Tuesday 2 July 2013

GPS Mount

I've been meaning to fit my Garmin Zumo GPS to Big Honda for a while now. On the trip to Manchester it floated around in a map-case on the tank. This wasn't ideal as it kept moving around all the time and I basically had to hold it down, operate it, read it, drive the bike and try to navigate, all at the same time.

A couple of weeks ago I designed something up in SolidWorks and tried to get it manufactured. This proved more difficult than I had anticipated, so after about 10 days of emails and phone-calls, I decided to make a slightly simplified version by hand from some 3mm aluminum sheet that I have in the workshop.

Mercenary Garage GPS Mount
A quick sketch of where all the bolt holes go, and the raw material ready for marking out.

Mercenary Garage GPS Mount
Inside radii are drilled out with a 25mm wood bit. Everything else is cut with an electric jigsaw. The jigsaw gives a very crude finish that needs to be dressed with a file.

Mercenary Garage GPS Mount
Edges are rubbed down with 180 grade sandpaper to give an acceptable appearance, then the whole piece is rubbed down with a coarse Scotchbrite pad to give a slightly dull but uniform finish. Here the piece is being bent in a sheet-metal brake.

Mercenary Garage GPS Mount
The finished piece installed on Big Honda. The whole thing took about two hours from start to installation. The screws are temporary and will be replaced shortly with stainless Allen head bolts.

I've used this GPS for several years now on various bikes, without ever being able to hear it. Any time I ever used a GPS in a car I found GPS voices really irritating and so on  a bike, I prefered to just read the instructions off the screen without having my motorcycle buzz wrecked.

However, in Manchester, trying to read it and drive in heavy, fast-moving traffic felt a bit fraught. So I've decided to set it up so I can hear it. This is pretty simple really, there's a 3.5mm audio jack in the base of the mount so it's just a case of wearing earphones while driving.

So this opens up the possibility of listening to music while riding as the GPS will hold up to 1000 MP3 files.

When I first started motorcycling I thought listening to music would be fantastic addition to the motorcycling experience. But a couple of attempts using a Walkman quickly disabused me of this notion and I abandoned the idea. 

There are a couple of difficulties associated with listening to music on a motorcycle. Firstly, trying to operate a Walkman while wearing gloves is pretty difficult. Secondly, you need to constantly adjust volume depending on speed, which (as already mentioned) is difficult. And finally, there's just too much ambient noise. There's noise from the tyres, the airbox, the engine and the exhaust pipe, noise from other traffic and there's a constant roar from the wind. It's overwhelmingly noisy. 

So even if you overcome the difficulty of operating some kind of music player in gloves, you can't really hear the music in any kind of quality once you go over about 50mph.

So for the last 20 odd years I've been happily driving around and never missed listening to music. In fact, I find the lack of distracting noise on a motorcycle to be quite meditative. This is particularly noticeable on long trips - after about 3 days my head unwinds and I become sort of happy and content. It's nice.

It's also worth noting that after more than 20 years of motorcycling I have incurred some hearing loss. I think had I spent that all time listening to very loud music instead of wearing ear-plugs, my hearing would be even more damaged.

However, there have been times while traveling far from home, usually in the evening, that I've felt very lost and lonely. And I think in those times, some familiar music might have been very comforting.

So I went for a ride tonight to try it out and I'm impressed with how well it works. Mounted to the tank, the GPS doesn't obscure the clocks or the ignition barrel. It's easy to see, it's very close at hand and it's easy to operate.

The GPS voice is helpful, meaning I don't have to look at the screen so much and I can concentrate on riding the motorcycle.

And the music thing actually works pretty well. The GPS has been designed to work with gloves, so adjusting the volume or skipping a track is pretty easy. And the sound quality is okay below about 50mph.

I don't think I'll use the music facility very often, but I'm pleased with it.

#Garmin #CBR1000F #Mercenary #MercenaryGarage

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