Adding GPS to your riding repertoire can expand your horizons beyond your imagination. There are products on the market to suit every rider’s needs, whether off-road, on-road, or adventure. All the units covered here are motorcycle-specific or otherwise lend themselves very well to use on a bike. Your typical automotive GPS units aren’t built to the same standard as those intended for motorcycling and the often harsh environments we find ourselves in. While it’s important to compare features of the units themselves, two key elements to maximizing the benefit of GPS are the mapping products available and the computer or mobile device user interface. As you get deeper into this technology, you will find yourself spending more time on your mobile device or computer laying out your next ride, exploring with Google Earth, and ultimately, downloading and editing tracks you’ve actually recorded on the ground. Choosing a GPS with the type of maps you want and the pre- and post-ride user environment are key considerations before purchasing a specific unit.
Saying that these moto-minded bits of tech have come a long way since their inception would be an understatement. Some of these units do much more than just point you in the right direction like syncing via Bluetooth to your helmet, phone and even to accessory tire pressure monitors. As they say (maybe too often), it’s a good time to be a motorcyclist.
Here’s Motorcycle.com’s Motorcycle GPS Buyer’s Guide.
Garmin zūmo 396 LMT-S
Garmin’s Zumo 396 LMT-S is the slightly smaller brother to the 595LM. The Zumo line was the first truly motorcycle-specific GPS offered on the market. Since its inception, it’s been refined with thousands (if not millions) of user-tested miles on motorcycles. Though intended primarily for use on streetbikes, it can also be used for mild adventure riding, too. Like all Garmin products, it uses Garmin’s collection of proprietary mapping products with domestic and international coverage.
The Zumo 396 LMT-S packs a GPS-load of features for its price point. The unit features a 4.3-inch glove-friendly, sunlight-readable display which is resistant to harsh fuel vapors as well as UV rays it will likely find itself in the majority of the time. As far as software goes, users will have the ability to connect their smartphones via the Smartphone Link app which allows for hands-free calling, smart notifications, and control of music playlists. Live weather and traffic information can also be viewed when the Zumo 396 LMT-S is connected to your smartphone.
Garmin Adventurous Routing helps riders find the best roads for motorcyclists with adjustable parameters such as hills, curves, and the option to avoid major highways. Automatic incident reporting and rider alerts are also helpful to give a heads-up for upcoming curves, animal crossings, and real-time traffic incidents. Wi-fi is also available for easily keeping your maps up to date. To round out the laundry list of features, the 396 LMT-S has a built-inservice log in which you can set notifications for service items such as brake pads, air filters, etc. to be checked.
Garmin zūmo 595LM
The Zumo 595LM is Garmin’s top-of-the-line motorcycle GPS unit with all of the features of the 396 LMT-S and a larger 5-inch glove-friendly screen. Unfortunately, with the updates of the 396 LMT-S, there aren’t a lot of difference between the two anymore besides the ability to use Garmin’s Bluetooth tire pressure monitoring valve caps, oh and $330. If you prefer the largest screen possible, maybe the 595LM is for you, otherwise, the 396 LMT-S may be the way to go.
Garmin Montana 680t
The Montana has been a favorite of off-road and adventure riders for many years. It has a large, well-lit, four-inch touch screen and enough memory to store tracks for a ride around the world. It also has the ability to store multiple map sets simultaneously, allowing you to switch from a hard-core topographic map set to a more road-friendly set, like City Navigator. Though the Montana is marketed toward hiking, there are plenty of riders we know who swear by them for use off-road.
The Montana 680t features an eight megapixel rear facing camera which automatically geotags pictures helping you to better remember points of interest when looking back at your tracks. The 680t also includes a built-in three-axis compass with barometric altimeter and the ability to share your files with other compatible Garmin units wirelessly. A great unit for those focused on off-road riding while still being able to navigate the odd stretch of pavement here and there.
TomTom Rider 550
TomTom has been designing and manufacturing GPS units with a solid motorcycle pedigree for a long time. Several OEMs have partnered with TomTom for original equipment installations on premium streetbike models. Though TomTom seems to have lost the battle with Garmin for popularity, they still produce a quality product, which is seen in the Rider 550.
TomTom’s maps, traffic, and safety camera alerts are all available to Rider 550 users for the useful lifetime of their GPS. Bluetooth smartphone connectivity is available for calling and messaging as is the ability to use Google Now and Siri voice controls with your connected helmet. Like Garmin’s adventure routing, TomTom too allows for elevation and curve level setting when constructing routes to deliver motorcyclists the desired thrill they are looking for. If you’ve got any friends, you can share your route through social media, email, or by GPX file with other compatible GPS units. Wi-fi updates are available to update maps wirelessly making staying current a cinch. Touchscreen sensitivity is also adjustable for thick or thin gloves to give users the most optimal touchscreen experience. The TomTom Rider 550 is a feature-rich GPS unit that punches above its price point.
Trail Tech Voyager Pro
Let’s get this out of the way real quick, the Trail Tech Voyager Pro is not going to be the best on-road GPS unit on this list. It has road maps, but they are basic, and this unit will not provide turn-by-turn navigation. Think of this unit basically like an electronic paper map with a lot of features.
The Voyager Pro from Trail Tech comes loaded with North American base maps with topo and hill-shading and other map regions outside of North America can be downloaded for free. The four-inch color touchscreen display is glove-friendly and is visible easily in all light situations. As with previous products from Trail Tech, the Voyager Pro can be connected via a multitude of sensors to your motorcycle to provide data like engine speed, coolant temp, battery voltage, speed/distance, and more. Bluetooth smartphone connectivity can also be had for phone and media controls. This GPS works more like a map with breadcrumb tracking features to keep tabs on your route while displaying the map on the screen. Another really cool feature is the ability to connect with your friends (as long as they also have Voyager Pros). Trail Tech calls this their Buddy Tracking feature which allows you to see up to 20 of your friends in real-time moving around on your map. There is also a distress button to let your fellow riders know that you’ve run into some sort of issue.
While it’s fairly dissimilar from other units on this list, we think it’s a fun way to enjoy motorcycling on or off-road with friends or on your own while having unique motorcycle integration not found on other units.
Magellan TRX7 Dual Mount Trail and Street
Magellan burst onto the scene with its handheld products several years before Garmin, who were focused heavily on marine and aviation units at the time. The company’s downfall would be its mapping software, which was cumbersome and ended up being much more difficult than Garmin’s impending software. Magellan’s software has since become more refined, and the TRX7 Dual Mount Trail and Street falls somewhere between the Garmin Zumos included on this list and the Trail Tech Voyager Pro for its on and off-road features.
The rugged TRX7 features a seven-inch touchscreen display, making it one of the largest screens on this list. More than 160,000 OHV routes are preloaded onto the unit with 2D topo and 3D viewing capability, with updates available numerous times per year. Satellite view is available for an annual fee. Users can share tracks via Magellan’s community database to help discover new trails and routes together. If you’re looking to spend some time off-road, but don’t know where to go, check out the Magellan TRX7 Dual Mount Trail and Street.
Apps – Google Maps, Map.Me, etc.
Maybe you’d like to keep the tech mounted on your motorcycle to a minimum. We get it. No one likes a cluttered up handlebar mounted by various gizmos and gadgets, or at least I don’t. You have a smartphone that can do just about anything besides delivering a child via cesarean. Wait, what? There’s an app for that?! Anyway, there are plenty of free and paid apps that will provide GPS-like navigation.
We’ve included a couple below, but there are seemingly endless lists of navigation apps on the market. Do you use one that we didn’t include? Leave it in the comments section.
Google Maps is great because it’s probably on half of your phones already (really, I bet it’s more than half because we can all agree on its superiority over Apple’s joke of a map app – Says the guy who doesn’t have access to Apple Maps on his Android phone –Ed.). You can save areas for use offline should you plan to not have cell coverage while traveling and Google Maps offers one of the largest, if not the largest, amount of coverage worldwide. Not to mention, it’s the right price: Free fifty-free.
Maps.Me is an app available for iOS and Android that allows you to download and use maps offline. Our own fearless leader, Mr. Brasfield, entrusted the app to guide him and his family around the bustling streets of Beijing while he was visiting China recently. He mentioned that despite being a half block off of a certain point of interest now and again, he was overall happy with the app.
Visit the appropriate App store.
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