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Sat Nav Leads To Learning

Blog Date 23 January 2023

Much to my dismay the company I work for closes for Christmas. Oh that's good? No, they use 3 (or 4) of your precious holiday days to close for Christmas, no free lunches here you know. I'd much rather work through the miserable period and use those 3 (or 4) days when I want to use them. But alas no, I have to be off work and be miserable with everyone else.

Those 3 (or 4) days are days wasted sat around at home watching godawful Christmas specials and feeling sick from eating too much chocolate. They ought to be used for riding motorcycles to interesting places. Well I've had enough, I can't take it any more, I'm gunna show 'em who's boss! I'm gunna ride the almost 600 mile round trip to see my father. In winter. Between Christmas and New Year. Yeah, that'll show 'em, they won't mess with me again.

Ren's 500 in the pretty town of Brosely near Ironbridge
Broseley, heading south before the storm.

A cunning and devious plan was hatched. Christmas Monday, see family here. Boxing day Tuesday with The Worshipful Ladyship Herself. Wednesday ride all the way to Dad's. Thursday and Friday at Dad's. Saturday ride halfway home stopping in a cheap Travelodge. Sunday, New Year's eve, back to Sharon's. Sorted and booked.

Aaah, natch. Dad calls advising to maybe hold off as Storm Gerrit is causing some havoc down there - don't come on Wednesday, come on Thursday it'll be calmer then. I'm ready for the off although I know my Dad will worry if I try to get there through the storm. The weather maps suggest I'll be OK to get south of Birmingham and luckily it seems Travelodge must be quiet, I find a cheap night in Alcester.

So on Wednesday I ride on A roads to Alcester in "typical" rain conditions until I get past Kidderminster when all hell breaks loose. It's not far to Alcester though and I'm soon safe in my cheap, warm, dry room. Thursday's ride to the south coast is a mixture of sunshine and rain with mild temperatures. Friday I'm at my Dad's place. Saturday is again sunshine and rain and mild temperatures to Nuneaton, Sunday much the same back to Sharon's. 

Loomies Cafe on a grey day as Ren rides south
Loomies - not far to go but I need a brew now.

Well that's an awful lot of exposition! Over Christmas I made a 600 mile trip and (finally getting to the point) I used very little motorway. This was possible due to Satellite Navigation. 

When I was despatching (eons ago) I had a top box filled with A-Z maps of various cities and towns. I'd ride to the town, stop, consult the A-Z which meant finding the street you are presently on, finding the street you are going to, working out a route, remembering the route, getting back on the bike and setting off, forgetting the route, stopping, consulting the A-Z once again and repeat. Endlessly. When it's raining and the A-Z is turning to mulch. So much fun!

I did develop an encyclopaedic knowledge of The North West and a strong sense of direction. Since the despatching days I have developed a good working knowledge of the UK's geography too, although far from encyclopaedic. I've been reluctant to take on Sat-Nav as I believe it leads to folks blindly going to places with no concept of where these places are, with no understanding of the relationships and layouts of road networks. I'm no Crocodile Dundee but I can feel my way around the UK because I've studied the maps. 

Many people will go up to London - it's not up it's down from here. I go across to Yorkshire and up to Scotland. When I'm in Scotland I go down back home. I know a million routes from my place to Sharon's. I don't fear being lost in The North West as even if I'm disorientated on a strange road down a random estate I'll soon stumble upon a sign to somewhere I recognise. To be honest it's the same for most of the UK, there will eventually be a signpost pointing towards something I can place on my mental map.

There's a but... there's always a but. 

I have on a few occasions tried self navigating home from father's across country rather than on the known main roads. I have tried and I have failed. Miserably. My knowledge of the south is insufficient to make sensible and reasonable progress in the right direction. I know and I am certain that I will get home, but the route is terribly convoluted and often leading away from my destination. I could make the journey without maps, but it would take far too long.

Rykas cafe with bikes outside between christmas and the new year
Rykas and a brew before I use a bit of motorway to get around London Village.

Alas and alack, I have now turned to the dark side. I am a regular Sat-Nav user like the rest of you plebs. I too shall loose all sense of direction and blindly follow the instructions of my digital overlords. I too shall soon forget which way is up. I too shall no longer understand that Kidderminster is "down and left from Birmingham", learning instead that it's "23.8 miles and 39 minutes" from Alcester.  

I am learning other things though. 

I had 4 riding days to cover 600 miles, approximately 150 miles per day. I had TIME to not use the motorways. I had Sat-Nav to guide me. As such I enjoyed, I mean thoroughly enjoyed 4 days of riding across country. I've seen villages and towns I'd never normally see. I've seen just how much of the UK is actually NOT a city or a town despite this being a very populous country. I've enjoyed sweeping bends and country lanes. 

All this was do-able without the frustration of wondering if I'm heading in the right direction. Heck, I even missed a few turnings and junctions and Sat-Nav just goes away for a moment, has a think, then comes right back at me with a route adjusted for my incompetence, and she doesn't even moan about it. Sat-Nav has made getting lost without being lost a whole lot easier.

Sat-Nav is a tool and it is far from perfect. Google maps' speed limits are oft times incorrect. We've all seen and heard of folks driving into rivers and through farmyards because the data is wrong. It can be VERY distracting looking at the little screen and not the road. It is a tool and like most tools it takes time and experience to understand it, work with it and perhaps become proficient with it.

I plan to keep on practicing my self navigation skills, to not become blindly dependant on the small screen. In fact Sat-Nav can help - I can go and practice my self navigation - get myself totally lost - then switch on Sat-Nav when I've had enough or need fuel or tea. I will permit Sat-Nav to become more involved with my riding, to be helpful when I desire it and to pull me out of the poop of my own creation when I thought I knew better. 

I am still ashamed that I have moved to the dark side.


Selling Sat-Navs? Advertise here - contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Reader's Comments

Upt'North ¹ said :-
As already reported here, just this last year I went to a dedicated Sat Nav on a bike for the first time.
I wasn't looking forward to it particularly, mainly because I seem to find where I'm going more often than not and I didn't want the distraction. I also may or may not be a luddite. I may also be cheap.
Er'Indoors fancied it though and it may just, " help to find a blummin hotel". Yes dear.
I had briefly used apps on the telecommunication device before but it was a PITA. The issues with the phone overheating and shutting off in the tank bag top pocket, battery life, data usage etc.
The Garmin is actually very good and I've learnt to pretty much ignore it until I get a noise in my ear which I may or may not understand, but then I look at the screen. Works OK. Especially as the screen is right infront of me at almost eye level.
The Sena headset is in my opinion part of the package, so much of the sat nav information is verbal, it seems a shame not to listen to it, but I can switch it off on the move easy enough if necessary, or for that matter back on. This can be done with gloves on the screen or on the headset itself.
I didn't think it would be fun removing it when I parked up (locks are available) but to be honest it takes around ten seconds to unclip it and put it away in its case.
I'm a convert.
Upt.

24/01/2024 16:52:56 UTC
nab301 said :-
Ren , what I generally do ( although Ireland luckily is a tad smaller than the UK) If planning a longish off piste trip is plan with a map , take a note of the road numbers, villages /towns I'll be travelling on/ through and when I get near my destination or get confused, switch on the (out of date) satnav . Failing that , consult the compass...
Tell me you didn't bring the tent with you on a hotel trip ( big yellow bag on the back!)
Nigel
24/01/2024 16:59:14 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I have had troubles with telecommunication devices overheating Upt', but "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." I keep on returning to the phone because these dedicated sat-navs have updates for life... and Garmin et al define life as 3 to 4 years(aka the "lifetime" of the nav).

I have gotten myself a rugged waterproof(ish) phone and a "not in a bag" bar mount for said phone. We shall see if overheating is still a problem... if I am ever lucky enough to actually experience some heat.

And as nab301 said I'll focus on using the sat-nav more as an assistant when required rather than a defacto method of getting there. Look at maps, look at street signs, make notes etc etc, but have the nav ready for when I've had enough.

As for the big bag nab301. That's the makeup and perfume bag, I've got to look my best in case I meet any of the adoring Batties out there. Actually with the bad forecast and being away for 5 days I'd brought A LOT of clothes with me so I could change if I got drenched. As it was I barely needed any of it but I had the space so it wasn't a problem.
25/01/2024 08:06:43 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
I'm with you both on the maps and paper thing, I would always carry a map, essential in my view.
But a phone ain't a sat nav, just as much as a sat nav ain't a phone. I've tried the phone thing and always had issues....did I say, I'm a luddite.
The problems with the phone overheating on several occasions was abroad and sometimes but not always in hot weather. The phone would have been in the top of the clear top bag cover facing uppards.
The phone was at best a slightly helpful bit of kit and at worst frustrating and useless.
At this time I don't envisage sitting down for the next 6 months plotting every turn from here to Palermo, infact I can categorically state I won't. But at the start of each trip the days destination if known would be entered as a just in case. The beauty of the nav, whether it being a phone or dedicated device is when you have that thought is this the B6789 to ballmullachorley or am I lost, again, one glance and you know. But of course the device needs to be on at that moment.
When you get as old as me you don't want to spend any time being lost, not unless there's a boozer handy at least. Stopping, getting the map out in the rain, turning the phone on, is data disabled, meh.
Upt.
25/01/2024 09:56:11 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Plus.....the cost.....sorry Ed.
What the Garmin and mount cost was a considered purchase. I aren't made of money you know! But after 12 months that's old money and would have been spent on some'at else anyway.
If you want to buy the cheapest sat nav out there and put it in a waterproof cover it would cost no more than a rugged phone, would it? You'll probably get a major brand car sat nav for less than a £100?
Upt.
Pffffffftttttt.
25/01/2024 10:03:59 UTC
Snod said :-
I notice Ren doesn't mention which model he's got or any details. Probably embarrassed by the cost. He knows we have standards and expectations on this sort of thing, and this is straying far from the holy psalms detailing how to make handguards out of old milk bottles.

But to try to bring this place back into the light, you can update the maps on Garmins for free using Open Street Maps and some handy online converters to make the gmapsupp.img file. My BMW Navigator II of 2007 vintage has fully updated maps on it right now. For free! Freely!!
25/01/2024 20:42:42 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
You've found me out Snod. I am a charlatan, a pretend reverse snob, in fact it's worse - I'm as posh as can be and a member of the landed gentry (my mortgage ends in 2026). I spent £160 on a new Doogee S61 Pro mobile phone. In my defence I needed a new phone but I do understand this is rather clutching at straws.

I did not know it was possible to do the map updates as you describe. Nor have I made any effort to find out. Much like a plumber's house is filled with dripping taps and the electrician's house has extensions on 4-ways and cracked faceplates, when you spend all day being technical there's norra lorra willpower left to work out sat-navs in the evening.

Waterproof covers Upt'. I've had poor experiences with phones and navs in anything with a clear plastic cover. If, perchance, the rain is here and the weather is cool or cold then condensation and misting is rife. It's fine on a pleasant day but we don't get a lot of those around here. Or anywhere else in the UK. Or in Europe. Is it me? Do I have my own raincloud following me or is it Madam Moisture's fault? It's probably best to blame Sharon.
26/01/2024 07:42:18 UTC

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