Motorbikes are fantastic and can provide you with a brilliant day out. They do have a problem, they're small, hard to control and there is not much space especially on some of the sports bikes. The problem is that when something is great fun to ride, but also small, there is not much room for anything else and this includes a motorcycle gps unit, however if you want to stop getting lost you will need to find the best motorcycle gps units and use it constantly. In this section we're looking at the best motorcycle gps units from across the market and deciding which is the best model and more importantly, which you should be avoiding.
In the past we have reviewed motorcycle gps units however this was specifically with regard to the Garmin range of motorcycle gps units being the Zumo series. Whilst we did love the latest 2017 models being the 395LM and the 595LM, there were other models across the motorbikes gps range that we want to test out and hence the best motorcycle gps navigation review was born.
Garmin Vs. TomTom
As with all these group reviews we usually end up with a major test being the TomTom Vs. Garmin test. Garmin have the Zumo range of gps units which there are two of being the Zumo 395LM and 595LM with the key difference being the size of the screen. The 595LM comes with a 5-inch screen, whereas the 395LM comes with a 4.3Inch screen.
TomTom do have a very good motorcycle gps being the TomTom Rider which is now in it's third generation and has made substantial improvements from the early days. Is it as good as the Garmin, keep reading to find out more our thoughts on the best motorcycle gps unit from across the market in 2017.
Do You Really Need The Best Motorcycle GPS?
This is a questions that we're often asked and one that we have a tried and tested answer to. The honest answer is yes and it comes down to one ride a few years ago where we took a ride from San Francisco to the countryside. The problem came when we tried to return back to the hotel and with none of us knowing the exact location, out came a generation 2 I-Phone which was stuck to the handle bars of my bike.
Nothing wrong so far, however it took a turn for the worse when it started raining. Firstly i could not see the screen, adjust it with a gloves on and it got so wet the end result was a $700 phone bill to get a new phone. All this because I could not be bothered to organize a motorbike gps unit before the weekend away.
We often talk about branded names on this website and whilst we do try and stay away from them as much as possible, we still often come back to them as there performance is often a class above. The problem when is comes to buy a motorcycle gps unit is that you need to buy something that has been designed specifically for a motorbike. There is no point in simply using a car gps system as they will not have the same levels of flexibility and a number of the features have been designed specifically to work with motorbike gps units.
How To Choose The Best Motorcycle GPS Unit?
Selecting the Best Motorcycle GPS Navigation System is a challenge in itself as you need to consider a selection of features to make sure that you make the right choice. The point is that you want a unit that has been designed for you to use on a motorbike and therefore comes with a selection of features that have been designed specifically for a bikes use. When we're choosing the best motorcycle gps navigator 2017 we're looking for the following.
- Brand Name - Yes there are a few others that might make the grade, but generally either a TomTom or a Garmin as both have been designed and tested to perform.
- Design - You need to make sure that it comes with a rugged design that means that if you drop the device it will not break. If we ever get any free units we will test this and see at what speed the device breaks.
- Waterproofing - It must be water tight to IPX9 meaning that you can use it in the rain
- Screen Size - Ideally between 4-Inches and 5-Inches. Bigger and you will not fit it on your bike, smaller and you cannot see the directions
- Screen Clarity - We have had problems with screens in the past in both direct sunlight and darkness. Yes a sun guard helps in direct sunlight, but lets buy a decent unit and then add the sun-guard if needed.
- Interface Menu - Generally Garmin's are easier to use than TomTom's however it does depend on what you want. The latest TomTom's are much better than older models, however we have tested motorbike designed gps units in the past where we could not understand even after reading the instructions how to enter the destination.
- On Screen Directions - We're looking for turn-by-turn directions that include dual screen options for complicated lane guidance.
- Bluetooth - This is a must if you want to connect your GPS to your ear phone and listen to your directions. Not something we have ever done, however I know plenty of people that swear by it. Bluetooth also means that you can play music and answer your cell phone directly from the gps unit.
- Map Updates - You must buy a gps unit that comes with map updates otherwise you will be driving on old maps that may have changed in a couple of year.
- Extra - Look out extra's such as weather updates, bendy routes, speed alerts, speed cameras and more.
The Best Motorcycle GPS Navigator 2017
So what's the best motorcycle gps navigator in 2017? We have reviewed a selection and come to the conclusion it's the Garmin 395LM which is a 2017 motorbike gps device from Garmin that comes with a 4.3-Inch screen, a selection of features to help you get from A-to-B and most importantly, value for money.
Yes there is bigger and probably better devices on the market, but what we like about the all new Garmin is that it offers value for money and the 4.3-Inch screen fits well on the handle bars of every bike that we tested it on. The 5-Inch screen of the Garmin's bigger brother the 595LM does make it easier to see the screen, however for 0.7 of an inch in screen size and a few extra features that we did not think were worth it, it's nearly twice the price which makes it pretty hard to justify. If you're looking for the best motorcycle gps unit on the market, take a look below at the Garmin 395LM and you will not regret it.
Motorcycle GPS Navigator Reviews
As part of choosing the best motorcycle gps navigation device we have reviewed many other motorcycle navigators to see what they are really like on the road. Some have been great with other being totally useless. For us, the best on the market is the Garmin Zumo 395LM, however there were a few others that we really liked.
Below is our thoughts on some of the most common motorcycle gps navigation devices from across the market in 2017.
Garmin Zumo 395LM / 595LM GPS Motorcycle Navigator
The Garmin Zumo Motorcycle Navigator series consists of two GPS Units being the 595LM and the 395LM. You can see the entire range of Garmin motorcycle gps units here, however our favourite of the range is the Garmin Zumo 395LM which comes with a wide 4.3-Inch touchscreen display whereas the key difference between the two models apart from the price is that the 595LM comes with a 5-Inch screen.
Both models come with a water resistant (IPX9) rugged case and an all new super fast processor that allows for super fast calculations and a massive points of interest database. The touchscreen display has been designed for use with motorcycle gloves and works very well meaning that you don't have to take your gloves off to make changes to your route.
Both model's come with Garmin's updated maps and directions meaning that you're getting 3-D landmarks, terrains, and PhotoReal Junctions that shows junctions and interchanges in the form of a split screen along your route including brightly coloured arrows to indicate the lane needed of your next turn or exit.
Direction are fantastic and are provided both in step-by-step directions on screen, but also because both models come with Bluetooth wireless technology, it's possible to connect your cell phone to the headset in your helmet and receive directions directly through your headset. The bluetooth also allows you to make phone calls on the go.
Overall we do like Garmin's motorbike navigators especially with the fact they come with a range of extra's and most importantly free lifetime traffic updates meaning that you never need to drive around with old out of date maps. As mentioned above, we prefer the Garmin 395LM which is the smaller, cheaper version of the two models given that we don't feel the extra price for the 595LM is worth it.
Yes the 595LM does come with a few extra features, most notable being a bigger 5-Inch screen, Live Link meaning that you can see where your friends are on a map and smartphone notifications, however these are not worth the price and whilst they are great things to have, you're going to be using them once and never again. Check out the Garmin Zumo Models below.
TomTom Rider 400 Motorcycle GPS
The TomTom Rider 400 is TomTom's second generation motorcycle gps unit and comes in a very close second given that it's both good value for money and easy to use, whilst providing the user with all the latest map updates and features to make your Motorcycle Touring as easy as possible whilst keeping you heading in the right direction. The first TomTom rider was a brilliant motorcycle gps unit and comes with a range of features. We have a full review of the TomTom Rider and you can read that here.
Back to the all new TomTom Rider 400, it's built with a new an all new processor to help you find satellite connections and calculated routes quickly which are then displayed on the large antiglare, touch screen. The interface provides you with an easy to use menu and all new updated maps giving you turn by turn directions, route re-calculations and a massive points on interest database encase you decide to stop somewhere whilst biking.
The GPS unit is fully waterproof meaning that you can use it in all weather conditions, while both on-screen text and voice activated directions help you with you directions. Bluetooth is an added extra that helps with connection to the device meaning you can now make hands-free calls at any time.
The battery life is considerable good given the large screen size and will easily last for 3-to-4 hours allowing you to travel for longer. We also like the TomTom online platform that allows you to pre-plan potential routes and upload them directly to your navigator before you travel meaning that you can plan where you're going before you travel from the comfort of your own home. One slight problem with this Motorcycle GPS is that TomTom does not allow multiple GPS units on one account therefore you will end up having multiple TomTom accounts for each product you use.
Overall the TomTom is a great navigator and we have had many users complain that they think the TomTom is better than the Garmin. We can see why, however when someone complains that the TomTom is better than the Garmin, it's usually because they are TomTom fans and therefore any TomTom is always going to be better than the Garmin. Again the choice is up to you.
- 4.3-Inch Touch Screen
- 4 Hour Battery Life
- Free Map Updates
- All Weather GPS Device
- Winding Route Settings for Exciting Routes
- Value For Money
- Mount Is Not Compatible with Older Units
- Only One GPS Unit Per Account in TomTom Forums
- Lack of Additional Accessories
- Needs a Glare Stomper in Direct Sunlight
All the models above that we have reviewed have been second or third generation models, however this does not stop us looking at some of the first generation models as they are substantially cheaper and whilst they might not have the latest design and features, they will still come with the latest maps and provide step by step directions.
TomTom Rider (First Generation)
The TomTom Rider (First generation) is still available on the market today and at over $300, its still pretty expensive. You can read our first review of the TomTom rider here, however the key take away points are that it's a bulky model that does come with some useful features that still work well today. The key problem is that it's still quite expensive meaning that you might as well spend the extra $50 and buy yourself a top of the range TomTom Rider 400 and get all the latest features.
Garmin Zumo 390LM and 590LM
The Garmin Zumo 390LM and 590LM were the first generation modes of the 395LM and 595LM and were the first time that Garmin has designed a motorcycle gps unit that had been designed specifically for a motorbike. We have reviewed the Garmin 390 and 590 back in the days in 2014 and you can read that review here, however more recently we were comparing the old Vs. the new Garmin Zumo series and you can read that here.
The key take aways from all the reviews was that we did not like the 390LM, however given that I still have and still use a 590LM today, we would probably still buy this model. There is a question going around the office as to whether once my 590LM final breaks as I have had it for years and to be honest dropped it quite a bit, what model I will replace it with. I would like a 595LM, however i cannot justify the price and therefore I would probably go with either another 590LM or the 395LM.