explorer with a Ram Mount and a laptop computer. The combination is probably ten years old. The Eagle mounts on the handlebar just like the new ones. It's usually plugged into an old Panasonic toughbook laptop computer running Microsoft Streets and Trips 2004. The laptop fits nicely in my tankbag, but the cables are long enough to use it in the sidecar as well. GPS looks like this; and usually sells for around $25-35 on eBay. Saturday I plotted a route to a Leather shop in Hopkins, MN, to fellow member Mole's home, Bob's Cycle Supply for a pair of Motocross boots, supper at a cousin's home, and back home to Wisconsin. I even have the option of marking an area to avoid and the PC automatically reroutes me around it. Granted, if I'm alone I can't make changes while moving, but if you shop wisely, you can have under $200 invested in everything.