It’s January here in southwest Ohio where this time of year, the weather is “sketchy” to say the least. I usually use these dark days to brainstorm and plan events for the coming year. I have a couple major events in eastern Kentucky that I plan on attending this spring, which also includes leading several rides. As I’ve mentioned before, I have pretty old-school method of “route execution” with my list of turn-by-turn directions, but I’m looking to move into the 21st Century (if possible).
I’ve recently got my hands on a Garmin Zumo, which has been quite convenient getting to and from certain destinations, but I have found it less than user-friendly if you’re searching for the twisty roads. Garmin also has “BaseCamp” that you can use to plan routes etc.; at first I found BaseCamp to be all but completely baffling, but I have slowly learned to navigate my way through it. I find that the map views are simply nowhere near as user-friendly or intuitive as the stock form of Google Maps, but I have finally figured out how to set up waypoints and lay out a repeatable route with the GPS. That said, I still haven’t ascertained if it’s faster for me to fuss with waypoints and labels, or just type up and print the directions old-school.
Back to my previous method, plotting out a route in Google Maps is super easy. I admit, being limited to ten or so waypoints is somewhat aggravating, but it’s certainly more efficient than zooming in and out to determine if that’s actually a road or just a random pin in space. I’ve been on the Android Operating System since the original Galaxy S1, so I’ve been exposed to the various flavors of google maps. Per my previous comments, the old google maps was great when I could download the map to the phone and assume that the phone GPS was remotely accurate enough to get me from “A” to “B”, whereas the most recent flavor is “data required”, which is obviously unavailable where the best riding is found.
I’ve searched elsewhere, apparently there’s a mobile GPS application called OsmAnd that permits several statewide map downloads. Admittedly I haven’t tooled around with it a whole lot, but it’s reminiscent of Basecamp enough that it makes me cringe. The search function is either very limited, or overly structured like the old GPS methods (Enter Street number, now street name, now city, now state, (insert frustrated expletive here). Rever has also been pushing their app quite a bit as of late. However for the extra route planning features it’s a paid subscription, and I can’t say I’m enamored with the free version of Rever. I’m not opposed to a paid subscription, however I would prefer to get a better feel for what I’m getting in return for my monthly payment, especially considering that “getting out” of those monthly payments is often a process where subscription services are concerned. I have also used Waze in recent days for the purposes of avoiding traffic congestion (among other things), but then again, Waze doesn’t permit route modification beyond its handful of suggestions.
Ultimately I’m on the search for superior GPS software that permits me to run a route “data-less” and perform route planning where “The Road” is the destination, not just a series of stops or deliveries. Be it habit, opinion, or fact, from where I stand, I still find Google Maps to be the most all-encompassing solution where motorcycle route planning is concerned. Google maps has an incredible amount of data available to the user, on both mobile and desktop, and has what I find to be the most user-friendly interface. It’s merely the porting of that information over to a mobile that is currently the problem. As I’ve mentioned, there is other software out there, but there seems to be a disconnect between route planning, and route execution with most of that software, google included.
Obviously Garmin, Tom Tom, and so on have a corner on the “GPS Unit” market, meanwhile Google holds the beachhead in the Android mobile market. At this point, I think google has a 90% solution for the product I’m asking for, it’s merely that they haven’t closed the loop. I recognize that this is somewhat of a niche feature, but honestly I’m sure I’m not the only motorcycle junkie that is looking for a solution to this problem. I get that many others make the best of BaseCamp (et al), but I feel that with very little effort, Google could launch a product (even if it’s a cellular application) that will solve the problem and end the fussing with paper and antiquated software.
So, in closing, unless you, the readers, have found something I have missed, this is my petition to google: Give us moto-adventurers the motorcycle route planning/riding tool we’re asking for, and we will gladly pay the price.