Introduction: Motorcycle GPS

Picture of Motorcycle GPS

Putting the parts together for a GPS navigation system on a motorcycle.

Step 1: Motivation

Picture of Motivation

I wanted a GPS navigation system on my motorcycle for road trips and for finding unfamiliar addresses. There are some dedicated systems out there (like the TomTom Rider), but I thought it would be cheaper and more fun to assemble one on my own.

I already had a capable PDA that could serve as a host. Getting a GPS receiver that works with it was easy. The main questions remaining:

1. How do I securely attach the PDA to the motorcyle?
2. How do I provide power to the PDA for long trips?

Step 2: Handlebar Mount

Picture of Handlebar Mount

I wanted to put the GPS system on my handlebars, rather than on top of my tank or inside the windscreen (my bike has no windscreen). There are a variety of mounting systems that clamp on to the handlebars, but I liked the look of the RAM ball-and-socket mounting system.

I chose a mount that screws into the clutch lever clamp, rather than one that clamps on to the handlebar tube itself. It would also have worked on the brake lever, but I'd rather mess around with my (wire-activated) clutch than my (hydraulic) brakes.

It was a simple matter of removing the bolts holding together the two sides of the clutch mount and bolting the ball attachment in with the supplied bolts and plastic standoffs.

Step 3: Securing the PDA

Picture of Securing the PDA

The mounting system worked well. Attaching the ball to the handlebars was easy, and it was a snap to add and remove the platform that holds the PDA. However, RAM doesn't make a holder for my particular PDA. I got one that looked like it would be a little more secure than the one RAM recommended.

It turned out that my PDA was a little too thick for the holder to grip properly, especially with a protective skin case on (which is probably why RAM recommends the other). The spring-loaded grippers held pretty well, but I could get them to slip by pulling the PDA pretty hard.

It's hard to imagine the wind or acceleration pulling that hard, but I decided to be extra careful, and cast about for a way to further secure the PDA. Ennui to the rescue! Those trendy bracelets are strong rubber bands that happen to be exactly the right size.

Step 4: Power

Picture of Power

The handlebar-mounted GPS system worked well. However, my PDA's battery will only last about three hours with bluetooth and the screen on constantly. Happily I'll be sitting right on top of a capable generator and battery. The only trick is getting access to them.

My bike didn't come with a cigarette lighter socket for plugging in accessories, so I decided to add one. I got a kit that included the proper socket and a nice in-line fusebox. I attached the kit directly to the battery, hiding the fuse just under the tank, and putting the actual socket in some of the empty space under the bike's seat.

One thing to be aware of: since the lighter socket is wired directly into the battery, it's on even when the bike isn't. Leave something plugged in too long while the bike isn't running, and you may be push-starting your bike.

I got a long, straight charging cable for my PDA and ran it under the fuel tank. I may need to put a small plastic bag over the connector when I leave the bike outside.


erikwillke (author)2008-10-22

Very nice instructable. Before I saw yours I made an instructable about almost the same thing but using a Garmin 60C. I also made the mount before I saw that RAM made one for bikes. I just bought one I could modify off the shelf. I didn't add power because I didn't have any good ideas. Now I have one. Thanks.

abadfart (author)erikwillke2011-01-27

how did you make your bracket im looking for one for my zune so i can have music on long trips

aneel (author)abadfart2011-01-27

I used RAM Mounts

eldert (author)2009-05-01

I know this is old but I like the battery charger idea, I want to try it on my 919. Only question I have is since the relay/fuse box is under the seat, is there any reason you didn't hook into that so you can have it shut off with the key?

aneel (author)eldert2009-05-01

Are you asking about scwirral's comment about the trickle charger? It seems like you wouldn't want a trickle charger to be turned off when you turn off the key. If you're asking about keeping a device's battery charged, I didn't wire into the fuse box because I didn't see an appropriate circuit in the wiring diagram, and was a bit skittish about messing with the bike's electrical system. Now that the bike has aftermarket turn signals and electric hand warmers, I'm less skittish. When I install my next GPS (probably an off-the-shelf motorcycle-specific unit like a Garmin Zumo), I'll probably wire into the brake light circuit.

waka waka (author)2008-11-18

what pda did u use

aneel (author)waka waka2008-11-18

That one was a Treo 650.

Derin (author)2008-07-28

mine is a 76S

scwirral (author)2008-04-25

I've wired a cigarette lighter type accessory socket to my CBR900RR. It is on a permanent live straight to the battery (with a fuse) by choice, because I have compatible plug wired to my trickle charger. In the garage the same socket, stashed under the lockable pillion seat is much easier to access than the battery terminals which need the rider's seat removing to reach them.

mscalora (author)2006-10-10

If you don't have GPS already, the Garmin GPSMAP 60C series is great for bikes, ATVs, etc. It is water resistant and they sell both power cables and handlebar mounts. Best of all the display gets even brighter in direct sunlight. Many GPS/PDA screens are just about unreadable in direct sunlight. -Mike

Code128 (author)2006-04-30

If you search around in your fuse box you should be able to find an Accessory circuit that is only powered when you have the bike started. Then you wouldn't have to worry about draining your battery. Also you might want to change out the cigarette lighter adaptor to something smaller like a molex connector or one of those double prong setups that all the heated clothing uses. Then you could tap in a few different items as needed. Cool setup! Keep riding!!

aneel (author)Code1282006-04-30

I looked at the wiring diagram and poked around the fuse box a bit, and didn't find an accessory circuit for my bike. Unfortunate. That would certainly be a better idea than relying on the rider to remember. I'll have to consider whether I can wire into one of the other circuits.

violin (author)aneel2006-04-30

Perhaps use a relay on the circuit for the lights?

aneel (author)Code1282006-04-30

Yeah, there are a bunch of connector choices. I went with the cigarette lighter socket because all of the devices I want to use with it come with adapters with that plug that I could use unmodified. (In fact the GPS receiver came with only that adapter and I had to search through my bin of old wall warts to find one with the right connector in order to charge it. Luckily, my ancient iPaq uses the same plug). If I want to power multiple things at the same time, I'll probably get a cigarette lighter splitter.

Code128 (author)2006-04-30

But wont the PDA grow weary of its life and purpose wrapped in ENNUI like that?

aneel (author)Code1282006-04-30

I can swap in DESPAIR or NIHILISM from time to time, to keep things interesting.

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