Motorcycle GPS navigation systems aren’t new, they’ve been available for two-wheeled enthusiasts for several years. But for me, I’ve always been sort of rebellious in the sense of this topic opting for the old paper map in my tank-bag to get me through navigating my motorcycle trips. In my view, this is part of the adventure on the open road. Besides, these devices can be expensive.
However, I can say I’m a changed woman. After using the TomTom Rider 400 –I’m hooked! I enjoyed spending less time figuring out where I was and more time riding – and I’m all for that.
Get To Know TomTom
Years ago, TomTom was my first vehicle navigation GPS system in The Netherlands. TomTom came to market when the internet and data wave happened in Europe. Then it was a small Dutch start-up. They started with software development for business-to-business mobile applications and personal digital assistants (PDAs) for consumers. TomTom became the market leader in PDA software with navigation applications such as EnRoute (later renamed RoutePlanner) and Citymaps. They were and still are renowned for extensive exact mapping. And they’re Dutch; grown from a Dutch based start-up company into a multi-national, global brand.
Out of the Box
Here’s what you get:
- Lifetime maps Canada, USA and Mexico maps
- Lifetime TomTom Rider 400 Traffic (real-time traffic)
- Lifetime Speed Cameras (not that speeding is advised!)
- Motorcycle mount
- RAM Mount
- Motorcycle Battery Cable
- USB Cable
- Instructions Book (free downloadable user manual)
Connecting and Set up
Let me forewarn you there’s quite an investment in study time, initially, setting up and getting to know your TomTom Rider 400. It’s packed full of functionality and options. So plan the time initially so when you’re on bike you’re well versed in the use.
You need to download updates as well as the smart phone app and the desktop My Drive Connect for your desktop or laptop PC. Then you’ll need to download the free MyDrive app and pair the device with your smart phone via Bluetooth. The MyDrive app enables and provides access to real-time traffic information that’s displayed on the TomTom Rider 400 (using cellular data), and routes can be created on MyDrive and sent wirelessly to the GPS.
The TomTom Rider 400 offers Bluetooth pairing so you can hear the GPS instructions if you have a headset. Pairing it with a Bluetooth communicator allows you to listen to spoken navigation commands. I don’t make it a practise to ride with a headset, music or otherwise. I am too addicted to the sound of the bike and the open road. I do own a Scala Communication system, also systems built into the Schuberth helmets I own, and a Sena unit. But to test the pairing, I simple used my portable Bluetooth earpiece. I wore this inside my helmet and had no trouble hearing the instructions. However, for my preferences riding, I used the TomTom Rider 400 visually and only when needed, the units on-board voice instructions for city directions.
You can also set up the TomTom Rider 400 to receive phone calls. You can link between your phone and headset. You’ll see it on the screen and can press a key to accept the call. I didn’t use this function as I don’t want any interference when I’m riding.
You can also upload and export routes using a micro SD card (not included) or the provided USB cable, and the unit has 16GB of internal memory.
Packed Full of Features
Everything about the TomTom Rider 400 has been well thought out. The compact, weatherproof unit fits snugly and easily into the RAM mounting kit, which can fit on every motorcycle handlebar. The fully waterproof unit 11 cm (4.3″) touchscreen allows swiping and pinch-to-zoom. The touch screen works magically through even motorcycle gloves. And the screen orientation can be easily rotated with one hand to vertical for taller view or horizontal. I found this a big plus along my rides helping me with visibility of the unit.
The menus are easy to navigate once you’re familiar with them. There are shortcuts for Ride Home, Ride to Work, Parking, Gas Stations and more. And route navigation provides lane-assist information, upcoming gas stations, current speed, posted speed limit and more. The TomTom Rider 400 real-time traffic updating system, worked like a charm. I live in the city so this is entirely helpful avoiding bothersome traffic jams. The ability to plug the TomTom Rider 400 into your desktop computer to plan, view and review your trips is superb and a time saver. For say a motorcycle vacation this makes planning your preferred scenic route ahead of time ideal.
The Rider 400 comes with a quick-release cradle which includes a power cable to connect to your motorcycle battery (it will run on its own battery power for up to 6 hours).
Smartphone vs TomTom Rider 400
TomTom Rider 400’s new GPS incorporates smartphone-like functionality with features that motorcyclists will appreciate.
Without a doubt motorcycle-specific GPS this is superior to a phone for a number of reasons.
- If like me, you’ll like to ride to places which are not in cell service range.
- Your smart phone is not waterproof.
- Your smart phone can heat up and malfunction.
- Phones are not designed to tolerate the vibration they’re subjected to by being mounted on a motorcycle.
Rugged Given the higher levels of vibration and the generally harsher conditions subjected to, this is a critical aspect of motorcycle GPS design. Especially when riding off-road, without this more rugged construction, your device would likely suffer from a much shortened lifespan.
- Weatherproof: Unlike using GPS in your auto, weather, rain etc. is relevant to riders. The unit is fully waterproof, tested and meeting the ix7 standard of waterproofing and can even survive a dunking in water of up to 1 meter in-depth.
- Customized Display: Glove friendly displays are now a standard feature of many of the top rated motorcycle GPS units now sold, and have considerably improved the practicality of those systems. Another weather related aspect of design concerns the typically poor visibility of displays when viewed under sunlit conditions. This problem has been overcome, to some extent at least, by screens specially designed for outdoor use.
- Motorcycle Specific Software: The fact that most motorcyclists ride for recreational purposes has led manufacturers to offer more flexibility in terms of navigation. Some of these features include multi-point or custom routeing, and the ability to choose routes based on how winding the road is. This you do not get in a standard auto GPS system.
- Plan a Thrill menu: allows you to tap on the screen to create waypoints and create a round-trip or one-way route. It will plot the fastest or shortest route, or it will create a custom route based on your preference for “Winding Roads” (low, medium or high) and “Hilly Roads” (low, medium or high), the latter taking advantage of elevation data embedded in GPS maps. It even took me on a fantastic, lightly travelled, one-way road that, despite my years of riding all over the Malibu hills, I had never ridden. More useful, though, is the real-time traffic feature. Pairing with your phone, the Rider can alert you to delays up ahead, give you an idea of how long those delays are and will occasionally reroute you.
- Gas Station: the system of sub menus provides an option to always see (or not) the available gas stations along the way. I personally like this as I ride in areas of wilderness where fuel stations are few.
- Bright Clear Screen: horizontal or portrait view, the screen is easy to read even in bright sunlight. I prefer the horizontal view because it offers a status bar that shows distance left to my destination, estimated time of arrival, and indicates key points of interest such traffic congestion, rest areas or gas stations.
- Alerts: The device can be programmed to alert you to high-accident areas, presence of speed cameras and stoplight cameras
“I discovered less roadside stops to check directions and in fact a savings on fuel from not having to double back after taking the wrong exit or road. Huge bonus!”
My main use of the TomTom Rider 400 is riding from point A to point B. It did it beautifully. I further like the fact that you can select a number of options in how the route is determined. There’s the fastest route, shortest route, most eco-friendly route, windiest route, etc. And similar to standard GPS features, you can also choose to avoid highways and tolls and so on. I think this is great if you’re a rider who just wants the back road routes.
For more involved route planning your TomTom Rider 400 also includes a lifetime subscription to Tyre Pro, an interactive route-planning software. I wasn’t able to get it working yet as the download was incompatible with my operating bit system. But I’ll work on that. I used TomTom Rider 400’s MyDrive website for my route planning. It has its limitations but still handy.
The Rider has no problem accepting GPX (GPS Exchange Format) files.
Missed Turns, Detours Etc.
The device is fast to offer up alternative routes if you miss a turn or decide you don’t like the look of something (perhaps the road is poorly surfaced, etc.)
So easy to mount, you don’t need to be an expert. The unit is attached to the handlebars or accessory bar via RAM mount included. You receive good tools to fit to any handlebar as well as some optional hardware to help the fit. I had easy success on the BMW S1000XR aside from the fact this BMW comes with its own GPS (if you opt in to buy the device). The mounting base can be wired to your motorcycle battery to ensure the device stays charged.
As I plan on moving the TomTom Rider 400 around to various motorcycles, I didn’t connect it to the battery. I run it on its own battery life which is about six hours. I do bring along a portable charger so I can recharge if needed.
- Multi use: You can also use your TomTom Rider 400 in your car (order the mounting kit). Also, you can use it to navigate a walk in the pedestrian mode. I find this useful especially when camping. I enjoy leaving the bike and heading out for a hike. And not knowing the area makes using the TomTom Rider 400 an advantage.
- Record Your Ride: I really liked this feature. If you’ve found yourself on a road you want to remember, you simply hit the “Record the Ride Button”. This will log the route until you’re finished, so you can revisit in future. It does need a lot of memory to best to be using a memory card if this is something you might do often.
Who is the TomTom Rider 400 For?
This is an excellent rider navigation tool with an incredibly instinctive user interface for motorcyclists who enjoy day trips or those who go on long, straightforward cross-country tours. The Rider 400 does the work for you and cuts out any stopping pre-work. Perhaps the most exciting aspect is how it allows you to find some of the most exhilarating roads and to avoid the straights, by selecting how challenging they want the route to be.
Plus, I found the Winding and Hilly Roads options allows for any rider unfamiliar to an area to immediately zero in on the most enjoyable roads – which is a big advantage. The feature isn’t perfect, nor is any vehicle navigation system (remember the woman whose automobile GPS took off the end of a small lakeside dock at night?); it manages to find all but the most obscure roads.
If, you take your riding more seriously, the obvious benefits in terms of functionality and convenience make a dedicated motorcycle GPS a totally worthwhile investment. I discovered less roadside stops to check directions and in fact a savings on fuel from not having to double back after taking the wrong exit or road. Huge bonus!
I also liked that when I decided not to use it, I felt quite confident venturing into the wide open Canadian wilderness as I could access a back up route plan should I get lost. This allowed me to be far more adventurous and daring.
The TomTom Rider 400 is incredibly reasonably priced at CAD 660.00 / USD 499.99 (for U.S., Canada and Mexico) / £319.00 which includes free shipping, lifetime maps, traffic and safety cameras, as well as the mounts, cables and user guide.
- an anti-theft lock
- a protective carrying case
- car mount
By Vicki Gray
Editor, founder MOTORESS; motorcycle basic, advanced and race instructor certified for over 30 years. Motorcycle On-road and race licensing examiner. Coached, taught, examined riders for European, Caribbean and North American training institutes.