by bj max

I’m a gadget freak. I love gadgets of any kind be they analog or digital. Modern day airplanes with their panels plastered with gauges, switches, screens and dials that monitor some sort of device is a gadget freaks answer to the Mona Lisa. Tom, a friend of ours, flies for FedEx and one Saturday morning not long ago he took my two oldest sons and I out to the FedEx complex and we spent three hours in a fifteen million dollar MD-11 simulator. It was an event that I will forever be grateful for. During the session we got to play with all the gadgets and doodads that make up a commercial jet’s cockpit as we took turns trying to land and take off in that huge airplane. We didn’t succeed but we had a ball trying. But gadgets and doodads, like mules, can be cantankerous and sometimes cause me to seriously doubt my common sense.

I’m always ordering the latest gadget, especially if I can justify the cost in the name of safety or to expand my motorcycling experience. The latest craze is TPMS or tire pressure monitoring system and it wasn’t long after these gizmos hit the market til’ that little brown truck dropped one at my door.

Installation was simple and after determining that it was accurate to within half a pound I was satisfied that I had made a good investment. Then, one month after buying the thing, the rear tire sensor locked on to 44 pounds and stayed there. I thought maybe the little flat dime size battery had conked out and I swapped them around but the problem didn’t go away so I called the retailer. To their credit they replaced the whole system but I was out thirteen bucks for shipping charges and that sucks. But that was a year ago and so far the system works as advertised.

When I bought my present bike there was an optional six disc CD player offered and ABS brakes were also available for the same price. Since I couldn’t afford both I went for the brakes. Later, I bought a one gig Sansa MP3 player for thirty four bucks and loved it. That is until a friend sent me a link to a struggling Florida company that had come up with a better mousetrap. Their idea was an MP3 player that plugged into the factory CD player connector under the seat, piping music directly into the Wing’s sound system providing true digital sound. Not only that but you could also tune it from the factory audio controls built into the left handlebar pod. It was a great idea and it worked too, for about twenty minutes at which time it completely shut down.

After throwing a few wrenches across the garage and kicking the shop vac in the head, I got on the phone and called the tech guy in Florida and was informed that out of the 250 units that had been sold, only five were having a problem. Something to do with a voltage loss at the Buss fuse. So this guy enlists me as an impromptu beta tester, then builds a prototype cable that not only plugged into the CD outlet but it also had a small red cable the snaked its way over to the auxiliary lug in the fuse box. He shipped it to me and I hooked it up. But after twenty minutes not only did it quit but the bikes LED screen went to black and the little insulated doohickey on the new cable got smokin’ hot. I almost had a heart attack as I imagined the wiring harness and computers being fried to a crisp. But after removing the new cable and re-booting the system everything, including my blood pressure, dropped back to normal. I breathed a sigh of relief, packed up the device and returned it for a full refund. Beta testing is not for me.

What would you do if you bought a new car and three years later you drove it to the dealer to have the alternator replaced and the dealer informed you that he was sorry but they no longer provided support. You would probably throw a fit wouldn’t you? Well, that’s exactly what I did when I tried to buy a map upgrade for my Garmin 2610 and was informed that my unit had been discontinued and support was no longer offered.

I couldn’t believe it. I’ve only had this thing for a couple years so I fired off a nasty e-mail to Garmin support and let them know what an injustice I thought this was. The next day I was humbled by a nice message in return explaining that there was indeed an upgrade for my unit and that they had shipped it to me in CD format, and the seventy five dollar charge applied only after a successful unlock. The CD arrived and I went to work removing those old outdated maps.

Have you ever tried unlocking a Garmin detailed Mapset such as City Navigator? The process is supposed to be automatic. You insert the CD in your PC drive and follow the prompts. Simple huh? In my case as usual, there were complications. It didn’t open automatically but a can of worms did. It took me three days and fifty e-mails just to get the information I needed to buy the unlock code. Don’t get me wrong, Garmin has great customer support and I understand their obsession with security but by the time my new maps were up and running I was on the brink of a complete mental breakdown.

My latest gadget is a 3-G iPhone. It’s almost as if this thing were designed and built with a motorcyclist in mind. It has everything, GPS, weather radar, Google Earth, Internet service and I-pod. And you can even make a telephone call with it if you want. But the beauty of this gadget lies in its simplicity. And when somebody with my mental capacity can operate a gadget without instructions then you know its an uncomplicated and down-to-earth system and in my humble opinion, an I-phone is one tool a motorcyclist should never leave home without.

Gadgets and the yearning for the latest is a sickness that I can’t seem to shake. In fact, with gasoline prices climbing through the roof I’m already considering the Carpoon superconducting electro magnetic fuel saving miracle offered by Aerostitch. Somebody was certainly thinking out of the box when they came up with this little jewel.


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