Category Archives: gadgets

It seems inevitable that adventure rides end up investing a completely disproportionate amount of time, money and frustration into their gadgets. Will we be happy when we can buy them all online for $25? I doubt it.

Not enough testing

The penny dropped yesterday: the USB power supply on my bike does not have enough juice to keep my phone going continuously. It is proper motorcycle unit, but obviously not a very good one.

This has caused me to lose a lot of GPS tracks and to get lost a few times.

I will modify it when I get home, but its a problem right now.

I need to find out the operating current of the Lumia 920 phone and make sure the USB power supply can provide that and a bit more, so i can recharge the battery and used the GPS apps at the same time.


Another problem with smartphones

Although my modified Otterbox does a reasonable job of keeping the Nokia dry when it rains, there’s a big problem.

The raindrops act on the touch screen as if it is being touched. So I get any random function. I did not want to get Play List when I was trying to navigate unknown roads in the pouring rain.

It’s very annoying when I’m trying to record a track or follow navigation. What’s even better than riding in the rain? Being lost while you are doing it!

Multiple gadget failures

I bought a new Drift Ghost sports cam but have not been able to take any video with it. The battery has failed and it will not even operate on USB power from the bike.

The Drift has a battery that is *nearly* the same as a popular battery that is used for many types of gadgets. I have two spares of those for my other sports cam. I suppose that is their business model – I have to buy an original Drift battery at many times the price. Which will be after I get home. Weak. Really weak.

So far I have ridden one segment that is different to my last trip so obviously I wanted to get a GPS log. I attempted to use Sports Tracker and GPX Viewer.

Sports Tacker stopped logging points when I backgrounded it to view a map. Pathetic. OK its free but I’d be delighted to pay if it was better thought out.

GPX Viewer just closed itself about three quarters of the way through. On some later routes it didn’t spontaneously close, bit it did often stop tracking. One of them happened at a bad time, with low fuel warning and approaching darkness.

Anyway I failed to record the new route. I only used these apps because there’s not a lot of choice on a Windows smartphone. I chose a Windows phone because it comes free with unlimited updates worldwide Nokia Here maps.

Gooseneck meets tank mount

The best place for a camera on my bike is in front of my body, above the tank. I’ve tried mounting down on the bars but I get too much of the instruments, plus the view is almost all through the windshield, which causes distortion.

I bought a tank filler mount online – advertised as fitting the Triumph Tiger, but it did not. The holes are in the wrong pattern. Anyway I don’t like the actual camera mount – it is too low.

I also bought a gooseneck on a suction pad. That was a failure too. The tank does not have any flat spots big enough to hold it. Very dangerous – the whole assembly would certainly go overboard.

So it’s a case of gooseneck, meet tank mount. I re-drilled the tank mount holes to fit, and cut off the useless bits. Have not tried it yet. I’m darned if I know why I can’t buy this online 😦


Smartphone apps: not ‘appy

Searching for a suitable GPS app has been the most frustrating part of preparation. I wanted something that can follow a track, record a track and capture waypoints. Preferably it should be able to do all of these things at the same time. The best I could do was two out of three.

And it has to be use Nokia maps – not Bing, Google, or whatever else. The reason is dead simple – Nokia maps can be downloaded in full, for free, for a whole country (or many countries) before the trip. No data downloads on the trip – this can be astronomically expensive, assuming that you can actually get a signal in the first place.

I would have paid for an app, no problem. In fact I wish there was a good commercial product. The few that do cost money are needlessly complicated and still lack the most basic functionality.

The two obvious things that I want to do are record a track and follow a track. I expect to see those functions on really big, bright outdoor-friendly buttons, on the home screen. Not buried in obscure menus.

I chose these app:

  • GPX Viewer – record and follow a GPX file, simultaneously if required. Uses Nokia maps – hooray! The map re-orientates to show current heading – a really obvious thing, but most apps don’t do it. I hope these guys continue development – I’d be happy to buy a license if it becomes commercial.
  • Sports Tracker – records a track in KML format, for easy upload to Google Maps. It uses Bing Maps for display but I don’t care because I only have it running in the background. I know from years of using this app that it can be flaky – it randomly jumps to a point hundreds of kilometers away, thus ruining the average speed calculation (you get a spike of 600 km/h, for example). This was a better product when Nokia first developed it and it used Nokia maps.
  • Pin Place – instantly captures a named pin, with optional notes. This can be uploaded to Google Maps.

Other apps that I tried:

  • Outdoor Navigation
  • GPS  & GPSX Logger
  • GPS Tracker & Recorder
  • Pin Loc
  • Geosense
  • GeoGPS
  • Road Tracks
  • GPS Track & Log
  • GPX Pathfinder
  • My Loc
  • Outdoor Navigation
  • Outdoor Tracker
  • A route tracker
  • GPS calculator
  • GPS GeoPin

Otterbox for Nokia Lumia 920: hacked

Otterbox seems to be the only product available for the Lumia 920, and even then it is only a “dustproof and shockproof” box, not waterproof. And worst of all it has not handlebar mounting option. Some serious hacking was required.

(Mr Otter if you ever get to read this, my version of your box is a lot more useful than yours! Please consider…)

1. I waterproofed the box by sealing up all of its (many) orifices. I put a USB cable in place, smeared it with olive oil and glued around that. So I can insert or remove the cable and it’s still a very snug fit.

2. I broke the silly belt clip of the bottom of the outer housing, and replaced it with a generic handlebar mount.

This setup has not been put on a bike yet. First time will be in Borneo.

Folding brake and clutch levers fitted.

Otterbox all glued up for waterproofing.

Belt clip removed and handlebar mount attached.

Belt clip removed and handlebar mount attached.

Gadgets, gadgets and more gadgets

My riding videos have been disappointing in the past. I really want to try and improve them this time. Here’s what I hope to have ready:

  • Drift HD Ghost mounted on a standoff from the tank (remote-controlled by pillion). I bought this because the remote control gives feedback about the status of the camera, including whether it is in standby, recording, and mode. With the previous camera, I never knew if I was starting or stopping it – no way to tell while riding (see next). Also bought an external mic which I plan to put under the pillion seat to try and cut down engine noise (cam gear etc).
  • Generic remote-controlled HD cam that can mount in a few places (crash bar, top box looking back, pannier looking forward). Video is OK but sound is pretty bad – it always picks up a lot of engine noise and wind noise. It has no video screen so I can only check the video by connecting to a computer (which I *never* take on trips).
  • Cheapie little fake Go Pro that will usually be hand-held by pillion, but can also mount on the windscreen facing back. Easy to use but the view is massive wide-angle. Personally I rarely want that.

Other gadgets:

  • Nokia Lumia with GPS apps – Sports Tracker for recording KML tracks, GPX Viewer for following my previous tracks, PinPlace for capturing pins with notes. Both tracks and pins will be added to the map during the trip.
  • BluAnt bluetooth headsets for rider-pillion intercom and rider-mobile phone interface.
  • USB adapters to power the Nokia and Drift sports cam from the bike’s 12V outlet.