• Admin

Touring Motorcycle GPS Devices -- Touring Booster's Top Picks

Updated: Aug 15, 2020

Most people believe that standalone GPS devices are no longer necessary. After all, most of us have smartphones with one of the standard GPS applications (e.g. Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze, etc.) -- there's no need to spend an extra couple of hundred dollars on yet another electronic device for your motorcycle, right?


Let me answer this question in the form of an anecdote (if you're a fan of this blog, you know I love my anecdotes). I live in northern California, but I purchased my last motorcycle in Pasadena (southern California) -- which is 400+ mile ride. About 4 hours into my long tour back home (at around 10pm -- I took the scenic route), I realize that I'm lost. And as luck would have it, there's no reception (i.e. no 4G network) -- meaning that while I can access the GPS services, I can't access the online mapping software needed to decode the raw GPS data. Oh, and did I mention that my cell phone was about to die because I had been using it as a source of music. If I had a separate GPS system, I would not have spent the next 90 minutes, in the pitch dark, looking for someone to provide directions.


So, yes, a standalone GPS unit can prove to be an extremely welcomed addition to your repertoire of touring accessories, for the following 2 main reasons:

  1. GPS devices are pre-loaded with US (and sometimes Canada and Mexico) maps, and software to decode GPS location data into a cartographic display -- meaning cell reception is NOT necessary! Also, maps for other countries are generally downloadable via the manufacturer's website.

  2. At the very least, the GPS system can act as a back-up device, in the event that you're smartphone's battery becomes depleted.


As there are a plethora of GPS devices available for purchase, we'll need to select from those that have motorcycle touring complementing features. As with any purchase, a larger investment generally yields a higher functioning product, but there are still many high-quality, affordable GPS units on the market. Below is a list of Touring Booster's top picks.


 

Xiang Motorcycle GPS Navigation















The Xiang Motorcycle GPS Navigation unit is a fairly high quality product and available at an extraordinarily reasonable price. This unit has enough basic features to make sure the touring rider finds his/her way. The Xiang comes pre-loaded with maps of North America, with the ability to download and install maps of other countries from the website. It also has Bluetooth functionality, with turn-by-turn voice navigation, a 5.0 inch touchscreen, a motorcycle handlebar mount, and it has a waterproof rating of IPX7 (immersible for 30 minutes @ 1 meter). The only criticism is that the battery life tends to be a bit short (2 hours), but it can run off of an external motorcycle power source, via the included A/C 12V adapter. See the expanded pros and cons list below.


Pros:

  • Screen Size / Resolution: 5.0 inch

  • Battery Life: 2 hours -- but it has an A/C charger adapter to run off of the bike's power

  • Bluetooth: Yes

  • Mounting Hardware: Motorcycle Handlebar mounting bracket

  • Turn by Turn Voice Navigation: Yes

  • Pre Downloaded Maps: Yes - all North America, can install maps for other countries

  • Other: Waterproof (IPX7 - immersed for 30 minutes @ 1 meter), 16 GB expandable, touch screen, includes: suction mount, cradle, USB cable, car adapter, power cable

Cons:

  • Short Battery life (2 hours) but will run off of motorcycle power via A/C adapter/charger


Garmin DriveSmart 51 NA LMT-S











The Garmin DriveSmart 51 NA LMT-S is another highly economical, yet high quality GPS device. Although not custom made for motorcycles, it offers a universal set of features that will satisfy any touring enthusiast. The DriveSmart features a 5 inch touchscreen, turn-by-turn navigation functions, voice-activated navigation, Bluetooth smartphone connective functionality (e.g. calling, viewing texts and calendar notifications, etc.), and has ability to update its maps via Wifi. Additionally, the unit is equipped with real time services such as life traffic and parking updates. Finally, there is also a smartphone application for additional features. The criticisms consist of a short 1-hour battery life (although it can connect to a 12 volt power source) and the fact that the package only includes a suction-cup dash mount; handle bar or fork stem mounts will need to be purchased separately. See the expanded pros and cons list below.


Pros:

  • Screen Size / Resolution: 5 inch, touchscreen

  • Turn by Turn Voice Navigation: Yes

  • Pre-Downloaded Maps: North America

  • Mounting Hardware: No motorcycle mount (suction cup dash mount only)

  • Bluetooth connectivity: Yes

  • Wifi updatable maps: Yes

  • Other: Real-time services: Live traffic, live parking, Smartphone link application, Bluetooth calling, view smartphone text and calendar information, voice-activated navigation


Cons:

  • Battery life 1 hours max

  • Windshield suction cup mount only


Garmin Zumo 396 LMT-S











The Garmin Zumo 396 LMT-S has a significantly increased price, but there are a lot of enhanced features that help to justify the added expense. This unit is designed for motorcycle use and comes standard with features that enhance the touring experience, such as: (1) a glove-friendly touch screen, (2) Garmin Adventurous Routing -- finds curvy and/or hilly roads and limits highways, (3) Smartphone application that allows the rider to share GPX files for group rides (in addition to providing hands-free calling, viewing text and calendar notifications, and controlling music), rider alerts for sharp curves, digital gas gauge and maintenance records, and speed cameras. In addition, the Garmin Zumo 396 LMT-S has a significantly increased battery life of up to 4 hours (in addition to having the ability to run off of the bike's power via an A/C adapter). It also has the features found in the previously reviewed models: update maps via Wifi, turn-by-turn navigation, etc. See the expanded pros and cons list below:


Pros:

  • Screen Size / Resolution: 4.3 inch HD

  • Battery Life: 6 hours -- but it has an A/C charger adapter to run off of the bike's power

  • Turn by Turn Voice Navigation: Yes

  • Pre Downloaded Maps: North America (including Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and Bahamas)

  • Other: On & Off Road Maps, Road selection preferences, road alert,

  • Mounting: Handle bar mount included, glove friendly touch screen, Smartphone pairing (stream music from Smartphone), Wifi functionality, updates maps without needing computer, share GPS for group rides, digital gas gauge and maintenance schedule records


Cons:

  • Higher Cost

  • Slightly smaller screen than previous 5 inch versions


TomTom Rider 550












The TomTom Rider 550 is another high-quality, high-functioning GPS unit that is specifically designed for motorcycle usage. This unit has expanded versions of the features found in the Garmin Zumo, such as:

  1. Road Selector - the touring rider can select 3 level of hills and curves (low, mid, high)

  2. Glove-friendly touch screen - smart screen can toggle between light and heavy glove modes; and the waterproof features allow touchscreen sensitivity to remain constant when wet

  3. MyDrive App - allow touring rider to plan and edit the ride before hand and sync with GPS via Bluetooth or WiFi

  4. Wifi map update -- GPS will notify you when updates are available

  5. Compatible with Siri and Google Now (via headset Bluetooth functions)

See the expanded pros and cons list below.


Pros:

  • Screen Size / Resolution: 4.3 inch HD

  • Battery Life: 6 hours -- but it has an A/C charger adaptor to run off of the bike's power

  • Turn by Turn Voice Navigation: Yes

  • Pre Downloaded Maps: North & Central America

  • Mounting: Specialized RAM mount included

  • Other:

> Select 3 levels of hills and curves,

> Glove friendly touch screen,

> Smartphone pairing (stream music from Smartphone),

> Sync calling and messaging functionality via Bluetooth,

> Check weather via headset,

> Wifi functionality,

> Updates maps w/o computer,

> Share GPS for group rides,

> Compatible with Siri and Google Now,

> Waterproof,

> Lifetime map updates of North America


Cons:

  • Slightly Higher Cost

  • Screen is a bit smaller than the inexpensive models


Garmin Zūmo XT











The Garmin Zūmo XT is the pinnacle of motorcyle GPS units, and it has the price tag to prove it. Don't worry, if you decided to take a hammer to the piggy bank and make this purchase, you won't be disappointed in terms of features. Whether you're into standard, sport, or adventure touring, the Zūmo XT has got you covered! The upgrades are as follows:

  1. Pre-loaded Maps: The Zumo XT is not only loaded with maps of North and Central America, it's pre-loaded with standard, off-road topographic, and 4x4 roads -- making this device an adventure tourer's best friend. The rider can quickly toggle between maps.

  2. Garmin Adventurous Routing: Like the TomTom, the Zumo XT has a built in feature that finds hilly and curvy roads, to enhance your tour.

  3. High Definition 5.5 inch, Glove-Friendly Display: The extremely bright display can operate in portrait or landscape modes.

  4. Up to 6-Hour Battery Live: With full brightness, battery lasts 3.5 hours, at regular setting, battery will last up to 6 hours.

  5. Satellite Imagery: This unit has access to bird's eye satellite imagery, around the world, and downloads via WiFi connectivity.

As I mentioned before, this is a pricey unit -- so if you decide to make this purchase make sure NOT to leave it attached to your bike while you make a pit stop -- it may sprout legs and walk away! See the expanded pros and cons list below:


Pros:

  • Screen Size / Resolution: 5.5 inch High Definition display

  • Battery Life: 6 hours -- but it has an A/C charger adapter to run off of the bike's power

  • Turn by Turn Voice Navigation: Yes

  • Weather Proof: IPX7 waterproof

  • Pre Downloaded Maps: North & Central America

  • Bluetooth Compatible: Yes -- connects to helmet intercom

  • Mounting: Handle bar mount included

  • Other:

> On & Off Road Maps,

> Garmin Adventurous Routing (finding hilly and curvy roads),

> Road alert,

> Glove friendly touch screen,

> Smartphone pairing (stream music from Smartphone),

> Wifi functionality, updates maps w/o computer,

> Share GPS for group rides,

> Access to satellite imagery,

> Portrait and landscape mode,

> Rain resistant,

> Pre-loaded off road topographic maps and 4x4 roads,

> SmartPhone App managing routs,

> Route recorder,

> Live traffic and weather access


Cons:

  • Highest cost unit on the list -- there are many lower cost units available (at about 1/2 the price or less) with similar functionality

Comparison Chart



49 views0 comments
 
Blog Link