With two ongoing motorcycle projects in my garage, I’ve been reading and thinking about gearing versus vehicle speed a lot lately. With those thoughts comes the keen awareness that old-school mechanical speedometers can be wildly inaccurate, and even many modern OE digital speedometers have a built-in “fudge factor.” The proper tool for accurately determining vehicle speed is via GPS. There are plenty of GPS tools available, including smart phones and sat-navs, available in various automotive, adventure/outdoor, and wearable varieties. But what if you want just a speedometer? I went looking for a compact, straightforward GPS speedometer, and while there were plenty of choices, most of the examples I found had one or more drawbacks.
- Marine GPS speedometers are popular, high-quality instruments, but their price reflects that quality, and they are designed to mount permanently in the dash. I wanted to make less of a commitment on both counts.
- Aftermarket HUD displays. These tend to be cheaply made, gimmicky looking, and cumbersome to use: press Button A one for this function, twice for the other function, and hold for two seconds to switch modes. This was, again, more than I was looking for.
Throughout my online searching, I kept running across one unique, attractive option: a wireless GPS speedometer from Australian vendor TechBrands. It’s refreshingly straightforward, robust-looking, and has gotten good reviews from users. At 2″ x 2.5″ x 1″, it can fit in a shirt pocket. Instead of a plethora of settings and modes, it has exactly two switches: on/off and kph/mph—how elegantly simple. Wireless, pocket-sized, and even affordable, it was exactly what I had in mind.
I initially hesitated to order something from halfway around the globe: surely it or something similar was available in North America. But no. After many fruitless Google, Ebay, and Amazon queries, I determined that this was, indeed, a uniquely antipodean offering. I placed my order with an Aussie vendor for $84 USD, including shipping. I was fortunately able to complete the transaction through Fruugo, a U.S.-based, third-party aggregator storefront that charged my credit card in U.S. funds. About a month later, my box arrived (strangely coming from New Zealand, not Australia).
What It Does (and doesn’t do)
The TechBrands GPS is a wireless GPS speedometer with an LCD display. GPS positioning? No. Data logging? Nope, not even max speed recall. It is not waterproof or ruggedized; it’s designed ride along in your car, not in your kayak, jet ski, or backpack. This thing displays your speed digitally, and that’s all it does. You may see that as a drawback, but for what I want, it’s perfect. No special functions to learn, no app to download, no firmware updates. There are no modes or adjustments to mess with while driving. It solves a very specific need with no fuss, no complexity.
As I already mentioned, it has exactly two switches. This means there are no contrast or brightness controls for the display, something that initially concerned me. But, happily, the reverse LCD display has turned out to be easily readable in every condition from pitch-blackness to direct sunlight. The backlight isn’t dimmable, which might be distracting to some drivers at night, but I found it no brighter than my Suzuki Kizashi‘s LED audio display. The viewing angle is somewhat limited when the backlight is needed, but in daylight there is no such limitation. There’s is no auto-on/off functionality, so you’ll need to manually switch it on and off, regardless of whether it is plugged into power or not.
It’s limitations are why it’s easy and unobtrusive
Another advantage to the LCD display technology is a manufacturer’s estimated twenty-two hour continuous run time per charge. The internal, non-replaceable battery charges automatically when the standard USB mini-B cable is plugged into a power source, and the battery can charge concurrently while the unit is on. Keeping with the device’s KISS design, there is no battery indicator, just a low battery warning and a charging icon. The backlight glows amber initially at start-up, but switches to green once a satellite fix is acquired. That acquisition, by the way, is impressively quick. It often takes just a few moments, up to perhaps 30–40 seconds max, averaging about 20 seconds. This compares very favorably with an older Garmin ForeTrax 101 I once had, which would take upwards of two minutes to connect (that is, before it decided to stop connecting at all).
My only possible criticism is that the display updates once per second, so it is very good at indicating your speed at a steady cruise, but the lag means it can’t provide any usable information when accelerating. Overall, however, I am very happy with my purchase. It cost me not much money and negligible time getting it set up and running, if you don’t count the month of waiting for it to arrive. It is quick to connect, effortless to use, and does the one thing I wanted it to do flawlessly. That seems like money well spent.
Techbrands’ product page: techbrands.com/store/category/634/product/la9025.aspx
Fruugo order page: fruugo.us/techbrands-lcd-gps-rechargeable-speedometer/p-28118202-60225542