It's time to throw away those damp maps and route notes! Ever since acquiring my first portable Satellite Navigation unit I've become a big fan of planning and finding my way around with the help of the Global Positioning System (GPS). In fact I would go as far as stating it is one of the few gadgets I've acquired that truly questions how I ever managed without it for so long!

GPSBriefly "SatNav", as its become known, provides a visual display to indicate your exact position on a moving map by using Earth satellites employing GPS. For more info about GPS click HERE.

The map, which is detailed down to street level, is held within the SatNav's internal memory. The unit will prompt you via visual and audio directions as you traverse a route. Lots of useful associated statistical information is generated indicating and recording your speed, time, and direction etc. Other benefits include tracking or tracing a journey for review later. Points of Interest (POI) data-bases are included to provide useful locations such as fuel stations, hotels and tourist attractions etc.

There are two basic ways of employing SatNav described below. Cheaper units tend only to offer the first option, but more sophisticated units like the Garmin range come packaged with PC based mapping software enabling pre-planning and are even equipped for review within Google Earth.

1) A to B. Simply enter the address to which you wish to travel and sit back whilst the unit works out a route for you to follow. Your chosen route can be the shortest or fastest, etc. Diversions or via points can be entered and recalculated as necessary along the way.

2) Pre-plan complex routes via any number of places, following preferred roads, using waypoints. These routes can be input directly, or more conveniently via a PC using an accompanying software package such as Mapsource. Routes can then be archived on PC, and completed rides can be reviewed in detail using the track log feature.

Without doubt, option 2 using a PC is where I now find SatNav indispensable. Planning day rides and tours using conventional maps and the internet for reference before you set out is ideal. This allows you to plan stops, time and distances, and overall mileages when touring. The ability to identify the nearest fuel station or hotel is also a very valuable planning tool.

Having a pre-planned route does not prevent on-the-hoof exploration whilst out riding but does provide the re-assurance of having an acurate means of getting back on track without wasting valuable time. And all those great roads you discover whilst out day-tripping are automatically recorded and can be reviewed for future use when you get back home.

2007 saw the launch of Garmins first purpose built units for motorcycles; the "Zumo" range. As well as GPS functions accessed via large lefthand glove-friendly buttons, these models included bluetooth communication, MP3 player, and photo viewer, all via touch-screen menus, making it the ideal touring companion. The Zumo 550 includes pre-loaded mapping of Europe right down to street level and was therfore the model I opted for. Other benifits include a comprehensive trip computer providing all kinds of useful statistical information.

As well as providing conventional wired output, this modern SatNav has inbuilt Bluetooth and is capable of being paired with a mobile phone and can output SatNav instructions to wireless headsets. More about this option can be found on the next page or click here.

The Garmin Zumo range is packaged with a RAM mounting system which provides a ball-joint bracket but neater solutions are available. I used one from SW Motech on my Tiger 1050 (pictured below), and the purpose-made Triumph bracket on my Explorer 1200.

SW Motech Bracket - click to enlarge