GPS Sat Nav

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Dateline: 12 December 2012

GPS Navigation

A couple of years ago I used iGo when I had an Apple phone but the bluetooth didn't work in my Nolan helmet. They may have fixed the bluetooth issue by now and I was very happy with iGo directions, voice etc..

Meantime, for the past years I've been using Ndrive downloaded to various Android phones - currently I'm using it on my Samsung SIII.

The problems I’ve had with Ndrive V11 were more to do with the phones I think. They simply weren't powerful enough to run the system.

Last year I rode solo from London to Kurdistan via Georgia and Armenia and this year, again solo, I went out from London to Mongolia via Europe, Russia and Siberia. It was a bit tricky getting English characters to work on the Cyrillic maps but I managed. The main problem was the system crashed the previous phone (San Francisco from Orange) every 20 minutes or so. That was ok on the open road but in the Cities it was a bit of a disaster.

Additionally Ndrive can't route into the next map. So I could get through, say Eastern Europe up to Ukraine, but it wouldn't take me over a border of the next map of Russia. So you need to know the border crossings between maps.

I didn't use Google maps as the cost of the data connection on the phone in each country was huge although I did on a couple of emergency moments.

On both journeys I printed a Google Map (Bing Maps are better btw - they have more many more border crossings than Google) for the whole route and also wrote down the main cities I was aiming for. Both the map and city lists were viewable in my tank bag.

One small challenge was that my printed map took me out through Kazakhstan to Mongolia; unfortunately after a couple of offs (and some broken ribs) and visa date problems I had  to go through Siberia, Mongolia then through Kazakhstan. This meant my city list was in reverse order and there were no GPS maps for Mongolia or Kazakhstan. So mainly it was navigation by the sun's position :)

For myself I don't ride to places where there are a lot of photos. If I can see pics on Google earth, why would I bother to go? :)

Anyway, upshot is over the last tow years I've done around 30,000 miles from London to Central Asia and back, enjoyed every minute and slept under the stars a great deal. I also used a fantastic organisation called and stayed with a lot of fascinating people en route.

My planning in every case took several days online but the printed maps I carried were minimal. When I could get online I sometimes checked with Bing maps... but you can't always find a printer in a roadside cafe on the Trans Siberian Highway :)

For now Ndrive seems works fine on the Samsung S3 so I'll use it in 2013. Europe, Balkans, Baltics and up to Murmansk.

I decided on Ndrive because it has huge coverage of maps and they aren't expensive. My research shows that Tom Tom has best coverage through Eastern Europe out to Vladivostok. Garmin has less in the East but does cover India etc; Tom Tom doesn’t do well in Asia.


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