GPS tracking systems are an invaluable part of any passionate motorist’s arsenal. If you think that your smartphone can work as the best GPS possible, let me amuse you for a bit and try to change your mind. Being an experienced motorcyclist for a few decades, I accrued some knowledge about motorcycling and all things related.
Changing our course back to the GPS vs. smartphone matchup: all of the GPS for motorcycles, unlike smartphones, are specifically designed to enhance your experience as a motorcyclist. You would not use your smartphone to shoot a whole film, right? So, why would you use it instead of a specially-designed GPS to guide you through all existing twists and turns of roads?
Of course, if you are not an avid rider that gets out on the road only a few times in a season, then the smartphone solution seems like a great option. If you are, however, someone like me, a person that cannot live a day without getting on top of yourself, then a GPS is a must!
Here are just a few options where your regular GPS can trump any phone navigator:
- Battery life: no smartphone will endure long ride sessions. They are just not up to snuff. GPS Apps require too much battery power while a dedicated GPS can serve you seven days straight without a charge-up.
- Cell networks and coverage are not everywhere. Although phones have GPS too, all additional GPS app features will die out in rural areas.
- Harsh conditions will render a phone useless: touchscreens were not made for use with gloves. Bad weather can also simply destroy a phone in no time.
There are many other big and small factors, which make the smartphone, not a favorable option. Thus, I have prepared a list of the top 7 motorcycle GPS options you can consider purchasing for your great rides.
7 Best GPS for a Motorcycle
- Garmin zūmo XT – Top Rated Motorcycle GPS
- Garmin Zumo 396 LMT-S – For Those Who Want a Programmable Device
- TomTom Rider 550 – One Of The Best Motorcycle GPS
- Montana 700i GPS by Garmin – Another Best Motorcycle GPS
- Garmin Zumo 595LM – One More the Best GPS for Motorcycles
- BMW Navigator VI Without Cradle by Garmin – Among the Most Popular BMW Motorcycles GPS
- Teletype 3500 World Nav3500 – In Case You Need a Motorcycle Waterproof GPS
Hopefully, I have stressed the necessity of a GPS for motorcyclists enough and made a competent argument for you to give up your smartphones. The next piece of advice I am going to give you is not to be hasty with your purchase. There are numerous options regarding GPS, and all of them are different. Choosing the wrong piece of equipment may lead you to lose your time, effort, money, or even all at once.
To avoid such situations, let me highlight a distinction between GPS trackers and GPS navigators first. GPS trackers are built for tracking the position of the object that you connected the tracker to. GPS navigator generally creates routes to the designated destinations and shows available paths to motorists. I have researched, personally tested, and created a list of the most helpful GPS navigating systems.
The options are plentiful and diverse, as mentioned before. There are GPSs with wide and tall screens; some can show your calls, read out directions, and receive messages. There are navigators with a camera and those without it. So, I suggest you thoroughly familiarize yourself with the entries below, so that you understand the full scope of the available products to make the correct decision.
1. Garmin zūmo XT – Top Rated Motorcycle GPS
The first one on my list is Garmin zūmo XT. This GPS navigator is not specifically designed for motorcycle use, which actually makes it one of the best GPS for off-road motorcycle options. How does this make any sense? This particular navigating device can be used even for hiking and boating! So, you are not road-locked and are free to roam any terrain you see.
North American cities, as well as the countryside territories, are preloaded into the Garmin zūmo XT. However, you do have to order map updates. There is a comfortable option available that provides you with unlimited updates.
The screen size is 5.5 inches. Sure, it works with gloves, but you will have some amounts of trouble navigating the UI if your gloves are very thick. The screen is pretty bright, but because the navigator is multipurpose, that screen gets washed out sometimes when motorcycling.
The interface itself is extremely easy to understand without having to read the manual. The battery holds out for eight hours straight. Additionally, there is an interesting feature called “Wherigo,” which allows creating map point-based experiences, including setting up so-called adventure games/trips, interesting tours, and other activities.
The other important aspect is topography. Garmin decided not to reinvent the wheel and uploaded simplified topographical maps for everybody to make use of, which comes in handy if you are an off-roader.
There are some exclusive, motorcycling-related downsides to this navigator. Mounting the device onto your bike will be hard with the provided tools, so a little ingenuity is required. Also, no Bluetooth is available here, which will render your headset less useful. Still, if you are a passionate owner of a dirt bike, then this option may suit you really well.
- Easy interface
- Multipurpose navigator
- Complex mounting
2. Garmin Zumo 396 LMT-S – For Those Who Want a Programmable Device
Garmin Zumo 396 LMT-S is one of the latest options available in the market. This model is filled with features of the most in the 300 series.
All of the basic, physical features are there and are actually the same as the 390LM and 395LM versions. That includes the casing, screen, Bluetooth, mounting, power cables, updates, etc. The most interesting features are programming-related. With Garmin Zumo 396 LMT-S, you can keep track of live traffic and weather for absolutely free. Additionally, the integration with trip advising services uploads an incredibly big database into your device.
- Full of features
- Live traffic and weather
- Big database of businesses
- Medium brightness
3. TomTom Rider 550 – One Of The Best Motorcycle GPS
The TomTom Rider 550 is a creation from a renowned Amsterdam-based company. The company is an international titan in navigation assisting technologies. Over almost 30 years of operating, TomTom has constructed itself a widely-respected image for always delivering exceptional products.
The GPS navigator is a pretty run-of-the-mill navigator that you would expect to see in an auto shop. At the very least, that is the first impression you get from TomTom Ride 550. When you put the navigator in use, however, the impression will not change. This device perfectly satisfies all of the wants that any average motorcyclist could have.
Not only does it perform the basic function excellently, but you can also create your own trips. Just set certain waypoints you want to visit or drive through on your way to your final destination. Smart programming will immediately offer you the best and most traffic-free route possible. Additionally, you can download predesigned scenic and intriguing routes or trips that will definitely create some exhilarating memories for you. And what is more, you can edit them to your liking!
The GPS case is very sturdy, and it fits a nice 4.3-inch display of medium-high brightness. The screen works nicely with and without gloves. I did not notice anything out of the ordinary when rerouting while driving. Even though TomTom does not explicitly state it, the electronic navigator is resistant to harsh weather and rain. However, I would not recommend completely submerging it underwater, as the circuitry may not survive such an experience.
The network module allows the device to connect to your phone to receive and show messages and calls that you get during your ride. You can also connect this navigator with either Siri or Google Now to make use of your smartphone on the go and enjoy hands-free messaging and calling. Pairing up with a Bluetooth headset is not a problem for TomTom Rider 550, but you do have to buy a headset separately. TomTom has a list of recommended headsets that are sure to work with the navigator.
The Wi-Fi chip grants you frequent and free map updates whenever and wherever you need them. However, the only map that you get for free is the map of North America. Thus, be prepared to pay up when traveling across the world.
A power cable is included in the kit, but there is no need for it, most of the time. The navigator has a 1 A battery, and it lasts approximately 8 hours without recharging. The mounting process took me 30 minutes maximum and created no complications for me. Lastly, the interface is partially intuitive. I say partially, because setting up caused me some amounts of headache and made me read the incredibly long manual.
For such an amazing device, I had no problem with its cost. For the current price, TomTom Rider 550 is a real steal.
- Siri/Google Now connectivity
- Reliable Bluetooth
- Free updates
- Long battery life
- Complex initial setup
- Long manual
4. Montana 700i GPS by Garmin – Another Best Motorcycle GPS
Do you want something completely different? A different format? Garmin can offer that too! Montana 700i GPS by Garmin is another great navigator, offering a 5 MP digital camera with geo-tagging and a WAAS-enabled GPS receiver. It goes beside the usual things like a bright glove-friendly touchscreen, mounting, long battery life, etc.
The US Topography map is preinstalled on this unit, making it great for the off roads. However, Bluetooth is not present with this option.
- Digital camera
- Topography map
- Minimalistic design
- No Bluetooth
5. Garmin Zumo 595LM – One More the Best GPS for Motorcycles
The second one I want to point out is Garmin Zumo 595LM. Bit of a spoiler, you will see a lot of Garmin products here. The reason for this lies only within Garmin’s brand being so monumental and omnipresent. I am not kidding; you can find numerous product categories provided by Garmin, including but not limited to sports, fitness, recreation, marine, aviation, and automotive, among others.
Concentrating solely on the automotive navigating aide, they have outdone everyone else even in this quite niche section. They have created and manufactured so many different first-rate interpretations of GPS navigators that would be a shame not to include them in my top list.
So, Garmin Zumo 595LM is a pricey but extremely feature-rich navigator. But before we get too excited, let us run down the basics of the product. You are basically buying yourself a lifetime of map updates by selecting this navigator. The device is absolutely water-resistant, no doubt about it. No issues popped up after I rode with it through reasonably heavy rain multiple times.
All of the technical parameters are taken care of: you get a battery, power cable, and RAM mounts with the kit. It has a 5-inch screen. Extremely easy to see and use in gloves. Very responsive as well. The screen is very bright, so there would be no problem with discerning B from R when the sun is shining straight onto your screen.
There is a Bluetooth chip inside the Garmin Zumo 595LM, which enables the user to answer calls and text messages without having to stop. The lithium battery has an average life despite that the screen tends to be really bright. So, I recommend always grabbing the power cable for longer trips just in case. Lastly, the UI requires some studying and getting used to. I have found that a week’s use is a necessary amount of time to adapt to the navigator’s menus.
Now that we are done with the main characteristics, let us inspect all of the cool features. With this device, you will be aware of all sharp turns, traffic enforcement cameras, and all the important motorcycling-related state laws. The device display shows not only a schematic view of the road but also a simulated 3D-modeled terrain picture to make sure you will not miss your turn. And lastly, via a special smartphone-linking app, you can control a playlist on your phone.
- Adventurous routing
- Rider alerts
- Responsive screen
- You need to get used to UI
6. BMW Navigator VI Without Cradle by Garmin – Among the Most Popular BMW Motorcycles GPS
This product is something special. BMW Navigator VI by Garmin is a result of an exciting collaboration between the Garmin company and another multinational giant. Everybody knows BMW, they have made a name for themselves for reliably delivering German-level preciseness through their motor vehicles. The child of this collaboration is something to behold. If you want extreme mind-boggling quality, choose this entry.
The device showed itself to be such an excellent performer when put to use. Like many such units, BMW Navigator VI by Garmin is also water-resistant. Navigating this device is as easy as it gets: the available four buttons make it hard to get lost in the UI.
It comes with a micro USB power cable, a lithium-ion battery that lasts around six to seven hours of extreme use, and built-in storage memory of 16 GB. Additionally, you get a nice carry bag. However, I am not sure that you will use it because, in prospect, you will mount this navigator once and rarely think about picking it up.
The screen size is whopping 5 inches. BMW really pitched in the making of the screen by contributing a smart technology that allows having a very bright screen without it depleting the battery too fast. However, the screen can handle itself less responsively at low temperatures.
The Bluetooth option is, of course, available; BMW has even designed its own helmet to be used with this navigator. Lastly, the updates are frequent and free if you choose the option with preinstalled data. Garmin map is highly responsive to changes in the road system but less so with the business side of routes, including things like restaurants.
- Very bright
- Long battery life
- 5-inch screen
- BMW helmet compatibility
- Easy UI
- No map of businesses
7. Teletype 3500 World Nav3500 – In Case You Need a Motorcycle Waterproof GPS
Let us dissolve this high concentration of Garmin on the list – check out this Teletype 3500 World Nav3500. The Teletype company is an acclaimed and well-known brand, but there is a catch. This company explicitly specializes in the creation of a navigation aide for trucks and not any other vehicle. Still, they manufacture exceptional gear that can be easily adapted to suit your needs.
With Teletype 3500 World Nav3500, the company decided to delve into the motorcycle market, and I have to say that they created a great piece of GPS navigation for motorcycles. The device seems quite sizable at first glance, because it is, even though the screen is only 3.5 inches.
What is interesting is that the screen is of the old-school TFT LCD format, which makes it very bright and saturated with distinct colors. There are no issues with reading text from the screen. This navigating aid is waterproof and is manufactured well. Immediately upon picking it up, you feel a high-quality product in your hands. Also, you will find a sturdy power cord within the package.
The bracket that comes with is extremely easy to set up and fits perfectly on your handlebar. Connecting Bluetooth earphones up to the Teletype 3500 World Nav3500 is a literal no-brainer. It does work with gloves but not with all of them, so be mindful of whether you have not suitable gloves.
This device’s method of downloading maps is a bit different from what I am personally used to. Whenever you set a destination, it will load a new map/route rather than calculating it itself. To sum up, it is a high-quality product worth trying on your motorcycle. This is definitely the one you are not used to. However, it may become your favorite companion on long rides.
- TFT LCD
- Ease of use
- Some gloves won’t work with it
- No rerouting option
When choosing a motorcycle GPS unit, look for one with a glove-friendly touchscreen that can be easily adjusted. A large screen is also helpful, especially when wearing thick gloves. Lastly, make sure the screen is bright enough to be seen in direct sunlight.
GPS models that have an IPX7 water rating are durable and can withstand exposure to water. The MIL-STD 810 rating is a must for anyone who intends on using their GPS off-road.
GPS units that also serve as safety beacons are becoming increasingly popular, as they provide live updates to a person’s friends while they are on the move. If a person regularly travels to areas without cell reception, having one of these devices could be vital. These units usually work through a satellite and require a subscription to use all features. Many GPS models will also warn the user when they are approaching hazards, such as a sharp turn or railroad crossing. Some units even give live weather and traffic updates.
Preloaded Maps and Moto-Specific Routes
GPS units that are geared towards motorcyclists typically come with preloaded maps of the US, Canada, and Mexico. However, if you’re planning on traveling outside of these areas, you may need to download additional maps. Some units also come with preloaded off-road trails, providing riders with a bird’s-eye view of the terrain. This feature is especially beneficial for adventure riders. Another advantage of motorcycle-specific GPS units is that they allow you to input your preferences in terms of routes. This function enables you to avoid highways and take twisty roads or a combination of both.
Common Questions And Quick Answers
Now that we are done with motorcycle GPS reviews let me address the most common questions I hear about motorcycle GPS options. If you are new to GPS navigation or even motorcycling, these answers will provide you with specific hints in relation to GPS navigators.
How to Install a GPS on Your Motorcycle?
Most of the GPSs mentioned in the article have a common mount that is easy to install. After deciding where you want to put your GPS, unscrew the handlebar mount with an Allen key and adjust the mount size to correspond with the width of the motorcycle’s handlebars. Then, fit the rubber piece on the handlebars. After installing the GPS into the mount, tighten it up with an Allen key. Pretty easy, isn’t it?
How to Hardwire a GPS to a Motorcycle?
This is a hard and actually dangerous part. If you are new to this, I suggest watching and reading tutorials exclusively for the product you bought in addition to reading general guidelines here.
To hardware, a GPS, disconnect battery post terminals with a socket wrench and plug in the proprietary DIN connector into your navigator. After routing the cable under the dash and through the firewall, route it to the battery, away from sources of heat. Lastly, slide the positive vehicle battery terminal and then the negative one.
Can You Use a Car GPS on a Motorcycle?
Of course, you can, if the GPS is suitable. If you have noticed, all of the GPS navigators I have reviewed had considerable durability and resistance to water, sunlight, harsh weather, etc. This made them appropriate for bike use. Not all car GPSs are great for motorcycles. For instance, one cannot withstand even a bit of rain, and others do not have glove-friendly screens, making them completely useless for motorcycling.
Why Are Motorcycle GPS so Expensive?
There are two aspects to consider regarding the high price of motorcycle GPS: the hardware side and the software side. In terms of hardware, any GPS motorcycle navigator requires high-quality material to survive the harsh realities of the outside. In terms of software, constantly keeping your maps relevant with updates requires either spending a ton of licensing good maps or surveying the maps yourself by employing countless workers. As a result, from a combination of the two factors, we receive a high price tag.
Reliable Navigation Is Important
In conclusion, I want to stress that motorcycle GPS systems are vital for a good riding experience. Of course, smartphones can perform a lot of what a GPS navigator can, but any good motorcycle GPS blows all of the available smartphone solutions.
Garmin dominates in the field of GPS by bringing a lot of high-quality options to choose from. No wonder Garmin products took up eight places out of the seven in my review. Their quality is superb! However, this does not mean that you should not consider other options.
I have reviewed a lot of GPS navigators, and they differ by quite a big margin. Some GPS systems suit better for the off-roads; some can film your journey; some are great scenic and memorable route makers. When choosing a GPS, it is important to always start by understanding your situation and needs, not just picking the navigator that is considered the best one. For example, if you are an off-roader, concentrate on off-road motorcycle GPS reviews. Listed above are one of the best navigators out there that will take you exactly where you want to go.
Have you used any of the GPS navigators reviewed above? What was your experience? What GPS model do you find the most helpful so far? Share your thoughts in the comments below.