Thursday, May 7, 2015

TomTom Rider Update 1

As mentioned a couple posts back, I needed to upgrade my aged Garmin Nuvi 550 SatNav due to the fact that the unit would no longer accept map updates. A sad day indeed, as the Nuvi saw me for tens of thousands of miles, across the US and Canada and to Alaska and back. It'll still have use though, although only on my bicycles.

After searching around for SatNavs, I landed on the Motorcycle-Specific TomTom Rider and picked one up through Revzilla. Research indicates that there's a new model Rider in the works and apparently available in Europe (Rider400) but I've got riding plans so I can't wait around. The current model will do.

We have one other TomTom model in our household for auto use so I'm somewhat familiar with them in general. Overall, the Rider has the functionality of most all SatNav devices, with a few exceptions and nuances. However, the major attraction of this brand was the low, low price. The Rider was just under $400 (free ship at Revzilla), which is much lower than competing models such as the $900+ Garmin Zumo. All the same functions ... less than half the price.

Another nice feature of the Rider that it comes with a Ram Mount/Cradle and a dedicated wiring harness. Ram Mounts are pricy components. Together these components could run anywhere from $75-$100, or more, on their own. Again, all included in the Rider price tag for more savings. Here are a couple stock photos of the components that come with the Rider and its bar mount.

The Ram ball plate mounts to the back of the mounting cradle with four screws and the Ram bar mount provides for a great deal of flexibility in placement. As you can see in the photos, the wiring harness connects to the cradle (not the device itself); the device makes electrical contact when it is placed in the cradle. When off the cradle, the Rider offers a USB connector that attaches to the bottom of the unit for computer connection and charging.

I'd read some reviews about the plastic cradle being a weak link and, in some instances, breaking from over-torquing the bolts that mount the Ram Ball plate. Although the reviews played this issue as a fault with the unit, I noted fair warning about over-torquing in the mount installation instructions ... plus I can't help but comment that there's a shortfall in common sense to over-torque bolts into plastic. What I did was added a little medium-blue thread-lock on the bolts and lightly torqued them. They aren't going to loosen, nothing is broken and the unit is very secure in its cradle.

The security of the unit to the cradle results from spring loaded tension between the front and back plates of the cradle itself. That is to say, it has heavy springs in it. So it's not just jamming a plastic device on a plastic mount. You have to depress the front and back plate of the cradle, slide the Rider unit onto the front plate where it makes electrical contact and let it snap in place. Whatever anyone says, it's secure. If they fucked it up putting it together or improperly mounting it then it's their fault.

For purposes of wiring the Rider, I connected it to the prewired accessory pigtail in the Versys 1000 harness. I'd previously hooked an accessory receptacle to the pigtail, but thought it had better use juicing my GPS. I ran the accessory receptacles back to an unswitched fuse block under the seat.

Probably one of the most important issues about any GPS Unit is its visibility from the saddle in various levels of sunlight. Being used to the vertical 90cm diagonal screen of the Nuvi, the 110cm Rider screen was a big improvement. Then there's a traditional adjustment for screen brightness. Together the screen size and brightness provided decent visibility; overall, I'd probably throw the anti-glare factor a 7 on a scale of 10.

My track for my first loaded map ride was created on a software application called Tyre-to-Travel. The application is installed in the Rider GPS device and was loaded on my computer by connecting the device and following the simple prompts. The software allows you to create and share routes, as well as load them on the Rider. Although the application seemed to run a little slow, it was extremely simple to use. My test route was named Gobbler_Ozello Loop because it included those two riding areas that I wanted to pick up.

Very similar to GoogleMaps you can set the preferences for avoidances like highways and tolls. Then it's a matter of searching addresses, cities or places and establishing waypoints to which the route is created and connected. Waypoints are nothing more than points on a map. As to changes, again, very similar to GoogleMaps the route is moved (creating a new waypoint). Transferring the route to the Rider GPS is one simple button and then the map will be in the Itineraries Folder on the GPS.

It should be noted that only the start/finish locations and the waypoints transfer to the Rider (this as opposed to the actual route you created on Tyre). Essentially, the TomTom takes the start/finish and waypoints along the way and creates its own route. I know this because I noted some minor differences in the track that the device had me on compared to what I'd planned in Tyre. Nothing significant but keep this in mind. Here are few helpful tips:

  • Using more waypoints than fewer waypoints in Tyre may make the map more predictable. If you really don't care about the route between waypoints then no problem. Let the GPS do its job.
  • When you add or move a waypoint to the map in Tyre, zoom in and make absolutely sure that it is positioned properly. If you miss the road you want and put the waypoint on a different, but nearby road, that's where the Rider is going to send you.
  • If you chose to avoid highways when planning the route in Tyre, then you must also choose the highway avoidance (again) when starting the map on the Rider. Remember that the GPS unit is only taking you from waypoint to waypoint. If you had highway avoidance in planning, but failed to set the avoidance on the GPS unit, you'll probably be quickly routed to highways as they're usually the fasted routes.

The only other item I have to report about waypoints in the loaded map is that you can't take an alternative route and skip them without taking some action. No matter what side road or alternative route you took, the TomTom is going to navigate you back to that waypoint and won't stop until you go there.

That is, unless you tell the unit to skip the waypoint. This is one of the nice features about the TomTom Rider. It has a quick menu, including a menu item for skipping waypoints with two simple touches.

The quick menu icon is the blue hand in the white box on the first photo above. If you touch that, you're taken to another screen where you can "go to next waypoint" (i.e. skip the next waypoint to the following waypoint) and, if you want, you can circle back and go back to the skipped waypoint by touching "go to previous waypoint." Thats a great little feature when using loaded maps.

The one big feature that I haven't worked with yet is the Winding Roads Planner. As the description indicates, this feature supposedly maps a route along the most winding roads. While surfing around the screens, I noted that you can adjust the "how windy" along a scale bar in the settings. More to come on this feature.

See my report on the Winding Roads Planner in the next post.

Other minor updates:

Lane Guidance: When traveling multi-lane roads and highways, the Rider provides lane guidance in terms of what lane to be in. The guidance is included in the center of the lower bar that reflects the mileage to the next turn and the direction of that turn. When lane guidance is triggered, it seems to take up a lot of the lower activity bar and somewhat disrupts the use of the GPS. This feature can be turned off in the options menu. That's what I did. It's certainly there if one needs it.

>>>>CORRECTION RE: LANE GUIDANCE: I turned the Lane Guidance feature back on for a nearly 600 mile ride that was mostly Interstates up to Walhalla, SC and found that the actual lane guidance was something other than I'd noted and commented upon in the previous paragraph. I wrongly thought that the lane guidance was solely reflected in the center information bar at the bottom of the screen (see screen shot below). The lane guidance actually shows up as a zoomed in feature of the 3D map temporarily as you approach lane changes or on/off ramp situations (see 3D map in screen shot below). It shows the exact number of lanes that you're approaching and flashes green arrows on the lane(s) that you need to be in. Turns out, it was actually a nice feature moving through highway changes when riding through metropolitan areas. So I need to do a 180 on my lane guidance advice above. It's pretty good to have.

Speed Limit: While I prefer the image of the speed limit sign on my old Garmin Nuvi, I'm fine with the max speed number indicator in the lower left on the navigation bar. However, I've found that the speed is not always reflected on the bar. In fact, I'm starting to get the sense that the max speed is reflected more often on the more major roads and highways ... that is, places that are probably already well markered. I've become accustomed to regularly using that feature on my SatNav devices. Unless I can figure out what's going on, I'm likely to be a little disappointed on this point.

Recording Icon: While recording, the navigation screen will reflect a round, red ball to the right of the battery charging indicator icon. That is the icon that indicates that the device is recording your route. I could not find reference to this icon in the instructions, but that's what it is. Recording your route is one touch on the first page of the options; ditto for turning it off.

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