Best Motorcycle GPS: Travel Scenic, Winding Roads With These Top Picks
You will never get lost with these top-rated motorcycle GPS devices
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It's hard to use a smartphone when you're riding your bike, and that's why many people opt for navigation systems geared specifically towards motorcyclists. Our buyer's guide will direct you in selecting the best motorcycle GPS device on the market so you can reach your destination safely.
- Best OverallGarmin Zumo 595LMSummarySummaryIt has a 5-inch, dual-orientation touchscreen display, and a rugged design. You can set it to navigate curvy roads, and it displays alerts for sharp curves, speed cameras, etc.ProsProsIt's accurate, solidly built, the display is large, and the screen is easy to read at highway speeds. It's also water-resistant and the instructions are easy to follow.ConsConsThe display may be hard to read in bright sunshine, the Bluetooth audio may be scratchy, and battery life may be short. Also, the maps may be difficult to update.
- Best ValueGarmin Zumo 396 LMT-S, Motorcycle GPSSummarySummaryThis device is resistant to fuel vapors, UV rays, and harsh weather. It includes live services for traffic and weather and an adventure riding feature to find curvy or hilly roads.ProsProsIt's easy to install, user-friendly and is slim and light yet feels sturdy. It's simple to navigate the display while wearing gloves. The touchscreen works well for a waterproof model.ConsConsThe Basecamp software can be confusing at times. Also, the display may be difficult to read in direct sunlight, and connectivity with other devices is inconsistent.
- Honorable MentionTomTom Rider 550 Motorcycle GPS Navigation DeviceSummarySummaryThis GPS device plots winding roads and climbs and other interesting routes. It offers updates via Wi-Fi and is compatible with Siri and Google to access music, calling, and messaging.ProsProsThe unit is simple to use, and the screen responds well with gloves. It's easy to read even in bright sunlight, and it's a very rugged unit that can withstand jiggling.ConsConsThe unit does not come with an instruction manual, and it's less intuitive than competitor brands. The updates can be slow over Wi-Fi, and the audio quality may not be good
Benefits of Motorcycle GPS
- You travel long distances. If you're the type of rider who enjoys extended trips on the open road, a GPS device for motorcycles will be very helpful. It will easily get you where you want to go.
- Your bike lacks built-in navigation. While some touring bikes come equipped with a motorcycle navigation system, many motorbikes do not. Fortunately, it's not hard to find the best motorcycle GPS as an aftermarket accessory.
- You want to track your road trip. The best motorcycle navigation system can output information such as distance traveled, average speed, elevation, and other statistics. You can use this data to check your progress and improve your ride.
- Adventure is your middle name. Motorcycle GPS units can help you plan routes and recommend scenic and winding roads as well as points of interest. The best GPS for adventure riding can make your journey much more engaging with its map data and route options.
- They're easy to use. As technology continues to advance, many electronic devices become increasingly more user-friendly. Motorcycle GPS systems are not too hard to set up and operate.
- You get lost easily. It's not uncommon for motorcyclists to get caught up on the ride and travel on unfamiliar roads. A motorcycle GPS will help you find your way home if you need to get back on track.
- You can find a stolen bike. The best motorcycle GPS will record your bike's movements if it's stolen. This is particularly important if you have an expensive motorcycle that's prone to theft.
- They're versatile. The best motorcycle GPS units can be used on all types of motorcycles, from cruisers to street bikes. You can mount it on your handlebars, gas tank, or windscreen, or even take it with you on a hike.
Types of Motorcycle GPS
Traditional vs. Portable
A traditional motorcycle GPS device includes all the options you need for many years of riding adventures. The best ones are durable and function in all types of weather. They are Bluetooth compatible and have a variety of features that make the riding experience more enjoyable. Portable units contain many of the same features but can be used off the bike as well (on hikes, for example). They tend to be smaller and have smaller screens.
Several engineers founded Garmin in 1989. The company, which is headquartered in Olathe, Kan., produces automotive, aviation, marine, fitness, outdoor recreation, and wireless products and is the global leader in GPS navigation technology. One top product is the Garmin Zumo 595LM.
Dutch company TomTom was founded in 1991 and is headquartered in Amsterdam with offices in 30 countries. It concentrates on connected vehicles, smart mobility and, in the near future, autonomous driving. One popular product is the TomTom Rider 550 Motorcycle GPS Navigation Device.
Motorcycle GPS Pricing
- Under $300: Some GPS devices fall in this price range. These less expensive models won't have as many functions as better brands and may be difficult to program.
- Above $300: Good-quality motorcycle GPS navigation systems are not cheap. Expect to spend several hundred dollars for a reliable, durable unit. More expensive brands will have advanced features and be more dependable.
Glove-Friendly Touch Screen
The touchscreen display should respond easily to your touch even when you're wearing gloves. This is an essential feature because you don't want to stop the bike and remove your gloves every time you need to interact with the GPS. Worse, you don't want to remove your gloves while riding and create a distraction.
All motorcycle riders know that the weather doesn't always cooperate. Subsequently, a waterproof GPS for motorcycles is your best bet. It should hold up to the elements, even if it rains or snows. The navigation system should also be made of materials that will last a long time and are made of high-quality materials.
The best motorcycle GPS systems will have preloaded maps of the United States, allowing you to use the device immediately upon installation. Many will also enable you to download maps for other countries in North America, including Canada and Mexico. Some have a slot for an SD card so you can add even more maps. Preloaded maps are key because they can provide navigation in places that don't have a good signal. Lifetime map updates are a bonus.
- Interface: The best motorcycle GPS systems are user-friendly. They should be very simple to use and feature intuitive actions. If you struggle to operate the device, you're less likely to use it. Menu items should be clearly labeled, and it shouldn't be difficult to map out your destination.
- Voice Navigation: It's not always easy to look at your navigation system when you're riding. A motorcycle GPS with Bluetooth will enable you to hear the unit's instructions through your helmet. Otherwise, you'll have to try to decipher the instructions in traffic or at high speeds, which can be challenging. Bluetooth connectivity is much more convenient.
- Battery Life: If you're purchasing a GPS for motorcycle use, odds are you're planning at least one fairly long trip. But if the battery dies before you reach your destination, the device hasn't fulfilled its purpose. Choose one that lasts for a decent period of time or comes with a backup. Fortunately, many devices can be wired directly to your bike’s battery, so battery life is less of a concern.
- Mount: The best motorcycle GPS should be easy to install and come with all the necessary mounting hardware. Many have a universal mount that fits on most bikes. Some are designed to be mounted on the handlebars. They are very secure and are set in place with mounting screws. Other devices are mounted on the gas tank. You must look down to see the screen, and they require a tether strap so they don't fall off.
- Size: Bigger isn't always better. A bulky GPS unit may get in the way, and it's easier to accidentally bump into it. Even a slight rattle can inadvertently damage the device. A small motorcycle GPS system may be difficult to read when you're riding. Choose one that is just the right dimensions for your bike.
Best Motorcycle GPS Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Motorcycle GPS Overall: Garmin Zumo 595LM
This device has a 5-inch, dual-orientation touchscreen display and a rugged design for harsh weather. It can be used with gloves and includes a feature to navigate winding and hilly roads. The device displays alert for sharp curves, speed cameras, state helmet laws, etc. Hands free-calling is available via Bluetooth with a compatible helmet or headset. Also, you can control music from an MP3 player or your smartphone.
It's accurate and solidly built. The display is nice and large, and it's simple to pair with a Bluetooth-compatible device. The screen is easy to read at highway speeds, and it's water-resistant, so it holds up well in heavy downpours. The display and verbal instructions are easy to follow, and the unit operates in either car or motorcycle mode. You can make a custom route, factor in automatic fuel stops based on how far you can get on a tank, and monitor your tire pressure.
One problem is the display may be difficult to read in bright sunshine. Also, the Bluetooth audio may be scratchy and not very loud, and it doesn't have very long battery life. There have also been some complaints that the maps are difficult to update. In addition, the apps are not free and can eat up your smartphone data.
Best Motorcycle GPS Value: Garmin Zumo 396 LMT-S, Motorcycle GPS
This glove-friendly device has a sunlight-readable 4.3-inch display. It's resistant to fuel vapors, UV rays, and harsh weather. It allows hands-free calling, smart notifications, and GPX file sharing for group rides. You can control music from your cell phone, access free live services for traffic and weather, and use its adventure riding feature to find curvy or hilly roads.
It's easy to install, user-friendly, and it comes with everything you need, including two different mounts. It's simple to change settings and navigate the display while wearing gloves. It has good visibility, the touchscreen works well for a waterproof model, and it's slim and light yet feels sturdy. It also recalculates routes quickly and has plenty of internal storage.
There have been some complaints about the software, Basecamp, which can be confusing at times. Also, the display may be difficult to read in direct sunlight. In addition, it's not as intuitive as some smartphone GPS apps, and connectivity with other devices is inconsistent.
Best Motorcycle GPS Honorable Mention: TomTom Rider 550 Motorcycle GPS Navigation Device
This GPS device plots winding roads and climbs and other interesting routes. It offers updates via Wi-Fi for the latest maps and software, so no computer is needed. It's compatible with Siri and Google to access music, calling, and messaging. It also syncs with your smartphone so messages can be relayed out loud on your headset.
The unit is easy to access and use while riding, and the screen responds well with gloves on. It has good search and routing capabilities, and it quickly responds to rerouting. You can personalize trips with hills and curves, the screen is easy to read even in bright sunlight, and the directions are quite accurate. In addition, it's a very solid unit that can withstand jiggling, and it's easy to program.
One downside is the unit does not come with an instruction manual. It may take some trial and error to figure out how to use it, and some complain it's less intuitive than competitor brands. Also, it may route you along dirt routes even if you disable the off-road routes. In addition, the updates can be slow over Wi-Fi, and the audio quality may not be very good.
- GPS units have lots of features, and you should take advantage of them. You can set rider alerts for things such as traffic, bad weather, railroad crossings, and speed cameras. You can also receive information about your motorcycle, such as tire pressure and fuel level.
- Before taking your bike on the road, make sure to update your the navigation system's maps and software either through Wi-Fi or your computer. This will give you the most accurate routes possible.
- Be particularly vigilant when entering an address. Make sure to put in the correct information, including the right state, or you may not receive the proper directions, and you will not end up where you want to be.
- Keep in mind that some devices require smartphone connectivity or a special cable in order to use the real-time traffic features. While this is a helpful option, it may use some of your iPhone or Android data.
- Do not leave the device in the sun during hot summer months. Electronic devices with a battery or screen can overheat. Also, the battery could lose capacity or explode, and someone may steal it off of your bike.
Q: How does a motorcycle GPS work?
A: Both car and motorcycle GPS systems use earth orbiting global-positioning satellites to transmit your location and route. The satellites share data to pinpoint your position.
Q: Can I use my smartphone instead of a motorcycle GPS?
A: Yes, but there are some caveats. Unless your smartphone is weatherproof and has a 100-percent waterproof case, it will get exposed to the elements and various weather conditions, which can damage it. Also, if it falls at a high speed a smartphone is likely to break, which can be costly.
Q: Does the motorcycle GPS charge while I’m riding?
A: Many motorcycle GPS units include a wire that you can connect to the bike's battery, and the power received from the bike will allow the device to function.
Q: When should I update my GPS device?
A: Most GPS units should be ready to use right out of the box. However, even if they’re relatively current, there will likely be updates available.
Q: Can you use a motorcycle GPS as an odometer and speedometer?
A: A GPS device should be used as a navigational aid and should not be expected to provide exact measurements of speed or distance. These factors can vary, depending on the accuracy of the GPS position at the time of use.
Our pick for the best motorcycle GPS is the Garmin Zumo 595LM. It has a large, easy-to-read touchscreen you can use with gloves, and it can be programmed to find the best curvy and hilly routes. It's water-resistant, and it pairs easily with Bluetooth-compatible devices. It also monitors tire pressure and alerts you about upcoming speed cameras and sharp curves.
For a less expensive option, consider the Garmin Zumo 396 LMT-S, Motorcycle GPS.
Let us know your favorites in the comments below
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