Guest Author - Michael Moses
Since moving to Kentucky last year, Iíve had a few issues with the wonderful back roads. Yes, they do provide an excellent ride with beautiful green scenery, curves, and lots of small towns with friendly people, however, there does not seem to be much logic in how they are laid out; or more directly, Iím constantly getting lost. I canít tell you how many times I thought I was traveling north, but in reality I was going South, East or West. My darling wife (and your very competent motorcycle editor) fixed this dilemma this past Christmas by buying me the Zumo 550 GPS unit for my bike. This is an outstanding GPS, as it is specifically made for motorcycles (yes, there is a little bike on the screen instead of a car) plus it also is upgradable for XM/Sirious satellite radio and is Bluetooth capable so you know when someone is trying to contact you (very important as I tend to lose track of time while riding).
Iím very mechanically inclined, but as far as my bike goes I generally leave most maintenance issues up to qualified motorcycle technicians. Installing the GPS was no different. I obtained estimates from a few Harley dealerships on what it would cost to hook this beauty up and it looked like it would be around $200 no matter where it was done. Nancy kept on my case that I could easily do this, but I stood fast on my decision to have professionals do the installation. That is until she showed me some of the input from other Zumo owners on aZumo blog. After reading many of the blog reports of successful installation of the Zumo GPS and details of how to overcome just about every problem that arose, I started to understand that this was not ďrocket scienceĒ and that this was something that I could do and that anyone could do.
There were even detailed instructions to install this GPS on a Harley Ultra Classic, the very same bike as mine. Based upon the blog articles, I did order a few optional accessories, but as soon as these were delivered, I handled the install with great success and satisfaction.
Iíll briefly go over the process I used on my ultra with the hopes that others find it useful. Since I have a cigarette lighter on my faring, this is the ideal place to hook for power for the unit. This way, the unit only gets power when the ignition or accessories are activated and it is much easier than running wires under the tank to the battery. This requires that you unfasten the outer faring. There is no need to completely remove the faring, as you have plenty of space between the two halves to work with. Be sure to connect the positive wire to the wire going to the center lighter terminal. I peeled back the wire insulation and soldered the GPS wires to the lighter wires to ensure that they did not separate due to vibration, etc. I ran the wires through the handle bar grommets to the handle bar GPS mount. So much for the hard part. For the mount, I chose to upgrade the RAM mount that came with the unit from a 3Ē shaft to a 6Ē shaft so that the unit would be above my gauges and not hide them. I also chose to change the tightening handle to a lockable handle to discourage thieves. Basically, that all there was to it.
I now had the GPS installed, wired, and ready to download maps.
I did purchase the XM radio accessory for my Zumo 550 that is basically an antenna that attaches to the GPS unit. The bad part was the size of this antenna, which was basically a 3Ē round disk about 1Ē thick. I was upset that I would have to mount this unsightly accessory on the chrome on my bike. Adding to my displeasure was the fact that someone could easily steal the antenna and I would be out over $100. Fear not, the Zumo blog came through again. Seems like this issue was already experienced and the blog writers had the answer.
I mounted the antenna inside the faring by placing it in top of the radio using its magnetic base. The blog also suggested that I place some silicone caulk at the edges to ensure that it would not move around. Placing the wires through the handle bar grommets as I did with the GPS power wires and I was done. One last modification that I did was to order the smaller cable to connect the GPS unit to my auxiliary radio input so I could hear the XM radio and GPS instructions from my bikeís speakers. After refastening the outer faring, I was done!
This whole process took me about an hour and a half. This was with me re-reading the blog and Garmin instructions many times and taking it slow and easy to ensure that I didnít mess anything up. The process did not take any unique skills or knowledge of motorcycle mechanics and the only tools I needed was a Phillips screwdriver, a torque screwdriver (both for the faring screws), a soldering gun and tape for the wires, a small amount of silicone caulk, and a couple cable ties to secure the wires on the handle bar. I would say that just about anyone could install a GPS on their motorcycle using the information from the Zumo blog and in turn save that $200 for some nifty chrome.
Update Ė Iíve been on numerous rides since installing my Zumo 550 GPS and I got to say that itís probably one of the best decisions I have ever made. I now know where Iím going and know how to get back home, so Iím not afraid to go down that little back road or ride for hours without seeing any towns. The XM radio works great and I no longer have to fiddle to find regular radio stations when they fad out. (The GPS also works great in the car using the supplied car mount.) Lastly with the Bluetooth capability, I know when my lovely biker-wife is trying to reach me (hmmm - maybe I didn't need the bluetooth) as I ride the country side for hours on end. This set-up was not one of our cheapest purchases, but I would recommend it to anyone as it is worth every penny.
Mike (biker chics husband)