We live in a digital world and even though riding an adventure bike is all about leaving the modern world behind, electronic gadgets can help you ride better, smarter and safer.
The point of adventure riding is to get lost, find out where a new trail goes, or explore a national forest. The serenity of being in the wilderness with nothing except your motorcycle is something only riders understand, but when it’s time to head back to civilization you need to know which way to go.
Navigation on an adventure bike gets tricky when you're offroad. With no street signs, maps are tough to use. Without cellular data you can’t pull up the internet to find out where you are. You need a GPS that can show your location without cellular data.
There are a lot of good options available from standalone GPS units to smartphone apps. I have an iPhone 4s and I use the Navigon app by Garmin. With Navigon I can download the maps by state to my phone. No data connection is needed after they're installed and I won’t use all my available storage (You gotta save room for your music!). Even though Navigon only shows roads, it will alway find my location and I can plot my way out using that information.
We know of some readers that have great luck with Osmand on their smartphones. It is an open source navigation app with some good features.
It’s a good idea to have a backup paper map from a company like Butler Motorcycle Maps or America Rides Maps. These maps are designed to be easy to read and point out some of the best motorcycle roads.
You could whip out a compass and use that as a navigation tool, but that is a skill few people possess. Some say they don’t want navigation tools because the whole point is to get lost. I assure you, getting lost is still possible. My personal record for longest time on a motorcycle was set because of trail fixes and finding my way out of a maze of forest roads. I was on my bike for 19 hours in one day!
Communicators are optional, but I have been using a SENA SMH10 for about 2 years and I never leave home without it. In fact, I recently upgraded to the SENA 20S. Communicators are the most fun when your riding buddy has a communicator. We have even pulled over before because we were laughing so hard we had tears in our eyes and couldn’t see to ride. All that laughter would have never happened without our communicators!
Communicators also provide a way to hear your GPS and music without a bunch of wires all over your bike and they bring in a level of safety. The lead rider can callout road hazards and if you or your buddy are out of eyesight and something happens you can still let each other know. I had a buddy lowside on a street ride. I was in the lead with another rider between us and I was able to get back to him quickly and help him up. In an emergency, seconds count.
If you get hurt in the wilderness you need a way to notify emergency services. The two leading devices are SPOT and InReach for managed services, but they have monthly fees. If you want a personal emergency beacon that doesn’t do anything except send out a beacon you can get an ACR Aqualink for about the same price and no monthly fee.
One of the most useful tools I carry is the Slime air pump. It can help in an emergency, but I use it on every ride.
When you start bringing gadgets you will need to power them. Some run on batteries, but your GPS or smartphone will need to be powered from the bike or it won’t last through the trip. I use a handlebar mounted 12V outlet and USB combo. I highly recommend running your gadgets on a fused circuit. If you power your devices straight from the battery be sure all chargers are disconnected or turned off. Too many chargers running will drain your battery even if there are no devices charging.
When you are lying in your nursing home decades from now and your great grandkids come over to see you. How cool would it be to take out your pictures and relive those experiences with them? You can use these pictures to inspire the next generation of riders. Sure, they will probably be using holograms by then and looking at you wondering how you rode a motorcycle with wheels instead of hover discs, but they will understand the language of adventure and know that Grandpa is awesome.
Let us know what items are your must-haves for AVD riding. Comment below.