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Motorcycle GPS Buying Guide

Get a Motorcycle GPS and open up the world around you.

Isn't today's motorcycle accessories technology great? Let's talk about Motorcycle GPS systems.

A GPS or Global Positioning System can open up the world around you to new experiences. Since the NAVSTAR satellite became fully operational in 1993, it has been widely used by the military and civilians. Receivers are available from manufacturers like Trimble, Garmin, Tom-Tom and Delphi.

Have you ever been riding past a road leading off in another direction and wondered where it goes and what kind of adventures it might hold? Before GPS it was tempting to take the road less traveled, but you usually didn't because most of the time, you only have so much time to ride and you sure don't want to "waste" it by backtracking if the road ends up taking you away from the general direction that you wanted to go. With a motorcycle GPS you can make better decisions.

What can a GPS do for you? Well, if your fuel gauge is getting close to empty it can tell you where the nearest gas station is. If you're butt gauge is telling you it's time to get off for a while it can guide you to the most interesting places to stop, or the best place to get a bite to eat if your stomach is empty. And most basic thing is to find your way if you are lost.

Things to Consider

When shopping for a motorcycle gps keep the following in mind. These are in no particular order, but all are important:

  • Ruggedness. Motorcycle accessories take a beating.
  • Water resistance. You never want to, but you will eventually get caught in the rain.
  • Battery life. Make sure it will last longer than you can in the saddle.
  • User interface and ease of updating the maps and software.
  • Reception. You don't want to be waiting for your receiver to acquire a signal when everyone else is ready to go.
  • Audio output. Insist on a receiver that allows you to connect motorcycle helmet speakers.
  • Availability of a suitable GPS mount. The best choices come with a mount.
  • Bells and whistles. Verify all the items that are included in the package.
  • Price (of course)

What's available

motorcycle gps

Only Tom-Tom and Garmin make portable receivers that are specifically designed as a motorcycle GPS. Other handhelds and hiking models can be used on a bike, as long as you have a motorcycle GPS mount, but there disadvantages to the other types of handhelds.

The Tom-Tom Rider and Garmin Zumo 550 include motorcycle mounts, but the prices go from $350 to around $900. You can get a Delphi for as little as $69, but it is a little larger than most of us would want on our bikes. That’s the beauty of the Tom-Tom and The Zumo. They were specially designed for motorcycling.

Unlike other hand-held receivers, such as one made for hiking, a better motorcycle GPS includes a headset, or a way to connect it to your motorcycle helmet speakers. This is much more convenient and safer than trying to look at a screen, while you’re riding. The only other safe option is to stop. Then there's the challenge of trying to remember the directions once you're underway. When you’re out to have a good time on the open road, you just don’t need that kind of frustration.

When you are comparing prices of portable units, remember to look at what is included in the package. If you must buy a separate mount for your GPS device, an inexpensive Delphi could end up costing nearly as much as a Tom-Tom.

A number of enthusiast have compared the Tom-Tom motorcycle GPS to the more expensive Garmin. Most of us agree that both systems are good. They have similar features, including Blue-tooth integration. They are both rugged enough to handle the wind, rain and the elements. The Tom-Tom did seem to have a few more performance glitches than the Garmin, but the dollar savings may be worth it to you.

The Garmin includes more accessories, such as a carrying case, and a car power adaptor. It has XM satellite radio and weather support, and offers hands-free calling via Bluetooth. Hands free calling is a nice added feature, especially if you ride a lot. Since it comes with the car adaptor, you wouldn’t necessarily need to buy a separate unit for your automobile.


When shopping for a Motorcycle GPS it's best to fit the device to your needs. Consider your riding style and the length of the trips you typically take. Are you a fair weather weekend rider or do you commute in all weather?

I'm a gadget guy and I sometimes end up buying more features than I need, so I caution you against that. Do take into consideration your future plans and trips though. Will your riding style change?

One last thing to consider is that you can do basic navigation with a good 'ol paper map, the same way riders have done for many years. Not as fun, but they still work!

Those are some of the things to consider when you are pricing a receiver or a motorcycle GPS mount. Happy motoring!


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