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Best motorcycle sat navs for 2018

Your options

If you want to use a sat nav device on your bike you have three main options –

  1. Adapt a car sat nav
  2. Buy a specialist motorcycle device
  3. Use a smart phone

Main considerations

To find the best motorcycle sat nav for 2018, we looked at the following features, concentrating on the core functions of the devices – we’re not going to worry too much about low priority extras such as media playing capability.

  • Quality of the device including routing and responsiveness
  • Ability to survive a downpour
  • Mount options and stability
  • Viewing in direct sunlight
  • Mounting quality and stability
  • Use with gloves
  • Good battery life, as you may not be able to charge it on the go
  • Directions via headphones or bluetooth device
  • Speed camera warnings, not that you’d break the speed limit. Honest.

Garmin Zumo 595LM

Garmin's flagship motorcycle device with all the trimmings including optional tyre pressure monitoring, impressive, but expensive.
Rating: 4
Price: Expensive
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TomTom Rider 550

Excelling bit of kit from TomTom, superbly engineered and top notch route planning.
Rating: 5
Price: Pretty expensive
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Google maps

Ubiquitous mapping app - but not perfect for the motorcycle
Rating: 3
Price: Free

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Garmin Zumo 595LM

Features

5 inch screen
Glove friendly
Sunlight readable
Hands free control
Waterproof
Rugged
Traffic via smart phone app
Lifetime map upgrades
4 hour battery life
Handlebar mount
Speed cameras
Tyre pressure monitoring

Strengths

Well constructed, premium hardware
Latest generation, feature rich software on a par with TomTom’s best
Easy to use, easy to see
Tyre pressure monitoring with optional valve cap gadgets
Some hands-free features via bluetooth
Intuitive guidance

Weaknesses

Traffic information needs smart phone connection and app
Basecamp software is frustrating and under-developed
Large unit can obscure instruments

Review

Garmin’s flagship motorcycle sat nav is well developed, rugged, innovative and desirable. However, be prepared to splash a significant amount of cash for the privilege though, over £500 at the last count. This is the current class leader – it has a number of premium features, and the build quality is excellent. Vertical and horizontal mounting is supported, so you can choose between seeing more of the route ahead or more peripheral information. It has been designed to be easy to use with gloves, in the rain and can withstand vibration and even fuel spills. An off-road mode with 3D terrain will suit the more adventurous rider, and the road directions and clear and can be beamed to a comparable bluetooth device. It provides useful lane assist information and intuitive guidance, so you’re not left scratching your head at complicated junctions and has various predictive and scenic route planning features. The LM suffix signifies lifetime maps which are updated frequently – this service was pioneered by Garmin, but now TomTom also offer this service on comparable devices. Garmin were playing catchup with TomTom for many years on user interface and usability, but the latest generation of their navigation software is very good, responsive and accurate. It’s not all good through, Garmin’s Basecamp software is notoriously annoying to use, and requires connection to the device to access maps and routing capability.

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TomTom Rider 550

Features

Wifi enabled
Traffic
Speed cameras
Glove friendly screen
Smartphone messages
Roundtrip planning
Plan with winding & hilly roads
Weatherproof
Landscape or portrait modes
Powered RAM mount

Strengths

Beautifully engineered
Mount is stable and vibration free
Visibility is great
Leading route quality
Good battery life
Powered mount is easy to wire up

Weaknesses

Mount fuse prone to blow
Touch screen can be rain sensitive
Traffic requires wifi connection to phone
Can be slow to react

Review

TomTom now only have one dedicated motorcycle sat nav unit – the Rider. There have been several iterations, and we’re talking about the 550 model. As you would expect from a TomTom, the software is proven, nice looking and well developed. The high quality RAM Mount does a great job of keeping the unit steady and absorbing vibration, and it can be wired to your battery easily so you don’t have to worry about battery life (which is pretty good anyway). There are some dedicated motorcycle planning options, which include windy or hilly routes, or hand picked rides from a selection of partners. The route planning is accurate and has nice touches like showing motorcycle parking when you’re close to the end of your trip. The unit itself is really well made, and slides securely onto the mount – it feels bulletproof and easy to use with your gloves on, but if you do need to use with gloves off it can be a overly sensitive. When you’re on a route, there is a helpful sidebar which displays information such as the next petrol station or speed camera. Overall this is a great piece of kit, and in our view the best motorcycle sat nav available today.

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Google maps

Features

Available on almost any smart phone
Constantly updated and relevant
Most accurate route planning available
Every point of interest you can imagine

Strengths

Intuitive
Excellent routing
Comprehensive and accurate points of interest
Accurate real-time traffic
Some great recent additions like motorcycle parking
Free

Weaknesses

Not easy with gloves
Can drain battery rapidly unless you turn the screen off
Sunlight visibility can be dubious
Unlikely to be weather resistant

Review

Google Maps is available as a free app for both Android and iOS smart phones. The Android version is usually slightly more advanced than the Apple equivalent, although updates are made regularly. If you decide to go for this option we recommend using headphones, setting the route, popping the phone in your pocket and listening to the guidance. If you decide to mount the device you’ll need to buy the relevant accessories – RAM Mount do have options for most popular phones, and waterproof cases are readily available.

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