Welcome to our 5-minute guide to the best GPS for motorcycle riders.
Below we’ve offered-up two suggestions.
Our first review is for those looking for a cheap motorcycle GPS. One that’s motorcycle specific, and doesn’t completely break the bank.
The other review covers the best GPS for motorcycle riders that have no budget in mind; you want the best-of-the-best and are willing to pay for it.
2018’s Best Motorcyle GPS Units
1. Garmin Zumo 395LM
Our Pick For: The Best Cheap Motorcycle GPS
If you’ve done your online research, you’ll keep circling back to one bike specific sat nav; the Garmin Zumo 395LM.
Garmin know that handlebar space comes at a premium. So, whilst car drivers opt for the 5” and beyond screens, we want the opposite for a motorcycle GPS.
The screen is a compact 4.3” and provides:
- Touchscreen ability, even whilst wearing gloves
- Resistance against UV rays, poor weather and vapours from fuel
- An easy to read display, even in direct sunlight
Compared to your average car GPS, it’s not exactly cheap. But after all, there’s a lot more involved in creating a motorcycle specific system.
Flick through some online reviews and you’ll see even though there are some minor flaws, they’re out weighed by the list of features such as:
- Compatibility options
- Advanced route mapping
- Screen quality
- Riders alerts
What most people don’t realise, is any average GPS can be used for motorcycle riding.
But, basic sat navs can be extremely-frustrating to use on a bike.
All the best motorcycle GPS systems have additional combability options – options the average rider is going to need such as:
- Bluetooth for taking hands free calls
- The ability to integrate with a smart phone or MP4 player, directly from the Zumo’s screen
But, this is the true beauty of motorcycle specific GPS systems; mapping.
No, we don’t want to go on highways.
No, we don’t want boring roads that are full of traffic.
The Garmin Zumo 395LM has a distinctive feature to help us out; Adventurous Mapping.
This avoids the roads us motorcycle riders hate, and re-routes via:
- Epic scenery
So, it doesn’t just get you to your destination, it gets you there with a grin on your face.
Another important feature of the 395LM is the rider alert system.
This is especially important if you’re a touring or adventure rider planning on travelling through states, over long distances, or even overseas.
The alerts will inform you about things you won’t know when you reach unfamiliar areas and roads, such as:
- Sharp corners
- State laws regarding helmets
- Speed cameras
- Lifetime map updates (free)
- GPS mount
Who Should Buy It?
If your looking for a cheap motorcycle GPS, this is the one for you.
Pricing is comparable to other motorcycle specific sat navs; the TomTom Rider for instance.
But, after checking out all the online reviews, the Garmin 395LM is where we’d be chucking our cash.Check Price on Amazon
2. Garmin Zumo 595LM
Our Pick For: The Best High-End Motorcycle GPS
Got a bigger budget and want something that offers a bit more tech than the 395LM?
The 395LM has a bigger brother; the Garmin 595LM motorcycle GPS.
Is it cheap? No.
Is it better? Well, that depends…
Most motorcycle riders prefer a compact GPS. So, the 395LM is perfect, given it’s got a small 4.3” display.
For those that prefer a larger display, there’s the 595 that offers a 5” screen.
Personally? This isn’t a bonus for me. I’d prefer the compact 395LM and save myself hundreds of dollars in the process.
The 595LM Zumo uses the same IPX7 screen construction as the 395LM, so that means you get the same:
- Quality touchscreen that can be used, even with gloves
- Durability – it’s protected against fuel vapours, UV rays, and harsh weather
- Ease when it comes to navigation, even in sunlight
Ready for a shock? The Garmin 595LM costs nearing on 2x the price of the 395LM.
You’re probably starting to see why most buyers head for the cheaper 395LM.
So, wait, where are the actual differences here?
Mostly, they come in the form of compatibility.
Like the 395LM you’ll get:
- Touchscreen smartphone integration
But, the Garmin 595LM Zumo has a few specific features:
#1 – Livetrack
Going adventure riding in the desert? Touring and travelling abroad and don’t want to lose your riding buddies?
The Livetrack feature allows you to track the current location of friends, and your friends to do the same with you.
And, that could be a real lifesaver.
#2 – Smartphone Notifications
Do you need smartphone notifications when going riding? I don’t want them, or need them.
But if you do, the 595LM is the sat nav system you need.
You’ll get smartphone notifications directly on your Zumo screen.
There’s only minor variation between the 395 and the 595 here.
Like the 395, you’ll get the Adventurous Mapping system that allows you to avoid highways, and stay on the twisties!
Rider alerts are more specific with the 595LM and would be suited to adventure riders.
You’ll get on the fly notifications when it comes to
- Dangerous corners
- Laws regarding helmet safety in different states
- Animal crossings
- Red lights
- Speed cameras
- Tire Pressure Status
Apart from the upgraded Garmin Zumo 595LM GPS unit, you’ll get the usual:
- Lifetime map updates (free)
- GPS mount
Who Should Buy It?
Smartphone notifications via the Zumo touchscreen and the Livetrack facility for friends to find you (and vice-versa), are the big differences here.
And, that’s going to suit riders that are touring long distances, or plan on going off the beaten track with a likelihood of getting lost.
If that’s you, the Garmin 595LM is your friend.
If it’s not, the best motorcycle GPS for you will be the Zumo 395LM, not least because you’ll be saving yourself hundreds of dollars!Check Price on Amazon
I’ve had plenty of sat navs for my car over the years from both TomTom and Garmin. I’m not exactly a sat nav geek, but I’ve been impressed with both brands.
And, the only real reason I picked one brand over the other was because the one was on sale and the other wasn’t.
So, naturally I’m going to gravitate to one of those two brands when looking at motorcycle GPS units.
I started researching TomTom’s. And, that’s when I got a bit of a shock.
The TomTom Rider 400 Motorcycle GPS
I’m not going to bore you with 15-minutes of negative feedback on the TomTom Rider 400.
However, I’ve researched motorcycle GPS units in detail and used a couple that riders I bike with have.
This is the one that they (and the internet, apparently) agree is pretty-useless.
I guess you could say that I’m a sucker for online reviews. I don’t just look at star ratings and the amount of reviews.
In fact, I like finding products that have a few negative reviews. That might sound a bit counter-intuitive – but bear with me.
Some online reviewers are ridiculously picky. So, when there’s a product that’s 99% perfect, they find (and highlight) the issue that is that 1%. And, I like to know what that 1% is.
That’s good for people like us, as it shows the real flaws of a product. And, we can then decide if we can deal with those minor flaws, taking into account all the other features the product offers.
Here’s the problem.
The reviews online for the TomTom Rider 400 are just general, all-round…awful.
The TomTom 400 Rider’s Ability As Motorcycle GPS
Do you know what I found when I was reading up on the TomTom 400 Rider?
Almost instantly actually…
At time of writing, that post was on the 1st page of Google for “TomTom 400 Rider GPS”.
I dunno’ about you, but that’s not filling with me with the confidence I need to part with $300+ of my hard earned cash.
That combined with the reviews state:
- The touchscreen doesn’t respond even with when there’s light moisture in the air
- When it starts raining, the screen is so sensitive that it activates the menu
- The menu is too small
- It’s functions as a motorcycle GPS are basic, at best
- Bluetooth connectivity issues
- The list (unfortunately) goes on…
Now, I’m not just slating the TomTom for the sake of it. If I’m forking out $300+ for a motorcycle GPS, I want the best.
In fact, if you’ve been riding motorcycles for a while, you’ve probably just given up trying to “watch the bank balance”.
Riding motorcycles isn’t cheap.
And with an inferior motorcycle GPS like the TomTom 400 Rider, we’re sacrificing a good day’s riding, for no real reason.
I mean, it’s not like it’s massively cheaper than the Garmin motorcycle sat navs that have a tonne of positive reviews.
The Motorcycle GPS Buyer’s Guide
Your options aren’t limited to the two motorcycle GPS units I’ve mentioned above.
Maybe they’re not in budget, or there’s something not-sitting right with you?
They’re just suggestions based on my research and as a motorcycle rider myself.
However, I won’t be offended if you choose something completely different. In fact, leave a comment at the end of the article – I’d love to know which GPS you chose and why?
Here’s a few things you might want to consider if you choose something other than the Garmin’s I’ve mentioned above.
At this stage you’ve probably have noticed I’m a bit of a review junkie. And I think you should be too!
I search high and low to find all the online reviews for a product I’m contemplating buying.
That doesn’t just mean going to the most obvious online retailers and seeing what buyers have to say.
There’s plenty of reviews for most motorcycle products in motorcycle magazines, as well as on:
- Small online bike stores
- Forums that are full of bike junkies
Usually, 2-minutes of research will determine if a product is useless.
Reviews looking good? After that, you can trawl through the above – it’ll be enough to help you make a decision on your purchase.
On that note, searching “GPS name” + “motorcycle forum” will help you find those forum posts.
There’s usually a few things mentioned that you wouldn’t even think of, so definitely worth a look.
There are plenty of sat navs in the $80-150. Problem? They’re not motorcycle specific.
If you want a motorcycle specific GPS, you should expect to budget $250 as a minimum.
In fact, you’ll see the ones with the best online reviews from motorcycle riders are upwards of $400 on many occasions.
They’re not cheap. Fact.
It’s not a necessity, but there are motorcycle GPS units offering a voice nav feature. Put simply, you can navigate to a new destination without taking off your gloves and inputting the location.
Talk to your GPS, and it will do the rest ?
If you ride in a group, there’s a good chance you’re using an intercom system such as the Sena 20S.
Look at the GPS you’re contemplating on buying. Will it integrate with your intercom system?
Most motorcycle riders rely on visuals alone for navigating.
But, higher-end sat navs can be integrated with your intercom so you don’t have to constantly stare at the GPS screen.
Map Data & Route Options
Compare the map data and route options. One of the reasons people don’t just use a simple car GPS for motorcycles, is because the map data is awful.
Most of these sat navs are limited to “shortest distance” or “fastest time”.
Motorcycle riders rarely want either of those and instead, would prefer a “most smiles/best roads” option ?
Garmin has this feature. Allowing you to bypass major/busy roads and find the twisties instead.
If you ride local, this might not be essential.
But if you regularly venture out or go travelling and you don’t know the area you’re riding in – this feature is literally built for you.
Check the motorcycle GPS you’re looking at gets lifetime updates.
A lot of the cheaper brands don’t offer this.
That’s bad news by the way.
Navigation (And Touch Screen)
Here’s a couple of features you’ll want to make sure your motorcycle GPS has:
- A large menu
- Ease of navigation through that menu
- Touch screen (even with gloves)
Again, this is another reason why we don’t just use a car sat nav – you’ll get none of those features.
Most car sat navs aren’t water proof. Makes sense when you think about it.
But, that’s completely useless for us motorcycle riders!
Make sure the sat nav you’re buying is waterproof, otherwise it’s not going to last very long.
Before you jump in at the deep-end, it’s worth noting that there are alternatives.
Are they good? In my opinion, not really.
But, not everyone has the budget for a high-end motorcycle GPS.
And, if you don’t go the whole hog and get something decent, you might be better off just hacking-it-out with an alternative (especially as one alternative is free).
Free Motorcycle GPS apps
There’s a tonne of motorcycle GPS apps for iPhones, Android and more.
Just search “motorcycle GPS app” and you’ll see a dozen or more.
There’s a few motorcycle specific GPS apps (Rever, Moto Mappers etc), and then you’ve got the obvious choices such as:
- Google Maps
- Apple Maps
- Streetpilot Onboard (Garmin)
We’re yet to find one that compares to the features on offer from the Garmin motorcycle GPS units, but then again, most apps are free – so you’ll be saving around $400.
If you’re willing to sacrifice a few features (such as route mapping, voice nav etc) and you’re on a budget – try a GPS app first.
Using A Normal Sat Nav
If you’ve got a car sat nav already, you could use this.
However, you’ll need to make sure you “rain-proof” it, and don’t expect it to perform like a GPS that’s been designed specifically for motorcycle riders.
Jumping on Amazon, you’ll see a range of GPS rain covers.
But, if it’s not designed for the rain, that’s-that.
Eventually water will find it’s way into the unit and you’ll not just need a new car sat nav, you’re going to need one for your bike too!
Thanks for reading our quick guide to the best GPS for motorcycle riders.
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