How much you need navigation depends where you ride. I never used any prior to my first ride outside Australia and I could navigate regional Philippines with offline maps, but things ramp up. Riding through Europe or large cities in Asia you appreciate navigation and in my experience phone apps are still well behind dedicated GPS devices.

The GPS I use for rides outside of Japan is a Garmin Nuvi 760. It’s 13 years old this year but other than the screen being well scratched displays the Garmin navigation software same as my much newer Garmin Zumo. The screen can be replaced but it’s actually cheaper to just buy another unit.

My original 2008 Nuvi 760 on the left, next to that a new to me 2009 Nuvi 765 which I got for $17US and will talk about further. (then my Japanese spec Zumo and at back a 5″ Nuvi 1450 which I will come back to later)

No upgrade needed

Phones and computers run ever more complex software thus need to become more powerful. Garmin’s still run same software, process same data, display same graphics. You don’t need nor get much extra from a new model.

In this upgrade driven world people might struggle with that. Try thinking of a Casio G-Shock watch – you remember them? First one came out 1983. Riding dirt bikes regular watches used to fail from the bumps and falls so I got one of these and it was unbreakable. Today’s G-Shocks might be bit flasher case but are basically showing you same info in same format using same tech. Ditto with Garmin’s.

That’s probably a flawed analogy but gives bit of an idea not every device needs to be have ever higher spec computing. I have the current model Garmin Zumo for Japan which provides specific highway junction guidance but otherwise works and displays same as the Nuvi 765.

Winter project number one

I got the Nuvi765 from eBay. There are heaps of older units for sale in USA but usually only ship within USA. I have been using a freight forwarding company called Shipito for as long as I can remember to get around retailers that did not ship international and also to save money on freight as Shipito offers cheaper rates. (If you buy on eBay as a guest you can ship to any address not just your registered one). I combined this with couple other items I had sitting in Shipito’s holding facility thus it cost nothing extra to reach me. You fill out your own customs declaration with Shipito so I listed this as vintage electronics to explain it’s low value.

The unit was working but battery did not hold charge so I obtained new one from Aliexpress for $8US including postage. The case on 765 is that softer plastic that can get sticky when old. Easy fix is scrub with paste of baking powder a couple times. Then I replaced the battery.

It’s an easy job, you need star driver for the security screws, some batteries sellers include that tool (why fit “security screws” that anyone can just use a readily available tool to remove? ok I digress). Pry open the rear section, some battery come with flat plastic tool for this but old butter knife will suffix. Disconnect battery and speaker (note how the connectors fit) pry out old battery, fit new with some double sided tape, reconnect, snap rear case back on, do up screws.

A bit of a wipe down and screen treated with Plexus and it’s almost ready (still a bit of baking powder, I removed that later). Install Garmin Express app and connect to computer then check for updates then follow instructions to have newest firmware installed. I tested a map of Vietnam (get all your maps free from Open Street Maps) and a route I used there on my ride out of Da Nang and its all working perfect ready for when the world eventually reopens.

Finished project.

Total cost $25US.

In my experience and research on GPS geek forums there is nothing that goes wrong with the 760 series besides the batteries or screens eventually getting worn. My old one has been submerged twice, been used from zero to 46 degrees where it was too hot to touch, bounced on handlebars one hundred thousand times.

Of course the Nuvi series is a car GPS so you need to put it in a case. I use the original SoEasyRider cases which are no longer made but there are dozens of options on eBay or Aliexpress to consider.

On tour I power the GPS with a small flat power bank battery that fits in the rear pocket (2) so no need to run wires to batteries on rental bikes. You need a two wire power only USB cable for that with Garmin units, I just made my own from regular data cable that had right angle mini USB end that suits the GPS.

Looking back to the first photo the other GPS is a Nuvi 1450 which I got as a replacement for my 760 earlier. These have a 5 inch screen and would be ideal except the USB port is located on the rear instead of lower edge and this makes it prone to failure when bumped, as I experienced. I got the Japanese Zumo GPS just because expressway junctions here are so complex I need specialized guidance to get through them.

If you want a cheap Garmin GPS and are tempted by other Nuvi models then do check if they support user defined multi point routes i.e. able to navigate all day a route you made and uploaded to the unit. Many newer models do not support this.

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  1. I want to thank you for this article, as I have been going back and forth over the GPS units in my head. I did have an older NVUI but I think it got tossed some ware, and now I have ordered my new (to me) NVUI 765. I have seen a bunch on powering them with the USB cables so I will have to try and make my own as I do not have a power outlet only USB on my bike. Once More thank you.

    • Just a note, to power a Garmin Nuvi via USB it must be using a power only two wire type cable not a regular USB cable or the gps will go into PC data transfer mode.

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