Summer is here and that means plenty of motorcycling — and a motorcycle summer is worth any price. I love to explore the “roads less travelled” which were left behind to wither in the wake of the mighty (boring) Golden Quadrilateral and monotonous expressways. I want to ruminate in the shade of old pine forests, eat in rustic dhabas, and get as far away from the world of malls and multiplexes as I possibly can. Off highway means secondary roads, dirt and gravel roads, forest roads...you get the idea. Roads lead to places of interest. This allows me to explore strange new worlds...seek out new life and new civilizations...to boldly go...er, never mind.
Pathfinder: This simple, palm-sized device latches on to a GPS signal in a flash.
Anyway, it’s nice to have time to check out cool back roads and pull up to a solitary tea stall on a high windswept pass for a simple cup of tea without all that Darjeeling-Jasmine-Tulsi crap in it.
Once upon a time, I always wanted my bikes to stand out in a crowd and leave the punters behind out on the roads that mattered. When you watch motorcycle commercials on television, these are the essential themes. But, for some reason, I seem to have gotten over that. Today, I want my bike to be capable of transporting me over varied terrain for long distances with as little drama as possible. The stock Royal Enfield Machismo 500 is a good basic platform for this. You want simplicity? One cylinder, one carburettor, one spark plug. How’s that for a Zen motorbike?
Himachal Pradesh is one of the best states to go riding off-highway on a motorcycle with its spider web of back roads snaking through hilly forested roads, apple orchards in full bloom and bare mountain ridges that still had snow this time of the year. This was a perfect trip to check out the Garmin GPSMAP 76CSx device to plot and mark my route for future reference. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how this rugged little GPS device works. In its sturdy yet lightweight waterproof housing, the 76CSx features a large, bright, sunlight-readable colour TFT display, plus expandible microSD card memory slot, electronic compass and a barometric altimeter. The GPSMAP 76CSx is built to handle nature, which means that it can be held a metre underwater for 30 minutes without problems and, if dropped in water, it floats. Needless to say, as this was a loan unit from a friend, I did not verify that. The unit fits quite nicely into the palm of your hand and is controlled by a small four-way rocker pad surrounded by eight function buttons. On the back of the receiver, there is the quarter turn battery locking mechanism hiding the two AA-sized batteries, and it is possible to use rechargeable cells.
Well, the first thing to do was get a satellite fix. Being used to other units, I put some fresh batteries in the receiver stuck it on the petrol tank and went to get a cup of tea. I was surprised to find that the receiver had managed to acquire satellites in the minute or so that I was away. This became a common theme throughout my experience with the 76CSx. In the morning, I would place it in the open, and before I had started the bike I normally had a fix, an average of 7-20 seconds, even when it had been turned off overnight. The longest it took to get a satellite fix was about a minute, which did concern me a bit despite the very heavily overcast weather. The reason became apparent pretty soon after though, as the batteries had been exhausted. With fresh batteries in the unit, I got a fix within 15 seconds.
Holding a fix is just as important as getting the first fix, and here the Garmin excelled. The GPSMAP 76CSx features a highly sensitive GPS receiver that not only acquires and processes satellite signals super fast, but is sensitive enough to track your location in difficult conditions, such as dense forests and deep valleys of the roads that I was riding.
The 76CSx is a WAAS device. WAAS stands for wide area augmentation system. It’s a system of satellites and ground stations that provide GPS signal corrections, giving you even better position accuracy. How much better? Try an average of up to five times better. A Waas-capable receiver can give you a position accuracy of better than 3m, 95% of the time, and you don’t have to purchase additional receiving equipment or pay service fees to utilize WAAS. You can find out more about WAAS at www.garmin.com/aboutGPS/waas.html
The unit’s barometric altimeter system provides current elevation, ascent/descent rate, minimum/maximum elevation, total ascent/descent, and average and maximum ascent/descent rate—all fun stuff to pore over after a day’s ride. Meanwhile, the electronic compass allows you to get accurate headings while standing still, and I could see that the high north-facing slope of Jalori Pass had much more snow. Map data, routes and waypoints can be transferred through the unit’s fast USB connection. The trip computer provides odometer, stopped time, moving average, total time, max speed, and lets you retrace your path in both directions.
As you ride along, the GPS unit automatically tracks your journey in a “track log”. Think of a track log like a bread crumb trail of where you’ve been. If you want to travel back on the same path, simply activate the Tracbac feature and the unit will look at your track log and automatically create a reverse route that will take you back where you started.
The Garmin GPSMAP 76CSx is available from www.gpsindia.net for Rs34,580 plus taxes, bundled with an Indian basemap and a 1GB microSD card.
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