Sunday, March 18, 2012

Choosing the right friction mount for your auto GPS


Friction mounts are great, but it’s easy to get one that won’t work with your GPS. Today I’m going to look at three different friction mounts and address how to select the right one. First I want to cover some common questions about friction mounts.

Why use a friction mount?

I prefer friction mounts over suction cup mounts for two reasons — theft prevention and convenience. Let’s say you’re navigating to a shopping center or restaurant. You see it coming up. You can lift the friction mount off the dash before you even pull into the parking lot. No one sees you remove the GPS and there is no tell-tale suction mark left on the windshield. If I’m leaving the car only briefly, I will often just place the mount with GPS attached on the floorboard.

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Garmin Colorado RAM bike mount


Earlier this spring I wrote about Garmin’s bike mount for the Colorado handheld. I wasn’t too pleased with the zip tie mounting system, though once I moved it to the handlebar stem it was much more stable. But a stem mount means the angle isn’t adjustable, and visibility was quite poor.

Fortunately, a RAM mount has finally been released for the Colorado, and I couldn’t wait to try it out. What I ended up with is pictured above. But don’t go ordering one till you read the rest of the story.

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Garmin Colorado bike mount


UPDATE: I found a better mouse trap bike mount. Read my post on how I configured a RAM mount for my Colorado.

Now that my move is over and the baby is a little older, I’m getting back out on the bike and putting my Garmin Colorado 300 to the test. I really like the Colorado, but at this point I can’t recommend it for mountain bikers, due to the backcountry navigation issues I posted earlier this week, along with problems finding a decent mount.

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Garmin friction mount review


UPDATE: Here’s my video review of the newest Garmin friction mount.

After years of illegally using a windshield mount, I finally plopped down $28 for a Garmin friction mount. My nuvi and I now walk ride the straight and narrow.

While suction mounts are only illegal in California and Minnesota, there are other reasons to choose a friction, AKA beanbag or dashboard mount — one being theft deterrence. No suction cup, no tell-tale marks on the windshield.

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Eneloop rechargeable batteries

After seeing various glowing recommendations on Groundspeak (the message board), I broke down and bought some rechargeable Sanyo Eneloop batteries. Their claim to fame is that they hold their charge well in storage.

These may well be the best rechargeable batteries on the market these days. I haven’t done an exhaustive test but so far I’ve been quite happy with them. Here’s an in-depth Eneloop rechargeable battery review if you want to dig into the details.

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invisibleSHIELD screen protector for your GPS

Last weekend I installed an invisibleSHIELD
screen protector on my Garmin GPSMap 60CSx. I became interested in this product after reading rave reviews on Groundspeak, the geocaching message board. My tendency to crash my mountain bike and scratch my GPS didn’t hurt either.

The Invisible Shield installation was very easy. I did end up with some micro-bubbles which the instructions said would work their way out over the next 2-3 days.  The bubbles did get smaller, but they were still there. So I took a pushpin and popped them, then used the supplied squeegee to remove the rest of the air from underneath them. Screen visibility is impacted in only the most minor manner, and the benefits of protecting the screen far outweigh any downsides. I just wish I would have had this when I purchased the unit.

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GPS theft prevention with GadgetTrak

GadgetTrak, an Oregon company, has expanded the range of GPS devices they can protect from theft. Or more accurately, help recover if they are stolen.  Their system works when the thief, or someone he sells the stolen unit to, connects the device to a PC. The IP address, general location, computer name, user name, ISP and host name are relayed to you in an email. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee recovery. Here’s what GadgetTrak has to say about that:

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The amazing flying 60CSx


Why do I have a picture of my wife’s foot at the start of this post? What you see to the left is the re-enactment of a GPS accident this afternoon. We had come to a locked gate, lifted our bikes over, and then we proceeded to climb over ourselves. Except my dear wife’s foot grazed the antennae, which sort of acted like a lever. Yes, the 60CSx flipped out of the mount, went tumbling through the air, and plop — on the pavement.

Oh, see the railing behind her foot? A couple more feet and it would have gone into the river (see photo at right below). Now I’m just having bad luck with my 60CSx. My old unit, a 60CS, never took a tumble out of my mount, yet this is the second such impact for this unit.

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Another broken RAM mount

Broken_ram_mount_1Last month I wrote about trying to find a RAM mount that would fit 31.8 mm diameter bicycle
.  It turns out that my new bike doesn’t have 31.8 mm bars, but my wife’s does. So I was able to go with a RAM mount while her bike got the Garmin mount. That’s okay I thought, since I’m the one with the expensive new Garmin 60CSx, while she is stuck with the last generation 60CS. RAM mounts have a reputation for being tougher than the Garmin mounts, so I felt secure having my new GPS in a RAM mount — until a few days ago anyway.

To make a long story short, we’ve been on a mountain biking vacation for the past week and, while riding the Hole in the Ground trail near Lake Tahoe, I had a rather spectacular crash. Fortunately, I was okay and my bike was okay, but my 60CSx was nowhere to be found! Yes, the mount had taken a hit and the 60CSx went sailing. A 5 or 10 minute search located it, but it definitely picked up a few nasty screen scratches. Do any readers know if Garmin will fix that under their warranty? I’ve only had the unit for a month or so. The Garmin warranty policy FAQ states:

"This warranty does not cover failures due to abuse, misuse, accident, or unauthorized alterations or repairs."

But Garmin has been known to go the extra mile when it comes to warranties and support.

Back to the RAM mount, a close inspection of the photo will reveal a break near the bottom of the narrow portion of the mount. I still think RAM mounts are the best ones going, and as soon as we return home, I’ll take them up on their lifetime warranty replacement. But this is the second RAM mount we’ve broken (the other was for a Magellan). Now we do tend to be rough on mounts and our GPS receivers, all in the name of reporting back to you of course! Still, I had my 60CS in a RAM handlebar mount for two years without incident, but my 60CSx takes a hit almost immediately. Kinda sucks.

Bike mounts for Garmin 60 series

I’m happy to say that my wife and I are both getting a new mountain bikes. Decommissioning of the old ones is nearly a decade overdue! The problem is, these days, most nice bikes come with 31.8 mm diameter handlebars, and I’m having a hard time finding a mount for my Garmin 60CSx that will fit.

In the past, I’ve used RAM mounts, and have been very happy with them, but that’s not a good option unless I switch out handlebars. So I emailed RAM, and they suggested this monster mount. Um, thanks guys, but I don’t really like the plumbing clamps.

It turns out that Garmin has a large diameter rail mount adapter (seen at left) for their mount. Unfortunately, Garmin mounts (for the 60 series) have a reputation for disengaging in rough terrain, sending that very expensive GPS flying. I don’t like that idea either.

The best solution I’ve seen was posted in this thread about Garmin 60CS bike mounts on Groundspeak:

"What I finally did, which doesn’t obscure the screen, is to take a wire tie, like the ones used for vegetables and string it through the lanyard strap hole on the 60CS and then to the space on the 60CS holder where the holder clips onto the mount on the bicycle handlebar. Tighten up the wire and twist it around itself to hold it in place. Tuck the ends under the 60CS and then click on the 60CS to the bike."

I’m not sure that would hold it in place if the mount broke, but that may be the solution I go with. I’ll try and remember to update this post once I’ve made a final decision and tested it out.

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