Real-Time Tracking, Peace of Mind
MSRP: $149.99; plus $99.99 per year for tracking service (includes $50 AMA member discount)
By Jim Williams
I’ve been a fan of this technology for several years and was an early-adopter of Spot’s original GEN1 device and service. The device operates by sending digital signals directly to orbiting satellites from anywhere on the globe. These messages are transmitted back to Spot’s central command center where, if necessary, search and rescue resources are contacted to come find you. They make every effort to use the most expedient methods necessary, including helicopters.
One of the most valuable features of this product is the team and expertise that comes with it. While some riders might say they prefer a satellite phone, a phone costs five to 10 times more on an annual basis compared to a Spot GEN3 subscription and isn’t as expedient in connecting you to the right emergency responders.
Often, minutes can mean the difference between life and death, and Spot’s team knows exactly who to call immediately. Would you?
The GEN3 has all the features of the original GEN1, including a few extras. The “SOS” button (for life-threatening emergencies) is the most valuable, of course, but it also has a “Help” button (for non-life-threatening situations) as well as the ability to send a customizable message. (The SOS and Help buttons are covered by protective lids to prevent accidental activation.)
You also get real-time tracking, which can be viewed by friends and family on Spot’s website. For an additional fee, you can subscribe to “Extreme Tracking,” which updates the online map more frequently. There’s also an “OK” button that sends a personalized message to family and friends to let them know everything’s fine.
The GEN3 is about 30 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter than the GEN1, which allows it to fit nicely in a jacket or pants pocket. To use the tracking feature, the device needs to have a clear view of the sky.
Another major upgrade is a better user interface. The buttons and flashing lights do a much better job of updating you on the device. The unit is quite sturdy and designed to withstand the rigors of riding, even if your adventures occasionally take you under water in a river crossing. The GEN3 also comes with a nifty strap and carabineer vs. the old belt clip, which is not very secure when using it on a motorcycle.
In real-time tests, the elapsed time from pressing the “OK” button to receiving it on a cell phone was less than 10 seconds (assuming a clear view of the sky and good cell coverage). Spot works in cloudy weather too, and location updates to your online tracking map are in the five- to 10-second range.
If you ride in areas where cell service is weak or non-existent, Spot’s direct uplink to satellites provides great peace of mind. AMA members qualify for special discounts on Spot’s tracking services, and the company often discounts the units themselves. For the latest unit prices, see www.findmespot.com, and for the latest on AMA member Spot service discounts, see the Members Only area of www.americanmotorcyclist.com.