When I was a boy, my Dad taught me how to navigate using everything from the moss on the side of trees to discarded sticks or cheap digital watches. I was fascinated with knowing which way I was going, even if I actually was going in the opposite direction. By the time I was allowed the luxury of a map and compass, I’d also learnt that flapping when you’re lost is just wasting time. I was ten. I had no idea, at the time, that one day I’d be able to bolt a little box onto my bike that would tell me where to go, even if I’d never been there before. The rise of the Sat-nav has seen it morph from motoring accessory, to something that some people cannot seem to separate geographical arse from elbow with.
I’ve recently returned a Sat nav unit to a manufacturer. There’s no point in naming names as they’re all generally adept at what they do and they all look the same as each other. It was a test unit, so I bolted it onto my Triumph Street Triple R and I tested it.
I’ve done my best over the years to embrace new technology. Traction control on 1750bhp sports bikes for example, is a good thing. Anti wheelie control over blind crests is also handy. Sat nav however, is the work of the Devil. Bolting it into a bike is simple enough. A few nuts and bolts here and some spindly battery cables there and you’re good to go, wherever it is you’re planning on going. Whatever happened to unfolding a map, pushing its creases across the dining table and getting that feeling that you could go anywhere you wanted? Then making notes that would make an Enigma machine frown as you plot your way from here to there. Using a map doesn’t make you more of a man. Actually, that’s a lie.
Punching in the postcode of your destination and following the nice lady’s say so is like closing your eyes during take off and landing. It’s a wasted chance to see something new and you’ll arrive feeling separated from the ride that got you there. Does Sat nav raise or lower your attention to the road ahead? In my experience, it lowers it. It’s too easy to be sucked into listening to the earpiece at the same time as matching the road to the view in the little screen. At what stage did that become more important than just keeping an eye out for your turning, as well as keeping an eye on the car behind you?
I think people have become too wrapped up the intricacies of finding the cheapest unit available, rather than figuring out if they actually need it in the first place. Sat nav doesn’t get you where you’re going, getting off your arse and getting on the bike gets you where you’re going. Lob the Sat nav in the bin, you’ll get there in the end, sooner if you’re really if you’re in a hurry.