The Testing Ground

 

   
   

We are testing lots Motoring Gadgets... .

 

 This is probably the best book currently available to help you avoid points, fines and bans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the Testing Ground.
This section of the Speedtrap Bible was opened to the general public in February 2000 and last updated March 1st 2011.

The idea is that we test as much "anti-speedtrap" and related motoring equipment as we can get my hands on.

Recents Tests:

In Car Video - Smart Witness review

Motorcycle Satellite Navigation Review - Garmin 220 vs Garmin 550 vs Sygic Mobile Maps on Nokia N900

 

In Car Video Camera Review

Smart Witness Review

Last year I was driving down a country lane and as a car was coming the other way I pulled into a gateway to let it pass. Sadly the other driver was not paying attention and ending up braking and skidding into me. Even though I had a witness in my car the insurance company hovered around a 50/50 blame as the other driver made up another story. Eventually after much hassle I did get it sorted out but it inspired me to look and see if any solutions to this existed.

The conclusion was that the only thing that would prove your case was an incar video. I tried a few offferings from Ebay, but they were hopeless and then I found the Smart Witness Journey Recorder. I have used it now for a few thousand miles (without any crashes) and have found it to be excellent and very cleverly thought out. It is a small video camera about the size of a cotton reel that attaches to your winscreen and runs from the cars 12v supply.

You can either set it to record everything or only turn on when its G sensors think you are about to have a crash. It records the video to an included 2GB SD memory card and depending upon the resolution selected will keep many hours of video. You can set it to overwrite the oldest recordings so it then just keeps running for ever. Now this by itself is quite clever, but it also comes with excellent software. In addition to videoing your journey it also tracks your progress via its built in GPS and attaches this information to the video. You can transfer the video to your PC with an included memory card reader and then play it back. It plays the video in one window and the related location and progress in another window as a map or Google Earth map. It shows GPS measured speed and also the input from the "G" sensors showing acceleration/deceleration and lateral forces as you can see below.

As it also tracks your speed via GPS it could also be of great use if you were falsely accused of speeding as you could look back and see exactly how fast you were going and a have GPS and video evidence to prove it. It also has a format button on it incase you need to wipe the card of all videos.

In addition to all of the mundane reasons for having it, you also have a video record of all of your favorite roads and drives and will no doubt be able to fill YouTube will all sorts of stuff that you encounter.

Overall I have been very inpressed by this and it now is permanently fitted to my car.

If you have an accident and do not have an external witness then its likely that your insurance company will charge you an excess of £200+ when they take the 50/50 blame approach - regardless of what you have to say. You will also lose your no claims discount and your insurance will increase. Considering all of this and having experienced it, I think the Smart Witness is an excellent addition for you and your car.

 

 

 

Castle Cover

 

Motorcycle Satellite Navigation Review – July 2010

Garmin 220 vs Garmin 550 vs Sygic Mobile Maps on Nokia N900

You can read the full review below or on its own dedicated more detailed page, click on the link below

Motorcycle Satellite Navigation Review Garmin 220 vs Garmin 550 vs Sygic Mobile Maps.html

We are now also testing generic GPS Navigation Systems as most of these now have integrated location based speed trap warning capability. We have now extended our approach to testing units and as they get more complex they need more than a few minutes to give a real world review. Many reviews on the web (and in magazines) seem to be based upon very little real experience of actually using the thing. We feel that if we are to give a fair and balanced "real" view, then we need to really use it thoroughly and hence for our first GPS test we took the units on a 3,000+ mile trip around Europe to see how well they actually work - the results were surprising.

Satellite Navigation systems for motorcycles have started to appear on the market over the last couple of years and they tend to be identical to the normal car systems, just housed in a waterproof/shockproof case. Accordingly all of the comments for these dedicated motorcycle products will also apply to the car only versions as the base system underneath is the same.
We tested a Garmin Zumo 220 and a Garmin Zumo 550 – both dedicated motorcycle systems. We also tried an alternative approach of using a new Smartphone that you can run navigation on – we used a Nokia N900 with Sygic Mobile Maps software version 9. We asked to review a TomTom unit, but apparently none were available for our tests.
The Zumo 220 costs around £400, the Zumo 550 around £520 and the Sygic software is just 80 Euro’s or about £70. The Sygic software obviously needs a Smartphone to run on and as it seems to work on every common phone we have not factored in the cost of the phone in this review – as we assume you already have a mobile. All of Sygics supported phones are listed here

Garmin 220


We installed the Zumo 220 on a Ducati 848 and the 550 was installed on a £42,000 Ducati Desmosedici RR. They were mounted using Techmounts excellently engineered and beautifully made alloy mountings which were about £80 each. As neither device would run a full day on its own battery (550- c3.5 hours and 220-c6.5 hours) they were then wired into the bikes electrics to keep them fully charged and powered.

Garmin 550

With the Zumo 220 wired into a new Ducati 848 we discovered that if you left the 220 connected overnight and charging from the bikes battery, that in the morning the bike would have a flat battery. We never did work out why such a small unit could manage to drain a bike battery.

The Sygic software went onto a Nokia N900 which was mounted on a Ducati 984 special. As Techmount didn’t do a mount for this bike and a Nokia N900 phone is not waterproof we had to be a little more inventive. Trying to find a tough waterproof phone sized case with a clear top took a considerable trawl of the web, but eventually with a little patience we discovered Peli Cases and one they make for an iPhone that with a bit of fiddling would take the Nokia. With the Nokia fully charged we were getting around 1.5 to 2 hours of navigation out of it before the battery drained down so we needed to be able to charge it from the bikes electrics. After ten minutes of trying to work out the circuitry and connectors we would need to build to go from the bikes 12v to the phones 5v and micro USB input, we cheated and for £20 bought one ready made from
http://www.powerlinkproducts.co.uk/bikechargers.html

 All of them then did hundreds of miles in the UK whilst we all got the hang of their menu systems and how best to use them. Whilst the Zumo users come from a technical background, both had to contact Garmin’s tech support to work out some of the functions that just were not very easy to understand. Garmin’s technical support turned out to be very helpful, though it did take a few calls to become comfortable with the units and finding everything in the menu’s. The 220 and the 550 have the same basic functions, same size screen and as far as we could see exactly the same navigational functions, so we never managed to work out why the 550 costs £120 more than the 220. The 220 does not have the ability to play MP3’s which the 550 can, the 220 lasts much longer on its battery (almost twice) than the 550. The 550 can store 50 routes internally and the 220 needs to use a memory card to match this, but memory cards are now very cheap.

All of the units give you the same bird’s eye view of the route and display it in a 2 or 3d format with ample warning of forthcoming junctions and which exit to take at roundabouts. They will also tell you the route as you go, although on a motorcycle you will need to listen via headphones. As all of us wear earplugs to protect our hearing from the wind noise and the Ducati’s rumble. The standard headphones for phones and MP3 players are not an ideal fit under helmets and don’t cut out the background noise so a couple of the group had bespoke moulded earplugs made that had inbuilt mini speakers so that we could use the spoken directions and the onscreen ones. To avoid having wires trailing everywhere we used a Bluetooth connection from the units to the headsets. This seemed to work fine when out in the wilds, but when we arrived in built up areas we almost always lost the Bluetooth connections on the Zumos and the Nokia. The Nokia N900 (not the Map software) seems to have as yet unfixed bug where it will drop its Bluetooth connection after a while and from our experience so does the Zumo. So it would appear that relying on audio to navigate is not too reliable, but the on screen directions are perfectly useable and the clarity of a picture is better than a thousand words anyay.

So after the initial UK testing we set off to test them all thoroughly by using them for a 3,000 mile ride from the UK down to south of Florence in Italy, then up to Lake Como and though Switzerland and back through France to the UK.

The majority of Sat Navs are used for a simple get me from A to B needs, where the driver just wants the quickest and easiest route and is happy to take in motorways or whatever the Sat Nav decides. All of the devices tested can easily be instructed to take you to an address or postcode with just a minute or so of tapping on the screen. They can be told to avoid motorways, toll roads etc but this simple routing will still leave the exact route for the Sat Nav to dictate. Now this may be fine for most users but if you ride a motorcycle for fun, you will probably want to take in the twistiest route to your destination that avoids towns and low speed limits. Whilst all the solutions can be programmed to create a route avoiding motorways, none of them have an option for taking you from A to B via the most enjoyable roads. This then means that you have to manually choose your roads and then manually enter the route into the system to force it to take the roads that you want. To do this you create Way Points – exact spots on the map that you want to be guided to and pass by.

The main initial difference between the Zumo’s and the Sygic is that the Zumo’s allow you to plan a route on a computer and then download this to the Nav unit. If you are planning a route at home then this is easy as you will have easy access to a PC, but if you are off on a holiday then it forces you to take a laptop with you. You can create routes from scratch on both Zumo’s but it’s a bit of a messy and time consuming process. The Sygic Mobile Maps does not connect to a computer for route planning and accordingly is designed to be much easier to plan a route on it directly. Creating a manual route on the Zumo’s that cover c200 miles and go via 15 chosen waypoints was taking us around 25 minutes on the Zumo’s without using a laptop and just under 10 minutes with the Mobile Maps on the N900. It takes a while as you have to zoom right down to street level as if you add a waypoint you will be routed to it and if you have not zoomed down enough to see the detail of the road you may have added the waypoint on the opposite side of a dual carriageway for example and the system will do as its told and take you back down the road on the other side to ensure you pass your requested waypoint.

Nokia900

If you do not want to go to the trouble of using a hard casing, one of these soft cases will also work and its much easier to install with just Velocro.



Before we left the UK we all added in our Hotel locations into the units and put in the detail of a couple of routes. Our first journey was from Guildford (south west of London) to the AutoRail station in the centre of Paris. Riding into the centre of Paris in rush hour during a terrorist alert and subsequent traffic Armageddon turned out to be a baptism of fire for the Garmin’s which we let lead this section of the journey. Whilst the route had been created on one Garmin and then shared onto the other, as we approached the infamous inner city ring road – the Périphérique the Garmin units started to disagree with one another as to which turns to take. Luckily this only happened a couple of miles from the station and a sign for the station appeared and we ignored the Garmin’s and followed the signposts to the station. The next morning we woke up in Nice in glorious sunshine and the Garmin’s took us out of the city to the motorway easily and without incident and onto the dual carriageway that twists its way in and out of the tunnels as it snakes around the Mediterranean as we headed for the picturesque town of Santa Margherita Ligure on the coast. The Garmin units did not seem to handle the tunnels too well as they lost the satellite signal and seems to revert to a previous location and stopped giving immediate directions until they had reconnected with the satellite and decided where it was. If you had a junction either in a tunnel or just after it then the Garmins would probably still be resetting and of little use. The Nokia displayed a tunnel symbol when it entered a tunnel and then assumed that you were travelling at the speed limit (when it had no satellite connection) to continue to track your location and give you directions. When you emerged from the tunnel it then made any corrections, which were tiny and of no consequence. I would have expected the Garmin’s as dedicated units to have handled this better, but they did not and it’s of little help to your navigation whilst the units reset themselves as they reacquired the satellites. So Mobile Maps and the Nokia wins the dealing with tunnels test. Santa Margherita is an ancient city with a maze of small clogged streets and we let the 550 lead us to the Hotel via 25 minutes of small roads after we came off the motorway. It took us to a tiny street and told us we had arrived, but sadly no sign of the Hotel. We needed to ask a local girl and get some directions to find it as it was still a couple of minutes away. We had the correct address in the system so the Garmin only did 95% of its job. When it is a very hot day and you are stuck in dense traffic in full biking leathers and your sat nav fails, so does your sense of humour. The next day was a 200 mile blast to a Hotel in Poggioa Caiano on the outskirts of Prato and near to Florence. Half way through the route we lost a couple of our group and we headed on following the sat navs and they reverted to paper maps. They got a little lost once they had left the main roads and the rest of the route was all towns and industrial areas, but they were only about 60 minutes behind us arriving.

We stayed at this Hotel for a few days for the MotoGP and to go exploring the local mountain roads. If the Garmin’s guided us out of the built up areas we always seemed to be guided along highly congested roads for the 10 ish miles until we had cleared the built up areas. The Mobile Maps navigation took us down little empty back roads and avoided almost all the traffic – which was much better. I expected the dedicated Garmin’s to be more intelligent in their route planning, but they seemed to always take the most direct route and took no account of how congested it would be. 2:0 to Mobile Maps.

The Garmin’s also had a very annoying habit of deciding to recalculate the route at exactly the wrong time. You would be following their guidance into a town and exactly following the route they proposed and then suddenly as you came to a junction it would tell you it was recalculating the route and you would have no idea which way to go. With all three devices running when one Garmin had a meltdown the rider would wave the next Nav equipped bike past to take over. If you only had one unit then this would be maddening as you would be lost until the Garmin decided to sort itself out. The Mobile Maps unit did not misbehave like this and gave constant directions. 3:0 to Mobile Maps.

We had paper maps of the whole area that we used to search out the best looking twisty roads, whoever these were a poor indication of whether the area would be rural or built up – essential when planning a good biking route. The Garmin’s did not provide much help, but the Mobile Maps had simple colour coding for whether it was open countryside (green) or built up. This proved to be very useful as we could take twisty roads right up to the end of the good open country sections and then divert away from built up back onto the better biking roads. 4:0 Mobile Maps. The SP566 east of Florence is quite excellent. On one ride out we used the 550 to lead us out and it became totally confused and kept directing us the wrong way and after 30 minutes took us back past where we had started and 20 minutes the wrong way. After that we stopped and used the Mobile Maps to get us back on track.

We used Mobile Maps to take us out of Prato and up to Bologna and had to go via the S65 – The Futa Pass as its one of Ducati’s test routes. Mobile Maps took us via empty back roads to the Autostrada/Motorway and then a short hop north to clear the built up sprawl and off towards the Futa. As we came off the Autostrada its directions seemed to disagree with the signposts, but I trusted it and we were soon on the endlessly twisty Futa. More a Super Moto road than a Superbike road – but excellent fun anyway. I planned to stop and let everyone catch up just as the Futa fun ended and Bologna outskirts started. The mapping was spot on with the boundary of green (fun!) and built up (not fun). We continued to use Mobile Maps to guide us into the medieval city of Bologna and as we headed in on the main road with the city signed straight ahead, Mobile Maps directed us off the main road and down a series of small lanes – many not much more than a van wide. We continued snaking down these for a few minutes with the display counting down how far our destination was. We had chosen to stay in a Hotel in the dead centre of the city, in the main cathedral square – Piazza Maggiore. I have been to Bologna before and it’s a huge sprawling city so as the system told me we were just 3 miles from the city centre, then less than 2 miles and we were still on small empty little country lanes, I started to wonder if it had lost the plot. It had not and as we crested a little hill the city lay below us and we coasted down a long empty straight road to enter the proper city traffic. I was very impressed that it chose this empty, relaxing and traffic free route in. It was the sort of route that only a local would know. With less than half a mile to go it had a moment and directed us up a one way street the wrong way, but as the street was empty and it was Italy we went up it and emerged next to a police car that took no notice of 5 motorcycles coming out of a one way street the wrong way and we carried on following its directions in 37 degree heat and heavy traffic. A few minutes later it told me we had arrived and yet there was no sign of the Hotel. A little frustrating and we stopped to see where we were and it turned out we were on the edge of the cathedral square and just 30 seconds from the Hotel. The square is closed to vehicles so maybe that is as close as it could get.

The next day we used Mobile Maps to guide us out of the city and all the systems encountered the same issue on one section of the old city. The streets are very narrow and the buildings many stories tall and so all the units struggled to lock onto satellites for almost a minute and then sorted themselves out as the skyline opened up a bit. Apart from this glitch, Mobile Maps took us to the nearest Autostrada junction to get us clear of the northern city sprawl as quickly as possible. After a fuel stop the Garmin’s were used and as we approached the outskirts of Padova, the lead bike took us off the Autostrada and onto a slowish ring road. The other Garmin and Mobile Maps had wanted to direct us around Padova via the Autostrada. As both Garmin’s had the same route programmed in (exactly the same – copied from one to the other) we never did work out why they disagreed – all the other settings matched also. The Garmin’s then took us via a very slow and heavily trafficked road to the door of the next hotel. The Mobile Maps kept proposing an alternative route, but we stuck with the Garmin’s.

The rest of the trip continued to show the benefits of using GPS units and also the frustrations of when they do not do as you want. All of the units seemed to have a complete list of all of the speed trap locations in every country we visited and would give a visible and audio warning of the approach and would give a clear concise countdown to the next change of route – they were all simple to understand.

Conclusions
The Garmin 220 and 550 units are for all practical purposes the same functionality and will both get the job done, although in 3,000 miles you can expect to shout at them quite a few times as they will lose the plot and become quite frustrating. If you factor in how long it takes to program them without a PC/Mac then you won’t be far behind just using a paper map with a printout of a city centre to guide you to a final destination. If you always plan to create your route on a PC and then download to the unit then they are quite easy to use, but if you are away on a long trip and need to plan/change routes directly onto the unit itself, then it’s fiddly and frustrating and remember we used them every day for thousands of miles. If you only use them occasionally it can be frustrating remembering how to use them especially if you want to force them to take the exact route you want. At £400-£520 each they are not cheap and especially once you add in the Techmouns, you are in the £500/£600 range.
We initially tried the Sygic Mobile Maps on a mobile phone, thinking that it would not really compare to a “real” sat nav and we were wrong. It is just a 1/10th of the cost of the Garmin’s and from our experience it does a better job than either the 220 or 550. It seems to take a more intelligent route in cities and avoids obvious traffic hotspots and whilst both Garmin’s ground to a halt the Sygic Mobile Maps was always giving directions that made sense. As you are unlikely to be taking a laptop on a bike, its ability to easily program routes directly make it a very good alternative for a Garmin and supporting laptop. We were more than surprised by how good it was. We did have to find a waterproof case to house it in and mount it to the bike, but having used all three for over 3,000 miles of England, France, Italy and Switzerland the Sygic Mobile Maps on a Nokia N900 is the best of the three solutions we tried. The only area we could see for improvement would be if it would work in portrait mode so that you could have a longer view of the route ahead, be able to easily import/export routes to other types of GPS and have a louder audio warning for approaching speed traps. The portrait function has now been added and we have found a few free conversion utilities on the web for getting routes in and out in various formats. I am sure the louder warning will be coming as the manufacturers seem very responsive to feedback.
We think the days of the dedicated GPS unit are numbered as more and more Smartphones have inbuilt GPS and excellent screens – why buy a £500 GPS unit that can only do one thing when you can use your more powerful phone to do the same for a fraction of the cost.

 

If you already have a smartphone and can be a bit creative in making a waterproof housing (as above), then we suggest you try Mobile Maps on your mobile. We were very impressed and its now a permanent fixture on the Ducati.


If you are looking at using navigation on your mobile phone, we can recommend the Sygic Mobile Maps. It comes with 2GB of maps and data so unlike some other phone navigation it is not downloading maps (very expensively) as you move – it has everything it needs built in. So impressed were we by the performance of the Sygic Mobile Maps on the Nokia N900 that we are keeping both of them now as our benchmark unit.
In car. We have tried the Sygic Mobile Maps in a car, simply powered by a cigar lighter and it works equally well and seems to have even the tiniest roads in its memory.
The Nokia N900. This is a very powerful multitasking Smartphone with a slide out qwerty keyboard. Before we set off we wondered if a phone would survive 3,000 miles of being attached to a motorcycle and exposed to extreme vibration and heat – perhaps not an ideal environment for a mobile phone. It was flawless and itself a very impressive bit of kit, it is packed with clever functionality.


Copyright © Paul Gander 1995 - 2011
This site and all contents unless otherwise noted are copyrighted. The author will respond expeditiously to any intellectual property infringement.Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Paul Gander is prohibited.
Click here for full legal and copyright details pertaining to the Speedtrap Bible.
All rights reserved. [http://www.speed-trap.net] [http://www.speed-trap.co.uk]

 

This is probably the best book currently available to help you avoid points, fines and bans.

 

 

 

This is probably the best book currently available to help you avoid points, fines and bans.

 

 

 

This is probably the best book currently available to help you avoid points, fines and bans.

 

 

 

This is probably the best book currently available to help you avoid points, fines and bans.

 

 

 

This is probably the best book currently available to help you avoid points, fines and bans.

 

 

 

This is probably the best book currently available to help you avoid points, fines and bans.