LAST UPDATED: July 7, 2019
Best Motorcycle GPSes: Travel Scenic, Winding Roads With These Top Picks
Do you know where you are? If you had a GPS, you would.
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON July 7, 2019
You’re ready to head out on an epic adventure; you’ve got the motorcycle packed and your gear ready to go. The only thing that’s left is to mount your motorcycle GPS. What’s that? You don’t have one? Well, then there’s no time better than now to change that. Many people make the mistake of thinking that they can use their cell phone’s GPS. While this is an effective plan for some trips, it won’t work for all.
Your cell phone’s GPS and maps only work when it has a signal. This means a cell phone tower needs to be nearby. The average cell phone tower reaches up to 45 miles, and in some cases, it’s as low as 22 miles. Physical barriers like mountains totally block signals. Situations like this render you helpless. You need a motorcycle GPS that can give you reliable guidance and mapping no matter where you are in the country.
Plot winding roads, climbs, and other interesting routes. It offers updates via Wi-Fi and is compatible with Siri and Google to access music, calling, and messaging.
- Simple to use
- Screen responds well with gloves
- Easy to read even in bright sunlight
- Does not come with an instruction manual
- Audio quality may not be ideal
Have communication no matter where you are with this mini handheld device. This device comes with two-way messaging, Bluetooth, and interactive SOS.
- 100 percent global satellite coverage
- IPX7 water and MIL-STD-810F impact resistance
- Lacks map on the screen
- Requires satellite subscription
This GPS is compact and loaded with features that are useful for motorcycle adventures both on and off the road.
- Waterproof IPX7
- Preloaded maps
- Automatic routing
- Not specifically for motorcycles
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Benefits of Motorcycle GPSes
- They're versatile. While there are motorcycle-specific GPS units, many are universal. This means you can take it with you when doing other activities. Look for one that’s shock and waterproof so that you can take it anywhere. Some also have off-roading trails for dirt bike riding.
- Never get lost. It’s an unsettling feeling when you get caught up in the ride and suddenly realize you have no idea where you are. A motorcycle GPS ensures you can always find your way home, no matter how far away you ride.
- Remember great roads. You’re out exploring, and you stumble across a road that’s fun to ride. Your GPS can record that road so that you can find it again later. Some high-end GPS units come pre-loaded with suggestions for great rides.
Types of Motorcycle GPSes
This type of GPS is designed with the motorcycle rider in mind. It’s compact and comes with a mount that fits motorcycle handlebars. The unit’s build will be durable, ensuring it can handle any type of riding condition you may encounter. The GPS will come with additional route features, such as curvy roads, scenic rides, or motorcycle theme destinations.
Some GPS units are suitable for use on your motorcycle but aren’t specifically designed with your bike in mind. You’ll likely need to buy a mounting unit separately. They won’t have motorcycle-specific features that give it better functionality. However, the advantage of these is that you can easily use them in other applications, such as in your car.
If you aren’t ready to add yet another mount to your handlebars, then a handheld GPS may be a better option. These units are compact and easily fit in your pocket or compartment. These smaller devices are typically designed with off-roading or hiking in mind. They’ll have a lot more information on parks and trails, which will only be useful if you plan to do this type of riding.
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: The GPS units in this price range tend to be smaller and have simpler functionality. They will have basic navigation features. If you just need to know where to go and don’t plan to use your GPS often, then you’ll be fine with a unit in this price range.
- $300 to $500: The majority of GPS units fall in this price range. They’ll have varying features and functionality. Most people who plan to use their GPS regularly will be happy with a unit in this price range.
- $500 and up: These high-end units will have the most storage for the most maps. They’ll have several connectivity features and innovative features that give you a lot of versatility in how you use your GPS. These high-end units are designed for serious riders logging long hours and distances.
The touchscreen should be responsive to your touch. The sensitivity should be enough that you can navigate the interface while wearing your gloves. This will make it easier to interact with your device. A larger screen makes it easier to use while wearing gloves. You’ll also want to look for one that has large enough icons that are easy to select with gloved fingertips.
Your GPS will be mounted on your handlebars, exposing it to the harsh elements. The housing should be UV-resistant, waterproof, and rugged. It also needs to be shockproof to prevent it from getting damaged by jarring or shaking. The more rugged the GPS is, the longer it will last, and the less you’ll have to worry about it while riding.
Most GPS units on the market today come with a map preloaded for the United States, Canada, and Mexico. This should be enough for most people. However, if you plan on riding internationally, you’ll want one that goes beyond this. Look for a GPS that gets regularly updated by the manufacturer to ensure you have the most accurate map of the roads. Motorcycle-specific GPS units will give you preloaded routes and suggestions.
- 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 GPSes Reviews & Recommendations 2020
This GPS device offers updates via Wi-Fi for the latest maps and software. 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.
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.
This small and ultra-portable GPS is best for someone going off the beaten path. This device will act as an emergency interactive SOS beacon should the worst happen. It has a two-way messaging feature with 100 percent global satellite coverage. You can pair it with your smart device for even more functionality. You’ll get weather updates, tracking, and location sharing. It’ll survive anything with its IPX7 water and MIL-STD-810F impact resistance rating. It comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that can give you up to 50 hours of two-minute logging.
Unfortunately, you’ll need a paid satellite subscription through Garmin for access to all of the features. The screen is also very small, which can make it hard to read. However, if you use the Bluetooth function, you can view the topographical maps on your phone’s screen.
Stay in contact no matter where you are with this satellite GPS device. With the 100 percent global iridium satellite network, you can send messages, track your location, and have an SOS beacon. What makes it stand out is the 8 megapixel camera and geotagging. This GPS will survive through any adventure thanks to it meeting MIL-STD 810 standards for shock, water, thermal, and vibration. The rechargeable battery can deliver 18 hours of performance in GPS mode. In Expedition mode, it’ll last for up to a week.
The downside of this device is that it’s heavy, which can add to your bike’s overall weight and throw off your handlebars’ balance. This GPS is also not specifically for motorcycles, so it lacks some of the features that are nice for riders.
Mount this GPS on your motorcycle and enjoy easy-to-follow, turn-by-turn directions on the 5-inch dual-orientation display. The unit comes pre-loaded with detailed maps of the lower 49 states. It has a powerful suction cup that’s meant for use on a motorcycle. The screen uses WQVGA color TFT and white backlight.
Riders will appreciate the assistance of the numerous alerts. This awareness assistance will alert you to upcoming changing road conditions such as sharp turns, changing speed limits, or school zones. You’ll also love the Real Directions feature that guides you as a friend would. That way, you can look for easily-spotted landmarks and traffic lights instead of hard-to-see street signs.
Unfortunately, you may find the user interface of this GPS to be disappointing and frustrating. You’ll need the exact address of the destination you’re trying to reach. It also doesn’t accept verbal commands, so you’re stuck typing everything in. As a rider, you may be less than impressed with its ability to choose the best route for an enjoyable motorcycle ride.
The Garmin DriveSmart GPS comes with everything you need to navigate while on your motorcycle. It has a bright and large 6.95-inch capacitive touch display. The images are crisp with a screen resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels. It comes with detailed maps of the United States and lifetime updates. The rechargeable lithium battery lasts for up to an hour.
One feature you’ll love while riding is the live traffic and parking updates. This lets you know exactly what the driving conditions are like while out on your bike. This GPS also can Bluetooth-connect to your smartphone. This gives you full phone functionality while riding.
The biggest problem with this GPS is that the battery only lasts for about an hour. If you don't have a way of plugging the unit into your bike, this is nowhere near long enough for a decent day’s ride. It can also be frustrating when trying to get a route somewhere, as it will take you through weird loops and turn arounds that are totally unnecessary.
This Garmin comes with a 5-inch dual orientation touchscreen display. It’s ready to use out of the box with maps for the lower 49 states pre-loaded. To use the GPS, you’ll input your query into the search field. It can quickly locate both addresses and points of interest. Once you choose a destination, a voice prompt will give you turn-by-turn directions.
If you plan to travel all over the country, this unit is perfect because it’s unaffected by cell phone dead zones. This is because it doesn’t rely on cell signals to work. You’ll like the smaller features that make this unit more helpful, such as the audible and visual alerts when approaching a school zone.
Unfortunately, the touchscreen isn’t very responsive. This can result in having to make several touches to achieve recognition of your selection. You may also find updating the maps to be a disappointment. While this unit comes with lifetime updated map downloads, the maps themselves are slow to update. This means you’re working with outdated information, even if you update your unit consistently.
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.
The software, Basecamp, 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.
The Trail Tech GPS is your guide when going off-road. It features a 4-inch full color touchscreen display. The map display will show you routes, tracks, waypoints, topography, and hillshading. The entire unit is rated IP67 for both anti-water and dust intrusion. The unit will track your speed with a paired wheel sensor and internal GPS. The display also includes your distance traveled, elevation, voltage, and running temperature.
If you plan to ride with other people, this unit is ideal because it pairs and tracks up to 20 other riders. This is a necessity both for convenience and safety. You’ll be able to see the location of everyone displayed on the map. There’s also Bluetooth capabilities, so you can use your phone for calls, messages, media, and intercom communications.
A big complaint about this unit is the size of the screen. At 4 inches, it’s quite small and can be hard to read while riding. You’ll also need to commit to hardwiring the mounting unit into your motorcycle. Finally, this unit is for off-roading, so it isn’t meant for those riders who are looking to stay on the pavement.
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. The display is nice and large, and it's simple to pair with a Bluetooth-compatible device. The display and verbal instructions are easy to follow. 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 long battery life. There have also been some complaints that the maps are difficult to update.
- Don’t leave your GPS sitting on your bike when you park. The sun’s UV rays will degrade the housing. Plus, you put it at risk of getting stolen.
- Sit down and learn how your GPS works before you take it on a ride. It’ll put a serious damper on the day if you spend an hour fiddling with your GPS.
- Before you ride with your GPS, preprogram all of your favorite places. This includes your home address, restaurants, dealerships, and anywhere else that you like to go. Then you can quickly pick a destination without having to enter all of the information.
Q: How does a motorcycle GPS work?
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?
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. You also need a cell phone signal for your phone to work.
Q: Does the motorcycle GPS charge while I’m riding?
That depends. If you connect your GPS directly to the bike’s battery, then it will stay charged while you’re using it. However, if you’re using battery power, then it won’t charge while you’re using it.
Q: When should I update my GPS device?
You should check for updates immediately upon unboxing your GPS. This ensures that it’s up to date before you start using it. Garmin releases road updates three times a year, so it’s worth checking seasonally if you use your GPS a lot.
Q: Can you use a motorcycle GPS as an odometer and speedometer?
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 TomTom Rider 550 Motorcycle GPS Navigation Device. This unit is simple to use, responsive, and has a bright screen.
For a more affordable option, consider the Garmin inReach Mini with its 100 percent global satellite coverage and rugged durability.