Best Motorcycle Sat Nav 2020 (Buyers Guide, Comparisons & Reviews)

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I’m old-school and still keep a paper map in my top box. But getting a sat nav for my motorcycle has changed the way I ride.

I’m a lot more likely to go exploring down unknown roads and seeking out scenic routes since I don’t have to worry about getting lost.

Knowing where the speed cameras are has also saved me a ticket or two!

 

Our Top Picks


 

Best Fully Featured

The Garmin Zuma XT is the best motorcycle GPS on the market today.

It has a crystal clear 5″ screen and fast, slick controls.

It comes with lots of useful and innovative features such as landmark navigation and smartphone link.

Garmin Zumo XT (map view)

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Best Value

For a more wallet friendly option the TomTom 50 is your best bet.

Whilst not as slick and fully featured as the Garmin, it does the basics well and comes in a good bit cheaper.

Tom Tom 50

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Motorcycle GPS Brands


 

Put simply, there are only two brands worth considering: Garmin and TomTom.

Sure, you could adapt a car gps for your bike – but you’ll encounter problems like it getting activated by raindrops and not being glove-friendly in the slightest.

You could also buy a cheap Chinese unit for your motorcycle. But these cheap sat navs are incredibly unreliable.

Plus, you probably won’t be able to update them, which makes them useless after a year or two.

It’s better to pay more now than repeatedly buy junk.

 

What to Look For

Navigating on a motorbike as opposed to a car presents certain challenges, requiring a different set of features in your GPS.

Here’s what you really need to focus on:

  • Hardware: It must come with a high waterproof rating. Ideally it has a rugged design too for when you inevitably drop it.
  • Anti-Glare Screen: The older models for bikes were not very good in the sun. Now both TomTom and Garmin do a reasonable job.
  • Glove Friendly: Some sat navs have settings allowing you to change the sensitivity of the screen so it will work better with summer or winter gloves.
  • Finds windy routes: A car sat nav will usually look for the fastest route. The best motorcycle ones will have options to help you find the most exhilarating routes.
  • Bluetooth: It’s great to have Bluetooth features so you can use your sat nav for things like hands-free calling and listening to music. Some have speakers. Others rely on a Bluetooth headset.
  • Battery Life: Look for a battery life of at least 4 hours. The larger the screen and better the resolution, the lower the battery life is going to be.
  • Additional Features: You might be able to find cool additional features like fuel consumption planning, tyre pressure monitoring, 3D terrain, helmet law notifications and more.

 

A Note About Maps

Just like with car sat navs, you will need to get maps uploaded. Some devices come with lifetime free map updates.

Just pay attention to which maps are included.

If you only buy Western Europe maps, for example, but then want to take a trip to Tunisia, you might have to pay nearly as much for the Tunisia map as you did for the GPS.

 

Garmin vs. TomTom


Since Garmin and TomTom are the only options worth considering for a motorcycle, I thought I’d do this review a bit differently.

Here’s a breakdown of how the brands compare, plus their top models.

 

Hardware

The Garmin Zumo and TomTom Rider lines are designed for motorcycles. So, yes, they are very rugged.

Both have a waterproof rating of IPX7 and will hold up fine in storms.

Note that only some of the TomTom Rider sat navs include lockable mounts. None of the Garmin Zumo ones have them included.

Not that I’d recommend leaving your sat nav on your bike (even the best lockable mounts can be easily stolen).

But a lockable mount is nice if you need to make a quick run inside and don’t want to remove it.

Winner: Tie

 

Maps

Both Garmin and TomTom units come preloaded with maps. They both also offer a lifetime of free map updates. I’d recommend updating your maps at least once yearly.

As far as the maps go, Garmin maps seem to be much more detailed and have more points of interest (like petrol stations).

Some Garmin sat navs have “Real Directions” which will give you directions based on points of interest, such as “turn left after the McDonalds.”

This is pretty handy in unfamiliar territory.

However, TomTom has many more countries. If you want to travel outside of the UK and EU, then TomTom is probably better.

Winner: Garmin

 

Route Planning

road sign

These brands specifically target motorcycle riders and know what they want. You get great route planning tools to help you find the windiest, hilliest, most adventurous roads for your ride.

Garmin has “Adventurous Routing” which lets you set how many bends and hills you want. It also lets you avoid motorways. The only annoying thing is that this feature is deep in the menu.

TomTom has “Winding Routes” – you can decide if you want the fastest route or a winding route. You are able to set your “challenge level.”

The TomTom program does a lot better than Garmin at finding windy roads. It will even find really remote back roads.

Both products also provide the usual route planning tools, such as warning radars, points of interest, speed limit indicators, sharp curve warnings, the ability to record routes, and other alerts.

Winner: TomTom

 

Screen

TomTom Motorbike GPS

At first glance, the Garmin screen might seem better than the TomTom. Some Garmin models have a 5.5” screen in high-resolution. TomTom’s are only 4.3” and 480×272 pixels.

However, the TomTom screen is a lot easier to use and read. (Note Garmin have seriously upped their game recently with new Zumo XT screen in crystal clear HD with 1280 x 720px resolution.)

A lot of it has to do with the software, which makes scrolling through the options a lot easier.

Both TomTom and Garmin let you set the sensitivity of the screen – great for when you are switching from summer to winter gloves.

Winner: Tie

 

Software

Pretty much everyone I’ve talked to agrees that TomTom software is easier to use. It scrolls better and is more intuitive to use, especially while on the road.

TomTom also has voice command, something that Garmin is surprisingly lacking on the older models. (Note the new Garmin XT now has voice control.)

Another nice thing about TomTom is that you can get traffic and speed camera alerts at no extra cost. Only some Garmin Zumo sat navs offer this.

Garmin somewhat makes up for these deficiencies by offering some interesting extra features.

There is the “photoReal Junction View” of approaching junctions. A tool lets you estimate fuel consumption and even plot your last fuelling.

You can use an accessory (sold separately) to check tyre pressure too – something that I haven’t seen on any other motorcycle sat nav.

Winner: TomTom

 

Music

There’s some safety issues with listening to music while riding, but a lot of people do it.

So, a feature worth mentioning is that the TomTom Rider does not let you play MP3 files. The Garmin Zumo 396 and 595 models do allow this. With the Zumo 595 you can also connect to music streaming services like Spotify to play music.

Of course you can still use Bluetooth to play music from your phone with the TomTom Riders (which is what most people probably do).

However, if you want to listen to MP3s too, then Garmin is your only choice.

Winner: Garmin

 

Which Is Better?

Even though TomTom is a lot easier to use, Garmin still has the better maps.

I also love that their maps give directions based on landmarks instead of the standard “turn after X meters.” This alone makes them worth paying the extra money for.

Garmin is the pricier of the two brands though. If you are on a tight budget, I’d recommend a TomTom Rider.

 

TomTom Models Comparison


TomTom 410

When comparing the various TomTom Rider models, they can seem almost identical.

All of them have the same screen size, battery life, and major features. 

However the newer 50 and 550 models have a quad processor, without getting too technical this makes them a lot faster. Using menus and scrolling is noticeably less glitchy and route planning is much snappier.

Also make sure you are getting the correct maps for your situation, this is important because buying maps afterwards costs nearly as much as the device itself.

The TomTom 50 also offers offline maps which the 42 and 400 don’t have.

The table below outlines the various differences.

 

 Rider 400 EURider 42Rider 50Rider 550 World
Battery Life6 Hours6 Hours6 Hours6 Hours
Screen Size4.3”4.3”4.3”4.3”
Resolution480x272480x272480x272480x272
Device speedSlower processorSlower processorFast - quad core processorFast - quad core processor
Text to SpeechYesYesYesYes
Voice CommandYesYesYesYes
Maps45 countries23 countriesWestern EuropeWorld Maps
Map updatesLifetime freeLifetime freeLifetime freeLifetime free
Live TrafficLifetime freeLifetime free3 Months FreeLifetime free
Speed camerasLifetime free3 Months Free 3 Months FreeLifetime free
Offline MapsNo NoYesYes
Internal Memory16GB8GB16GB16GB
Check PricesAmazonAmazonSportsBikeShopSportsBikeShop

 

Garmin Models Comparison


Garmin Zumo

Zumo is Garmin’s series of products. The range can get confusing!

The older models are the Zumo 345, 395 these are now largely unavailable and have been replaced by the 346LMT-S and the 396LMT-S

The most recent model is the flagship XT and the old stalwart is the 595.

The 595 has a 5″ screen and newer XT has a massive 5.5″ screen. The 346 and 396 both have 4.3″ screens

All units now have a Smartphone Link app.

With this app, you can do things like get live traffic reports, weather updates and stream music from Spotify.

I love the LiveTrack feature which lets you see where your friends are. All of these features come with free updates.

The main differences between the 3oo models and the 595\XT models are screens size and cutting edge navigation features such as topographic maps and satellite imagery.

Of course, the Zumo XT\595 are a lot pricier than these models so if you can live without the cutting edge tech you can get a good price on a 346 or a 396.

See the table below for the main differences.

 

 Zumo 346LM-SZumo 396LM-SZumo 595LMZumo XT
Battery Life4 Hours4 Hours4 Hours6 Hours
Screen Size4.3”4.3”5”5.5"
Resolution480x272480x272800x4801280 x 720
Text to SpeechYesYesYesYes
Wireless UpdatesYesYesYesYes
MapsWestern EuropeFull EuropeFull EuropeFull Europe
Map updatesLifetime freeLifetime freeLifetime freeLifetime free
Trip Planner YesYesYesYes
Smartphone LinkYesYesYesYes
Adventure RoutingNo YesYesYes
Landmark GuidanceYesYesYesYes
Birds eye satellite imageryNoNoNoYes
Live TrafficYesYesYesYes
Speed CamerasYesYesYesYes
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My Advice?

If you are trying to save money, I would choose the TomTom Rider 50.

If you are willing to pay more for extra features, a faster interface and state of the art tech then the Garmin Zumo XT is the way to go.

 


Further Reading

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Image Credits: All product images via SportsbikeShop