And You Thought Apple CarPlay Was Just for Cars

The most hi-tech piece of electronics on my (vintage) BMW motorcycle is the magneto ignition or, possibly, the brake light. But I fully admit that electrical engineering has come a long way since 1962. Thus, today's motorcycles have somewhat more sophisticated do-dads. Way more sophisticated.

Case in point is the new factory-installed infotainment system available on some Harley Davidson motorcycles. If you're like me, you associate Harleys with old-school bikers and fairly basic machinery. But the truth is that modern riders, particularly the younger riders that Harley is so desperately wooing, want their motorcycles (and cars) to have iPhone-type electronics. Harley has responded accordingly.

Harley's Boom! Box GTS Infotainment System juices up their Touring and Trike bikes (sorry, no Sportsters or Softails); in particular, the system is standard equipment on some 2019 models, and can be factory-installed as an option on others. Boom! has been around since 2013, but it's being nicely upgraded for 2019. You'll find an improved 6.5-inch touchscreen backed by a faster processor (for example, route calculation is now 2.5 seconds, down from 10 seconds before), more memory, and greater compatibility for external programs such as Apple CarPlay. The latter is enabled, with hands-free voice recognition, when you use a microphone on Harley's optional wireless headset. With CarPlay, you can project your iPhone functions to the Boom! screen, showing weather, traffic, or whatever.

The touchscreen is faced by Gorilla Glass, and has a surface treatment to preserve visibility in bright sunlight. The display itself has higher contrast, better resolution and importantly, can be used while wearing riding gloves. The home screen is simple, with just three systems buttons, for navigation, phone, and music. Of course, it supports swiping, pinching and dragging. If you're not into touchscreens, the system can be operated with thumb-operated joysticks on either side of the screen.

Boom! is compatible with Harley's app for iOS or Android; for example, when using navigation, you can find your destination using your phone's app, and send that address or POI to the Boom!. Along the same lines, Harley provides a Ride Planner. From an audio standpoint, the system provides 25 watts/channel through two or four speakers, and audio sources include AM, FM, XM, Bluetooth streaming, and digital storage.

My favorite part of the entire system is this: when you're using navigation and you punch in Alternate Routes, the system kindly provides Fastest, Shortest, Twisty, or Scenic routes. I imagine that Twisty and Scenic roads are often one in the same, but I appreciate the ability to choose.

Twisty, of course.

Oh, how I can appreciate that. I am in the parking lot one afternoon, V-Twin rumbling between my legs, and I turn to my riding buddies and say, "Hold my beer. I'll find us the most twisty route to the Crab Shack."

PS: If you are an Indian kind of guy, their infotainment system is pretty slick too.

PPS: If you are neither a Harley or Indian kind of guy, SENA makes excellent helmet communications systems that let you communicate with other riders, answer phone calls, play music, get directions, etc.

PPPS: I know what you are thinking: This kind of stuff on a motorcycle is sacrilege. You might be right. But sometimes new motorcycle tech is better tech. Anti-lock brakes, for example. Ask me how I know about that.