Do I really need GPS?
I don’t have amnesia… but my memory isn’t exactly photographic.
Neither is yours.
Which is a problem.
You can’t afford to go by your non-photographic memory. Especially when you’re riding through the city.
Did I miss the right turn? Or turn right at the wrong turn? Do I turn right at this turn?
And if I catch a signboard or a landmark at the last minute, I can’t switch lanes.
Outside the city, the state of affairs is even worse.
Unless you like having awkward conversations with strangers you don’t know for directions.
Or ride vast stretches of roads wondering “Is it worth risking 50 miles in the wrong direction because I don’t like having awkward conversations with strangers?”.
That mini-heart attack you have –
Where you suddenly catch your elongated shadow to your left in the headlight of a death machine on 4 wheels behind you
– is all too familiar.
Adrenaline levels and blood pressure enter a competition to see which can go higher. And you have to balance between the two while trying not to get run over.
Motorcycles aren’t very visible to most drivers at night.
Until the driver crashes into one.
“But I’ve never crashed. Most times, nothing happens.”
But those non-most times make all the difference.
One slight mishap is enough to end up in serious injury. Or death.
Or worse, your motorcycle may end up getting totaled.
But you clicked on this article for a reason.
Good reasoning. Because we’re going to help you choose the best motorcycle GPS unit.
Apps such as Google Maps are very, very useful.
Web mapping services on your smartphones are impressive in general. With very innovative software.
Especially if you’re traversing large distances by car or figuring out a new area by walk.
Unfortunately for motorcycle riders, they don’t offer much use.
Especially when compared to a motorcycle GPS unit.
Lack of durability, physical versatility (anti-glare & easy with gloves, among others) and route recording, unfortunately, render them borderline unusable for riders.
The only reason most riders hesitate to get one is because of the hefty price tags.
Dropping hundreds of dollars, especially for you young folk, is a hard decision to make.
We get that. Which is why we wrote this.
When you’re making an investment worth hundreds of dollars, the returns better be worth it.
And the returns on the TomTom Rider 550 and Garmin Zumo 550 are worth their weight in gold. And medical bills.
TomTom and Garmin are heavyweight contenders among Motorcycle GPS navigation systems.
Their respective Rider 550 and Zumo 595LM are top of the range. Which is the reason for their massive popularity, despite their price tags.
Ridiculously user-friendly. Hands-free calling. Traffic reports in real-time.
Hell, they even offer lane assist options.
We can attest to this. Because we tested them ourselves.
Going by our own opinions, and comparing them with reports from other users, we’ve narrowed the buying factors down.
We’re going to run you through the pros, cons, and what you personally need to know about before jumping the gun.
Wearing motorcycle gloves? No sweat.
The Zumo 595LM comes with a huge 5-inch touch screen. And it’s glove-friendly.
With an IPX rating of 7, no weather is too tough to ride in.
Come rain or shine, the Garmin Zumo don’t whine. (Sorry for that horrible rhyme.)
The motorcycle GPS unit is easy to see in bright sunlight as well.
It also comes with the Garmin tire pressure monitor sensor.
All you have to do is attach it to a metal tire valve stem, and you can monitor your motorcycle’s tire pressure easily. You can set a pressure threshold as well, which alerts you when crossed.
The Zumo also provides lifetime map updates, some of which are free. This is especially useful if you’re riding The Roads Not Ridden in the countryside.
Speaking of which.
If you like pre-planned routes for traversing winding roads at high places, the Zumo’s got that covered. Just select the ‘adventurous’ option.
Like listening to music while riding?
You’re going to like this even better: the Zumo 595LM comes with Spotify and Pandora integration.
You can also connect the GPS system to your phone, headphones, or intercom via Bluetooth if you want to listen to music or talk hands-free.
- Touch screen size
- IPX rating of 7
- Tire pressure monitor sensor
- Lifetime map updates
- Spotify/Pandora present
- Bluetooth connections
TomTom Rider 550
The TomTom Rider 550 is the brand’s coup de maitre.
6 hours of battery life? Check.
Lifetime map updates for free? Check.
Wi-fi route uploads in real-time? Check.
The GPS system comes with a 4.3-inch touchscreen.
Like the Zumo 595LM, the screen has an IPX rating of 7. Usable with gloves et al.
It also comes with planning features that help you plan your journey for a long bike ride.
If not, it provides a lot of pre-loaded routes you can use if you just want to ride ad hoc.
You can also access TomTom road trips, through which you can traverse routes curated by other riders.
The TomTom also offers ‘Plan a thrill’ options. Wherein like Garmin’s ‘Adventurous Routes’, you have road maps for tight-bended twisty roads at high elevations.
The built-in wifi automatically updates routes every time while connected.
The Bluetooth connectivity allows you to tap into your intercom unit or smartphone. Allowing you to access hands-free calling or monitor texts. The TomTom Rider also comes with Siri and Google Now compatibility.
The 550 also comes with the RAM brand handlebar mount- one of the most robust vehicle electronic mounts in the industry.
You can also swivel the touchscreen to view in portrait or landscape mode.
- Long battery life
- Lifetime map updates
- Wifi route uploads
- Rotating touchscreen
- Planning features
Garmin Zumo 595LM
- Mapping – While the Zumo 595LM provides an impressive array of maps and mapping updates, only maps in the European continent are free. You can purchase maps outside the European regions, but the updates won’t be complimentary.
- Display – While the screen is very durable and responds very well to motorcycle gloves, it has a very traditional aesthetic. Layered tops et al.
- Battery life – Irrelevant for the most part when connected to your motorcycle’s power bracket. But on its own, the GPS system lasts barely 3 hours. 1.5 hours in, the screen brightness operates at just 60 percent.
TomTom Rider 550
- Waterproof – This may be of particular interest to you, especially if you live in the Southeastern United States or other areas with a lot of rain.
The TomTom Rider has an IPX7 rating but the screen settings did change when we took it out during a heavy downpour.
- Lack of Open Source Mapping – While the TomTom rider offers worldwide map routes for free, they are only accessible through TomTom’s Teleatlas map software.
Most common customer complaints
- Customer support – Many motorcycle riders opine about the lack of information by Garmin’s customer support help. Especially with regards to the Basecamp Program. The instructions and tutorials provided by Garmin have been reported to be difficult to understand.
- Price tag – Certain models (manufacturing defects) have been reported to have technical malfunctions. Leading a small minority of customers to believe the heavy price tag isn’t justified.
TomTom Rider 550
- Learning curve – The TomTom Rider does not come with an instruction manual. While you don’t need a Ph.D. to learn how to use it on your own, you may have to take a while to adjust to it first.
- Bureaucracy – You will have to connect to the device, TomTom MyDrive, and TomTom connect to update your route or map settings when connected to wi-fi. This felt a tad too unnecessary every time I wanted to update the map settings.
What suits me better?
The Garmin Zumo 595LM and TomTom Rider 550 are cutting edge in the GPS navigation systems department, especially for motorcycles.
Neither device is objectively better than the other; it depends on what you want out of a GPS system. Depending on where you live and what you want out of a GPS system, the following matter:
- Price – The Zumo 595LM is priced slightly higher than the TomTom Rider.
- Crossover to other vehicles – The Garmin Zumo has a car mount, which is very useful if you don’t want to buy a separate mount for your car.
- Route planning – As mentioned, Garmin’s Basecamp software has been reported to be a little too complex. The TomTom’s MyDrive is easier to use, especially once you’re accustomed to it.
- Durability – Both screens are very durable with an IPX 7 rating. But the TomTom Rider can be slightly annoying to use during heavy rains.
- Screen display – The TomTom Rider slightly edges out in this regard- the modern, crisp setting is a cut above the Zumo 595LM’s more traditional look. Unless you have a preference for products that look old.
- Features – The Garmin Zumo and TomTomRider both offer an impressive array of features, including live traffic updates, lane assist, and hands-free calling. However, the Zumo 595LM offers caution alerts for hairpin curves and animal zones, usage of apps like TripAdvisor, and can display text and social media notifications (Whatsapp, Facebook, etc.) from your phone as well.
- Battery Life – For the majority of the time, the GPS system will be powered by the vehicle you’ve connected to. However, on its own, the TomTom Rider’s battery life lasts much longer than the Garmin Zumo’s. Anywhere from 30-50%, in fact.
- Accuracy – Both sat-navs are extremely accurate, but the Zumo 595LM took slightly longer than the Rider 550 to travel the same route. This was because the TomTom Rider also offered us alternate routes on the side of the screen, and automatically recalculated our routes when we took a wrong turn.
“Always pass on what you have learned”Yoda
Don’t mention Yoda when talking about the GPS systems though.
You’ve learned a lot of things with this article, but deciding what to buy is all on you.
GPS systems are expensive- but they’re important.
Not just for safety reasons, but because of the amount of time saved.
I’ve done over 100 tours on my motorcycle. Before and after the technology revolution.
Ever since I got a sat-nav, I’ve saved roughly 2 hours every 10.
And I haven’t died, either. And a part of the credit for my lack of death goes to having a screen telling me where and how to go.
I wish you a lack of death as well.
Motofour.com reviews many products that assure motorcycle riders a lack of death. Go to ‘Reviews’ to learn more.