Friday, May 8, 2015

TomTom Rider Update 2

I've continued to tinker with the new TomTom Rider this week, trying to get a sense for all its functions and how they operate prior to a big trip that I have planned starting mid-next week. I’m going to be mapping some routes in advance and recording some of the routes during group rides that I want to save. Today, I got to work on Recording Routes on the TomTom and the Winding Route Planner function.

Just a couple other updates first though.

Having used this device under the bright Florida Sun, along with a pair of eyes that otherwise require reading glasses, for several outings now, I really need to give a thumbs up on the lack of screen glare and icon/numeral sizing that appeared to receive some criticism. At 110cm diagonal, the Rider screen is considerable for this purpose. Everything seems well placed and of the right size to read from the saddle whether placed on the bar or up on the console. The device offers two driving view settings (2-dimensional and 3-dimensional views) for different looks on the maps and details. Then put any screen in the direct Florida Sun and I think that you will experience reflections and some glare (as in the photo below), but I've experienced nothing that prevents me from reading the Rider screen in its entirety even in direct sunlight.

The next thing is a supposed take-away about this device in that you can’t change anything on the move. My initial thought about that comment was something I read or heard many years ago regarding the 1972 crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 into the Florida Everglades. Essentially, a Federal Aviation Administration statement attributed that crash to the pilots screwing around with the gauges and instruments in the cockpit instead of flying the plane or paying attention to where they were going. In the words of John Madden, “Boom!”

What I can tell you in the short time I've had it is that the Rider seems to provide a lot of flexibility in allowing route changes, whether skipping waypoints in loaded routes (2 touches) or eliminating/adding roads to existing destinations and option/setting changes. One way is that it offers pre-set short cuts (the Blue Hand Quick Menu, see screen above) as was previously discussed, and it seems to set route changes fairly early in the menu sequence, thankfully, such as in the actual screen below where you can avoid one or more of the roads on the calculated route. Can you make these changes on the fly? I don’t know. If whoever tries it lives in the process, let us know.

That brings up the Winding Route Planner…

This feature is one of the three main selection buttons on the main menu screen.

The manual describes this, “The winding routes feature is for planning a route that avoids unnecessary highways and includes winding roads, with the aim of making the route a fun and entertaining ride. When planning the route, your TomTom Rider tries to guide you out of the city as quickly as possible.”

I found that the feature operated virtually the same way that the regular planning feature and itinerary feature operated (pick an address, place or thing … and go), with one exception. You can set the route to be “more winding” or “less winding” using a scale bar in the options that looks like this actual screen shot.

The Winding Route Planner is obviously intended to be used in areas that we’re not familiar with, but to put it to the test I picked an area that’s right in my backyard (riding-wise) and runs to my east around 30 miles over to the Lakeland, Florida area. In between is a secluded stretch that has a lot of farmland for growing fruit and vegetables and is all decent, two-lane back roads. It has a fair amount of winding road work if you know where you’re going.

I picked an address in Lakeland as my destination and recorded the route that TomTom chose with the bar scale set all the way to minor roads, as in the screen shot above. Coming back from the selected address in Lakeland, I picked a gas station in my town as the final destination and set the bar scale in the middle between minor roads and major roads. I left the route recording going the entire ride over and back. This is the Winding Route that the TomTom chose, again the outbound route is the “more windy” and the inbound route is the “middle of the road windy.”

Just for the record, you are able to view the route that TomTom picks and either change it piecemeal (road by road) or ask it to calculate a whole new map. While I did “peek” at the routes before disembarking each way I didn't change them thinking best to play along since it was just a test to begin with.

Outbound Route (eastbound “more winding” setting):

Using a baseball expression, the outbound route was a “swing and a miss.”

Right out of the gate, the TomTom put me on a long, straight road replete with four-way road stops and totally missed the beautiful winding roads around Lake Thonotosassa just to the south. Then about three quarters of the way to my destination, it abruptly sent me way south across the main Interstate down to Plant City where I was forced to deal with slow moving city traffic for about 20 minutes. As you can see it created a huge gap in the map that is really full of some nice winding roads. At the end of the Plant City stretch, the route put me back northward on my first windy road called Walker Road. I know this road well and it’s as curvy as they come (in Florida). However, it was way out of the way! Walker would be a great winding road for some route (it’s crazy windy), but the cost in traffic time to get there on this route really wasn't worth the benefit of the road.

It was kind of like the entire outbound route was built around that one, out-of-the-way crazy curvy road and, as a result, it missed a lot of really cool back road action!

Inbound Route (westbound “middle winding” setting):

Using another baseball expression, I’d characterize the inbound route as a “double.”

First observation is that the inbound route was about 90% different roads from the outbound route. Second observation is that, similar to the outbound route, it also avoided that big gap leading into/out of Lakeland, again pushing me way farther south than I would have gone if on my own navigation. It’s kind of like TomTom thinks that area must be illegal to ride in or something. Thirdly, while on the middle range of winding roads, the route included time on the Interstate; not much but some. Before entering the Interstate I (after safely pulling over!) touched the avoid highway preference to see if it would reroute away from the interstate and it did. So the moral of that story is if you always want to stay off Interstates, use the avoid highway preference even with the Winding Routes Planner.

Overall, I give the inbound route a fairly good rating because (with the exception of the Interstate) all the roads were very scenic Florida back roads. Plus, it picked up the windy roads around Lake Thonotosassa that the outbound route totally missed. I would think that if someone who didn't know the area rode that inbound route using Winding Routes, they’d have enjoyed it all except the few miles on the Interstate.

Overall, the Winding Route feature did a so-so job at best. I suppose in other places where I don’t know the areas I won’t know what I’m missing, if anything. I’m sure it won’t ruin my days.

One last thing, the recorded map I created was located in the itineraries folder. After connecting the Rider to my computer, it uploaded into Tyre with a simple, single click.

That Tyre software is really proving to be a great tool for navigation with the new TomTom.

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