Friday, 1 October 2010

Motorcycle GPS Cases: Givi versus Arkon

Givi GPS CaseImage by Victor9098 via FlickrI planned to do some touring around Ireland this summer and managed to squeeze in 3 weeks of travels over May/June this year. You can check out photos of those trips on my Flikr page in the Ireland Stream (Ladies View onwards). Any other time planning such a journey would usually requires some time on Google Maps, printing off directions and packing a road atlas for when you would get lost after deciding to explore a little. This time though I decided to bite the bullet and bought myself a GPS, though my budget would never allow me to splurge on a purpose built motorcycle GPS unit! A little bit of research later and I decided to purchase a Mio Navman M400, it gave me everything I needed for a reasonable price. After that I needed something to mount it to the Buell with, so this led me to purchase the Givi S850 GPS case, though after using it for a few weeks I decided to purchase an alternative, the Arkon GPS032 GPS case.

Arkon GPS Case

The Givi S850

Givi GPS Case

First impressions of the Givi was similar to all Givi products I have owned, this is well made and should last, it also had plenty of compartments for cameras/phones/etc. and a rain cover. However once it came to fitting it to the Buell it soon became obvious this was not going to be as straight forward as I had wanted. The primary means of attaching it to the bike is via two long velcro straps which means you try to locate a position on your handlebars and then strap it on as tight as you can. No matter how I strapped it on there was always some movement as you rode along as it slowly kept angling itself down to the tank. After 2 hours of riding you physically have to lift the case up so you can view it and then let it flop back down. For long rides plugging in the power cable is usually a must, the Givi has lots of space inside to allow you to do this without affecting your use of the unit.

Givi GPS Case

The other con of this method of attachment is when you pull in anywhere you naturally want all this to be still on the bike when you come back. Taking the case off is quick enough, easily done in under a minute, but it is the putting back on which can take several minutes. I have no complaints over the quality of the product and I really like it, but for the average motorcycle I think it is less then ideal. Another problem was that no matter how I strapped in the GPS or padded the space behind it, I just could not use the touchscreen functions through the screen, I always ended up pressing several spots on the screen at the same time. Of course, you should not be playing with the GPS on the move but having to pull in, take off gloves and then take it out of the case in order to do any route adjustments was less then ideal. Which led to me looking around for an alternative.

Arkon GPS032

Arkon GPS Case

This is what led me to the Arkon case and mount. I have seen all the RAM units on the market, but I just did not want to spend that much money on something that might only be used on a few occasions over the year. The Arkon I thought was a bargain when I found it online and soon had it in the post to me.

Fitting this is a little bit more involved then the Givi, but all you do is fit the clamp to the handlebars and all the parts you need are included with case...well everything except a screwdriver. I found a suitable place on the handlebars to fit the handlebar mount, I had wanted to locate it on the crossbar on my handlebars but the mount does not tighten enough, though I am sure some padding could fix that which is something I might look into in the future. Having found a free space on the left hand side I fitted the mount, all of 5 mins, then soon was sliding on the case then making adjustments until I was happy and of course followed by the mandatory brew. Plugging in the power cable causes some problems as it is a very snug fit, and leaved the cases looking a little 'warped' but still fully usable.

Arkon GPS Case

Now the case does not look as waterproof as the Givi, but it is water 'resistant' and should give you amble time to pull off the bike if needed. Which is the other big plus with this case, in a petrol station or arriving at your destination you just slide the case off the mount and away you go. No fuss. No messing. Just 2 secs to slip off and then slip back on when you get on. The advantage with the position of the Givi case was that it always remained dry even when riding all day in rain as there is a nice cocoon behind the screen where the rain just would not get to it. The Arkon out on the handlebar might be be more open to the elements, so finding a way to mount on the crossbar will be on my to-do list before my next long trip.

Arkon GPS Case

Everybody's Free (To 'Make' Suncreens)

A common complaint of both units is that they both suffer from glare, if you know you are on a route for sometime this is not so much of a problem, but once you are in an unfamiliar town centre then quick glimpses at the GPS can be difficult and usually leaving you hoping for a red traffic light so you can use your hand to shade the screen and have a good look. I have already started to think about how to make some sort of sunscreen just to give some shade, but it would be nice to see makers start tweaking their offerings to make the end-users life that little bit easier, that is the whole point of purchasing these devices anyway.

Famous Last Words

My overall impression is that these make huge sense when you compare to the high-end motorcycle GPS units. A cheap GPS and a case similar to the ones above will cost a fraction of the price, which is especially important at the moment and due to the nature of this technology they will soon be out of date. If it was not for the GPS there are so many places I would not have ended up on my travels this year, I feel much more confident in 'going down that little road' and once I have done my exploring I just tell it to bring my home or to the nearest petrol station. No, you do not get the benefit of hearing the directions but I have always enjoyed reading a map so looking down at a screen now and then is no big deal and so what if you miss a turn, the GPS will get you to where you are going that is the point of it afterall.

I have posted various images of me fitting the units here so feel free to check them out. Also Givi have recently just released the Givi S950 case which seems to be more like what motorcyclists need though I note the lack of suncscreen... maybe next time.

As always, peace and keep the rubber side down.

Arkon GPS Case
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