For some, there is no better place to ride a motorcycle than off the beaten path. Better yet, completely off the grid. The day may come, however, when you need medical attention or to have your machine extracted from a remote location. What will you do if you don’t have cell-phone service? With SPOT’s Connect GPS Messenger, you can inform friends and family of your current state and location (accurate within about 30 feet) by typing a message using the SPOT app on your smartphone, which, when tethered to the Connect via Bluetooth, is then transmitted using the built-in satellite connection.
If the circumstances are truly dire, you can call in the cavalry by pressing the SOS button, which sends your GPS location and a short message, if desired, to the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC). That agency then informs appropriate local services, such as 9-1-1 here in the U.S., of your emergency.
Unlike SPOT’s basic Satellite GPS Messenger ($119.99), Connect allows users to send pre-selected recipients (50 max) either pre-composed Check-In/Okay messages or custom 41-character messages using the Type & Send or Help features. Type & Send costs 50 cents per message. Alternatively, you can purchase bundles of 100 ($29.99) or 500 ($49.99) messages. Each message, regardless of your contact group size, incurs a single charge.
A Track Progress feature allows friends to follow your progress online. Connect updates your location every 10 minutes for 24 hours, at which time you need to restart tracking. You can also use this feature to record rides and share them with friends through social-media channels on SPOT Adventures. Messaging can be set to update your status from anywhere you have a clear view of the sky.
Overall, our experience with Connect was positive. We’ve used the unit extensively during on- and off-road rides, as well as while mountain biking and hiking, and we never had a message go undelivered.
Our iPhone 4 would occasionally untether itself from the Connect. SPOT says this is unique to Apple iOS devices and not an issue on 2.0-and-later Android phones. Despite that glitch, Connect didn’t stop tracking or transmitting, even if the phone was turned off. Battery life from the AA lithium batteries was quite good, though we always carried spares on longer, multi-day rides.
SPOT claims it helped rescue nearly 500 people in 78 countries last year. Fortunately, we never had to use the SOS feature, but the sense of security we had when riding with the unit allowed us to explore farther than might otherwise be prudent, sometimes even empowering us to go it alone when our buddies couldn’t make the trip.
Satellites aren’t cheap and neither is SPOT’s annual service fee of $99, but that’s a small price to pay when you consider the alternatives.
300 Holiday Square Blvd.
Covington, LA 70433
• Getting rescued sure beats dying
• Update your “status” from the Atacama desert or anywhere else
• Go solo, with a safety net
• Connect model requires a smartphone
• iPhone-related glitches can be frustrating
• Can’t hide from significant other anymore