Trail Tech Voyager Pro, Product Review

After about a month of use, I can confidently say that the Trail Tech Voyager Pro motorcycle GPS is an excellent product.

I’ve had a love hate relationship GPS on my motorcycles for a long time.  In one hand, GPS can be incredibly helpful and even indispensable in the backcountry or on just about any adventure ride for that matter.  I use GPS extensively in Baja.  I also find it to be incredibly valuable in making sense of the maze of Forest Service roads in the Pacific Northwest.  Its also great to have just to tract your rides.

Over the years I’ve relied primary on Garmin handheld GPS units.  I’d mount these on a RAM mount on the handlebars and it would allow me to see the terrain and follow tracks and routes.  The Garmin units generally work OK, but they are not the ideal platform for motorcycles.  The screens were small and difficult to read in the sunlight.  Garmin has always had a user interface with regard to tracks and routes that was far from user friendly.

After a frustrating experience this spring where I couldn’t get my Garmin to load the background map I needed at the same time as the track I was trying to load, I knew it was time for a new GPS.  I looked at the current Garmin offerings including the 276cx and the Zumo.  Both had nice screens and a ton of features.  Garmin designed the Zumo specifically for motorcycles, but it is geared largely toward road riding.  Both units also carry a premium price tag.

For years I’ve also considered trying to adapt a smartphone or small tablet as a motorcycle navigator.  There are some excellent GPS apps available now such as Gaia.  However, the platform is far from perfect.  The challenges of trying to keep a tablet mounted to your handlebars protected from the weather as well as powered outweigh the benefits at this point.

As I was debating which Garmin offering to purchase, Trail Tech released its new Voyager Pro GPS.  Trail Tech builds some great motorcycle products.  I’ve used their digital gauges in the past and I liked their simple platform.  However, I had ruled out their prior GPS unit, the Voyager GPS, due to its inability to load basemaps.  The Voyager Pro solved this problem and proved to be a major leap forward for Trail Tech.  I decided to take a chance on the Voyager Pro and ordered one.  A week later I had it mounted via RAM mount on my XR650l.

 

Trail Tech designed some really cool features that set the Voyager Pro apart from its competition.  The Voyager Pro has a significant array of motorcycle sensors such as temperature, wheel speed, and RPM.  You can customize alerts for temp and tach.  It tracks a long list of ride stats.  But the one of the things that really sets it apart is the screen.  It has an extremely bright and easy to read screen that is viewable in even the brightest sunlight.  On top of how easy the screen is to read, its also a touch screen that works great with gloves.  The entire unit is easy to operate with gloves, which is a nice feature.

DCIM257GOPRO

I’ve found the Voyager Pro to have a simple and easy to use interface for loading, viewing and saving GPX files.  Trail Tech made the interface really intuitive and much easier to use than I was used to with Garmin.

One of my concerns with the Trail Tech initially was the quality of the background maps.  I didn’t know how the embedded maps would compare to Garmin’s topo maps.  Maps that are too generic are not that useful off-road.  Fortunately, I was impressed with the Trail Tech maps.  The unit comes with all of North America loaded and the level of detail is amazing.  It displays topo lines, roads, trails and even the most obscure Forest Service two-track.  Overall, I have not been disappointed in the maps.

Trail Tech added some other great features for the connected rider.  The Voyager Pro will connect with two phones (driver and passenger) and two headsets via bluetooth.  It displays calls and messages and gives you access to your address book for simple phone operation.  The Voyager Pro will also play music from your phone or a micro SD card directly to your headset.

One of the most innovative features that Trail Tech added was the buddy tracking feature.  The Voyager Pro will communicate with other Voyager Pro’s in your group without cell service and will display the location of your riding partners on the map in real time.  This is a great feature to help you talk your riding buddies into picking one of these up as well.  It also has an emergency beacon feature that will send out a distress signal to your group and show your location.  There is currently no other GPS unit on the market that does anything like this.

There are a few things I’d like to see Trail Tech improve on the Voyager Pro.  I’ve had trouble getting the Voyager Pro to work properly with my Sena 30K headset.  I’ve paired it as a GPS device and also as an MP3 player.  It seems to work better as an MP3 player, but not all the Sena controls work, so I generally end up playing music from my phone instead of the Voyager Pro.  Its hard to say if the problem is a Sena problem or a Voyager problem, but in any event I suspect future firmware upgrades will fix this.

Other changes I’d like to see include being able to assign different colors for active GPS tracks that are displayed on the map.  I’d also like to be able to setup multiple bike profiles.  It would be nice to have a setting that allowed you maintain a completely separate profile and set of recorded data for each bike you own and use the unit with.  Overall, these are small issues that Trail Tech is probably already working on.

The Voyager Pro comes with a built-in lithium battery.  However, it will only run the unit for about 40 minutes on battery power.  So, unless you are powering it with 12v DC from your bike, you will not have much use for the Voyager Pro.  One thing I liked about the Garmin units was the ability to power them from batteries and even change batteries as needed.

After using the Voyager Pro for more than a month now, I’m really impressed with what Trail Tech created.  This is a great GPS designed specifically for motorcycles and off-road vehicles.  Its loaded with features, but its really simple to use and the controls are extremely intuitive.  The screen and mapping are top notch.  With this current platform as well as Trail Tech’s commitment to supporting the product with continued development and firmware upgrades, the Voyager Pro should just continue to get better and better.  If you are looking for a new motorcycle GPS, take a look at the Voyager Pro.

 

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