The Memory Map Adventurer 3500 GPS is the latest gadget from navigation experts Memory Map.  Digital mapping and GPS units have become increasingly popular for cyclists and are a great way to plan, share and navigate routes – both for mountain biking and road cycling. We were really excited to receive a pre-production sample from Memory Map and decided to take it out for a quick mountain bike ride on the North Downs.

First impressions
One of the first things you notice when you get the Memory Map Adventurer 3500 out of the box is it’s size.  It’s a reassuringly chunky unit with a nice large screen (this is one of the main features).  You can tell immediately it’s designed to be used and abused – it’s completely waterproof and will withstand a serious amount of vibrations, knocks, bumps and drops – all things that are common features when mountain biking.

Included in the box are:
Memory Map Adventurer 3500 unit
Stylus
Soft travel case
Bike mount
Protective silicon cover
Wall charger (incl UK and European plug)
Car charger
Memory Map installation CD
Quick start guide
Belt clip

Turned on
Once turned on the unit fires up to a welcome screen giving quick access to maps, settings, apps and pictures.  Built on a Windows CE operating system, Memory Map have layered a more iPhone / Android type skin over the top to make the user interface a bit more appealing – but unfortunately the somewhat clunky windows screen does make appearances when you get to the more detailed functions available in the unit.  This certainly doesn’t present any functional problems, but would have been nice to have the more graphical interfaces used throughout.

The most striking feature of the unit is the huge touch screen.  It’s very bright and functions very well in bright / glarry conditions.  The touch screen is responsive and maps can be scrolled by wiping your finger in the appropriate direction, zooming in and out is achieved by touching + and – icons on the screen.  Handily a stylus is included in the package – as an iPhone user I dismissed the stylus as unnecessary.  However out on the trail wearing thick cycling gloves the stylus was a god send!  Also many of the operations on the touch screen (such as clicking on a route) require the precision of the stylus.

Mapping
The unit comes with a 1:50k Ordinance Survey map of the entire UK – imagine having all the maps of the UK sitting on your handlebars!!  OS maps are the most comprehensive maps available, and the 1:50k scale is perfect for cycling.  It shows all public rights of way including byways, bridleways and footpaths (remember not to cycle on the footpaths).

Routes can be created on the 3500, or they can be created in the bundled Memory Map software (or any other software that can export a GPX file).  To send a route from your PC to the 3500 just plug it in via the included USB cable and save the route file onto the unit which is recognised as a removable disc drive.

Once you’ve imported the route you can bring it up on the screen and ‘follow’ it. (the unit will give you an arrow pointing you in the direction of the destination.

On the trail
The GPS fires up and obtains a satellite position very quickly.  Your current position appears on the screen as a red circle.

If you’ve imported a route onto the device this will show on the map.  Click on the route and ‘follow’ it – an arrow will be displayed pointing you in the direction of the first waypoint on the route – it also displays estimated time to waypoint, distance and other data.

Following the route is really straight forward – just make sure you keep the flashing red circle (you) on the route line!

I found that zooming in and out, and scrolling the map was very easy to do just with your fingers.  The unit is very responsive and loads the maps very quickly.  As mentioned previously more ‘precise’ work on the screen was better off being done with the stylus rather than your fingers (or a soggy glove).

A great feature was the ability to ‘lock’ the screen so it was constantly centred on your position (otherwise you would travel off the edge of the screen).  One feature that was missing though was a ‘track up’ view rather than being ‘north up’ – what this means is the north of the map was always at the top of the screen.  There was no ability to change this to ‘track up’ which shows your heading at the top of the screen.

It’s worth noting that 3500 is not just for cyclists.  Any outdoor activity that requires a map will benefit from this gadget (walkers will be the other big market for this product).

Once you’ve finished your ride you can save the track.  This can be used to navigate again in the future and it can also be taken off the device and loaded back into the Memory Map software where you can see ride data including speed and elevation profiles – very nifty!  And of course you can share your track with others.

Summary
The Adventurer 3500 focuses on one thing and it does it very well – navigation!

You can’t really compare the unit to the likes of the Garmin Edge 705 etc which are all about performance and training – they do navigation as well but it’s arguably not their strength.

Roadies looking for a training partner won’t find it in this unit – they’ll be better served elsewhere.  The 3500 will appeal to the adventurous mountain bikers out there, those that sit in the traditional camp of map reading / route planning / route following – paired with the excellent Memory Map software this is the ultimate navigation package.

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