I invested about 500 bucks in a refurbished and rugged IBM T-30 laptop instead of a GPS. My reasons: Google maps and AAA TripTik are on the web, free (AAA membership required for the AAA site) and updated at no cost to me. All I need are some maps and my laptop. I plan each day the night before, having stayed at a motel with wireless Internet - most have them. If I need any items from the web, I just do a screen capture and dump the info into a picture or Word document.
I figure that I spent half of what the best GPS costs, and won't have any future upgrade costs, plus I can't read the smaller screen as well.
I also have the advantage of being to update my website on the road, as I can immediately move digital pictures from my camera to the laptop.
I was also considering a GPS, but went this route instead.
If you take the GPS route, I'd visit the Garmin website and look for what is on sale for motorcycles, as well as talk to those who have purchased a GSP and find out how satisfied they are with what they bought. Also consider a unit that you can move from bike to car.
Just to get my feet wet, plus have something for the car without a big expense, I bought a Garmin C320 on the web for <$250. It works great for my purposes at the moment and I can see where the more expensive units have much more to offer. I'm sure I will upgrade at some point, but for now it's well worth it.
Heed the advice of the others on this board and do all the research you can, both here and the reviews on the GPS boards, Amazon, etc.
Good luck on whatever you decide. They're a great tool.
Read your post - I purchased a Garmin 2730 for the following reasons:
1. It already has the US and Canada maps loaded
2. It is programable
3. It comes with XM built in
4. It also have a 1 GB MP3 player
5. You can easily download route/day trip/ long trip etc to a computer and save it.
6. I can move it from my Wing to my Mustang to my F-250 pick-up very easily
7. It's water proof
8. MapSource is a decent enough program to set up your routes/waypoints, favorite spots and then load them into your GPS.
That's about it. I think it's worth the bucks I spent for the peace of mind to know what's around the next corner without messing with paper at 70 mph...
What GPS should I buy? Everyone you ask will give you a different answer. What is right for you?
I will say this, I can't imagine travelling without a GPS. When you are in unfamiliar territory, a decent mapping GPS is invaluable. My personal preference is the Garmin 276/376 series. Most will suggest the Garmin 26xx or 27xx series.
Factors to consider. Do you plan to only use it on the bike, and while powered from the bike? Do you want a unit that can be moved between vehicles, used hand held, etc.? Some GPS units have batteries, others only run on external power, and many can do both. Do you want a GPS that can interface with a PC, so you can do your primary planning on the PC, then transfer data to the GPS? Very handy. Do you want a GPS that can store large track files, so you can download where you've been onto your PC for saving and future reference? How many waypoints do you want to be able to store? (Waypoints are used in routing, but in my case, more importantly, are just handy ways of tagging where things are located, and easy to navigate to. I've got a couple of hundred waypoints I always keep in my GPS.) Weather proof/resistant is important for use on a bike. Ability to see the screen in bright sunlight is important for use on a bike (one area where the 276/376 really stands out). Others have mentioned other non-GPS features such as XM radio, nexrad weather interfaces, etc. that are available in some models. Most of those types of features require subscription at some cost.
As others have noted, look in the GPS/MP3/etc. forum - there are lots and lots of posts asking and responding to essentially the same question. Keep the considerations we have mentioned here in mind as you look through the discussions. Once you have identified a few units that you think will serve your purposes, do more research on the vendors web pages, and if possible, get together with people who have and are using them so you can see them first hand (a local GWRRA or GWTA chapter for example).
Overall, I doubt that you can go wrong by sticking with any of the primary models recommended. The more research you do up front, the less likely you will say "Gee, I wish I'd gotten x instead." But even then, you will still like what you have.
I agree with Silver 05 (Carl). I have had two or three GPS's over the years and now have a Garmin 276c which suits my needs. It has a rechargable battery or 12v. I move it between my motorhome, van and GW. I can see the screen easily while moving. I have XM radio built in my truck, bought a $29 xm receiver for my scoot (which works great) and move it to the MH when traveling. I also did not wish to pay $1,000 +/- for the top of the line....lots of choices out there....enjoy