Trail Tech Voyager Pro GPS

Company: Trail Tech

Price: $599.95

Roost
  • Great for navigating on your motorcycle.
  • Easy to use with a touch screen.
  • Plays well with other devices which is important these days.
  • Buddy Tracking is a great feature, especially when off the grid.
Endo
  • Sucks power for a GPS unit, especially when Buddy Tracking is left on.
  • Docking mount doesn't like to get dirty.

Credits

  • Writer: Jimmy Lewis
  • Photographer: Jimmy Lewis

What it is

  • Trail Tech's new GPS unit.

Trail Tech took on a competitive market in the GPS world with the Voyager GPS almost a decade ago. There was a rising need for a off-road motorcycle GPS and the company with a strong history in motorcycle gauges made what it felt was the ideal unit. It was packed with features, mostly in connection with the motorcycle, and did almost everything a GPS does. It was small and rugged. But it also lacked some features that were emerging at a rapid pace, most notably storage of maps and color.

Since then GPS units have advanced at the pace of the cell phone (which seem to be the new GPS for most) and Trail Tech have been busy with the next motorcycle and UTV specific GPS, the Voyager Pro. DBT has been testing them for over a year now as we were given prototypes to help with the debugging of software and some durability of the unit itself. To say the Voyager Pro has come a long way would be an understatement. It is a well thought out unit with a few very specific motorcycle type applications that could make it the right one for you and your group. And we say “group” because the buddy tracking feature is a great way to stay connected on a ride with others using the Voyager Pro.

"And we say “group” because the buddy tracking feature is a great way to stay connected on a ride with others using the Voyager Pro."

How it works

  • Does everything most GPS units do except "tell" you where to go.
  • Shows all and records some of the motorcycle functions you want to know.
  • Easy to use and we are sure it will even improve with software upgrades quickly.

The spec sheet is long on the new unit. First, the screen is much larger at 2 in. X 3.5 in. and it is color and touch screen that works with most gloves. There are seven screens including Cluster (lots of info), TachBar, Map, User, Media, Stopwatch and GPS Satellite which come up in the rotation if you prefer, can be disabled. The measurements units are adjustable as well and even how the unit records position and the GPS format it uses.

The base maps are a derivative of Open Street Maps and overall is pretty accurate, especially the topographical lines and most paved roads. Onto dirt roads and most county roads are there but in our experience Forest Service and BLM roads and trails were a hit and miss, especially trails and show up only when zoomed in tight. Trail Tech has ongoing development to soon be able to use geolocated PDF maps to set atop the base map layer inside the unit. TrailTech has maps for other regions available for download on the Voyager Pro web page. Lacking is any sort of turn-by-turn type of navigation common in big brand GPS units and most phones. This is expensive for licensing and requires a lot of constant updating so Trail Tech left it off and is looking at different options, one of which could be using the Bluetooth connectivity and your phone to do it when it is practical. But for this more off-road and exploring type of unit it was not a feature we were looking for. If routing is important for you, look elsewhere.

On the map view, the most popular page we used, Perspective GPS is the best new feature. Especially if you are using the GPS to find your way in unfamiliar terrain. It pulls the view down at an angle, just like you are viewing the terrain from the seat of the motorcycle/Google Earth view and adds shading and dimension to the screen shot. This is different than the flat view that most GPS units use. You can orientate the view in track up or north up as you desire, most seem to prefer the track up as you see what is right in front of you on the screen. The track logging was excellent and following imported tracks was a breeze. Though you do not see names of the tracks if that is something you enjoy. Also, all the imported tracks are the same color, which for some riders is an issue.

On the map screen it is easy to set it up to use touch to change zoom and orientation easily. You can drag the map to follow roads and terrain and also recenter on your position with a single touch. Getting to the settings is easy to do and the interface can also be used on the fly if you dare. Zooming is pretty easy but we missed the toggle zoom feature of the old Voyager fo a quick back and forth of zoomed in and zoomed out.

Using the buddy tracking is awesome once you get it set up. On your map page your buddy's location will show up as long as they are within range using a radio frequency. It works with the same range as a high-end handheld radio and even creates a mesh network that will use any connected Voyager Pro to relay positions of other buddies even if your unit can not connect due to range or terrain limitations. Range was about 4-5 miles in open terrain and then a little better than line of sight when in forest or mountain zones. You can easily see if your buddy is moving and even see a “tail” for their track if you’d like. Buddy tracking requires an external antenna that is included with the Voyager Pro. An'd we've heard rumors that the distance can get way better with stronger antennas. There is also the option of sending a help message to buddies through the unit as well.

Frankly we did not explore the Bluetooth connectivity of the unit to near its potential. It uses Bluetooth to connect to either a phone or a communication device or even to both at the same time. Though this may be the biggest area of interest for some more tech savvy riders, it wasn't one of the selling points on our list. But we were able to easily connect it to Apple and Android phones and get it to show incoming texts and calls on the Voyager Pro screen. Through a link you can stream music from phone to comm system and control the functions through the Voyager Pro.

Onto the interface. Learning the units functions and menus is pretty intuitive and takes no instructions. But what is different than compared to the old Voyager is it takes a little playing around to learn how to get to the exact menu that you'd like, whether from the main menu or directly from the page you are trying to affect. More features takes a little more learning. There is a built-in help guide that typically has the answer.

Battery life when unconnected to a 12V source is poor, between 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on use. And the unit needs a direct 12v source and if left on will drain most Lithium dirt bike batteries overnight, especially when buddy tracking is on where the unit is producing radio waves too. We are told the draw is 2.0A peak, 0.8A nominal w/buddy tracking and it needs a regulated 12V source so we preferred to wire it directly to the battery, if that helps the more tech savvy understand. But the battery life is enough to use off the bike at a stop or to review tracks between rides.

Mounting on the bike is pretty straightforward and we loved the RAM ball mount method as it made it simple to switch between bikes. The only real wire that was necessary was the power lead. Having the other sensors, all using the same plugs as the older Voyager makes upgrading pretty easy. The docking onto the cradle is easy and stays put if you know where to push to make sure it locks when it is clean. When dust and mud get in, the slider gets sticky and needs to be pushed to install and remove or the GPS will come undone. There is a lock and on one occasion the dock locked itself and we needed the small Allen wrench to get the unit off the dock. Overall the unit handled freezing temperatures and very high heat with little issues. About the worse was in very dry conditions where the touch was finicky but it was rare. Lick your finger and it works. Durability from normal use seems good but we’d really like to see a billet mount like was available for the old Voyager for the crash related hits the unit will undoubtedly take over time. But we know that will also be an expensive piece too. The screen is one of the best we have viewed and seems to reduce glare and show color as good if not better than anything else we have used in a long time. With options on colors and themes most can find a very good setup for their own preferences.

The unit can monitor the the bike's temperature and will show the RPM on a tach bar if you have the sensors connected to the bike. It will also use a wheel speed sensor to be more accurate and let the unit know when the bike is really moving or if the bike is moving when the satellite reception is poor. There are warning lights that are programmable to illuminate when the temperature reaches certain levels and they will blink or stay illuminated depending on where you set them. An external antenna can boost the signal but the internal antenna was just as strong most of the time.

The cluster screen can show you about anything you desire with customisable gauges that you can select between. It will show up to six different functions plus time of day.

After recording your track logs (or having them and want to load them) the unit uses a micro SD card to transfer the files in .GPX format. Saving, loading and transferring the files is very simple but renaming tracks is not an option in the device. Waypoints an be named in the device if you want to touch tiny buttons.

There is always a help menu if you get confused and it typically answered the questions we had.
Trail Tech is planning upgrades to the software and we have installed them in our units through an easy process using the Micro SD card. We suspect they will keep coming as features get unlocked and hopefully will always be free to keep your unit fresh with an optimized operating system and advances.

As an off-road and adventure bike navigation device we feel Trail Tech hits a home run with the Voyager Pro. It is priced comparable with other units with the same amount of features but the Voyager Pro's features are different. If you like to have the the best view of where you are on a small device and the ability to easily look around, the Voyager Pro is a winner. If you have your own .GPX files and want to follow or record new ones, the Voyager Pro is as good as any. Buddy tracking meant less stopping and waiting for friends (also equipped with a Voyager Pros) so on rides where you get spread out a little it is a real time saver especially when off the grid. It actually changed how our group rode and made those riders without the units jealous. But convincing a buddy to spend $600 bucks to ride with you will tell how much they like to really ride with you...Transferring files is a snap with the a common micro SD card (not included) between units and from your computer, especially with very common .GPX file types. And it really only lacks in the units inability to auto route you to places-- when you don’t know how to get there (even using the maps in the unit). In city traffic we were able to search out alternate routes in unfamiliar locations using the map screen with success even though it was not showing live traffic and telling us where to go. You still have to think for yourself sometimes, don't fall prey to the machine.

Simply put, if the unit is right for you, it is right for you.

"As an off-road and adventure bike navigation device we feel Trail Tech hits a home run with the Voyager Pro."