that is to say that i seem to be one of those rather lucky people born with a good sense of direction. give me a map or equivalent and i will most probably get to the right place with a minimum of hassle.

still, while i absolutely adore maps (i usually keep a good selection some place close) i always felt they lack a certain touch. all that searching landmarks or addresses in small but hopelessly crowded coordinate rectangles, turning the pages to follow an otherwise perfect straight road, the difficulty to turn a selection of waypoints into a route. not to mention the size & weight (try to open an a1 map on a windy day).
and last but not least they are paper, and i do prefer ‘softcopies’ every time. for some time now i’ve been using electronic maps, but even a modern notebook is quite a piece of hardware to carry around. not an option. plus you do feel stupid when you get out your pc on the back of the bike to see where you are / need to be. definitely not an option.

in short: i want more flexibility & interactivity. so i decided to move with the times and get myself an electronic map capable of calculating & navigating its own routes … that automatically knows where it is. where i am, that is.

called gps. 😉
yeah i know, been available on the market for years, practically mainstream technology, they also start throwing them after you when you buy a new car. but i wanted to have a small unit that i could also take on the bike. obviously got to be water-resistant to some degree, too.

luckily the garmin people built just the thing: the gps v (v=roman 5).


boys & their toys. well i guess this is a useful one. especially when you got a wife who is definitely an excellent sample of a ‘directionally challenged’ person. 😉

but let me show you.

gpsv screen 1

the normal map screen. the little triangle in the middle signifies the car / bike / you. whatever. it also points in the direction you move (pretty smart) and if that is what you prefer the gps can turn the map so that the direction you move in is always up. normally maps are always north up which is said to annoy the more beautiful half of earth’s population. (downright lie, i guess.)
the fields on the right side show the approximate direction you are moving in, your exact speed (nice to check when you are just approaching a radar post) and the time (why not).

gpsv screen 2

naturally the whole thing is menu driven. good ones, too, i really have to say. professional work. this one is the setup screen for the automatic route calculation. leaves you all the choices you need.

you need to go some place?

gpsv screen 4

gpsv screen 3

once everything is set up just find an address / waypoint / point of interest … and go! amazing the amount of data that little thing stores. find a cinema, a shop, a hotel, a hospital, you name it (ok, you need to load some maps form the pc first, but that’s part of the package).

gpsv screen 5

shows the route (plus distance to final & estimated time of arrival) …

gpsv screen 6

… warns you before turns (beeps, too) …

gpsv screen 7

and gets you there.

gpsv screen 8

or you take the trip computer screen. maybe this is something for the hardcore navigators. ;-)did i mention you can use it horizontally (car) or vertically (hand) ?

looks like this then:


most of these pictures are actually taken from the site of the shop i bought the thing from, and that is a story of its own.
their whole setup can’t be coincidence, it must be part of their business plan. first of all they are located 120 km from amsterdam. ok, we can’t live all in (or around) amsterdam, but there are limits. anyway, they looked as if they knew what they were talking about and were quite helpful on the phone. and how terrifying is 120 km on a bike like the yzf, right?
right. about 115 km were absolutely straight-forward & simple. took me about an hour minutes to get there, no big deal. the last 5 km were getting on my nerves, though. took me 30 minutes to look for a place called ‘notter’ that only exists on the map, but is basically nothing more than some farms that probably stand together slightly closer than the national average. finally got there after 3 phone calls. the farmers must have thought i was a madman on the loose zipping to & fro between their homes.
which is why everyone who goes there most probably buys a gps as a direct reaction to this rather frustrating & traumatic experience.

i’m still playing around with the thing but i already found some useful features.

  • yes, it definitely knows where you are. accuracy something around 10 m under normal circumstances.
    took it on my recent business trip to paris, where it did have some trouble getting a fix on the location in the narrow streets between the houses. sitting in the back of a cab with no clear sky view did not help either, i guess, the dashboard would have been better.
  • it also knows where you are going. just move at normal walking pace and it shows the correct speed / direction. and a pretty good estimate of the eta, given there are no major holdups on the way.
  • it records your way. this is called ‘breadcrums’ (remember jancsi & juliska?). quite useful: the track can be reversed and the gps takes you back the way you came. just in case you got really lost.
  • it calculates pretty cool routes. as a matter of fact it really gets it right. in paris the cab drivers usually took one or two different turns, but generally the gps would have got you there pretty much the same way.
    the gps v has a basic network of highways & bigger roads covering europe, the middle east & africa built in. the data can be supplemented with downloadable maps to give you really precise & detailed data. down to the house number.
    the gps v can store up to 19 meg: the whole area around amsterdam including ijmuiden, almere, utrecht, leiden plus brussels & paris took 15 meg!
  • it can also plan ‘off-road’ routes for hiking, sailing, … enduro riding?
  • it can store loads of waypoints (home, friends’ house) or ‘danger points’ like radar poles (and display a warning when you get there!).
  • it finds the closest … restaurant? fuel station? hospital? shopping mall? hotel? whatever!
  • and it is really small (look at the picture with the hand).

god, i love gadgets.