Motorcycle Navigation: Mounting a GPS Device to Your Motorcycle, Part 2

Dec 19, 2016 View Comments by

In the previous article I described a generic multi-layer mounting stack that can be applied to any combination of GPS device and motorcycle. I also highlighted the importance of selecting a good mounting location and recommended the heads-up display (HUD) position.

The recommended design approach for mounting a GPS is to start with the bottom layers (electric power and frame mount) and then work your way up to the device.

In this article I’ll present the different options for each component in the layered scheme, assuming electric power has been already solved. The latter is a topic interesting enough to deserve a separate article.

RAM B-ball mountsAMPS and RAM B-ball
If every mounting vendor created its own proprietary standard, it would be very hard to connect different components unless all the parts were bought from the same manufacturer. Interoperability is good for vendors as well as consumers. Other domains, such as computer hardware—USB being a prime example—show that a solid standard leads to a thriving and healthy market.

The AMPS pattern is commonly used in the industry. It consists of four holes located in a rectangular pattern spaced at 1.188 by 1.813 inches. Many mounting devices and cradles are AMPS compatible. RAM Mounting Systems is one of the biggest players in the device mounting market—not just for GPS—and they have fully adopted the standard. RAM mounts support two and four AMPS hole patterns.

RAM’s strongest feature is its rubber ball system. There are different ball sizes—A (9/16″), B (1″), and C (1.5″), and more. Just like with Goldilocks, the B-ball is the perfect size for motorcycle usage; not too small but not too large.

The rubber ball works in conjunction with open double socket arms. This ingenious yet simple system has become the golden standard for automotive mounting systems (as well as boating and light aircraft).

Frame Mount
After deciding where to mount the GPS device, the first task is to find a suitable frame mount. This is very specific to the motorcycle model and also needs to take into account spatial considerations such as avoiding overlapping with existing accessories and rider ergonomics.

Frame mounts either clamp on, bolt to, or screw into the frame. Clamping solutions attach to the frame tube or handlebars with pressure and friction. A clamp could have a closed metal ring that tightens with a screw, or an open jaw-like piece that tightens with a tool-less knob.

Bolting either utilizes existing frame bolts or replaces them with longer ones, to compensate for the frame mount’s thickness. Another common solution is a horizontal bolted bar mount, which uses two existing windshield or frame bolts and provides a clamping or bolting point for a connecting bracket. One option for DIYers is to drill into an existing surface and attach a generic mount, such as a RAM B-ball round base.

Connecting Bracket
The connecting bracket attaches to the frame mount and device cradle and provides adjustability for optimal viewing and operating. One of the most commonly used is the RAM double socket arm, which comes in different lengths, short and long. The arm tightens on one rubber ball from each side and acts as a joint with infinite angle adjustability. Other non-RAM solutions could include rigid metal or plastic brackets with optional adjustable knobs.

The length of the connecting bracket should also be accounted for. Shorter brackets have less vibration, but the GPS could be harder to reach and operate for riders with short arms.

Touratech device cradleDevice Cradle
The device cradle, sometimes ambiguously called the “GPS mount” by vendors, attaches to the connecting bracket on one side and the device case or device on the other side. It is actually composed of two subcomponents: a cradle mounting point and the cradle frame that holds the GPS device or the GPS device case. The cradle mounting point is often a two- or four-hole AMPS RAM B-ball adapter (diamond or rectangle).

For motorcycle designated devices, such as Garmin’s zūmo, the cradle also provides quick disconnect, electric charging points, and optional anti-theft locking.

Cradles come in a few forms—either a metal and plastic quick disconnect mount that is specific to the GPS device, a simple plastic cookie-cutter injected frame that holds the device statically, or a spring-loaded frame that hugs the device by the pressure of the springs.

RAM’s X-grip is a universal spring-loaded cradle that grips strongly and fits most modern smartphones.

Device Case

Device cases are mainly needed for protection against the elements: water, dust, scratches, and for some reduction of vibration. Their primary application is protection of smartphones and non-motorcycle designated GPS devices.

A case is typically designed for the device’s exact physical dimensions. But there are also universal ones. Given their relatively cheap cost and the vulnerability and very high cost of smartphones, it is advisable to get one for a smartphone used as a GPS. As an extra security precaution, be sure to tie the supplied lanyard to the frame, especially when riding in rough dirt or on off-road trails.

GPS mounting installationSummary
Now that the generic mounting scheme is explained, it should be easier for you to pick the right components for your specific needs, mix and match them, and establish a safe, robust, yet versatile GPS mounting solution.

Electric power still needs further explanation. The next article will discuss it in detail.
Text: Yuval Naveh
Photography: Yam Naveh and RAM Mounts


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