It's just a bike. Solid GPS review
It’s just a bike.
Have you had this said to you? “But it’s insured, you can get another one”.
For some people that ride, this may be the case. It’s a transport mode of choice with some pros and cons. But for others, riding a motorcycle is a passion. You don’t just ride a “bike”, you ride your pride and joy. Your bike brings you such joy that you lavish it with care, tinker with it here, upgrade it there and boast to your friends and fellow riders, “this is my ride”. For some it’s even a way of life. Customizing and personalizing a motorcycle is one of the biggest topics of debate in the hundreds of motorcycle forums you may find yourself arguing in online.
Victoria is arguably one of the best places in Australia to ride a motorcycle. Not only does it have some of the best motorcycle tourist roads, it’s the only state in Australia that allows and encourages motorcyclists to park their bikes on the wider footpaths, saving the space on the roads for cars and reducing congestion. Wander around Melbourne during the working week and there are thousands of shiny machines to admire along the thoroughfares.
The National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council’s latest report shows Nationwide, motor vehicle theft fell 15 per cent (8,385) in the 12 months to June 2021 to a total of 47,803. This is the lowest theft figure recorded since 2001/02. Victoria and South Australia saw the largest falls. The Pandemic has had one positive outcome as people have not been using their vehicles as much. Motorcycle theft has reduced by 19%. However over a 5 year period, this reduction is only 7%. Motorcycle thefts are still a prized score for thieves. Especially considering that they only represent 4% of road going vehicles. What it also shows is that using your bike, stopping for a coffee or commuting to the city is where the greatest risk of theft occurs.
I’ve looked into alarms and locks but these aren’t going to be of much use unless you’re within eyesight of your ride and let’s face it, it’s a pain to have to lock and unlock all the time. Does anyone pay attention when a car alarm goes off these days? I’d also looked into GPS tracking systems but I wondered if there was one that could be both a sentinel and a tracker at the same time?
Nathan Torker from SolidGPS explained their origins –
Trent, the co-founder, has been coding since he was around 12 years old, which helped him when he came up with the original idea to protect his motorcycle.
He was frustrated with the current state of GPS trackers and security systems in general, a lot of them were too complex, expensive or didn't work in Australia. At first we tried to hire someone to make the trackers but that tree didn't bear any fruit.
So between 2018 September and 2019 August, Trent began teaching himself electrical engineering, hardware manufacturing and software development and we went through about 17 prototypes until we finally created Solid GPS. I then quit my job to help sell and market the product while he kept making incremental improvements every day.
Based in Melbourne (yes this is a true blue Aussie company) I was impressed. It was a pleasure talking to Nathan and their support is terrific. And they’re open to suggestions for improvement.
The Subscription is only $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year. This covered the SIM card, access to your own Dashboard which allows control of the unit, GPS co-ordinates and map overlay. You can access this in a browser or there is a free iPhone/Android SolidGPS app you can download to your phone which also provide push notifications.
The SolidGPS unit itself is a once off $147. This includes the SIM card preconfigured to your account and they even give you a 31 day trial! There is also an option for a longer life battery.
This was not only the cheapest end to end solution I found but also the easiest to setup and get running. Once the unit arrived, you plug it into your USB charger (cable was supplied) and then start looking for somewhere to hide it in your bike or whatever vehicle you need it for. Being battery powered, it needs no power source to hook into. The unit itself is not waterproof (there’s holes for the on-off switch and charging port) so you can put it in a watertight bag if it’s going to be exposed to the weather. Nathan notes they are working on a model with an Ingress Protection rating.
The battery life depends on a few factors, if the unit is sitting still it pings for a location every 24 hours. If it’s moving it will update every 2 to 5 minutes and in Emergency mode it pings every 2 minutes and thus uses more power. I found mine easily lasted four months with daily use before the Dashboard alerted me to charge the battery! If you’re an infrequent rider it will last much longer.
Next, login to the SolidGPS app on your mobile device or web browser and you can see your unit location on a map! If you need multiple units, these can all show up in the Dashboard in separate colours or pinpointed individually. The Dashboard options allow you to setup boundaries so if the unit moves outside the boundary it switches to Emergency mode for more accurate tracking. They’ve also introduced a “Watchdog” mode for a quick boundary setup.
This means when you stop, lock the steering and whip your phone out and turn on the Watchdog feature. If the unit detects that is moving it pings the satellites and updates its location, pushes an alert to your phone and even sends you an email!
It’s not like an alarm that disables the bike or lets a siren rip if someone thinks sitting on your ride is ok. But it lets you know something is happening.
There are some limitations with GPS systems which means it cannot be instant. I’ve been trialling this for months now though and can say it doesn’t take much movement for the alerts to start dinging my phone. Beware of parking it under a concrete overpass, you’ll be getting some weird alerts! If you park where the unit cannot get a GPS signal, of course this doesn’t work. But as soon as the bike moves to a place where it can get a signal, it will start pinging away.
The way GPS tracking systems usually work is the device measures the signals from GPS satellites to determine position. Then the unit uses the GSM/GPRS network to transmit the positional data. SolidGPS uses the 3/4G systems. So in areas of poor GSM coverage the positional data may not be as accurate so keep this in mind when choosing a place to park. This is why it’s so important to be able to determine the bikes location as soon as possible if it’s being stolen. You may be able to apprehend the thief before they even get a chance to load your bike into a van or trailer. If you miss them, you can even give police access to your Dashboard temporarily!