TomTom Rider, BMW And Buell GPS Navigation Systems - Lost And Found

GPS Means Never Having To Say "Where Am I?"

There's no substitute for a paper map. Even Norwegian adventure legend Helge Pedersen (www.globeriders.com) carries one for backup. But thanks to two-dozen Global Positioning Satellites orbiting 12,000 miles overhead, any one of these nifty receivers can tell you where you are, and how to get where you're going. Some, however, are better than others.

TomTom Rider
Since KTM's 990 arrived without a GPS receiver, we did what you would have done and liberated the TomTom Rider from Alex Hearn's office. Its most appealing virtue for this mission was true plug-and-play operation. Hard-wire it to your bike if you like, but the internal lithium-ion battery is good for about 5 hours of navigation. An internal 1G memory card and 32MB of RAM store a continent's worth of data. The 20-channel receiver uses a new SiRF Star III chipset designed to find satellites faster and stay locked-on in dense trees, urban canyons and other lousy reception areas. Ours performed well on both counts, but not much better than the other two. Door-to-door navigation is quite good, though TomTom's map is occasionally less detailed than BMW's. Bluetooth technology talks to your phone and transmits directions sans wires, too. Though the 3-D graphics are nice, the base map carries considerably less detail than BMW's, and the glare-resistant touch screen is all but useless in direct sun. Suggested retail price is $899, but online retailers sell it for less. www.tomtom.com

BMW Navigator III
The BMW of GPS technology carries street-level maps of the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, including hotels, restaurants, gas stations and motorrad dealers via the Map Source 8.0 software in its 2GB memory, plus 700MB for additional maps. The largest touch-screen of the bunch works perfectly, even with gloves. The 2-D and 3-D map views are easy to read except in direct sunlight, and text-to-voice prompts talk you through your chosen route in your choice of 12 languages. Bluetooth connectivity means it can relay phone calls and turn-by-turn directions wirelessly. Reading data from a dozen satellites simultaneously, the Garmin-made unit is accurate to 50 feet 95 percent of the time-something less than the 1-centimeter accuracy of military units, but our Navigator was always spot-on. The compass and Track-Log take you back the way you came even when all the trails start to look alike. That means you can concentrate on the ride. Don't worry. Be happy. The only real drawback is its $1399 price tag. See your BMW dealer, www.bmwmotorcycles.com.

Buell Quest Navigation System
Simple 2-D map graphics make Buell's Quest tougher to read on the fly. But plug in an earphone and it will talk you through as well. At 5.5 ounces, it's less than half the weight of BMW's Navigator and less obtrusive in the cockpit as well. Buell's mount is excellent, letting you slip the Garmin-made Quest into your pocket after a ride. The WAAS-enabled, 12-channel parallel receiver is as accurate as the BMW's. Ours didn't acquire the requisite number of satellites quite as quickly, but 15 to 45 seconds is plenty quick enough. And with 115MB of memory, you'll download street-level data of the locale du jour before you get there from the Map Source CD that comes with it. Other inconveniences are small, such as the nine tiny backlit buttons that are tough to use till you take off your gloves. But at $699, so is the price. See your Buell dealer, www.buell.com.

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