Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs)

Article authored by SBBMW Rider Newsletter Editor, Diane Krohn

We all have cell phones that we take with us on our motorcycles, but for reach beyond a modern cell signal, communication is trickier.

There are devices that can provide digital, textbased communication, or devices that allow for voice transmission (for example, satellite phones).


One of the most-well known devices, SPOT Inc., uses GPS to determine the user’s location and uses the Globalstar Satellite Network to transmit the GPS coordinates to and from others. SPOT can be used to tell others where you are, send pre-selected messages, and can be used to send an emergency SOS to first responders. Some versions have two-way messaging. SPOT does not work in all locations, however. SPOT requires an annual subscription; the basic plan is about $144/year. SPOT Devices

Garmin Inreach

The Garmin Inreach device uses an iridium satellite network for communications. It has pre-set messages, an SOS function, and it can track your whereabouts to send out to friends. It also allows texting back and forth with any cell phone number or email address. Inreach has both monthly and annual subscription plans. The basic plan is about $15/month.

Marten owns an Inreach device but mentioned that it is bulky and thus not always convenient to carry on your person. Garmin Inreach 


Two additional iridium satellite network systems include Somewear and Bivystick. Somewear is a mobile app and can be used to track your route and text to others. It has an SOS function. Subscriptions can be monthly or yearly; the basic monthly cost is about $15/month. Somewear Labs


Bivystick is a device and mobile app that provides tracking and sharing, an SOS function, and can send and receive text messages. The base plan is about $18/month. Bivystick 

ACR Rescueme

ACR Rescueme PLB1 is a PLB that would be used only in SOS situations. When it is activated, it broadcasts your GPS position to search and rescue teams. There is no subscription cost. The device costs about $290.

One aspect of any type of PLB (or cell phone) is that of access on the motorcycle—or specifically, access to the device if you are pinned by your bike, or hurt, and cannot reach the PLB to send out any sort of message. Something to consider for all of us if we travel in remote areas or on lesser-traveled roads.

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