Inspired by a presentation from Garmin at Adventure Days 2011, I ended up buying a Garmin zumo 660 GPS device for my motorcycle. After having used miscellaneous TomTom devices and software for many years, I was more or less reluctant to make the change to Garmin. Here are my experiences so far.

The purchase

Compared to the TomTom Rider II, the Garmin zumo 660 is expensive. I spent some time browsing for the best price, and I bought mine from Komplett.no due to my impeccable  previous shopping experiences (not the cheapest alternative, but definitely the best shopping experience!). Using their pickup-point delivery model, I could collect my device close to where I work a couple of days later.

A positive thing to mention about the Garmin product is the “what is in the box”-experience. It is quite amazing to see how much stuff they have thrown in. In this area, Garmin beats TomTom.

The Garmin zumo 660. I wonder what is in the box?

The Garmin zumo 660. I wonder what is in the box?

The Garmin zumo 660 and all the accessories in the box

The Garmin zumo 660 and all the accessories in the box

Connecting it to the bike

When it comes to connecting a GPS unit to the bike, the clever engineers at BMW have already thought this out for us. Underneath the headlight there is an unused connector available for plug and play use, e.g. for GPS units and other low voltage devices. I contacted Motorhuset and purchased an original BMW Part No. 83300413585 and used it to connect the cables from the cradle to the power of the bike. Using this connector I have power to the cradle only when the ignition is on.

The original BMW Power Connector is placed under the headlight

The original BMW Power Connector is placed under the headlight

The unused BMW Power Connector

The unused BMW Power Connector

Ask your local BMW dealer for original BMW Part No. 83300413585

Ask your local BMW dealer for original BMW Part No. 83300413585

BMW Part No. 83300413585

BMW Part No. 83300413585

Ready to connect

Ready to connect

A temporary connector between the BMW part and the Garmin cable

A temporary connector between the BMW part and the Garmin cable

The unit

So far I haven’t had a lot of riding experience with the zumo 660, although I used it on my Weekend trip to Bergen and Sognefjorden trip in August 2011. I did a little bit of route planning on the device itself, which turned out to be OK for smaller trips – but I would not advice it for real adventure trip planning. For that I would recommend doing all of the route planning on a computer and transfer data to your device – but that turned out to be rather difficult.

But all in all, I am happy with Garmin zumo 660 GPS unit itself.

Mounting

The purchased package came with original RAM mounts. By request, I have added a few photos of the actual mount below, attached to the windshield frame.

From left side.

From left side.

From front left.

From front left.

From front right.

From front right.

The software

However, in all other aspects, I must say that Garmin has turned out to be a huge disappointment. Problems unlocking maps, software/browser compatibility, speed of map updating process, the MapSource solution, … Need I say more? Garmin, I really believed you could do better than this!

It should not come as a surprise that maps provided by Garmin for use in MapSource are locked. You will need to unlock them online. However, the process is not straight forward. Perhaps I am plain stupid, but I had huge issues with these things.

  • First of all, Garmin, or more precisely,  the My Garmin website, has serious compatibility issues. Neither Internet Explorer 9, Firefox 5.01 nor Opera 5.1 were accepted. The only browser working for me was Google Chrome. Shame on you Garmin!
  • The the unlock map process which is a nightmare. There are so many unlock codes, product keys, registration codes and mismatching instructions. Garmin, please make this more streamlined and easier to understand!
  • MapSource, the software from hell! Seriously, as a map tool, I am sure MapSource is great (I admit to not having used it enough yet to be qualified to evaluate it fully), but as a year 2011 software solution, MapSource is crap! Garmin, were you sleeping in class when usability, standards and conformance were being discussed?

All in all I am hugely disappointed with Garmin in this respect, mainly colored by my frustrating experience unlocking my maps. I did however, after quite a few mail correspondences with the Garmin Norway support team, end up with a great solution. My initial problems are now solved, and what remains now is for me to learn to use MapSource – and to accept its flaws as a software product as such.

Conclusion

I gave Garmin a chance with zumo 660 after a good presentation from Garmin Sweden at Adventure Days 2011. BMW has adopted Garmin in their Navigator device, which should be a good thing. My first impressions of the GPS unit itself, mounting it on the bike and the riding experience are quite good. The “package” from Garmin, however, has in no way been a positive experience.

Garmin zumo 660 mounted and in use on my Bergen and Sognefjorden weekend trip

Garmin zumo 660 mounted and in use on my Bergen and Sognefjorden weekend trip

I will give Garmin a second chance. My problems are now solved, and I will genuinely try to learn to use both the Garmin zumo 660 device and the MapSource solution in order to provide a more thorough evaluation at a later stage. After all, it is already mounted on my bike, I am slowly getting used to it (after the switch from TomTom), and I think it looks real good on the bike!

Stay tuned for more!

  1. Thomas says:

    Thanks for a detailed report. I am impressed by your page and the length you go to put in all the effort for the love of doing it. Excellent work.

  2. Shaun O'Reilly says:

    Hello Edgar. I have a 2007 GSA, and wonder what GPS mount you used for the windshield frame for your 660 GPS. Is there any chance that you could send a picture from the front of the bike?

    Thank you.

    Shaun O’Reilly, Ottawa Canada

  3. Edgar says:

    Hi Shaun!

    Apologies for my late reply. However, today I have added pictures as requested, hopefully these can be of help to you.

    Best regards,
    Edgar Stokka

  4. JeanDuVar says:

    Hello Edgar

    Nice post, very useful. Thank you. However, I have a question about this BMW cable. Youpluggerd it onto the BMW power supply unused connector, ok. But what about this cable onto the GPS device ? where did you get those “Garmin Cables” ?

    Regards 🙂

    Jean

    • Edgar says:

      Hi Jean. I bought the original BMW adapter cable from the local dealership. They had one lying around, fit for my need at the time 🙂