Shopping for a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) navigation unit for your bike can be a bit confusing. Most of us have figured out that a newer model with a large, backlit, full-color 3D display is handier for everyday riding than the smaller, survival-type models. It seems that in designing a large screen in a case tough enough for motorcycling, though, the GPS makers had enough space leftover to throw in a laptop computer’s worth of extra toys and applications. Now we have phone dialers, media players, photo viewers, calculators, converters, language guides—it’s very easy to get lost in this stuff when you just want to know how to get somewhere.
My advice is to forget about these add-ons at first and focus on the GPS unit’s main jobs—spoken and visual navigation, mounting on your bike easily, and functioning in and surviving a sometimes wet, vibrating motorcycling environment. The folks at Garmin already had these things licked with their first motorcycle-specific GPS, the zumo 550, and it remains in the lineup. Its screen is a bit small, though, and since it lacks a built-in speaker you have to buy a car-specific mount and power cable in order to use it in your four-wheeled rainsuit.
Enter the new Garmin zumo 660, the touchscreen of which has grown to a bright, easily read 4.3 inches and is equally good at navigation, is tough and mounts easily. More screen means larger icons and buttons that are easier to operate with gloved hands, especially when it’s shaking (though you would never, ever set it while riding, right?). The sleeker new case has a built-in waterproof speaker now, too, and the 660 comes with an automobile windshield mount and power cable, so you’re all set for navigating to the car wash.
More importantly it also comes with a standard motorcycle handlebar mount (outfits such as Touratech, RAM, Techmount and Wunderlich offer mounts for specific bikes); a USB cable for downloading updates, uploading routes to Google Earth and other computer distractions; a DVD with an unlocked set of the preloaded maps; and a carrying case. Garmin has changed the quick-release mount for the 660 so that it can be operated with one hand now, and the new mount also integrates all of the wiring—power, headset, MP3 jack, mini USB—which makes it easier to install on one bike if you’re going to use all of this stuff. Personally I miss the 550’s wiring setup, which gave you the option of mounting the unit to the bike without any wiring, even running it on its battery power alone or hooking up the power or accessories above individually.
It’s impossible to go over all of the 660’s features in the space I have, but I have been using the unit for more than six months now, and can’t find any claim it doesn’t live up to. Charging it off the bike on the computer via USB or with an optional AC adapter is a bit more complicated now, as Garmin moved the port underneath the (five-hour lithium) battery panel, which must be in place to turn it on. But most riders will simply hook the mount up to the bike’s battery and charge the GPS there between off-bike uses. It’s so intuitive you’ll be navigating with it in minutes, and is fully loaded with a complete set of features related to navigation, including millions of points of interest (motels, restaurants, gas stations, ATMs, etc.) and new 3D building and lane assist/junction views, plus all of that stuff mentioned above related to entertainment. I got it connected to three different brands of Bluetooth helmet headsets (the only way to go) without difficulty, and adapters for other headset types are readily available. Retail is $799.99 but it’s cheaper in stores, and there’s also a new zumo 665 model for $999.99 that adds XM Radio.
For more information: www. garmin.com or call (913) 397-8200