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9th December 2011


Get Lost!
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When it comes to navigation, Rowena Hoseason is a traditionalist at heart and has no truck with SatNav...

Earlier in the year I mentioned my Unmentionable motorcycle in the RC subscriber's newsletter. An Unmentionable, for anyone unacquainted with the technical terminology, is a motorcycle which really truly and absolutely does not have any place in the monthly RealClassic magazine, no matter how far we push the possible definition of a 'real classic'. So if I owned a Kawasaki ZZR1400 (which I don't, this is just for demonstration purposes, although I probably wouldn't chuck one into the recycling bin if it turned up on my doorstep) then I would no more talk about it in the magazine than I would caper into a kosher café and ask them to rustle up a batch of ham pancakes.

Anyhow, I alluded to my Unmentionable, which has belt-drive and ABS among its other excellent attributes. This generated some mail from RC readers, mainly enquiring about what flavour of Unmentionable it is. But one chap commented upon my using GPS and…

Hang on. Who mentioned GPS?

This is where I go all Luddite and depart at once from the 21st century. I'm no technophobe and I'm very happy to exploit the advantages that come from using modern equipment. So my Unmentionable can stop safely in short order in heavy traffic and heavy rain thanks to its modern braking system, and I can answer my email using my Android from any Little Chef in the land. Sorted.

Tank-Bag-Nav...

But… GPS? Oh no. That's a step too far in the right direction. Give me a map, any day. I'm almost mediaeval in my commitment to printed pieces of paper which can be spread out and studied, and which allow a free-ranging rider to examine and understand the interwoven web of byways and highways that link the here-and-now to the land of our forefathers. Where's the fun in restricting your options to 'most direct' or 'mainly motorways'? How can you programme a GPS unit to follow its nose in vaguely the right direction? Can a GPS programmer know in advance what my mood might be today?

The digital world commits one great crime, in my view. It compresses the soaking wet, the blazing hot, the sticky, messy, oily, rattling, slightly lost but in a good way and generally wonderful experiences of life into neat, tidy, two-dimensional representations of themselves. On a GPS screen there is only one road shown, only one way ahead. You follow the arrow and it tells you what to do and where to go and thou shalt not deviate from its path.

Sod that for a game of soldiers.

I don't mind if I have to stop at junctions now and then, and puzzle out which is the road I want to follow when the planners have removed all mention of the road number I'm following or my eventual destination. I'm delighted when I out-smart the system and successfully navigate around Swindon using country lanes instead of the baffling bypass. It makes my day to discover an unmarked, ancient Roman road, devoid of traffic, empty and enticing, running parallel to a typical trunk road full of trucks and frayed tempers.

Tank-Bag-Nav. Note that these directions don't lead to the destination reached in the photo above...
SatNav bikes on Right Now......

Best of all, if I've made good time on the long haul, then I can deviate away from the mean and wander down some wriggly little B-road. Roads edged in green on my map frequently lead me astray, yet according to most GPS systems they don't even exist. And yes, I know it IS possible to spend an evening programming a chosen route into a GPS unit… but I can do that with a highlighter pen and a map in half the time, without squinting at a screen.

Some experiences are unequivocally enhanced by the use of current technology. For me, riding isn't necessarily one of them!

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