Even though I derive special satisfaction from spreading out a cartographic representation of the world and plotting a route by dragging my finger along the squiggles of intriguing, promising roads, I also appreciate the value of using a GPS for navigation, especially in those serendipitous moments when curiosity and an unfamiliar road intersect.
TeleType, a Boston-based software company founded 1981 that provides satellite navigation systems for commercial trucks, cars and RVs, now offers an affordable GPS unit—the WorldNav 3500—designed for riders of motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles. The box contains the GPS unit (including an SD card with pre-installed software and maps of the United States, Canada and Mexico), GPS cradle, two handlebar mounts (tubular and U-bolt; also compatible with RAM mount), USB cable, DC power cable (for connecting to a 12V battery), Bluetooth headset with AC power cord, and hardware, software and installation guides.
Installing the GPS mount/cradle and single-speaker Bluetooth headset was a snap. I initially charged the GPS unit through my computer with the provided USB cable (for a wall socket recharge you’ll need to buy a USB AC adapter), but then kept it charged by hooking the DC cable to my motorcycle’s battery. On its battery power alone the GPS works for 2-3 hours with brightness and volume set at 50 percent; the Bluetooth headset is good for 3-4 hours, depending on volume.
The WorldNav 3500 GPS unit is compact, waterproof and ruggedly built, with a built-in shade to block sunlight from above. The 3.5-inch TFT/LCD touch screen works well with gloved fingers, though typing on the keyboard and selecting certain on-screen buttons requires precision. With no built-in speaker on the GPS unit itself, the single-speaker Bluetooth headset must be used to hear voice commands (in English, Spanish or French). Photos and eBooks can also be loaded onto the SD card as well as music and video, though the WorldNav isn’t the best device for enjoying the latter two since it only seems to pair with its proprietary mono headset.
Routes can be optimized for motorcycles (quickest, shortest distance or exclude/use freeways), mopeds (excludes freeways), bicycles (includes bike paths) or pedestrians, and ferries and toll roads can be allowed or excluded. Routes can be saved, simulated, imported (as GPX files) or exported (as NMEA files, which can be converted to GPX files), and there is automatic lane assist and re-routing. More than 12 million points of interest are preloaded (including motorcycle dealers), and you can save an unlimited number of your own waypoints. Many features can be customized to user preferences, and the maps and software can be updated by swapping the SD card (not required, but available twice a year for $79). The United States, Canada and Mexico maps are the only ones currently available.
Overall I found the TeleType WorldNav 3500 easy to use. Like most GPS units, bright, direct sunlight renders the screen unreadable, but it’s fine in lower light conditions. Adjusting brightness and selecting day/night mode helps. The Bluetooth headset is handy, easy to install and offers sufficient volume to hear commands over highway wind noise (but is the only device we successfully paired with the GPS among the various phones and headsets we have around). This affordable, fully featured GPS can be purchased directly from TeleType’s website ($359 new, $259 refurbished) or on Amazon.com (from $279 new). An optional chrome mount costs $89. A one-year warranty covers the GPS unit (extended warranties available), and a 30-day warranty covers the accessories and memory card.
For more information: TeleType Co. Inc., 44 School Street, 10th Floor, Boston, Massachusetts 02108; (800) 717-4478; teletype.com