I'm banging my TomTom (drum)
but it's not making any noise...
So here's the debate... do I TomTom or do I BMW navigate?
I recently purchased a Palm TX for some stuff I'm working on my off
time--trying to write two books that I've had ideas for over the last
10+ years (one sci-fi fantasy and the other is a sci-fi). I
went to Office-Depot to purchase a cheapy palm (e.g. Palm
Z22) for $99. I originally wanted something simple that I can
input text whenever wherever I want. Of course the story
changed when I got there and started browsing. I noticed the Palm
TX has a much bigger screen and that it can do things like play MP3s
perform nifty tricks like go into landscape mode. Of course the
TX was $300 and the Z22 is only $100. There is more memory and
more features on the TX than on the Z22, but the Z22 is cheaper.
bla bla... 30 minutes later I was asking the clerk whether they had any
more Palm TXs. Out the door I flew having
spent a total of $450 for the Palm, protection plan, protection
gadget, and additional
Another reason I bought the TX as oppose to the Z22 is the Bluetooth
capability. There was a little item I noticed while I was in
the store browsing the Palm counter. There is an accessory for
Palm TX that allows you to turn your Palm into a TomTom
navigation system. My thoughts ... "Way too COOL!!"
So I knew eventually I will turn my Palm TX into a navigation system
and mount it on my GS, my car, and even my wife's car. This is a
About a week went by and I was out sick with the flu so work had to go
on without precious me. Of course I was drugged up and
trying to get well. At the same time I decided to do things
like... browse the web to search for a cheaper price on the navigation
system that was compatible with the Palm TX. Strangely enough,
the cheapest price for the gadget was from Palm.com itself. $199. All
the other resellers out there wanted something in the neighborhood of
$250. So I was set and ready to order the kit. Then I
started remembering things like... "I ride in the rain."
Last I looked, the Palm was deathly allergic to water, any type of
moisture, or any type of drenching. Luckily for me, the
accessories list on the Palm site also included waterproof
enclosures. But now I have to contend with buying the navigation
accessory kit, the waterproof enclosure, the Bluetooth headset, a bike
charger, and fabricating or purchase a Palm mount for my bike.
That's a mouthful. Not to mention the idea of having the GPS receiver
as a Bluetooth device kind of worried me. I've experience
Bluetooth before. It reminded me of some of the cereal I ate for
breakfast (e.g. FLAKY!!). Bluetooth devices are
notorious for dropping the signal whenever it felt like it. I
sure hate the idea of riding along and "POOF!" goes the GPS
signal in the middle of traversing places like the Great Lakes or even
Rushmore, for example.
There is also the proverbial question of "...will the Bluetooth work OK
through the waterproof enclosure? I much rather have a cabled
GPS receiver instead of a wireless one." The other thought that
dawn on me was ... there are too many variables with this setup.
almost click the submit button for the Palm navigation kit but
soon stepped back to ponder and make sure there aren't any live
wires where I was about to break ground.
palmOne GPS Navigator
(Bluetooth GPS receiver)
The final answer, I cleared my shopping cart. When I started
research by going to tomtom.com, I saw
that TomTom had a navigation system for two wheeled vehicles (e.g.
"This is good..." I thought to myself. "Let's see what's
in this kit." It turns out the TomTomRIDER kit had everything you
ever need for a motorcycle. The navigation unit, Bluetooth ear
for the helmet, mounting hardware, battery connector cable, a complete
map of the continental US (including Alaska) & Canada, etc.
The major plus, the GPS receiver is built into the unit. No
worries about loosing Bluetooth connectivity as mentioned
earlier. In short, this has everything you need to get
yourself going with a navigation system in no time flat. The
price ... $1199. Ouch! That is approximately $500 more than
what it would be compared to the ad hoc Palm TX setup. However,
the TomTom is a fully integrated system and I don't have to do anything
except install it. At this point, I also took a look at the
navigation system from BMW.
BMW Motorcycle Navigator II Plus GPS
BMW's navigator is the Garmin navigation system on steroids. It's
the same unit except it's been enhanced to have more built in memory
and can handle a larger compact flash card (2GB). It has
the same stuff as the TomTom minus the Bluetooth and wireless Internet
features. A&S BMW
Motorcycles was having a sale on these units so the cost comes in
at $1078.66. At the same time I managed to find the TomTomRIDER
at J&R electronics in NY for
$1099 (no shipping charges! cool!).
What made me decide on the TomTom as opposed to the BMW Navigator
II? The TomTom had a perspective view (3D view) that the BMW
navigator didn't. I thought having the same vantage point on the
navigation system as when you're riding the route was a handy thing to
have. That way the streets and street names will appear in the
same perspective as what you're seeing in real life. Also, if I
really wanted, I can activate the TomTom Plus feature which would give
me up to
date traffic and weather information. That way the TomTom
navigator can reroute my path to avoid bad traffic areas.
The TomTom has nice features like the ability to remove a specific path
route list to have the navigation system recalculate an alternative
path. You can also tell the navigation system to reroute you to
the nearest gas station in the middle of a ride. You can also
designate waypoints in the built in map and travel to those
waypoints. Of course when I
get tired of the 3D view (I very much doubt I will be tired of this), I
can always disable it to have the
regular old 2D map look. In the end, I bit the bullet
and purchased the TomTomRIDER. I'm very happy with it and
think it was definitely worth the money. I have also recently
updated the TomTom software. It's something very easy to
do. Installing the
battery cable for the TomTom was also very straight forward. You
have the option of tying it directly to the battery or (what I
did, the slightly harder route) tap into the GS CAN bus so the
navigation system won't drain the
battery when the bike is off. However, you might want to have a
volt meter handy to know which wire is positive or negative.
Here's a clue ... red-white is + and brown is -.
However, when in doubt,
always consult the volt meter.
In terms of what the TomTom does when the bike is powered off, CAN bus
is off line and all, the TomTom will power itself off with the rest of
However, you can always turn the unit back on since it has a built in
battery that will last 5-6 hours without an external power
source. This is nice just in case you want to fidget with the
while you're motorcycle is taking a breather.
Oh, one last thing. There is a reason why the TomTomRIDER comes
with a Bluetooth headset. Make that two reasons.
The first reason is the navigation system will talk to you and inform
you when a turn is coming up and which direction to turn. The
second is you can bind your mobile phone to the TomTom and have it make
calls from the navigation system or receive incoming phone calls.
Of course you have to have a Bluetooth enabled phone. BTW, if you
decide to have up to date traffic and weather, you have to have a
mobile phone that is capable of Internet access. If you have this
mobile networking capability (e.g. WiFi), you can subscribe to TomTom
Plus which has all the cool extended features. As for me, I'm
just a plane o' navigation system without any additional monthly
charges kind of guy. So I won't be relying on the
TomTom to do any weather updates for me. In reality, I much
prefer out the window weather. There is something immediate
about that type of reporting.
As for traffic... I can see it right in front of me.
Regarding where I mounted the TomTom, it was originally mounted on the
right side of the handle bar towards the switch cluster and right
mirror mount. However, there were two problems with this
location. The first problem has to do with how the handle bar is
shaped. The handle bar is tapered towards the end (e.g. the
bar changes diameter as it get closer to switch cluster). The
mounting kit that comes with the TomTom expects the bar to be of the
same diameter and not have a diminishing angle. This caused the
mount to remain somewhat loose and shift around when I change the
TomTom's viewing angle. It's just plane annoying. The other
problem is the fact that I had to look down to see the TomTom.
This takes my eyes from the road ahead of me. Not cool.
Ultimately, I moved the navigation unit to the instrument
cluster. This allows for a quick glance of the TomTom without
having to divert my eyes too far from the road ahead. The good
thing is I can still reach the TomTom to make all the input I need to
The material used for the mount is NOT very strong. It can easily
snap without too much effort. Be careful when mounting the
As for me, I managed to break one of the two mounting brackets when
trying to clamp the mount down.
What a bother. I ended
up fabricating a replacement bracket and used the broken piece to
retain the much needed ball mount. In the end, the replacement
piece made the entire mount bracket much stronger. But wait!
There is another thing to consider.
The tubing around the instrument cluster is not round, it's oval in
shape. As a result, the TomTom mount doesn't fit properly.
What I ended up doing was using some QuickSteel to create spacers.
QuickSteel is not very good when it come to shear force but it is very
good as filler. This allowed me to turn the oval shape of the
instrument cluster tubing to a round shape where the TomTom mount is
positioned. The new mount bracket, the QuickSteel and (my
favorite) 3M double sticky mounting tape made the mount strong enough
to rock the bike when I jiggle the TomTom.
The yellow arrow points to the QuickSteel used as a spacer (one on each
side) and the
white arrow points to the new fabricated aluminum mount bracket.
Here are some more pictures of the fixed
up mounting bracket.
Update [May 24, 2006]
After several long trips and numerous rides in the rain, I noticed the
TomTom exerting an annoying behavior. The unit would come on,
stay up for a while and then power cycle itself. Once it started
doing that, it kept on power cycling. At one point I thought it
was my wiring, but even after enhancing and rewiring my connections, it
wasn't the wiring. I even went as far as replace the mounting
unit thinking it was causing the problem. BTW, a replacement
TomTom mounting kit is $29. Not too bad. It turn out it's
none of the above, and it's not even the TomTom itself. In a
sense. It has to do with dirt and oxidation for the connector
between the TomTom and the mounting bracket. The funny thing was,
I had just mentioned this trick in a meeting a couple of days ago about
pulling computer peripheral cards and erasing the connectors to remove
oxidation and allow for good contact between the main board and
cards. Little did I know I was predicting my TomTom power cycling
resolution. Remembering what I had mentioned in that meeting, and
doing this periodically on old computer hardware, I proceeded to erase
away my problems with the TomTom. I grab a Staedler white eraser
(my favorite type of art pencil eraser) and began to erase away the
dark spots on the back of the TomTom and the pins protruding out of the
mounting bracket. The result, the TomTom works perfectly the next
day and doesn't have the annoying power cycle problem. So if you
buy a TomTom Rider and see this behavior, start erasing away your
problems before trying to do something else more severe.
[May 28, 2006]
Thinking the power connection to the TomTom being the problem was the
wrong answer. It turns out the amount of power supplied to the
TomTom from the battery is just enough to keep it going longer.
That doesn't mean it won't use its internal battery. So if you
see the TomTom turn on and off while you're riding, it's a sign that
your TomTom needs a good recharge. My TomTom started doing this
during my Death Valley trip and it was as annoying as hell. When
I got to my destination I decided to recharge my TomTom. The next
morning, the power cycling problem disappeared. That's how I
figured that I had to recharge my TomTom on a regular basis even though
it has on-board power. The thing is, I don't recall reading this
in the manual.
Update 3 [July 17, 2006]
Unfortunately, the TomTom has been sent back to the factory. It
turns out the sesures my TomTom has been experiencing is not
normal. When the TomTom started doing it again, after the
replacement of the mounting bracket, I knew it was more than just the
mounting bracket or the bike's electrical causing a problem.
Sigh!!! I called up TomTom and they eventually gave me an RMA
number. It has since been shipped to the East Coast pending
fixes. TomTom Inc. was talking about replacing the entire
unit. Any which way it goes, I hope to have a non epileptic
version of the navigation system when it comes back. And so the
TomTom story continues.
TomTom Update 4
[August 12, 2006]
The TomTom has been back in my possession for approximately 2
weeks. It has stopped doing the power reboots so everything is
fine. I don't know what happened to the unit when it was in the
manufacturers hands but they definitely resolved the problem. Now
my TomTom is ready to go to Yosemite in the middle of next month.
5 [September 3, 2007]
I've actually sold my TomTom for quite some time now. Instead, I
have switched over to using the BMW Navigator III (Garmin StreetPilot
III) because I was still experiencing problem with the TomTom's
caddy. I read somewhere on another website that I'm not the only
one to experiencing this problem. The design of the caddy is
flawed. As a result the caddy etches divots into the connectors
on the back of the TomTom. In addition to the etching problem,
the connectivity between the TomTom and the caddy is extremely
sensitive. Because of this any type of movement experienced by
the TomTom causes the unit to short. The short in turn causes the
TomTom to think the bike power is being turned off. There in lies
the endless power cycle problem the nav system experiences.
Written on: Feb 14, 2006
Last modified: September 3, 2007