Help me farkle my GT - - Excellence in Motion
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post #1 of 33 (permalink) Old Nov 4th, 2009, 6:40 pm Thread Starter
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Help me farkle my GT

Below is from an advertisement for a Zumo 550:
*The Garmin zumo 550 ( zmo 550) bluetooth also sends MP3 audio in mono but will not transmit the XM radio audio. An audio output jack in the motorcycle mounting bracket allows users to wire MP3 audio, XM radio audio, telephone audio and turn-by-turn navigational voice prompts directly into their motorcycle's audio system.

OK, so if I have nothing for audio stuff or nav on my bike, I thought the 550 would be a pretty good choice: Nav is supposed to be tops, has bluetooth, can subscribe to XM for tunes, if I don't mind paying about $10 a month for it (but 550 comes with a car mount so I could use XM during my off-months). Now I am reading the above, so wha-hell, I need even MORE than a 550, an xm subscription and an xm antenna? Oh and a bluetooth receiver for my helmet?
Geez guys, help me get my gizmo content up in to this century, or I might just stick with paper maps!
I wouldn't mind fm radio, but I think that xm has reception benefits and I don't have to keep searching for stations on a trip.
Right now my phone is so old that I don't even have a bluetooth phone, but have been thinking on a phone upgrade, I am way overdue for a new phone.
Any suggestions on putting something together would be appreciated. I don't really want the bike full of every gizmo there is, but would like a mild setup.


"No problem is so big or so complicated that it can't be run away from"

Dark Graphite: Making bikes faster for over 40 years.

Last edited by GillyWI; Nov 4th, 2009 at 6:48 pm.
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post #2 of 33 (permalink) Old Nov 4th, 2009, 7:00 pm
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I first installed an FM radio on the bike....and that sucked. I live in San shortage of radio stations, but reception on the bike was terrible due to lack of ground plane I believe. I removed and replaced it with a Garmin 7200. Giant screen is sweet. Can play MP3's via an 8gig memory card (400 songs max), and I added the XM antenna. So I can buy two complete kits for what a Zumo 550 costs, and I use the Garmin/XM on both the bike and my car. No, it's not waterproof and it doesn't have bluetooth, but I can live with the price/waterproof tradeoff and tuck it away if the skies open up. I like the XM. It's like a cell phone...once you get it, it's awfully nice to have. I run the sound through a Starcom system I bought second-hand from a fellow rider. So now I've got communications for when I ride 2-up, entertainment via the XM/Garmin, mapping via the Garmin, and I can answer the cell phone via the Starcom bluetooth module. So basically, the only feature the 550 has that I'm missing is dialing the phone on the Garmin which would be nice, but not terribly important...or safe.

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post #3 of 33 (permalink) Old Nov 4th, 2009, 7:05 pm
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Gilly -

I have a simple set up that works great, as long as you don't want to talk on your cell phone (which I don't!!!).

I have a 550 (with the XM puck attached) mounted on a Big Mac shelf and an Escort Solo battery powered radar detector. I plug the audio outputs from each into a Mix-It 2 mixer/amp which fits nicely in the "glove" compartment. The Mix-It is powered from the aux power supply in the battery compartment. The radar input overides the audio when a signal is present. The output from the Mix-It is stubbed out and tied off to the right brake cable with an extension cable available from Radio Shack. I simply plug a pair of custom molded earplug speakers into the extension cable and life is good. Volume is controlled from the 550 once the master volume on the Mix-It is set to an appropriate level.

As long as you don't mind being hardwired and not blue toothed, this is a very efficient system with acceptable stereo audio quality, although I think the 550's audio both for XM and mp3 music is lacking, compared to an Ipod.

I'll send a picture if you're interested.


Steve Sylvester
Paso Robles, Ca

'08 K1200GT
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post #4 of 33 (permalink) Old Nov 4th, 2009, 7:21 pm Thread Starter
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Steve: No need for a picture. I don't think I would install a shelf anyways.
If I had a bluetooth phone, I think it would work, if I had a bluetooth receiver in my helmet (which needs replaced before any of this stuff takes place). I think all I would need to get XM in my helmet is what you are describing (a mixer) if I want to go wired, or possibly a bluetooth "dongle", I only know what that is in very general terms, no idea what it looks like, where I would mount it, or if it needs power, and hmmmm, can it get wet?
Actually if I had a bluetooth phone, I think it would work without a Zumo 550 getting involved, although would be tough to PLACE a call, I guess that's the point of the zumo. I don't really expect to be doing a lot of phoning either, but now my old phone will need replacing before too long, can just as well get everything working together.


"No problem is so big or so complicated that it can't be run away from"

Dark Graphite: Making bikes faster for over 40 years.
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post #5 of 33 (permalink) Old Nov 4th, 2009, 7:44 pm
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I have a Zumo 550. I send MP3 music, GPS commands, XM radio and cellphone to my helmet mounted bluetooth receiver Camos BTS200) by plugging a WiRevo bluetooth dongle (transmitter) into the audio output port on the Zumo 550 mount. The WiRevo allows you to get all the audio in stereo, which makes it actually sound great and louder. In order to accomodate a radar detector I added an audio amplifier, the Mixit to merge and boost the audio, so the radar had priority over the Zumo. With that added in the WiRevo plugs into the Mixit output port and two Radio Shack cables bring the signals from the Zumo and the radar to the Mixit. It all works. All this junk sits in my tank bag so I can take it off if I want some peace and quiet.

Be forewarned: Getting all this to work is a bit of a fiddle, but I can walk anyone through it. Of course you will have to buy the Camos BTS200 or similar headset(s) for $200 each, the WiRevo for $40-60, and the Mixit for $??. The sequence for pairing all the bluetooth pieces takes some getting used to. You need to keep the headsets and WiRevo charged up between all day rides.

All in all I might not do it again, and have now reinstalled my Baehr hard wired setup for some comparison testing and it all works very well. It was nice not having a wire to the helmet though so I'll play with bluetooth again next spring.

2008 K1200GT, Custom Paint, Vivid Black, Aeroflow WS & Aeroguards, Givi E52 Maxia Topcase w/AdMore Lighting, Zumo 660, Suburban Footpeg Lowering, Sargent Seat

2009 R1200GS Adventure, Magnesium Grey/Black, Adventure Cases, Zumo 660, Touratech Unobtanium Accessories

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post #6 of 33 (permalink) Old Nov 4th, 2009, 7:59 pm Thread Starter
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Thanks for the answers.
Lets assume I am a risk-taker and never have owned a radar detector, and don't plan on it, that might ease things a bit. Does this sound like a plan:

Zumo 550, handlebar mount (in mirror hole).

For the helmet, I see good prices on the basic model Cardo Scala Rider, either one pack or two pack, as my wife has commented that intercom might be nice, plus she has been hinting at a new helmet next year.

For the bluetooth adapter i was thinking I'd keep the brand the same and get a Cardo BTA. Unless the one you mention is really unique in the stereo capablility and you think it would be better.

I will need to get a bluetooth phone if I expect that to somehow work in to the mix as well.

Would the camos headsets be all that much different or better than a Scala Rider? I really don't know the difference at this point, but the basic Rider is pretty cheap in comparison.


"No problem is so big or so complicated that it can't be run away from"

Dark Graphite: Making bikes faster for over 40 years.
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post #7 of 33 (permalink) Old Nov 4th, 2009, 8:12 pm
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Steve's got the right idea with the Mix-It. I paid over $2000 for the Nolan (2 of them), their n-Com stuff and Hi-Fi II series stuff and only got one Bluetooth dongle to work out of the Zumo, a Jabra A120. Nothing else worked with the Nolan helmets, not Sony, not WiRevo - just the Jabra A120 stereo dongle. I got drawers full of damn dongles and battery chargers. Bluetooth can be really be fickle between brands! More volume caused the batteries to die quicker. With two helmets, you need to carry more chargers if you want to wait less than 3 hours to charge one of them alone. BT was/is a pain, imho. None of the dongle stuff is waterproof either.

I've since gotten tired of the Nolan 103 setup and have gone back to wired with some Ultimate Ear UE-11 in-ear phones which are wonderful (very costly too!). They have 4 speakers per ear: two bass, mid, treble including the crossover. That is about as close to audiophile stuff as you can get on a bike, imo, and ambient wind noise is almost gone. Bluetooth had too many issues for me like constant battery charging (for hours) and if they go dead midday, you are pretty much dead for sound unless you have wired backup. Passkeying them if they go dead or drop out was another "Get off the highway to relink them" pita and I had to carry the manuals to get them to relink. My older Shoei Mutli-Tech, although not as nicely finished as the Nolan N-103 nor had their slick dark internal visor, was much quieter and not as heavy so I went back to it. The Nolan n-Com II speakers, although sounding pretty good for helmet speakers, just caused me too much suffering from wind noise from not using in-ear phones - ergo, back to wired to knock down the wind noise.

I'm using an older Autocom Pro AVI that has a slight "amp hiss" which is a bit annoying between quiet portions. Their newer Autocom Pro AVI Automatic supposedly addresses the amp hiss stuff. Dunno yet. I push all my stuff through the Autocom and it works well if you have all their damn external ground-loop isolators on your bike powered stuff: radar, Zumo, MP3 player, radios, whatever. Autocom needs to put all the external ground-loop crap in their box even if it adds a few more dollars to the main box itself. Space is limited under the seat without the need for all their extra cables and ground-loop and BT mini-boxes.

Fwiw, the Zumo isn't the greatest MP3 player (no equalizer at all) and the iPod isn't the best player either for much of the same issues according to the gear-heads in the Hi-Fi Head forums. The Sony X-Series Walkman is the primo now for sound quality MP3 as it has a multitude of equalizers and settings to satisfy the serious audiophile (okay, me!).

The XM Radio recently lowered their bitrate for stereo to something like 64kbps or maybe lower. If you want a better signal, you'll pay more for it and they can nickle and dime their way up to $30+ a month if you let them. I think it was another $3/mo. for 128 kbps which still isn't that good but maybe good enough for speakers on a bike or cheaper in-ear phones. Using my UE-11's, the XM Radio's high frequency music was tinny and bass was distorted and lacking and booming when present. They blamed it on my XM Radio antenna (Garmin XM-30) rather than their newly-lowered bitrate. Their weather stuff was another $3-$4 per month too. It takes sometimes an hour for the weather to update and you can be under a rainstorm getting soaking wet and the XM Radio will show sunny skies! Maybe in another 20 minutes, it will flip to rainy skies. Their traffic is a bit slow too. You can be stuck in rush hour gridlock before they get the update posted.

XM Radio also dropped their free online XM Radio service and wanted another $4 or so a month for that. You can negotiate with the online rep. on the prices though. I dropped them when it got up to around $17 a month as my bike spent a lot of time in some shops (sometimes months plus winter) so it became a waste for me to continue it. They have your credit card and they just work it and you may see a small flier about a rate hike for whatever (they had some RIAA suit they lost last year and they hiked another $2 per month last March. Now I get constant e-mails and mailings to come back for as low as $4 per month. I'm holding out though to see how low they will go.

Good luck.


Last edited by GMack; Nov 4th, 2009 at 8:19 pm.
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post #8 of 33 (permalink) Old Nov 4th, 2009, 8:47 pm
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I am using the Zumo 550 mounted on the BMW mount located in the center of the handlebar. I use my custom earbuds and my blue tooth phoine. I can only get phone call to see who is calling
( usually my wife). Then I stop and take off my helmet and call her the conventional way. I think the mp3 player in the Zumo is good enough. MY ipod is about the same quality. I only need the music as background as I am really concentrating on the road and scenery.
I purchased a bluetooth helmet from Costco a while back. It was chea enough to fool around seeing how built in stuff works. I will probably give it a try one of these days when I have nothing better to do.

Between the wire and plug for my Heated gear and the ear plug wire, I feel like I am really connected to my bike (lol)

Deep Blue 2009 K1300GT
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post #9 of 33 (permalink) Old Nov 5th, 2009, 9:17 am
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Not entirely related, but just to let people know there are other setups out there...

Most of my long-distance rides are two-up. I rely on my passenger (my wife) to run the GPS. We used to have a setup (PDA with CoPilot software, separate bluetooth GPS unit, autocom intercom) that was all battery powered and fit into a back-mounted map case from roadgear.

It worked well, but successive versions of the GPS software were slower and munched batteries faster, etc. We had a look at dedicated GPS units, and they were much superior.

I ended up building an entirely new rig. I bought a Zumo 660 and modified a Fox hydration backpack to hold it, the autocom and my (bluetooth) cell phone. I rigged everything (except the cell phone, not worth the effort) to run off of the accessory socket on the GT.

We recently took our first long trip with it, and it worked pretty well. With the passenger operating the GPS, we were able to use more advanced features (finding a hotel and calling ahead for example) that I would not be able to do while busy riding the bike.

My only complaints are the weight of the Zumo, and the oddness and lack of flexibility of the "bike" mount. I may do a little more work to the backpack (or replace it with something else), but a very useful package overall.

I just wish somebody designed stuff for this application!
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post #10 of 33 (permalink) Old Nov 5th, 2009, 11:39 am
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Originally Posted by GMack
Steve's got the right idea with the Mix-It.... for as low as $4 per month. I'm holding out though to see how low they will go.
Good luck.Mack

Great information shared in your reply. You touched on many relevant points of interest. Appreciate the detailed response.


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